The opening of Grand Prix may be a month away but we have had the chance to have a glimpse of all the major racers in action at F1 testing in Barcelona this week. The testing sessions have their own challenges and it's crucial to see how drivers deal with them.
Mercedes driver Valtteri Bottas topped the third day of Formula 1 testing at Barcelona, but Sebastian Vettel's pace in the Ferrari on slower tyres overshadowed Bottas. Vettel spent much of the day running on medium-compound Pirellis, setting his best time an hour-and-a-half after the lunch break. His testing session ended abruptly, since he stopped close to the start/finish line with nine minutes remaining, bringing out the red flag.
Lewis Hamilton then took over from Bottas for Mercedes for the remaining afternoon, sticking to medium and soft tyres and setting a best time of 1m22.175s on the latter compound. His run was too, interrupted by two red flags the first for an off for Carlos Sainz in the Toro Rosso at Turn 4, and the second coming minutes later when Lance Stroll crashed his Williams. Stroll, the 18-year old Canadian racer, caused his third stoppage of the week when he went off and hit the barriers exiting Turn 5, damaging the front end of the Williams FW40. The crash caused the Williams to end its programme early for the second day in a row.
Despite his own late stoppage, Vettel completed a day-high 139 laps, with Sauber man Marcus Ericsson the next most industrious driver, with 126 to his name. Hamilton completed 95 laps, giving Mercedes a combined total of 170 for the day.
Daniel Ricciardo, with Red Bull, and Jolyon Palmer, with Renault, stayed third and fourth respectively with their morning times, with Nico Hulkenberg making it two Renault drivers in the top five with half an hour to go after setting a 1m21.791s on softs when he took over the R.S.17.
Marcus Ericsson (Sauber) and Romain Grosjean (Haas) made use of the supersofts to go sixth and seventh fastest, followed by Hamilton, Stroll and Fernando Alonso's McLaren.
After his troubled first day in the Honda-powered MCL32 on Monday, Alonso enjoyed a smoother day of running on Wednesday as he completed 72 laps. His best lap, a 1m22.598s, came during the middle of the afternoon on ultrasofts and left him 2.893s shy of Bottas's morning effort on the same tyre.
Sainz, Force India development driver Alfonso Celis and Daniil Kvyat, who sat out the afternoon after completing Toro Rosso's morning running, completed the leaderboard.