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Vettel fastest for Ferrari, Hamilton has engine trouble

MONTMELÓ, Spain (AP) — Ferrari driver Sebastian Vettel clocked the fastest lap on the penultimate day of Formula One preseason testing on Thursday, while Lewis Hamilton’s session was cut short by mechanical trouble.

Hamilton’s Mercedes came to a stop on the track at the Barcelona-Catalunya Circuit, bringing out a red flag and causing the six-time champion to miss the day’s final two hours of running. Mercedes said the stoppage was caused by an “oil pressure anomaly” that they will investigate.

“Testing didn’t quite go to plan today but we’ll come back better and stronger tomorrow,” Hamilton wrote on Twitter. Valtteri Bottas was behind the wheel of the Mercedes in the morning session. Hamilton took over after lunch and only managed 14 laps before he had to call it quits.

“It’s frustrating when there’s only six days of winter testing, to be spending half of one day in the garage,” Mercedes technical director James Allison said. Vettel posted a flying lap of 1 minute, 16.841 seconds, the best time for him or Ferrari teammate Charles Leclerc over five days of testing.

Bottas has clocked the fastest time of any driver in the preseason so far with a lap of 1 minute, 15.732 seconds. Rain fell early but the sun emerged and made for better racing conditions. “This was a good day,” Vettel said. “Having said that, I don’t think today’s times mean much, because, out of the five days of testing we have done here so far, today’s track conditions were definitely the worst.”

Vettel knows how deceptive speeds at testing can be. Last year, Ferrari was the fastest in the preseason, only to be blown away by Mercedes once the real racing began. “We won’t really get a clear picture until Melbourne, but maybe not even there, given that the track is pretty unique,” the four-time former champion said.

AlphaTauri's Pierre Gasly had in the day’s second fastest lap after Vettel, followed by Lance Stroll for Racing Point. Nicholas Latifi had the fifth best time and put in the most laps with 160. Max Verstappen brought out another red flag when he lost control of his Red Bull and ended up in the gravel.

Alfa Romeo’s Antonio Giovinazzi also caused the running to be temporarily halted after he spun off and put the back of his car in the barrier, damaging its rear wing. Testing concludes on Friday. The season-opening Australian GP is on March 15.

More AP racing: https://www.racing.ap.org

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