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Hulkenberg smashes leaderboard, but are Ferrari now the sandbaggers?

Hulkenberg smashes leaderboard, but are Ferrari now the sandbaggers?

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Hulkenberg smashes leaderboard, but are Ferrari now the sandbaggers?

Hulkenberg smashes leaderboard, but are Ferrari now the sandbaggers?

Ferrari may well have spent the majority of Formula 1's first pre-season test looking like the team to beat in 2019, but the Scuderia may return for test two with accusations of sandbagging ringing in their years after lap times tumbled rapidly on Thursday.

Test two will likely offer more hints at the true playing field of headline pace in F1 for the year to come, but the first instalment ended with a string of surprising names at the top of the timesheets, no matter how much salt must be pinched along with them.

Nico Hulkenberg ended the test as the fastest driver, having clocked 1:17.393 in the afternoon session, with Daniel Ricciardo having put in a similarly impressive lap, four tenths slower, earlier in the day. Although Renault's pace was impressive, they only managed 58 laps across the day.

Behind the German come both Toro Rossos, with Alexander Albon following Daniil Kvyat's Wednesday best with another impressive lap, prompting suggestions that Red Bull's junior team may well be taking the Honda power unit to limits that the senior outfit do not want to just yet.

The Honda PU certainly looks as reliable as any in 2019, Albon clocking 136 laps, while Pierre Gasly put up 146 for Red Bull.

Both Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas dipped under 1min 18secs, while Charles Leclerc ended with a top time of 1:18.046.

It remains unclear at this stage whether Mercedes have clawed back the lap time they predict Ferrari hold in hand – Toto Wolff even speculating that Leclerc and Sebastian Vettel hold half a second over their rivals.

Both Williams drivers made it to the track, although Robert Kubica conceded that his morning running was largely inconsequential, while George Russell faced a long wait to get in the car after lunch and only made 17 tours of the Circuit de Catalunya.

Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen put over 100 laps into the Haas – an impressive comeback for the American squad after a strong of on-track stoppages earlier in the week.

DAY FOUR HEADLINES

EXCLUSIVE: Giovinazzi excited for role in F1's Italian revival at Alfa Romeo
Red Bull 'ahead of Mercedes' thanks to 'rocket' Honda
Hamilton doubts 2019 changes will make a difference
Hamilton vows to help Bottas bounce back in 2019
Bottas: Winless 2018 can be good for me
Verstappen completely changed for 2019 - Marko
Leclerc plans to give Ferrari a 'problem'
Kubica: Williams yet to prepare for Australian GP

FROM THE TRACK

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Amazing to see this guy back on track today!

A post shared by GP Fans Global (@gpfansglobal) on Feb 21, 2019 at 2:09am PST

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