Defending champion Lewis Hamilton says he is not fazed by Sebastian Vettel’s impressive pace on the penultimate day of Formula One’s concluding pre-season test.
Vettel smashed Daniel Ricciardo’s unofficial track record from Wednesday by nearly a second as Ferrari raised the bar with just one full day of practice remaining at Barcelona’s Circuit de Catalunya.
Vettel became the first driver this winter to dip beneath the one minute, 18 second mark with an effort of 1:17.182.
The 30-year-old German also recorded an impressive 188 laps, the equivalent of nearly three race distances.
Hamilton, who beat the German to last year’s championship with two rounds to spare, set the eighth fastest time on Thursday as his Mercedes team concentrated on race simulations rather than outright pace.
And the 33-year-old Briton, who is bidding to become only the third driver in F1 history to win more than four championships this season, was unmoved by his rival’s super-quick lap.
“I don’t know if it was a good time, and I don’t really care,” Hamilton said. “It doesn’t matter. What matters is where we are in qualifying and at the first race when everyone is on low fuel.
“I hope it is a good time because it means they are strong and we have a race on our hands.
“I can’t wait for the first race to see where we all come out. We want people to be on the edge of their seats.
“Our car is an improvement from last year. Last year’s car felt great and this car is better. Where we are compared to the rest, I don’t know, but I feel strong at the moment.”
McLaren’s Stoffel Vandoorne meanwhile, recorded the sixth fastest time of the day as he managed 151 laps on a trouble-free day for the British team.
McLaren are bidding to make up for lost time following two consecutive days blighted by reliability issues, and Vandoorne posted the team’s fastest lap of the winter so far with a time of 1:18.855.
Double world champion Fernando Alonso missed nearly seven hours of running on Wednesday following an oil leak, while Vandoorne broke down three times on the previous day.
Alonso, 36, will return to the McLaren cockpit for Friday’s final day of testing before the season gets under way in Melbourne on March 25.