Charles Leclerc recorded the fastest lap of Formula 1 pre-season testing so far to top the penultimate morning of running as Ferrari bounced back in Barcelona

After Sebastian Vettel’s big crash had curtailed Ferrari’s running on Wednesday afternoon, Leclerc returned to action with the Italian squad looking to make up for lost time having shuffled around its programme, handing both its drivers full days in the cockpit to round out the final test. 

The Monegasque posted three quick laps during qualifying-style simulations late on in the session, with his best effort - a 1m16.231 - being set on Pirelli’s softest C5 compound as Ferrari teased more glimpses of its one-lap potential. 

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Toro Rosso’s Alexander Albon was the only other driver with a sub 1m17s lap time as he ended up over half a second adrift on the same tyres. 

The British-Thai driver looked set to hold top spot having become the first driver into the 1m16s bracket during a frantic session that saw Lewis Hamilton, Pierre Gasly, Nico Hulkenberg and Lando Norris each take it in turns to trade fastest laps, only for Leclerc to pip him late on with his flurry of quick laps. 

Erstwhile pacesetter Norris wound up third for McLaren on a 1m17.084s, with Red Bull’s Pierre Gasly and the Renault of Nico Hulkenberg completing the top five. Behind them came Lance Stroll (sixth) for Racing Point and Alfa Romeo’s Antonio Giovinazzi (seventh). 

Five-time world champion Hamilton racked up 85 laps to maintain Mercedes’s impressive tally at the top of the mileage charts and finish eighth in the timesheets on a 1m18.097s - an effort he set on the C2 tyres at the harder end of Pirelli’s spectrum of compounds. 

Fellow Briton George Russell completed 45 laps for Williams on his way to ninth, while Kevin Magnussen propped up the order before handing over to Haas teammate Romain Grosjean in the afternoon.

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