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Leclerc sets the pace as testing finally springs to life

NEWS STORY
28/02/2019

If Ferrari and Charles Leclerc were suffering any after effects following a couple of difficult days, neither was showing any sign of it this morning.

Though the Monegasque youngster was a little tardy in getting to work this morning, not leaving the garage until thirty-five minutes had passed, he soon got down to it.

As we previously said, if last week's sessions were effectively the FP1 and FP2 of winter testing, and Monday and Tuesday were effectively FP3, today and tomorrow are pretty much qualifying before the teams head down under.

Finally, the gloves began to come off and hands were shown, albeit partially, as teams abandoned long runs for shorter performance-related runs.

Initially, it was all about Albon, Magnussen and Giovinazzi, seeking to finally stretch their legs, but then the big boys wanted to join in the fun.

All except Hamilton that is, the Briton quietly doing his - and Mercedes - own thing as the German outfit continues to try and get to grips with its aero and graining issues.

While the times continued to tumble and the timing screen lit up with yellows, green and purples, Red Bull and Williams appeared to be involved in their own private battle in terms of who could run the biggest aero rake.

An hour into the session, Hamilton posted an 18.097 on the C2s to go quickest, but if we thought the Briton was finally about to show what he and the W10 could do we were wrong.

Having thrown a tantalising tidbit, the world champion quietly resumed his programme and let the rest of the kids play their silly games… not for nothing is he a five-time world champion.

Ninety minutes into the session, Leclerc went second with an 18.344 on the C3 but was soon demoted by Hulkenberg.

By now, Magnussen had clearly tired of the performance nonsense and, like Hamilton, was concentrating on slightly longer runs.

Around 100 minutes into the session, Norris posted a 17.084 on the C5s, the quickest time of testing thus far, and despite the best efforts of Albon and Gasly the Briton held the top spot until the Thai driver finally became the first driver to break the 1:16s barrier, also on the C5s.

Leclerc, also on the C5s, teased us by going quickest in S1, but lost time over the rest of the lap and could 'only' manage 16.949.

With just over 15 minutes remaining, the Ferrari driver posted a 16.361 and subsequently improved to 16.231. Game on!

While Leclerc heads into the lunch break with an 0.65s advantage over Albon, and Norris and Gasly only marginally behind, the gap to Hulkenberg, Stroll and Giovinazzi is over a second, all seven drivers having posted their best times on the C5.

Once again, Hamilton and Mercedes leads the lap count, the Briton having completed 85, while a late charge saw Russell - shorn of that massive aero rake - leapfrog Magnussen to take ninth on the board.

Hopefully, this afternoon will see further performance runs, perhaps with spoil sports Mercedes opting to join in the fun.

Check out our Thursday gallery from Barcelona, here.

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