MONTMELO, Spain — Daniil Kvyat set the fastest time of this week’s test on Wednesday, putting Toro Rosso at the top of the timesheets.

  • Claire Williams understands how bad it looks that her team missed the opening two and a half days of testing for the 2019 season.

  • Lewis Hamilton believes Mercedes’ position at the top of Formula One is under threat this year after admitting the new Ferrari looks “very, very strong” in pre-season testing so far.

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The lap came late in the day after the junior Red Bull team bolted on a set of Pirelli’s softest tyres, the C5 compound, and sent the Russian out for a short run. His time, a 1:17.704, beat Kimi Raikkonen to the top spot by 0.058s after the Finn had held the fastest lap for the majority of the day with a lap of his own on the C5s.

“We always knew we would get P1!” Kvyat joked. “But no, today, the priority was not that, the priority was to bounce back after the first day of mine which wasn’t ideal. But today, it was a productive day, so the guys must be happy with the work they have done and we have to continue to do something similar to get mileage as much as possible and gain the confidence together.”

A late lap from Daniel Ricciardo on the slightly harder C4 compound left Renault in third place, ahead of the early morning benchmark set by Sebastian Vettel on the even harder C3. However, Vettel’s time was arguably the most impressive of the day as it was set on a longer run, indicating a heavier fuel load. Five kilograms of fuel adds a time penalty of 0.2s per lap, and it’s likely that if the Ferrari had been stripped of fuel and on like-for-like tyres, Vettel would have gone significantly quicker than the cars ahead.

After missing the first two days of testing, Williams finally made it on track in the afternoon. The team’s chassis arrived at the circuit at 04:00 in the morning after being loaded on an overnight flight from the factory in the U.K.. The team fired the engine up for the first time soon after 10:00 and by the afternoon the FW42 had emerged from the garage with George Russell at the wheel.

Deputy team principal Claire Williams called the situation “embarrassing”, but refused to go into detail on the reasons behind the two-day delay. Meanwhile, technical director Paddy Lowe watched on from the garage after cancelling his own media commitments. By the end of the day, Russell had completed 23 laps with a lap time nearly five seconds off the next slowest car.

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Rather surprisingly, that car was the Mercedes. Once again, the world champions split their running between their two drivers, with Lewis Hamilton 12th fastest in the afternoon and Valtteri Bottas 11th fastest from the morning. Bottas set his fastest time on the C3 compound while Hamilton used a prototype tyre being tested by Pirelli, but the overall lack of pace is starting to raise questions about the team’s performance relative to Ferrari. Speaking to the media, Hamilton said 2019 would be the team’s toughest challenge yet and, judging by the timesheets, he was being genuine.

Elsewhere, Red Bull had another low-key day with the fifth fastest time set by Max Verstappen. It was enough to keep him ahead of Nico Hulkenberg’s best effort in the Renault from the morning and Haas, which split its track time between test driver Pietro Fittipaldi and race driver Romain Grosjean. The Haas stopped on track twice with an ignition coil issue and again at the end of the day just before the chequered flag. However, the two drivers still managed 117 laps combined.

Carlos Sainz was ninth fastest for McLaren despite a spin in the morning. He found the gravel trap at the entry to the final chicane, but managed to keep the engine running and rallycross his way back to the circuit. He finished the day with 90 laps after changes to the car overnight ate into the team’s morning session. Sergio Perez was tenth in the Racing Point, which for the third day in a row completed relatively low mileage with 67 laps.

Times

1. Kvyat, Toro Rosso, 1:17.704, 137 laps (C5)
2. Raikkonen, Alfa Romeo, 1:17.762, 138 laps (C5)
3. Ricciardo, Renault, 1:18.164, 80 laps (C4)
4. Vettel, Ferrari, 1:18.350, 134 laps (C3)
5. Verstappen, Red Bull, 1:18.787, 109 laps (C3)
6. Hulkenberg, Renault, 1:18.800, 63 laps (C4)
7. Grosjean, Haas, 1:19.060, 69 laps (C3)
8. Fittipaldi, Haas, 1:19.249, 48 laps (C4)
9. Sainz, McLaren, 1:20.102, 90 laps (C3)
10. Perez, Racing Point, 1:20.102, 67 laps (C3)
11. Bottas, Mercedes, 1:20.818, 88 laps (C3)
12. Hamilton, Mercedes, 1:20.818, 94 laps (Proto)
13. Russell, Williams, 1:25.625, 23 laps (C3)

(Tyre compounds in brackets C1 to C5, hardest to softest)

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