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Vettel was working his 41st lap of the morning session when his Ferrari SF90 went off-track and hard into the barriers at turn three, triggering the car's g-force sensors and requiring Vettel to take a trip to the medical center to be checked out by doctors. The Frenchman, who was promoted from feeder team Toro Rosso, lost control on curve Nine and hit the protective barrier. "It was a pretty big crash, one of the biggest crashes I have had so far", Gasly - who posted the day's fourth fastest time prior to his accident - told reporters.

"The goal today was to have a reference on the softer tyres", said Leclerc who is in his debut season with Ferrari where he will partner four-time world champion Sebastian Vettel.

Sergio Perez was second for Racing Point F1, seven tenths adrift at 1:17.842, while Ferrari ran into disaster despite Sebastian Vettel posting the third-quickest lap of the day at 1:18.195. As it did on Tuesday, Ferrari planned to alternate its drivers in either session, meaning new 2019 arrival Charles Leclerc is slated to step in the afternoon if the red auto makes it back on the circuit. The auto returned to the track at the end of yesterday's test and covered 56 laps on Thursday morning.

McLaren driver Carlos Sainz was leading Wednesday's session with a time of 1 minute, 17.144 seconds, the fastest so far after six days of testing.

"Having Fernando on the team is fantastic", rookie driver Norris is quoted by El Mundo Deportivo.

Mercedes were again towards the bottom of the timesheets with Valtteri Bottas eighth and five times world champion team mate Lewis Hamilton ninth.

Bottas made 96 laps, but could only set the 13th best time.

The heavy contact severely damaged the rear end of the vehicle while the front wing also broke off, and Red Bull's day ended after just 65 laps.

Red Bull driver Max Verstappen, sixth fastest, prompted one of the red flags of the days as he stopped with a problem at the end of pit lane, while Sainz prompted another with an issue that halted him at the main straight.

A wheel rim issue caused Vettel's crash in pre-season testing, Ferrari said on Thursday.

The 26-year-old confirmed the paddock perception that he suffered because of McLaren's Alonso-centric focus.

It also backs up theories that Ferrari holds the edge ahead of the season-opening Australian Grand Prix.

The season starts in Australia on March 17.