Formula One pre-testing: Ferrari flies, McLaren limps toward new season 

While Ferrari soars into the new season with hopes of challenging Mercedes, McLaren is barely able to get its car rolling.

Published: 11th March 2017 12:00 AM  |   Last Updated: 11th March 2017 12:00 AM   |  A+A-

Ferrari driver Kimi Raikkonen of Finland sits in his car as mechanics push it back to the team box during a Formula One pre-season testing session at the Catalunya racetrack in Montmelo. (Photo | AP)

By Associated Press

MONTMELO: While Ferrari soars into the new Formula One season with high hopes of challenging Mercedes' three-year dominance of the series, McLaren is barely able to get its car rolling.

The two teams concluded eight days of preseason testing on Friday with completely contrasting prospects.

Kimi Raikkonen set the best time of the preseason, pushing his Ferrari below teammate Sebastian Vettel's leading mark from the day before by almost four-tenths of a second.

Raikkonen spun his car on turn 13 in the afternoon, causing a red flag to flutter. He went back out later and finished with 111 laps.

Mercedes split the day between drivers Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas, who clocked the fourth- and fifth-best times behind Carlos Sainz of Toro Rosso.

But, as Vettel said on Thursday, it was possible Mercedes was holding something back and may prove to be notably quicker at the season-opening Australian Grand Prix in two weeks.

Times by the most race-ready teams have steadily dropped through the preseason, setting new track records since the Circuit Barcelona-Catalunya layout was changed a decade ago. That was expected after F1 issued a major rulebook overhaul this winter to make wider, and thus faster, cars.

One team yet to benefit from the new designs was McLaren.

The former F1 heavyweight had a woeful final day after Fernando Alonso's car twice sputtered to a stop.

McLaren has endured repeated problems with its Honda engine throughout the tests, and back-to-back stoppages during the session when teams want to be priming their cars for the race in Melbourne is alarming.

Alonso's troubled car was already at the bottom of the timesheets when it ground to a halt after 16 laps. After being hauled back on a flatbed to the garage, the former champion ventured out again, only to provoke a second red flag when his car stopped after only two more laps.

The Spaniard returned to the track after McLaren said via Twitter that it repaired "another electrical issue," and managed to inch up to the 11th best time of the 13 drivers, on a total of just 43 laps over eight hours of testing.

Alonso and new teammate Stoffel Vandoorne have suffered stoppages and a demoralizing lack of speed throughout the preseason. Alonso, considered one of F1's most talented drivers, said this week his car has "no reliability and no power."

McLaren said it would not speak to the media on Friday because of "logistical reasons."

Honda, McLaren's engine maker, summed the tests in a tweet as, "it's been a challenge."

As for the middling outfits, Williams' 18-year-old rookie, Lance Stroll, and Sainz crammed in a day's high 132 laps. Sergio Perez was next with 128 in his Force India.

Red Bull driver Max Verstappen had the second fastest time on Friday. But that was eight-tenths of a second off Raikkonen's pace, indicating that Red Bull seems a step behind Ferrari and Mercedes heading into the season.

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