Bullish Daniel Ricciardo reckons Red Bull 'much closer' to Mercedes

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Ricciardo, who finished 5th in last year's drivers' standings, also topped the lap count with a mammoth total of 165.

"The auto breaking down, yes, it's testing, so we have some little issues which we have to fix, but it's just testing".

Ricciardo edged out Hamilton by 0.353 seconds for fastest time, but the Mercedes was substantially quicker when the cars were on equivalent tyres.

McLaren got Vandoorne out in time for three laps at the end of the morning; but his afternoon running was cut short by a hydraulics problem with just 38 laps to the MCL33's name. Times set in testing are not officially recognized as track records.

Boullier noted that problems will arise early on in McLaren's relationship with Renault Sport, after parting ways with former engine suppliers Honda late past year. Raikkonen was scheduled to be on the track in the afternoon.

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McLaren boss Eric Boullier insisted that he is not "overly concerned" about the problems. "It is part of the process", Boullier said.

While fastest man on course today, Ricciardo said Mercedes remained " top dog at the moment but I don't actually think we're far off". "This is testing, give us time - it is fine".

Alonso, who has said he expects his team to be able to challenge for podium positions this season, is due to speak to the media this evening.

The Australian's time of one minute and 18.047 seconds on the new hypersoft Pirelli tyres lit up the timing screens on the second day of the final pre-season test at the Circuit de Catalunya.

The feat aboard his RB14 under sunny, blue skies outpaced reigning world champion Lewis Hamilton (1:18.400) and his Mercedes team mate Valtteri Bottas (1:18.560).

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Alonso had briefly led with an early morning run on the hyper-soft tyres - his quickest time on that tyre was 1:19.856, though it was set in the cooler conditions of the early morning so can not be reliably compared to those set by Ricciardo and Hamilton later in the day.

Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel delivered the fastest time in Formula One testing yesterday morning (Singapore time) as warmer conditions greeted drivers in Barcelona following last week's snow-hit sessions.

"I will be in the auto, I will drive - hopefully we will keep discovering new things on the vehicle - but if Australia was tomorrow it's okay".

No problems for Hamilton and Mercedes so far at winter testing And potential title rivals Ferrari are putting in the miles, despite driver Kimi Raikkonen calling in sick early in the day "20 years of hurt".

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