F1 Pre-Season Testing: Leclerc fastest for Ferrari midway through Day 3 as lap times tumble

CIRCUIT DE BARCELONA-CATALUNYA, SPAIN - FEBRUARY 28: Charles Leclerc, Ferrari SF90 during the

Charles Leclerc put Ferrari top of the timesheets at the Thursday lunchbreak of Test 2 of 2019 pre-season testing, with by some way the fastest lap seen so far in Barcelona this year, a 1m 16.231s set on the softest C5 rubber.

Carlos Sainz grabbed the headlines yesterday with his 1m 17.144s for McLaren – which prompted the Spaniard to try and calm media speculation that McLaren had a shot at pole position in Australia. But as running began on Thursday, Toro Rosso’s Alexander Albon claimed the distinction of being the first driver in the 1m 16s this year, eventually ending up on a 1m 16.882s on the C5 rubber.

Ferrari: Vettel testing crash caused by wheel rim issue

Albon was eventually pipped, however, by Leclerc’s show-stopping time – the fastest lap ever seen here in testing – although perhaps of more interest was the Ferrari driver’s C2-shod lap of 1m 17.253s earlier in the day which, tyre-adjusted, would give him a projected 1m 15.453s on the C5 tyre – some seven tenths faster than Lewis Hamilton’s pole time from last year.

Leclerc was getting Ferrari back up to speed, after a crash for Sebastian Vettel – which Ferrari later confirmed was related to a wheel rim issue – limited Leclerc’s running to just one lap on Wednesday afternoon. To help the Monegasque build up as much seat time as possible in the SF90, Ferrari have also opted to keep Leclerc in the car for this afternoon's session, rather than subbing in Vettel as initially planned.

Behind Leclerc and Albon in a red flag-free first stint of running, Lando Norris was third for McLaren, ahead of the Red Bull of Pierre Gasly and the Renault of Nico Hulkenberg.

Heading the lap count after the first half of running, meanwhile, was Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton, who put in 85 laps for Mercedes.

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