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Ferrari again fastest on final day of F1 testing

McLaren defend their ‘ambitious’ car design after reliability problems

By Reuters - Mar 10,2018 - Last updated at Mar 10,2018

Ferrari’s Finnish driver Kimi Raikkonen takes part in the tests for the new Formula One Grand Prix season at the Circuit de Catalunya in Montmelo on the outskirts of Barcelona on Friday (AFP photo by Lluis Gene)

BARCELONA — Formula One wrapped up pre-season testing on Friday with Kimi Raikkonen keeping Ferrari on top of the timesheets for the second day in a row.

The Finn’s lap of one minute 17.221 seconds around Barcelona’s Circuit de Catalunya was the second fastest of the eight days of winter testing and slower only than teammate Sebastian Vettel’s best on Thursday.

McLaren’s Fernando Alonso had a rollercoaster day, sidelined for nearly five hours by an oil leak and engine change before charging back out to set the second quickest time on the same hypersoft tyres.

The Spaniard, who completed 93 laps after failing to set a time in the morning, was 0.563 slower than Raikkonen.

Compatriot Carlos Sainz was third fastest for Renault, after losing time to a gearbox problem in the morning.

Australian Daniel Ricciardo was fourth in a Red Bull and Frenchman Romain Grosjean completed an impressive few days for Haas in fifth.

“I think we will be close enough to be in the hunt,” said Ricciardo, who now heads to a season-opening home race on March 25. “It’s been a better winter than last year.

“Ferrari turned it up the last couple of days but we are there or thereabouts. It looks like Ferrari can challenge Mercedes if we can’t and it could be quite close.”

Grosjean did a marathon 181 laps in the Ferrari-powered car on Friday, more than anyone else on a day that started cool but warmed up, while compatriot Esteban Ocon put in 163 for Force India.

Four times world champion Lewis Hamilton shared the Mercedes with Finnish teammate Valtteri Bottas, the pair doing 97 and 104 laps respectively as they focused on long runs rather than outright speed.

McLaren have defended their “ambitious” car design after Alonso suffered more reliability problems on testing.

Former world champions McLaren have switched from Honda to Renault engines this season and are hoping to move back up the grid after sinking to ninth of 10 teams last season.

“We have an ambitious design around the car and you can see that the car is a little bit different from the other Renault-engined cars,” racing director Eric Boullier told reporters at the Circuit de Catalunya.

“So far we had minor issues but I think that was because we didn’t do a good job enough to prepare the car.”

McLaren have lost time to a variety of problems, starting with a wheel nut issue that sent Alonso spinning into the gravel after just six laps of the very first day of testing in Barcelona.

On Tuesday Belgian Stoffel Vandoorne was twice stopped by battery and hydraulic failures while Alonso lost about seven hours after an oil leak forced another engine change on Wednesday. 

Boullier said McLaren had adjusted the car’s cooling systems, but conceded that the lack of running meant reliability would remain a concern for the season opening race in Australia on March 25.

“We had only minor issues which were all different. A good rebuild of the car for Australia will help us to fix a few issues,” added the Frenchman.

“We have not lost our capability of designing fast cars and I hope you will see it on track soon. We have to be ambitious, and to be ambitious you have to take risks.”

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