McLaren’s woeful pre-season continued on the final day of the Barcelona test as Fernando Alonso’s MCL32 twice ground to a halt at the Circuit de Catalunya.
The former world champion’s team and engine suppliers Honda have been plagued by problems which showed no signs of improving, with the first race of the season in Australia just over two weeks away.
Alonso’s car stopped twice on the track during Friday’s morning session to add to the two red flags on Thursday as the team were again robbed of valuable track time ahead of the Melbourne race.
The first stoppage came just over halfway into the morning session, with Alonso’s car eventually taking its now customary place on the back of the recovery truck after a short break.
But when the Spaniard returned to the track with a little over an hour of the session left it stopped again almost straight away.
The double world champion had blamed McLaren’s woes on engine supplier Honda earlier in the week, and the Japanese manufacturer admitted his Friday setbacks were caused by the same electrical problem which hit team-mate Stoffel Vandoorne on Thursday.
Former world champion Sebastian Vettel had set the best time of testing so far on Thursday with a lap of one minute 19.024 seconds but on Friday morning he was usurped by Ferrari team-mate Kimi Raikkonen.
The Finn posted a time of one minute 18.634 seconds to claim top spot and become the first driver in pre-season to go under the 1:19 barrier. Raikkonen was patient for much of the session on medium compound tyres, before switching to soft and then super-soft to bring his time down to 1:19.019.
That was good enough to top the Friday timesheets but Raikkonen was after more and he duly delivered with 20 minutes to go, taking him well clear of Vettel. Raikkonen set another lap under 1:19 but was not able to beat his best.
Just five minutes after the Finn set his quickest time the fourth red flag of the morning was shown after Romain Grosjean’s Haas VF-17 stopped on the back straight.
The Frenchman had caused the first red flag of the day, before Alonso’s two stops, to be shown when his car went into the gravel at turn five, after he appeared to lose control of the rear end of the car.
Behind Raikkonen came Red Bull’s Jos Verstappen, who had set his team’s best time of pre-season so far when Alonso’s second breakdown occurred. At that point the Dutchman had Friday’s fastest lap of 1:19.491 and eventually went quicker with 1:19.438.
With Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton due out on track in the afternoon session Raikkonen’s best lap could come under threat, but Ferrari appear to have the upper hand over their title rivals.
Hamilton’s team-mate Valtteri Bottas was third-quickest on Friday morning with 1:19.845, ahead of Renault’s Nico Hulkenburg who was consistently quick to post the fourth best time of 1:19.885, making up a little for the lack of time caused by reliability problems earlier in the test when Jolyon Palmer was on duty.