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Vettel sets new fastest time on penultimate day of F1 testing

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Sebastian Vettel set the fastest time on the penultimate day of Formula 1 pre-season testing, edging out Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton as times once again were slashed in Barcelona.

Vettel managed to dip under the previous benchmark set by Valtteri Bottas on Wednesday, recording a best time of 1:19.024 on the super-soft tire.

Although the lap was the fastest of pre-season so far and just six-tenths of a second off the record time in Barcelona, Vettel could have gone quicker still, having backed off in the final sector.

The result means that Ferrari has now led three days of pre-season testing, equal with Mercedes, as it continues to build on an impressive testing period.

Hamilton split running in the Mercedes W08 car with Bottas, the Finn finishing eighth overall. Hamilton was three-tenths of a second shy of Vettel’s time in second place.

Force India’s Esteban Ocon ended the day third-fastest, one second off Vettel, while Toro Rosso’s Daniil Kvyat put in an impressive display to wind up fourth on the final timesheets. Kevin Magnussen finished fifth for Haas ahead of Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo.

McLaren had another mixed day as Stoffel Vandoorne suffered two on-track stoppages due to electrical issues, adding more misery to a difficult testing period. The Belgian ended the day seventh on the final timesheets.

Pascal Wehrlein and Marcus Ericsson both conducted running for Sauber, finishing P9 and P11 respectively as Renault’s Jolyon Palmer split the pair. Palmer suffered an on-track stoppage at one point during the day. Williams drivers Felipe Massa and Lance Stroll were 12th and 13th, with Nico Hulkenberg propping up the timesheets for Renault after failing to set a time.

Pre-season testing concludes in Barcelona on Friday with another eight hours of running.

Hartley happy with ‘big progression’ on first day with Toro Rosso

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With 69 laps completed (28 in free practice one and 41 in free practice two) and respectable lap times in both sessions, Brendon Hartley quickly acclimated to a modern day Formula 1 chassis in his first run with Scuderia Toro Rosso in Friday practice for the United States Grand Prix.

The Porsche factory driver has been drafted into the team following a convoluted series of musical chairs that sees Daniil Kvyat back after a two-race absence, Carlos Sainz Jr. now at Renault and Pierre Gasly racing at the Super Formula season finale in Suzuka.

Over the time in the car today, Hartley experienced changeable conditions in FP1 before a more normal FP2, and discovered the new F1 cockpit after a day learning in the garage yesterday.

“A steep learning curve today! It all went pretty smoothly and I kept the car on track without making too many mistakes, so I’m quite happy,” the New Zealander reflected at day’s end.

“I didn’t really know what to expect from today because I just had so much to learn! I think I made quite a big progression throughout the day.

“The biggest difference from what I’m used to is the high-speed grip, it’s incredible here in Formula 1…it was quite an eye-opener! Another challenge are the tires, which are also quite different to what I’m used to. On the other hand, the long-run looks quite positive and I did a good job managing the tires there – the biggest thing I need to work on now is the new tire pace, and I’ll get another crack at it tomorrow morning before qualifying.

“All in all, I’d say it’s all coming together. We’ll now work hard and go through plenty of data tonight and hopefully I’ll make another step forward tomorrow.”

His best lap was 1.1 seconds up on Friday driver Sean Gelael, the Indonesian Formula 2 driver, in FP1 (1:39.267 to 1:40.406, good enough for 14th) and 1.1 seconds off the returning Kvyat in FP2 (1:37.987 to 1:36.761, good enough for 17th). Interestingly, the Gelael/Hartley combination in FP1 marked the second time in three races that Toro Rosso had a pair of drivers in its cars without a single Grand Prix start between them – Gasly’s debut at Malaysia was the other, when he and Gelael were in in FP1.

Coming into Friday’s running, Hartley said he was more ready for this opportunity now than he had been as a teenager. He admitted he’d called Red Bull’s Helmut Marko in the wake of Porsche’s LMP1 withdrawal news earlier this year to say he was game for any chance that might come.

“I’m a lot stronger than I was back then, basically. I wasn’t ready at 18 years old. I like to think I’m ready now,” he said.

“I haven’t driven a single-seater since 2012, but I like to think that Porsche LMP1 has hopefully prepared me well.”

As for the rest of his weekend, it’s been made more complicated by Hartley being assessed a 25-spot grid penalty, even though Hartley had done nothing to accrue the penalties.

The roundabout sequence of driver changes at Toro Rosso saw Gasly replace Kvyat, Kvyat replace Sainz, and now Hartley replace Gasly, as is outlined by NBCSN pit reporter Will Buxton below.