Formula One: Ferrari driver Sebastian Vettel crashes vehicle during pre-season testing

"There are still a few niggles and stoppages that we wish we didn't have, but every time we go out on track we're a bit more reliable and we keep moving in the right direction", commented Sainz. As it did on Tuesday, Ferrari planned to alternate its drivers in either session, meaning new 2019 arrival Charles Leclerc is slated to step in the afternoon if the red auto makes it back on the circuit.

Vettel's crash in the morning at the Circuit de Catalunya was the team's first pre-season setback after looking quick and reliable so far. As I said the auto is solid I feel pretty comfortable all in it. "But in all those areas we can still do better".

"I think it hasn't changed since day one to be honest", Leclerc said of the vehicle earlier in the day. "The balance is pretty nice and it hasn't changed today". It's a good morning for us, and it's good to be on top, but it doesn't mean anything. I didn't have control of the auto anymore so we are trying to understand what happened. There's still a lot to learn but it's a good start.

Ferrari had endured a hard time over the previous two days.

Ferrari's Formula 1 driver Sebastian Vettel crashed his auto during Wednesday's testing in Spain and had to be escorted to the medical centre for a check-up.

Leclerc ended his day by stopping on track because of an exhaust problem.

Alexander Albon, the Britain-born Thai driver, was second fastest in his Toro Rosso, ahead of McLaren's British rookie Lando Norris and Gasly. The accident brought a premature end to Red Bull's afternoon and gave the team's nightshift mechanics a heavy workload ahead of the final day of testing on Friday.

It was the Frenchman's second significant crash of pre-season, after a previous incident last week in which he lost control at Turn 12. Gasly spun and smashed into the barriers, badly damaging the vehicle.

Hamilton, who will be chasing a sixth title this year with Mercedes going for a sixth successive championship double, did more laps than anyone before lunch (85) but was eighth fastest on the hard C2 tyre as he focused mainly on long runs.

The season-opening Australian Grand Prix is on March 17.

  • Stacy Allen