Ferrari driver Vettel crashes in F1 preseason testing
MONTMELO, Spain (AP) — A crash by Sebastian Vettel dealt Ferrari its biggest setback so far in this year’s Formula One preseason testing, keeping the team from running many laps on Wednesday.
Vettel crashed into a tire barrier after losing control on Turn 3 at the Barcelona-Catalunya Circuit. His car went through the gravel and hit the barrier head-on. The German driver did not sustain any significant injuries but was taken to the medical center for precautionary checks.
“I had a feeling there was an issue with the front left corner of the car and from then on, there was nothing I could do to avoid the impact,” Vettel said. “The good thing is I am totally fine.”
Ferrari said Vettel was “off due to a mechanical problem.” It said the damaged car was sent back to the garage “for all the needed checks.”
The Italian team did not specify what problem led to Vettel’s crash after he ran only 40 laps in the morning session of the second of four days of testing.
The crash prompted a red flag, and Vettel’s Ferrari had to be towed back to the garage.
Because of the damage on the car, Charles Leclerc went to the track with only a few minutes left and only managed to run one lap. Ferrari, which dominated the first days of testing last week, ended with the fewest laps of all teams on Wednesday.
“Clearly, we have not done as much running as we would have liked,” Vettel said. “But I’d still say I’m getting a positive feeling from the car. Last week was definitely productive as we completed a lot of mileage.”
McLaren driver Carlos Sainz led Wednesday’s session with a time of 1 minute, 17.144 seconds, the fastest so far after six days of testing. His rookie teammate, Lando Norris, had been the quickest on Tuesday.
“It’s always nice to be first,” said Sainz, who led all drivers with 130 laps, along with Robert Kubica of Williams. “But we’re not going to be on pole in Australia, if that’s the question. We’re not going to win in Australia at all, everyone calm down a bit, this is just testing.”
The season-opening Australian Grand Prix is on March 17.
Sergio Perez was the second fastest with Racing Point on Wednesday, while Vettel still finished with the third-quickest time of the day, followed by Alfa Romeo veteran Kimi Raikkonen.
Mercedes again focused on aerodynamic updates and finished with Valtteri Bottas in eighth place and Lewis Hamilton in ninth.
“Seventy-five laps of setup work completed and we keep on learning,” Bottas said.
Red Bull driver Max Verstappen, sixth fastest, prompted one of the red flags of the days as he stopped with a problem at the end of pit lane, while Sainz prompted another with an issue that halted him at the main straight.
Also Wednesday, McLaren said two-time world champion Fernando Alonso will be the team’s ambassador and continue to advise its drivers and engineers, as well as “drive at selected tests to support the development” of the team’s cars for 2020.
Alonso, who was at the Barcelona track on Tuesday, will drive for McLaren in this year’s Indy 500.
Renault said Russian driver Sergey Sirotkin, who raced for Williams last season, will be the team’s reserve driver in 2019.
Testing will continue through Friday at the Barcelona-Catalunya Circuit, home to the Spanish Grand Prix.