Formula One: Valtteri Bottas close to record pace, Ferrari suffer engine problem

Mercedes' Finnish driver Valtteri Bottas drives during the tests for the new Formula One Grand Prix season at the Circuit de Catalunya in Montmelo, Spain, on Feb 21, 2020. PHOTO: AFP

BARCELONA (REUTERS) - Valtteri Bottas lapped close to record pace as he put Formula One champions Mercedes back on top of the testing timesheets on Friday (Feb 21), but Ferrari suffered an engine problem.

The Finn, whose teammate Lewis Hamilton is aiming to equal Michael Schumacher's record seven titles, produced the quickest lap of Barcelona's Circuit de Catalunya so far in the first pre-season test of 2020.

Bottas's time of 1min 15.732sec in the morning session was three tenths slower than the outright circuit lap record of 1:15.406 he set in qualifying for last year's Spanish Grand Prix.

Bottas had also completed 65 laps, one short of a full race distance, by lunchtime.

Renault's Esteban Ocon was second fastest, 1.370 slower but with 76 laps on the board.

Max Verstappen, who did 168 laps on Wednesday, again pounded out more than any other driver in the morning with a total of 86.

Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel was ninth of the 10 drivers on track, although lap times are of little significance at this stage of the season with teams running on different fuel levels, but stopped 21/2 hours into the session with 40 laps done.

The session was suspended for 20 minutes while the car was recovered.

Ferrari said the engine problem would be investigated back at the Maranello factory. A new engine was being fitted for the afternoon session.

Mercedes-powered Williams also brought out the red flags when Canadian rookie Nicholas Latifi stopped on the pit straight. He ended up last on the timesheets.

The season starts in Australia on March 15.

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