Sports

Raikkonen sets new benchmark for flying Ferrari

Finnish driver Kimi Raikkonen smashed teammate Sebastian Vettel's best time in pre-season testing by nearly half a second to dominate the morning session of the final day of testing in Barcelona yesterday.

Raikkonen edged to within three tenths of the track record in 1min 18.634sec to register the fastest time of the day by nearly a second.

Vettel's best of 1min 19.024sec on Thursday had already raised hopes that Ferrari, who haven't won a drivers' championship since Raikkonen's success in 2007, can bring an end to Mercedes' three years of dominance.

Dutch wonderkid Max Verstappen was second-fastest as Red Bull again showed that they look set to be the third force behind Mercedes and Ferrari this season.

Fernando Alonso and McLaren's misery continued, though, as the two-time world champion broke down with the same electrical problems that saw Stoffel Vandoorne stop twice on Thursday.

Alonso eventually got 19 laps under his belt, but he was slowest among the 10 drivers in action.

Valtteri Bottas was well over a second back on Raikkonen in fourth on the same supersoft tyre compound.

Three-time world champion Lewis Hamilton claimed on Thursday that Ferrari were bluffing after Vettel blitzed the competition in posting the fastest time by a distance before Raikkonen's effort yesterday.

The German four-time world champion clocked 1min 19.024 around a sun-kissed Circuit de Catalunya despite appearing to ease off in the third sector of his fastest lap.

Hamilton was three tenths slower on the same ultrasoft tyre compound used by Vettel.

"I think Ferrari are bluffing and that they are a lot quicker than they are showing," said the Englishman, who took over from Bottas for yesterday's afternoon session, but his timing was not available at press time.

Mercedes have dominated for the past three seasons with Hamilton and retired world champion Nico Rosberg winning all but two of 21 races last year.

Hamilton expects to be pushed all the way by Vettel as Ferrari have closed the gap following an overhaul to the sport's regulations.

"It's difficult right now to say exactly who is quicker. They are very close if not faster.

"Whatever the case, I can't wait to go out and compete. Just a couple more weeks to go." 
- AFP

Formula 1