Ferrari and Charles Leclerc’s morning flyer remained out of reach on Thursday afternoon in a session in which long runs and race simulation took precedence over outright performance.
The second part of the penultimate day of pre-season testing was marked by a crash for Red Bull Racing’s Pierre Gasly who hit the barriers at Turn 9, with no consequences for himself but with damage to his car’s front-end.
Pre-season test Day 6
As the afternoon session got underway, word filtered out from the paddock that Charles Leclerc had said that Ferrari had not run flat-out in the morning, a statement that will have been received as ominous for both Mercedes and Red Bull.
As we near the end of pre-season testing, teams’ afternoon programmes predictably catered to long runs and race simulations.
Valtteri Bottas took over the reins at Mercedes and lost no time getting down to work and putting the German squad over the century mark in the lap tally.
Lance Stroll was also active at the outset, determined to improve Racing Point’s low morning mileage.
The running was interrupted a little after an hour by a red flag caused by an off-track excursion for Pierre Gasly, the Red Bull driver hitting the barriers at Turn 9, one of the fastest points of the track, but exiting his RB15 on his own.
However, the velocity of the impact suggested that a fair amount of damage was done to the Red Bull’s front end, likely setting back the team for the remainder of the day.
The session resumed with Leclerc, Stroll and Bottas picking up their long runs where they had left off.
In the Haas, camp, Romain Grosjean had yet to complete a single lap, the Frenchman’s VF-19 confined to the team’s garage following the discovery during the lunch break of an exhaust issue.
Daniel Ricciardo made a move just before the session entered its last hour, clocking in with a 1m17.204 that was a personal best for himself and for his team.
Shortly after, Stroll brought out the second red flag of the day after his car came at a standstill at Turn 9. An unwelcome contretemps in an otherwise productive day for Racing Point.
Over three hours in and Grosjean was finally fired up and rolled out of the Haas pit, the Frenchman immediately charging into the sub-1m19s.
Long runs continued to be the norm as the session entered its final 30 minutes, keeping the top-three fastest laps, dominated by Leclerc’s flyer, out of reach.
Leclerc and Russell were at opposite extremes in terms of outright performance but the Ferrari and Williams drivers were in close competition in terms of total laps, with both men locked at 135 rounds.
But a little under 15 minutes from the end of the session, the third red flag of the day was brandished, courtesy of… Leclerc!
The Ferrari driver was seen stopped at the side of the track, the victim of an apparent mechanical issue.
The penultimate session of pre-season testing thus concluded with a status-quo at the front and mixed feelings among the front runners, with Red Bull focused on Gasly’s crash and Ferrari startled by Leclerc’s late reliability issue.
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