Red Bull's Max Verstappen topped the third and final day of the sole three-day pre-season testing with the Dutchman clocking in a sensational time of 1m28.960 on Pirelli's C4 tyre.
The pre-season testing is now done and dusted after just three days of on-track action. The 2021 season is proceeded by just a three-day winter testing, which is putting teams and drivers under great pressure, particularly the debutants and those racers who have changed teams for the upcoming season.
The last day of testing saw Max Verstappen take over the control with the Dutchman joining the group of drivers who conducted a series of qualifying simulation runs. After posting promising times on Pirelli’s C3 tyres, the Hasselt-born driver finally set the fastest lap of the three-day testing with a 1m28.960.
The Dutchman took over the car from his new team mate Sergio Perez for the afternoon and racked up a total of 64 laps. The Mexican completed only 49 laps in the morning and posted his best time with a 1m30.187, albeit in much higher temperatures.
The big sensation today was Yuki Tusonda, AlphaTauri’s new recruit. The 20-year-old Japanese driver, who ended up third in the 2020 FIA F2 Championship, was only 93 thousandths of a second slower than Verstappen. His brilliant performance was underlined by the fact that he posted not only a single fast lap on low-fuel, but a series of promising times during the final hour of testing.
The Sagamihara-born driver notched up 91 laps in total while his team mate, 2020 Monza race winner Pierre Gasly completed 76 laps in the morning.
Ferrari presented itself in an improved form, albeit its outright performance was not on par with the teams it battled during the 2020 season. The Maranello-based completed two race simulations with Charles Leclerc conducting a race run in the morning and Carlos Sainz doing the same in the cooler afternoon conditions.
The Monegasque opted for a two-stop C3-C2-C2 strategy while his Spanish team mate completed his simulation with the C4-C2-C2 combination. Together they completed 159 laps, only suffering a small interruption by a hydraulics-related issue in the final hour of the day.
Fernando Alonso had another intensive day with his new Alpine F1 Team with the Spaniard concentrating on setup work and long runs before conducting a few qualifying simulation runs. The Oviedo-born ended up ninth fastest with a time of 1m30.318 while his team mate, Esteban Ocon registered his best lap with a 1m31.310 in the morning session.
Three days. 304 laps. Plenty of room for improvement. 💪— Mercedes-AMG PETRONAS F1 Team (@MercedesAMGF1) March 14, 2021
Big two weeks coming up ahead of the season opener back here in Bahrain. pic.twitter.com/aHjXfVoZz1
McLaren’s driver pairing did not focus too much on qualifying simulation. However, Lando Norris's time of 1m30.661 that he posted in the higher temperatures was eye-catching, suggesting that the new McLaren has a strong pace.
The reigning world champion team’s 2021 car, the W12 proved to be more robust and reliable in the final morning with Valtteri Bottas completing a total of 86 laps. However, the afternoon got off to a bad start due to reliability concerns which delayed Lewis Hamilton’s work. In the end, the seven-time world champion posted a time of 1m30.025 on the C5 compound which was enough for 5th.
Aston Martin endured another mixed day which saw Lance Stroll conduct long runs in the morning, racking up a total of 80 laps. However, Sebastian Vettel suffered another technical issue which ended his last day at the wheel of his new AMR21 prematurely.
The four-time world champion ended up 17th fastest with a time of 1m35.041, albeit it was not representative in term of outright pace as he mainly concentrated on high-fuel runs until the Mercedes turbo-related issues.