Valtteri Bottas turned in the fastest time of the winter so far on the final morning of the opening 2020 Formula 1 pre-season test at Barcelona.

Reigning world champions Mercedes began to stretch its legs on the final day of running of the first test as Bottas pumped in a 1m15.732s - set on Pirelli’s softest available C5 tyre - to set a new benchmark.

The Finn’s best time came after a flurry of improvements late on in the morning session, and was just three-tenths off the lap record he set en route to claiming pole position lap for the 2019 Spanish Grand Prix.

While Mercedes was lighting up the timesheets, its chief rival Ferrari, which is yet to show its hand in testing, found itself on the back foot after an engine issue brought Sebastian Vettel’s morning programme to a premature end.

The German’s SF1000 caused the first red flag of the day having halted on track at Turn 12 after appearing to lose power, with Ferrari confirming an engine problem had been to blame for his stoppage.

Ferrari is currently investigating the failure back at Maranello and hopes to get Vettel back out on track in time for the start of the afternoon session after completing a power unit change.

Esteban Ocon also strapped on a set of Soft tyres as he ended up 1.370s adrift of Bottas’ benchmark in second for Renault, with the Frenchman completing the second-highest amount of laps on 76, behind only Max Verstappen’s excellent haul of 86. 

Lance Stroll was third-quickest as Racing Point continued its strong start to pre-season testing, while Daniil Kvyat was fourth for the rebranded AlphaTauri squad.

Rounding out the top five was early morning pacesetter Verstappen, who lost some track time after damaging the floor on his Red Bull RB16 over the kerbs at Turn 8.

After Kimi Raikkonen topped the timesheets on Thursday, Antonio Giovinazzi was sixth-fastest as he returned to action for Alfa Romeo.

The Italian finished two-tenths clear of McLaren’s Carlos Sainz, and a further 0.3s ahead of Haas driver Romain Grosjean and Vettel, who managed 40 laps prior to his issue.

F1 rookie and 2019 Formula 2 runner-up Nicholas Latifi racked up 44 laps for Williams before breaking down with an hour left on the clock with what appeared to be an engine problem.

There will be a number of driver swaps over the lunch break, including reigning world champion Lewis Hamilton, who will take over from morning pacesetter Bottas.

Alexander Albon, Lando Norris, Daniel Ricciardo, Pierre Gasly and Kevin Magnussen will all be back in action during the afternoon session, which gets underway at 1400 local time (1300GMT).

Full timings from the morning of the third and final day of running from the opening pre-season test. 

 

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