Leclerc set a benchmark time of 1m 18.247s, set on the same C3 compound of tyres that Sebastian Vettel used to put in his fastest time yesterday, was just 0.086s slower than the German’s effort, with Ferrari over a second clear of their nearest rivals.
For most of the first half of the day at least, that nearest rival was Antonio Giovinazzi, who put in an impressive debut stint at the wheel of his Alfa Romeo C38, with Kimi Raikkonen having driven the car yesterday. But just before the lunch break, Kevin Magnussen put himself up to P2 after an interrupted morning that saw the Dane spend more time than he would have liked in the Haas garage.
The day got off on a bad footing for Toro Rosso’s Alexander Albon, who spun into the gravel on his very first out lap, with Team Principal Franz Tost later hinting that there may have been an issue on the Thai driver’s steering. Albon then went on to have a further spin, executing a neat pirouette through Barcelona’s final chicane section.
Meanwhile, Daniel Ricciardo suffered a heart-stopping moment when the top element of his rear wing flew off as he was pounding down the main straight in Barcelona. The Australian ran off into the Turn 1 gravel, but was fortunately able to keep his R.S.19 out of the barriers and continue on his way – with Renault’s engineers then carrying out a full assessment of what went wrong, limiting Ricciardo’s running in the process.
Coming back to LeClerc and Ferrari, they may be quick now, but one should never underestimate Mercedes.