McLaren continued to show its strength in Formula One preseason testing on Thursday, when four-time champion Sebastian Vettel said he will not race in the Russian Grand Prix because of Russia’s attack on Ukraine.

Vettel said the Grand Prix Drivers’ Association, which he leads, will discuss the issue, while F1 said it was “closely watching” the developments.

On the track, Daniel Ricciardo followed Lando Norris’ success with McLaren a day earlier and was fastest in the morning session. Ferrari stayed close, as it did at the end of the first day on Wednesday, with Carlos Sainz second fastest.

The session was red-flagged because of an apparent gearbox issue to the Red Bull of Sergio Perez, who ended with the eighth fastest time.

Teammate Max Verstappen, the F1 champion, had no reliability problems on Wednesday and finished the day with the most laps among all drivers.

Lewis Hamilton, who lost the title to Verstappen on the last lap of the last race in 2021, didn’t return to the track with his Mercedes after Perez’s red flag, finishing ninth fastest.

Alpha Tauri’s Pierre Gasly was third fastest in the morning, ahead of Alex Albon of Williams and Aston Martin’s Lance Stroll, Vettel’s teammate.

Vettel said he was “shocked” by Russia’s attack on Ukraine and said, “I’m sure it’s something we’ll talk about” as drivers.

“We will see going forward but I think my decision (to miss the Russian GP) is already made.”

F1 said in a statement it was “closely watching the very fluid developments” but made no further comment on whether the race in Sochi in September would be canceled.

Nikita Mazepin is the only Russian driver on the F1 grid. He drives for Haas, which struggled with reliability issues on Wednesday but improved on the second day with Mick Schumacher at the wheel.

Rookie Zhou Guanyu, the first Chinese driver in F1, made his testing debut with Alfa Romeo in the afternoon session at the Barcelona-Catalunya Circuit. The team has struggled and teammate Valtteri Bottas couldn’t manage many laps in the morning on Thursday.

F1 has a new generation of cars after major regulations changes to try to improve racing and make the series more competitive. New aerodynamic and tire requirements are in place to hopefully allow drivers to race closer together and create more overtaking.


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