Mercedes convinced Red Bull is now serious threat

Ferrari's German driver Sebastian Vettel drives at the Circuit de Catalunya in Montmelo on the outskirts of Barcelona during the third day of the second week of tests for the Formula One Grand Prix season

Mercedes convinced Red Bull is now serious threat

Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel was fastest, lapping in one minute 20.396 seconds and completing 171 laps - equal to almost 800km and more than 2-1/2 race distances at the Circuit de Catalunya.

Daniel Ricciardo is optimistic Red Bull can challenge Mercedes this season after impressing in testing.

That was a little under a tenth faster than Daniel Ricciardo's Wednesday effort, which itself had beaten the unofficial record around the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya's current layout dating back to 2008.

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"There's been a lot of [lap] times, what's important is the auto was working all day".

Two more days of testing remains before the first race in Melbourne, Australia on March 23-25 2018. "It was a good bunch of laps today and I got a few quick ones in there, which was nice,".

On the penultimate day of testing, McLaren really needed an easier time of things having been plagued by stoppages so far in Barcelona.

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A fairer comparison - although still imperfect - was over race distances, which all three big teams completed at different times of the day. He finished the session 0.003s behind Magnussen and 0.312s faster than Nico Hulkenberg in the Renault, who set his time on the hyper-soft tyre in the morning.

However, the Red Bull driver still believes Mercedes are slightly ahead as his time was set on the fastest tire compound available this season - the hypersoft tire - while the Mercedes duo of Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas, who were second and third on the time sheet set their time on the ultrasoft tire, which is one level below.

Stroll appeared for 64 laps in the afternoon and was slowest of all. McLaren endured another hard day, with Stoffel Vandoorne's Renault-powered auto suffering electrical and hydraulic failures and doing the fewest laps. Neither Mercedes driver attempted anything resembling a performance run but combined the two drivers completed 181 laps. In the end it was six hours and 37 minutes before Alonso emerged again, with the Spaniard fitting in seven further laps before Charles Leclerc spun off at Turn 12 at the end of the day to ensure that red flags ended any hopes of further significant running.

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Sergio Perez improved Force India's quickest time by over a second, but his 1:19.634 on hypersofts was only enough for 11th place.

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