Sebastian Vettel set record pace on the penultimate day of Formula 1 pre-season testing at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, as teams began switching focus to performance runs.
The bulk of the quick times came during the morning session, with many using Pirelli’s new-for-2018 Hypersoft tyres, as the majority of teams racked up mileage later on, carrying out race simulations.
All 10 teams completed over a century of laps during a relatively trouble-free day in warm and overcast conditions in Spain, with Vettel’s headline-grabbing pace catching the attention before lunch.
Vettel completed a series of runs on the pink-banded tyre, typically alternating between push laps and slow laps, and gradually upped his pace, becoming the first driver to dip into the 1:17s.
Vettel finished his sequence of runs with a best overall lap time of 1:17.182, almost nine-tenths quicker than Daniel Ricciardo’s previous unofficial track record, achieved on Wednesday.
However, had Vettel managed to string all three sectors together on one lap, he would have recorded a 1:17.026.
While Ferrari opted to use the Hypersoft tyres, expected title rivals Mercedes and Red Bull shied away from posting quick times, with the reigning champions having opted against bringing Pirelli’s softest compound to testing.
Valtteri Bottas (morning) and Lewis Hamilton (afternoon) split running, focusing on longer stints in the W09, as the Briton edged his team-mate to take eighth, their best laps both coming on Mediums.
The ‘big three’ all amassed substantial mileage, with Hamilton and Bottas combining to complete 181, as Vettel racked up a mammoth 188, his late sequence of post-session practice starts bringing him above Verstappen's total of 187.
Verstappen finished the day down in 12th place as the RB14 was put through its paces across long runs.
Haas’ Kevin Magnussen used Supersofts to go second, albeit 1.178s behind Vettel, while Pierre Gasly was third quickest, just 0.003s behind the Dane, after a late surge on Hypersofts.
Gasly completed fewer laps than only last year’s top three teams, racking up 169 in the STR13, on another productive day for the Honda-powered operation.
Renault pair Nico Hulkenberg (morning) and Carlos Sainz Jr. (afternoon) placed fourth and fifth, separated by just 0.050s, as both trialled the Hypersoft tyres.
Following two days of running impacted by mechanical glitches, Stoffel Vandoorne added much-needed mileage to the MCL33, completing 151 laps, despite spending almost two hours in the morning.
Vandoorne used Hypersofts to finish sixth, in front of Marcus Ericsson, who caused the only red flag of the day when he spun his Sauber into the Turn 4 gravel in the penultimate hour.
Ericsson was nonetheless able to return to the circuit before the end of the day’s action.
Robert Kubica stepped into the cockpit of Williams’ FW40 for the morning session and rounded out the top 10, ahead of Force India’s Sergio Perez, the aforementioned Verstappen, and Williams’ Lance Stroll, who took over from the Pole in the afternoon.
Williams completed the least mileage of any team on Thursday, but Kubica and Stroll's combined total still exceeded two Grand Prix distances, highlighting the work undertaken up and down the paddock.