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Formula One

F1 Pre-Season Testing: Vettel and Hamilton split by 0.003s on final day

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The 2019 battle between Ferrari and Mercedes looks set to be as fierce and unrelenting as it was last year, with the two teams ending winter testing on Friday separated by just 0.003s – Sebastian Vettel ahead of Lewis Hamilton at Spain’s Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya.

Before taking over his Mercedes W10 for the day from team mate Valtteri Bottas, Hamilton used his lunchtime media session to suggest that Ferrari had a half second advantage over Mercedes currently. But that didn’t appear to be the case, as Hamilton trumped first Bottas’ time, before just failing to pip Vettel’s.

And if Ferrari were unhappy about appearing to have their advantage wiped away, there was more bad news, after an electrical issue on Sebastian Vettel’s car caused him to stop out on track early on in the afternoon session, bringing out the red flags. With the team claiming the issue would take too long to fix, the SF90 was put back in its box and the team ended their 2019 pre-season test early.

The second week of Test 2 nearly ended under red flags too, with Haas’ Kevin Magnussen coming to a halt on track at Turn 4, compounding an issue-filled two weeks of pre-season testing for the American squad as they’ve sought to iron out the gremlins in their VF-19.

There was better news for Haas’ 2018 rivals Renault, however, with Nico Hulkenberg ending the test with the fastest ‘midfield’ time of anyone, the German setting a 1m 18.843s on the final day, suggesting around a half second gap between them and the top teams – although with the usual caveat that fuel loads, run programmes and engine modes are all shrouded in mystery.

Hulkenberg finished the day ahead of Daniil Kvyat, Toro Rosso having more luck than their sister team Red Bull, with Max Verstappen managing only 29 laps on the final day of testing before a gearbox issue side-lined him. Both teams, however, will have been encouraged that their Honda power units have worked faultlessly across two weeks of testing in Barcelona.

So pre-season testing is over for 2019, and it looks tightly poised between Ferrari and Mercedes once again. Next stop… Melbourne!

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