F1 2018: Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari quickest in pre-season testing

By @saihoops on
Sebastian Vettel, F1 Testing, F1 2018, Ferrari
Motor Racing - F1 Formula One - Formula One Test Session - Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, Montmelo, Spain - March 9, 2018 Kimi Raikkonen of Ferrari during testing. Reuters / Albert Gea

Scuderia Ferrari and Sebastian Vettel put the world on notice on Thursday by registering the fastest lap time of pre-season testing ahead of the 2018 Formula One season. On Day 3 of F1 testing at the Circuit de Catalunya in Barcelona, Vettel registered a lap of 1:17.182 on hypersoft tyres -- a new lap record at the circuit. 

On the penultimate day of F1 testing, all teams clocked well over 100 laps -- including the under-fire McLaren. But Vettel set the fastest time since the Circuit de Catalunya lap was lengthened in 2007.

A day earlier, Australia's Daniel Ricciardo and Red Bull set the previous fastest unofficial lap. Vettel was nearly nine-tenths of a second faster -- an impressive performance by the brand-new SF-71H.

Vettel tried to downplay the record. "The times on these test days don't mean much. The important thing is that the car has proved to be very strong, allowing us to run all day without any significant problems. We are still working on some things for the first race and it's not really possible to make any predictions based on the performance of the other teams, because everyone is running a different programme," the former four-time World Champion told reporters after Thursday's F1 testing.

F1 2018: Mercedes not panicking just yet

Mercedes F1 and Red Bull Racing, Ferrari's two biggest threats to a potential F1 world championship, went through lower-fuel performance runs on Thursday. While Mercedes drivers Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas finished eighth and ninth respectively, Red Bull prodigy Max Verstappen came in at 12th.

“(Despite the slow start) l am enjoying driving the car. It is an improvement. Last year’s car was great but this car feels better," Hamilton said before welcoming the challenge posed by Ferrari, via Sky Sports F1.

“I hope it is a good time because it means they are strong and we have a race on our hands. I can’t wait for the first race to see where we all come out. We want people to be on the edge of their seats," the Briton added.

As is tradition, the Australian Grand Prix will kick-start the 2018 Formula One season. The first race of the season will get underway at Melbourne's Albert Park on March 25. Though F1 analysts have tipped to repeat as F1 Constructors' Champions, the pre-season testing has given both Red Bull Racing and Ferrari enough reason to feel optimistic about their chances.