After eight splendid days will a total of 46,767 attending spectators, today was the last of the F1® Test Days, which the ten world championship teams tried to optimise to achieve the most in order to reach the first Grand Prix of the year in optimal conditions. The last session served to confirm Ferrari as the fastest team on the grid and Mercedes as the most reliable. Sebastian Vettel, put the icing on the cake making the fastest time of the winter tests at the wheel of his brand-new SF90.
Mercedes waited until the last day of the preseason to show their cards and clocked their best times on Friday, with Valtteri Bottas on the track in the morning and Lewis Hamilton in the afternoon. However, none of them managed to be faster than Vettel, who broke the overall record of the tests with an intimidating 1:16.221, which was faster than the time clocked yesterday by his teammate Charles Leclerc (1:16.231). The first battle between both Ferrari drivers was won by the German driver by a whisker.
Hamilton was the one to get closest to Vettel, also on ultra soft qualifying tyres. The British Mercedes driver made a lap in 1:16.224 this afternoon, the fastest lap of his team in the winter and the second overall fastest of the tests. Finnish driver Bottas also managed to improve today (1:16.561), and finished third. The Brackley-based team seems to be trying to mislead, but does not leave any doubt as regards their reliability, considering that they made more laps than any other team at the Circuit: 1,190.
Despite the good job done, world champion Lewis Hamilton showed himself a bit worried: “The car has potential to improve. This will be the hardest battle… a true challenge. So far, Ferrari are very strong and possibly half a second faster than us, but we’ll see. Last year the difference with them was less and we managed to improve. I don’t like to bet, but if I did, I would bet for me”. Not even seeing Vettel knocked out in the afternoon due to an electric failure was a reason for comfort.
One step below Mercedes and Ferrari, we find Red Bull, with a fastest time of 1:17.091 clocked yesterday by Pierre Gasly. Max Verstappen improved his personal best to 1:17.709, although on soft compounds, which left him out of the top 10. The Austrian team was even slower than their affiliate Toro Rosso, with the new tandem made-up of Daniil Kvyat and Alexander Albon.
The last day of the winter tests also served to confirm the progression of McLaren, especially as regards reliability. Carlos Sainz finished sixth of the day (1:16.913), with a time that is faster than the 1:17.084 set yesterday by his teammate. As opposed to previous years, the Woking-based team will get to the first race with a large number of laps made: 873, to be precise.
This preseason will go down in history because of the debut of the three world championship rookies, Lando Norris (19 years, McLaren), George Russell (21, Williams) and Alex Albon (22, Toro Rosso), as well as the young Haas test driver, Pietro Fittipaldi, grandson of the legendary two-times world champion Emerson Fittipaldi. Another very special moment lived these days on the Catalan track was the comeback of Polish driver Robert Kubica (Williams), after the serious accident in 2011 while taking part in a rally in Italy; as well as the presence in the paddock of two-times world champion Fernando Alonso in his new role as McLaren ambassador.
The Formula 1® show will be back at Circuit de Barcelona – Catalunya from 10 to 12 May, to stage the FORMULA 1 EMIRATES GRAN PREMIO DE ESPAÑA 2019. Fans can purchase their tickets at the Circuit website: www.circuitcat.com.