Lewis Hamilton braced for big Ferrari challenge

Lewis Hamilton braced for big Ferrari challenge

Lewis Hamilton braced for big Ferrari challenge

The Monegasque driver rounded off the final day of the first pre-season test with 138 laps on the board, as well as setting the sixth best time of the day.

On top of that, teams are at this stage focusing more on reliability and learning rather than absolute speed.

"At the moment I don't really hold any worry about anything", said the 34-year-old Briton, who conceded that Ferrari did appear to have produced a better package than last season.

Vettel has been the undisputed main man at Ferrari since switching to the Italian marque four years ago but he has failed to add to the four world titles he won at Red Bull. He got the seat for a reason. "I certainly got enough laps today". But priority number one is trying to bring the team forward.

In other words, ending Mercedes' five-year dominance of F1.

But it was Lewis Hamilton who completed most laps on Tuesday morning - 74 to Leclerc's 73 - and Mercedes are not unduly anxious by Ferrari's eye-catching status at the top of the charts.

Sebastian Vettel and Charles Leclerc have been among the fastest drivers in the first week of testing in Spain, with the Mercedes of Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas unable to keep pace. Hamilton settled for the 10th fastest time while putting in 74 laps.

"Once I got into my rhythm it was a smooth day and we had no issues, apart from a couple of spins later on, but I was just exploring the limits to see what the auto was capable of".

Sauber completed another solid day with Antonio Giovinazzi completing 101 laps, while Racing Point started to recover from Monday's slow start with a total of 79 laps with Lance Stroll at the wheel.

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The session also featured a few near misses.

Gasly lost control on the entry to Turn 12 and spun into the gravel trap late in the afternoon, brushing the barrier with his rear wing.

Red Bull had Max Verstappen fifth-quickest after 109 laps on Wednesday. He also survived a 360-degree spin in the middle of the track en route to finishing 132 laps and recording the fourth-best time. Williams are still not running because their vehicle is not ready.

Testing will continue through Thursday and then again from February 26-March 1 at the Barcelona-Catalunya Circuit, home to the Spanish Grand Prix in May.

The main rule change this season is a redesign of the car's front wings, which F1 hopes will allow for more overtaking.

Headline lap times in pre-season are a notoriously unreliable guide to form because teams do not reveal the specification in which cars are running, and tyres, fuel loads and engine modes all have a significant effect on lap time.

Renault driver Nico Hulkenberg of Germany steers his auto during a Formula One pre-season testing session at the Barcelona Catalunya racetrack in Montmelo, outside Barcelona, Spain, Tuesday, Feb.19, 2019.

"Lewis is the absolute favourite again because he's driving incredibly lately and his team does an incredible job", Rosberg said.

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