F1 Testing, Day Four: Kimi Raikkonen fastest for Ferrari as Fernando Alonso recovers to finish second
Raikkonen just shy of Vettel's test best as Ferrari impress again; Alonso second despite more McLaren engine problems; Mercedes and Red Bull opt against unleashing full potential
By Matt Morlidge
Last Updated: 13/12/18 4:09pm
Ferrari have laid down their marker ahead of the 2018 season after Kimi Raikkonen ended pre-season testing on top of the timesheets.
Raikkonen's 1:17.221 on hypersoft tyres was the second fastest time this winter, behind only team-mate Sebastian Vettel, while it was 0.5seconds quicker than closest challenger, McLaren's Fernando Alonso, on Day Four.
But though Ferrari finished the eight-day test with four leading times, there are still doubts about a potential title challenge as world champions Mercedes, along with Red Bull, once again opted against unleashing their full potential.
Lewis Hamilton drove in the morning session and was more than two seconds off the pace as Mercedes concentrated on their long runs, while Valtteri Bottas set his fastest time, a 1:18.825, on the medium tyre.
Daniel Ricciardo was fourth for Red Bull, but still more than a second off the pace on supersofts.
Five fastest drivers of winter testing
|Driver||Team||Test Day||Tyre||Lap Time|
|Daniel Ricciardo||Red Bull||Six||Hypersofts||1:18.047|
"I think we will be close enough to be in the hunt," said Ricciardo. "It's been a better winter than last year.
"Ferrari turned it up the last couple of days but we are there or thereabouts. It looks like Ferrari can challenge Mercedes if we can't and it could be quite close."
Instead it was Alonso who pushed Raikkonen closest, setting both his and McLaren's fastest time of the winter in the final 30 minutes of testing. The Spaniard even nearly finished the day on top, with his 1:16.720 scrapped late on for cutting the chicane.
His 1:17.784 did stand, however, and meant Alonso surprisingly finished as pre-season's third fastest driver. It was also welcome respite or the team after another miserable morning, in which a Renault engine issue resulted in a fifth breakdown of the week.
Carlos Sainz, whose running was limited due to a gearbox problem, was 0.3seconds adrift of Alonso and third for Renault, while Romain Grosjean was fifth as Haas continued to impress.
But it is still unclear just what the F1 2018 pecking order will be.
"We will see where we are in Melbourne," said Raikkonen, alluding to the season-opening Australian GP in two weeks' time. "We will do our best. The feeling was OK."
Grosjean finished on top of the Friday mileage charts with 181 laps completed, though Brendon Hartley once again highlighted the improved reliability of the Honda engine in the Toro Rosso with 156 of his own.
In total there were nine personal bests set on the final day of track action before the campaign starts in earnest, with Esteban Ocon, Sergey Sirotkin, Lance Stroll and Charles Leclerc, who spun his Sauber onto the gravel in the morning, all improving.