Formula One: Ferrari driver Sebastian Vettel crashes auto during pre-season testing

For the first time in pre-season testing, Ferrari hinted at the true pace of its 2019 auto by setting a time within a tenth of a second of the all-time lap record at the Circuit de Catalunya. The vehicle returned to the track at the end of yesterday's test and covered 56 laps on Thursday morning.

However, during the closing stages of the afternoon session, the Scuderia pulled up just before Turn Nine, with some smoke coming from the rear before being taken back to the pits on the recovery truck. Leclerc's lap was just 0.058s off the pole position time from last season's Spanish Grand Prix, although track conditions and being able to use a different tire makes it a somewhat unfair comparison. Gasly lost control of his Red Bull early on turn in at Turn 9 - the high-speed right hander - and swapped ends, going backwards over the gravel and into the barrier.

Vettel, who had done 40 laps, was unhurt but went to the medical centre for routine checks.

Another red flag came out when Lance Stroll's Racing Point vehicle stopped in a straight. "But I'm glad I still got to do a few laps, the team did a really good job to get the vehicle out again; it was important to get a bit of a feel for the new aero package".

"It hasn't changed since day one, to be honest".

Toro Rosso's Albon was second on the leaderboard at 1min 16.882, while British teenager Lando Norris was third for McLaren.

Similarly there was no comparison from Mercedes against the Ferrari lap, with Lewis Hamilton completing 85 laps in the morning before handing over to Valtteri Bottas to complete a race simulation after lunch. They finished in 10th and 13th place respectively.

Ferrari, meanwhile, moved to confirm the cause of Sebastian Vettel's crash during Wednesday.

Ferrari later revealed that a mechanical problem caused the crash, but didn't provide any further details specifying the exact issue.

"After the impact, there was a lot of damage that we must fix".

Ferrari driver Charles Leclerc of Monaco drives past a banner in support of former Ferrari driver Michael Schumacher during a Formula One pre-season testing session at the Barcelona Catalunya racetrack in Montmelo, outside Barcelona, Spain, Thursday, Feb. 28, 2019.

The opening round of the 2019 world championship is scheduled to start in Melbourne on March 17.

  • Rosalie Stanley