Sebastian Vettel narrowly pipped Lewis Hamilton to the fastest time before breaking down in his Ferrari as Formula 1 pre-season testing came to a close in Barcelona

Vettel’s morning benchmark - a 1m16.221s set on Pirelli’s C5 tyres - remained the time to beat heading into the afternoon session, with reigning world champion Hamilton getting within 0.003s of the German’s effort on the same tyre compound. 

Ferrari’s day did not completely go to plan as Vettel coasted to a halt on his 110th tour with an electrical problem that brought a premature end to the team’s running. 

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It marked the latest in a string of reliability setbacks for the Scuderia during the second week of testing. 

Ferrari had enjoyed a strong opening week but it was overtaken in the mileage charts by Mercedes during the final four days after coming across a number of issues. 

Charles Leclerc saw his programme interrupted on Tuesday due to a cooling problem, before a wheel rim failure sent Vettel into a hefty crash on Wednesday morning, curtailing the Monegasque’s planned run in the afternoon session. 

Leclerc recovered with headline-grabbing pace on the penultimate day but encountered a late exhaust issue, before Vettel’s new benchmark was followed by his own stoppage early on the final afternoon. 

Having spent most of the winter focusing entirely on race simulations, Mercedes finally flexed its muscles and provided a glimpse of its one-lap potential. 

Hamilton had already posted a lap within four tenths of Vettel’s best time on the slightly harder C4 compound, before turning in a personal best 1m16.224s on his first flying effort on C5s in his updated Mercedes. 

The Briton had earlier suggested Ferrari could be as much as five tenths clear of Mercedes heading into the new season, but if the final lap times of pre-season testing are anything to go by, it looks as though 2019 could prove to be a closely-fought battle once more. 

Teammate Valtteri Bottas was three tenths adrift of the two 2018 title protagonists thanks to his morning effort - set in cooler, less representative conditions - as he ended up third. 

Behind the top three came Renault’s Nico Hulkenberg, who carried out some short performance runs having taken over from teammate Daniel Ricciardo. The German, sporting the C5 compound, posted the fourth-fastest time with an encouraging 1m16.843s - just 0.3s off Bottas. 

There was little change to the rest of the order with most of the field carrying out long-run programmes, as Daniil Kvyat managed 131 laps for Toro Rosso on his way to fifth place, ahead of McLaren’s Carlos Sainz, who was the last driver to dip below the 1m17s mark. 

Romain Grosjean was the lead Haas driver in seventh, ahead of fellow morning runner Ricciardo and Alfa Romeo’s Kimi Raikkonen. Kevin Magnussen completed Haas’ winter test programme with the 10th-best time and over 90 laps to his name, before stopping in the closing stages to signal a late red flag, leaving the team with some reliability niggles heading to Melbourne

It proved to be a frustrating final day for the Honda-powered Red Bull squad, with Max Verstappen sidelined for much of the day while the quadruple world champion outfit investigated a gearbox issue. 

Red Bull had already been forced to revert back to older-spec parts on its RB15 following Pierre Gasly’s huge shunt on the penultimate day and Verstappen managed just 29 laps to end on a disappointing note.

Racing Point driver Sergio Perez finally racked up the long mileage he had hoped for by making it into triple figures for the first time, while Robert Kubica logged a further 90 laps for Williams - which recovered well from missing the opening two days - but propped up the times. 

The next time F1 cars will be in action will be during opening practice for the Australian Grand Prix, which takes place between March 15-17. 

 

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