Drivers testing the limits before final day of Barcelona F1 testing

Following on from Sebastian Vettel’s dramatic crash in testing on Wednesday, there was no small measure of drama in Barcelona on Thursday as teams and drivers began the final push before Melbourne.

Ferrari recovered well from the previous day’s setback by setting the fastest time of testing to date, Charles Leclerc’s 1m16.231s effort within a tenth of the all-time lap record and set on the softest C5 compound and low fuel load.

Toro Rosso’s Alexander Albon was second quickest from Lando Norris’ McLaren and the Red Bull of Pierre Gasly, all also on the C5. Yet Gasly was also responsible for the most dramatic moment of the day, the Frenchman losing control of his car on the entrance to Turn 9 before spinning through the gravel and impacting hard into the barriers.

As with Vettel, Gasly thankfully emerged totally unscathed, testimony to the safety of today’s F1 cars. It spelled the end of Red Bull’s day as the majority continued dialling in the laps in the afternoon.

Nico Hulkenberg was sixth quickest ahead of Lance Stroll’s Racing Point, Antonio Giovinazzi’s Alfa Romeo (both C5) and Romain Grosjean’s Haas running on the C4. It brought down the curtain on Stroll’s pre-season programme, the popular Canadian impressing for his new outfit since his move from Williams.

“It’s been another positive day in the car and a good way to finish my pre-season programme,” said Stroll. “We covered a lot of kilometers today – the most I’ve done on a single day all winter – and now I am really looking forward to going racing.

“We are going to keep learning about our new car, both tomorrow on our last day with Sergio in the car and back at base, and we are going to bring the best possible package to Melbourne. It’s really tough to predict where we stand once we start racing: everyone is working on different programmes, but I start the season with a positive mindset.”

Race distance fuel runs were the order of the afternoon for Mercedes, Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas completing 181 trouble-free laps between them on the hard C2 and C3 compounds respectively.

It still appears that with their noticeably different spec aero packages, Mercedes continue to play their cards very close to their chest despite trackside reports that Leclerc’s race simulations were noticeably quicker.

It all leads to a fascinating final day at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, and many more questions still to be answered before the teams arrive in Melbourne.

Testing concludes on Friday.

Top image: Nico Hulkenberg of Renault F1 Team during the 2019 Formula One Testing in Barcelona, Spain. © Renault F1

Fraser Masefield

Sports news and features writer, web editor and author.