Leclerc goes fastest yet in F1 testing READ MORE

I hit the wall quite strongly and I think the Tecpro and the wall did their job and the vehicle did its job but of course after the impact the auto was very damaged.

Charles Leclerc posted a best lap time of one minute and 16.231 seconds, comfortably the quickest during the pre-season sessions so far, during the morning session in Barcelona. Leclerc's lap was just 0.058s off the pole position time from last season's Spanish Grand Prix, although track conditions and being able to use a different tire makes it a somewhat unfair comparison.

Anglo-Thai driver Alexander Albon was second fastest with a lap of 1:16.882, also on C5 tyres, with McLaren's Lando Norris third in 1:17.084.

Leclerc set the fastest time of the winter by more than half a second before Gasly damaged the Red Bull at the high-speed Turn Nine, his second crash this winter.

"We need to review everything in more detail tonight and I'm looking forward to continuing our program tomorrow morning". "There's still some margin, a bit in myself".

"There is still a lot of work before Melbourne, but lap after lap I am more and more comfortable with the vehicle".

A long-run comparison between Ferrari, Mercedes and Red Bull looked possible in the afternoon as all three teams attempted a race simulation after lunch. His vehicle went through the gravel and hit the barrier head-on.

"By the feeling there was an issue with the front left corner and from there, there wasn't anything that I could have done to avoid the impact", said the German.

"It will be a long night for the mechanics, I'm sorry for them. Focus on the positives - we managed to do a lot of testing and things to analyse".

"It is not a flawless auto yet but you can feel the potential is there".

Hamilton's team mate Valtteri Bottas reiterated the view he expressed last week that Ferrari were ahead and Mercedes still had work to do.

Friday is the final day of testing ahead of the season-opening Grand Prix in Australia on March 17.

Further down the grid, a flurry of qualifying style laps by the midfield teams saw a number of competitive times split by less than a second.

The Monégasque driver stopped on-track late in the afternoon at Turn 9, having recorded 138 laps throughout the day, with a "small issue with the exhaust".