Sebastian Vettel set the third fastest lap of pre-season testing so far as he topped the rain-affected Thursday morning of test two, while Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull all had off-track moments.
Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas was the early pacesetter on intermediates at Barcelona. He, Esteban Ocon and Antonio Giovinazzi completed the most running in the wet.
Once the track was ready for dry-weather tyres, Lando Norris starred for McLaren, but times tumbled as the track dried and rubbered in during the final two hours.
It threw up the usual amount of drama you would expect from a mixed weather session, with the circuit’s apex kerbs proving troublesome as they held water. A mere touch sent many drivers off the track.
Antonio Giovinazzi went off at the long Turn 4 right-hander and rear-ended the barriers for Alfa Romeo with just under two hours to go, while before the hour was out Max Verstappen buried his Red Bull in the gravel at the following corner – as Bottas had earlier on before managing to drive out – having just set the second fastest time.
Once the resulting red flag for Verstappen was over, improvements came thick and fast.
Despite not having set a lap under the 1m18 mark at the last test, Ferrari’s Vettel put in a 1m17.093s to top the session with 45 minutes remaining on the second softest C4 tyre, complete with impressive speed trap readings and the team’s best time of the test so far by some margin.
Just after setting that time, Vettel went off at Turn 5 to complete the hat-trick of the big three teams ending up in that gravel trap.
He did return to the track on the C4 tyre once the track was clean, and topped the lap tally on 49. Bottas was next up on 47.
Racing Point’s Lance Stroll had been among the pacesetters all morning and produced a late 1m17.188s, 0.025s slower than Vettel, on the medium C3 tyre.
Nicholas Latifi had an up and down session for Williams, but his C4 tyre boosted run yielded the third fastest time – 0.220s off Vettel and behind Stroll – for a team that has had to rebound from two engine changes during the two tests, including one that robbed Latifi of track time on Wednesday.
Norris, Verstappen and Bottas were the final drivers in the 1m17s and filled fourth to sixth respectively overall. All three set their best times on the C3 medium tyre in the last hour of running.
Esteban Ocon was bundled down the order rapidly in the last hour and ended the day in seventh for Renault, with the Kevin Magnussen-driven Haas looking stronger than on Wednesday with a time 1.384s adrift of Vettel.
Giovinazzi was unable to return to the track after his crash and ended the morning ninth, ahead of a low-key session for AlphaTauri and Pierre Gasly. He completed 34 laps and failed to set a representative laptime, 5.725s adrift of the benchmark.