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Formula 1

Russell sets F1 testing pace amid five red-flag stoppages

by Valentin Khorounzhiy
3 min read

Mercedes’ new Formula 1 driver George Russell led the way on the final morning of the Barcelona pre-season test, as the session was interrupted by a whopping five red-flag stoppages.

F1 pre-season running had been relatively stable and trouble-free over the first two days, but Friday’s morning session proved the most disrupted yet.

Fernando Alonso was the first to cause a stoppage, pulling over in what quickly became an increasingly smoky Alpine A522 around the 50-minute mark.

Fernando Alonso Alpine Barcelona F1 test

Alonso had also had a substantial trip through the gravel in his prior running but did record Alpine’s best time of the test.

The team later confirmed his stoppage was the result of “a problem with the hydraulics” and that “a minor sealing issue led to a fire in the back of the car”. It meant the end of its morning session, and Alpine confirmed it would not be returning to the track in the afternoon.

The next interruption came just under two hours later as Pierre Gasly brought out the red flag with an off at Turn 5 that reportedly resulted in substantial damage to the front of his AlphaTauri.

And soon after his apparent wreck was cleared, Alfa Romeo rookie Guanyu Zhou had an off at Turn 10 after the long straight, taking nearly another 20 minutes off the clock.

Zhou’s Alfa Romeo was back out swiftly, but then caused another, shorter stoppage in the final minutes of the session. And though this one was much shorter, allowing to fit in a few more minutes of green-flag running, Sebastian Vettel’s Aston Martin grounding to a halt, apparently in smoke, put paid to that and concluded running for good.

Between the two Zhou red-flag interruptions, the softest tyre compound, C5, made a rare appearance with  Russell, vaulting him and his Mercedes W13 to a new benchmark, a 1m19.233s.

Russell’s time stands a decent chance of being the quickest after the test concludes, given the track is due to be artificially watered for wet-tyre running in the afternoon – albeit it will then be allowed to dry.

Russell was the only driver to surpass the laptime recorded by erstwhile test pacesetter Lando Norris on Wednesday.

Red Bull’s Max Verstappen spent much of Friday morning up at the top of the timing screens, but wound up settling for second place, five tenths off, albeit with a time recorded on C3s compared to Russell’s C5s.

Max Verstappen Red Bull Barcelona F1 test

Vettel, Charles Leclerc (Ferrari) and Nicholas Latifi (Williams) completed the top five, despite Latifi logging just five laps after a rare mid-session handover from Alexander Albon.

Besides Latifi, Nikita Mazepin in the Uralkali-less Haas was the only driver not to crack double digits in terms of lapcount, the Russian stymied by an early oil leak.

Session results

1. Russell (Mercedes) 1m19.233s, C5, 66 laps
2. Verstappen (Red Bull) 1m19.756s, C3, 59 laps
3. Vettel (Aston Martin) 1m19.824s, C4, 48 laps
4. Leclerc (Ferrari) 1m19.831s, C3, 44 laps
5. Latifi (Williams) 1m20.699s, C4, 5 laps
6. Norris (McLaren) 1m20.827s, C3, 52 laps
7. Alonso (Alpine) 1m21.242s, C3, 12 laps
8. Zhou (Alfa Romeo) 1m21.939s, C3, 41 laps
9. Gasly (AlphaTauri) 1m22.469s, C2, 40 laps
10. Albon (Williams) 1m22.652s, C2, 21 laps
11. Mazepin (Haas) 1m26.229s, C3, 9 laps

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