BARCELONA, Spain -- The theme of the opening week of Formula One's preseason continued on Friday as Mercedes put down another ominous marker with a record-breaking quickest time.
Valtteri Bottas' best effort was a 1:15.732, the quickest lap to have ever been set in a test at the Circuit de Catalunya and just 0.4s off the pole position time at the same circuit for last year's Spanish Grand Prix. With next week's three-day test likely to be when the teams start really pushing to find the limits of performance and with teams expecting record-breaking lap times in 2020, that benchmark looks set to keep coming down.
Bottas and six-time world champion Lewis Hamilton split duties either side of lunch, completing 138 laps between them. Mercedes has grabbed headlines this week for its innovative dual-axis steering system (DAS) and completed the first test looking like the firm favourite for the new season.
The reigning world champions are looking for a record seventh consecutive title this year and won five of the final six races in 2019 --nothing so far has suggested the German manufacturer's form will ease this year.
There are three more days of testing to come next week at the same location, starting on Feb. 26.
Ferrari has been cautious not to raise expectations this year after leaving last year's preseason as the favourite for the title, only to win just three races across the year. Sebastian Vettel's day in the car was hampered by an engine failure in the morning, which cost the Italian team two hours before lunch, although an engine change allowed him to return to the track and finish the day with 100 laps.
Ferrari has clearly not been focusing on outright pace at the moment, evidenced by Vettel's long stints and the fact his quickest time was a full 2.6 seconds slower than Bottas' best.
Red Bull, the only other team capable of mounting a title challenge this year, favoured a similar approach and enjoyed another productive day. Max Verstappen and Alex Albon combined to complete a combined 169 laps either side of lunch. Red Bull has done little to reveal its true performance ahead of the new season.
Beyond Vettel's engine issue, there were three other major stoppages. Haas driver Kevin Magnussen saw his day end prematurely just four laps into his afternoon stint after losing control of the car at Turn 8 when a wheel spacer broke the left rear rim. Haas is already hoping to solve the problems that plagued its 2019 car during this preseason, meaning the loss of track time will be a bitter blow to the American team.
Another red flag was caused by Daniel Ricciardo's Renault, when it broke down late in the afternoon, although he made it back out on track before the end of the day. Ricciardo also spun, but neither of those issues stopped Renault completing its most productive day of the week so far -- Ricciardo added 93 laps to the 76 completed by Esteban Ocon in the morning. After two days with much less running than its rivals, this was a much-needed morale boost for the Renault team.
Nicholas Latifi caused the other red flag, with his Williams breaking down at the end of the pit lane during the morning session. The Canadian rookie returned to the track in the afternoon and finished with 72 laps to his name.
1. Valtteri Bottas - Mercedes - 1:15.732 - 65 laps
2. Lewis Hamilton - Mercedes - +0.784s - 72 laps
3. Esteban Ocon - Renault - +1.370s - 76 laps
4. Lance Stroll - Racing Point - +1.606s - 116 laps
5. Daniil Kvyat - Alpha Tauri - +1.695s - 62 laps
6. Antonio Giovinazzi - Alfa Romeo - +1.737 - 152 laps
7. Daniel Ricciardo - Renault - +1.842 - 93 laps
8. Max Verstappen - Red Bull - +1.904s - 86 laps
9. Pierre Gasly - Alpha Tauri - +2.051s - 59 laps
10. Alex Albon - Red Bull - +2.422s - 83 laps
11. Carlos Sainz - McLaren - +2.542s - 76 laps
12. Romain Grosjean - Haas - +2.648s - 48 laps
13. Sebastian Vettel - Ferrari - +2.652s - 100 laps
14. Lando Norris - McLaren - +2.722 - 49 laps
15. Nicholas Latifi - Williams - +3.272s - 72 laps
16. Kevin Magnussen - Haas - +3.977s - 4 laps