BARCELONA: Formula One world champions Mercedes predicted a three-way title battle as the second pre-season test started yesterday with Ferrari and Red Bull showing their pace.
Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel was fastest, lapping in one minute 20.396 seconds and completing 171 laps – equal to nearly 800km and more than 2-1/2 race distances at the Circuit de Catalunya.
The German did his fastest lap on the medium tyres, with Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas second on softs with a time 0.200 slower.
Dutch 20-year-old Max Verstappen was third on the timesheets for Red Bull in 1:20.649, doing 130 laps.
“What we have seen is that even if it is best case we are not in front by a lot, and if it is a worst case we are not far behind,” Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff said.
“What we have seen from Red Bull is that they have a very strong package,” added the Austrian, whose Mercedes team are going for their fifth drivers’ and constructors’ championship double in a row. “I think it will be all three of us against each other.”
Bottas and four times world champion team mate Lewis Hamilton shared testing duties, with the Finn putting in 86 laps and the Briton 91 – a total of 824km between the pair.
“We have not worked too much on fine-tuning the set-up as we’re mostly still gathering information,” commented Hamilton.