RACE DEBRIEF

    Sebastian Vettel pumped in Ferrari’s best lap of 2020 pre-season testing on a red flag-filled Thursday morning in Barcelona, overcoming a brief spin into the gravel to head the timesheets by the midway mark.

    In the final hour of the morning session, Vettel stopped the clocks with a 1m 16.841s on the fastest C5 rubber, Ferrari’s quickest time of 2020 so far, and their first lap in the sub-1m 17s – although it remained over a second off the 1m 15.732s high watermark that Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas set last week.

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    Arguably more impressive on Thursday morning was Lance Stroll’s P2 time of 1m 17.118s for Racing Point, which the Canadian achieved on the two-steps-harder C3 rubber – while Williams’ Nicholas Latifi took third place with a decent lap of 1m 17.313s on the C4.

    Test 2, day 2 lunch time classification

    McLaren’s Lando Norris was fourth and 0.732s off the pace, with his best lap coming on the C2s, while Max Verstappen using the same tyres rounded out the top five a further 0.165s back, after something of a wild morning for the Dutchman...

    The drivers had begun their day on intermediate tyres – the first time the green-walled rubber has been called for in this year’s pre-season testing – after overnight rain left the track slick.

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    And although the tarmac dried relatively quickly once running commenced, a damp white line at Turn 5 caught out first Valtteri Bottas in the Mercedes, who skipped across the gravel and recovered onto the track, before minutes later, Verstappen rotated his RB16 into the gravel trap, beaching the car and bringing out the red flags.

    It was Verstappen’s second incident of the day, meanwhile, after he spun on cold tyres at Turn 15 while running aero rakes, as Red Bull seek to dial in new aerodynamic parts spotted on the car this morning. Perhaps it was nerves, with Red Bull owner Dietrich Mateschitz making a rare appearance in his team’s garage today…

    Bottas bounces and Verstappen beaches in the gravel on day 2 of second test

    Verstappen wasn’t the first to bring out a red flag on Thursday morning, however, with Alfa Romeo’s Antonio Giovinazzi having stopped the session after ploughing backwards into the Turn 4 wall, damaging his C39’s rear wing and causing him to miss the lion’s share of the morning’s running.

    WATCH: Giovinazzi spins into the barriers in Barcelona

    A third red flag was lying in wait, meanwhile, with session-leader Vettel losing the back end of his Ferrari SF1000 on the exit of Turn 5 and spinning into the gravel. The German recovered, but as with his crash last Thursday, the gravel he dragged back onto the track forced the third red.

    So, that was how they stood ahead of Thursday afternoon. But with just a day and a half of pre-season testing to go for 2020, who’ll take the psychological advantage in the p.m. session, as zero hour looms in Melbourne.

    Gravel flies as Vettel spins Ferrari on day two of second pre-season test