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Lewis Hamilton, Sebastian Vettel disagree on who is favourite for 2017 F1 title

Mercedes F1 team’s Lewis Hamilton, who shared pre-season testing duties with Finnish teammate Valtteri Bottas, had said that “Ferrari must be the favourite” and he saw nothing to change his mind after the final round of testing in Barcelona, where Sebastian Vettel topped the charts in his Ferrari.

other sports Updated: Mar 11, 2017 17:09 IST
Formula One,F1,2017 F1 season
Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel recorded the fastest time on the penultimate day of Formula One’s pre-season testing at the Circuit de Catalunya on Thursday, and could be the dark horse in the title race this season. Lewis Hamilton, in his Mercedes, was second fastest.(AFP)

Sebastian Vettel lapped fastest for Ferrari F1 team on the penultimate day of Formula One’s pre-season testing on Thursday but refused to accept the mantle of favourite from Mercedes F1 team rival Lewis Hamilton.

The four-times champion wrapped up his preparations for the opening Australian Grand Prix on March 26 with the fastest lap yet around Barcelona’s Circuit de Catalunya -- a one minute 19.024 effort.

The German also completed a mammoth stint of 156 laps, equivalent to two and a half race distances in the space of a day.

Read more | Fernando Alonso hints at McLaren exit after horror pre-season testing

Triple champion Hamilton was second quickest in 1:19.352, 0.328 slower, with both men lapping on the fastest ultrasoft tyres.

The Briton, who did 52 laps but shared duties withFinnish team mate Valtteri Bottas, had said that “Ferrari must be the favourite” and he saw nothing to change his mind two days later.

“I think Ferrari are bluffing and that they are a lot quicker than they are showing,” said the Mercedes driver, who won 10 races last year but still lost out in the title battle to now-retired team mate Nico Rosberg.

“They’re very close to us. It’s difficult right now to say exactly who is quicker. But they are very close, if not faster.”

Bottas said Mercedes were not relaxing and “not in a comfortable situation at all.

Read more | Kimi Raikkonen sets fastest pre-season time, remembers racing great John Surtees

“Ferrari are looking very strong, Red Bull can always surprise, and other teams can be strong. But Ferrari look solid, strong and fast -- and who knows what people will bring to Melbourne,” added the Finn.

Ferrari, the sport’s glamour team who are still hurting after a 2016 season without a win that left them third overall, have gone about testing with minimum fanfare and little in the way of media activity.

With plenty of pressure on them, they have also tried to play down expectations -- which Vettel continued to do on Thursday.

“I think if you look at the amount of laps Mercedes has done, if you look historically how slow they were going in the test, how much they were able to ramp it up for the races...I think they’re the ones to beat,” he said.

McLaren, struggling to get their Honda engine up to speed, had another difficult day with Belgian rookie Stoffel Vandoorne seventh fastest but doing only 48 laps and twice bringing out the red flags in the morning session.

First Published: Mar 11, 2017 17:09 IST