Sebastian Vettel and Ferrari topped the timesheets for the first time in 2020 pre-season testing as Formula 1 champions Mercedes hit engine problems.

After Ferrari had focused on car set-up and long runs for much of the opening four days of running, Vettel bolted on a set of Pirelli’s softest available C5 compound to post the Scuderia’s fastest lap of testing so far before triggering a morning red flag with a spin.

The German’s 1m16.841s is the second-quickest overall laptime set so far during the winter tests at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya.

But while Ferrari started to show a glimpse of its one-lap pace for the first time, chief rival Mercedes endured a tricky day as it was forced to end its programme early after Lewis Hamilton stopped on track.

The reigning world champion had just begun his 14th lap of a race simulation when his Mercedes W11 challenger lost all power exiting Turn 5, before coasting to a standstill at Turn 6.

Hamilton did not re-appear during the rest of the afternoon for the German manufacturer, which later confirmed that an “oil pressure anomaly” led to a precautionary power unit shutdown - the latest of a string of engine-related dramas. 

AlphaTauri’s Pierre Gasly was a late mover on his way to claiming second spot on C5s as he ended the day just 0.225s off the pace and ahead of Lance Stroll, who continued Racing Point’s impressive pre-season.

Gasly was one of six drivers to single-handedly complete more than 100 laps, with Nicholas Latifi managing the most mileage of anyone, having logged 160 laps for Williams.

Latifi also recorded Williams’ fastest lap of the winter so far on a 1m17.313s to finish fourth on what was a strong day for the British outfit as it recovered from lost track time after hitting power unit problems on Wednesday.

Lando Norris rounded out the top five for McLaren, while Red Bull’s Max Verstappen suffered two more spins and caused a red flag in the morning when he got beached in the Turn 5 gravel en route to sixth.

Valtteri Bottas managed 47 laps during the wet-dry opening session before handing over to Mercedes teammate Hamilton, who propped up the timesheets in 13th.

Esteban Ocon, Kevin Magnussen, Alexander Albon, Daniel Ricciardo and Antonio Giovinazzi made up positions 8-12 to complete the order, with the latter responsible for the first red flag period of the day when he crashed his Alfa Romeo rearwards into the Turn 4 barriers.

The sixth and final day of 2020 pre-season testing takes place on Friday, with the morning session getting underway at 0900 hours local time (0800 GMT).

 

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