Vandoorne jumped to the top of the timesheets towards the end of the second hour when he logged a 1m19.402s, beating Valtteri Bottas – who is performing 2018 test work for Pirelli – by 0.021s.
The Belgian then cemented his position with a 1m19.040s shortly afterwards, which was followed by a 1m18.550s early in the third hour.
With around an hour and 15 minutes left of running, F2 points leader Leclerc, making his first outing in Ferrari’s 2017 car, recovered from an early spin to go 0.087s up on Vandoorne with a 1m18.463s using supersoft tyres.
Vandoorne with half an hour remaining, a 1m18.370s set on supersofts putting the McLaren regular 0.093s ahead before he stopped out on track and caused a late red flag period.
Behind Leclerc, Bottas was third fastest, 1.053s slower than Vandoorne but completing the most laps of any driver with 71 tours to his credit.
Lance Stroll, filling in for an unwell Felipe Massa at Williams, was fourth, 1.496s off the pace, followed by Force India’s Nikita Mazepin a further 0.044s back. The Russian hands over to Lucas Auer this afternoon.
On his F1 test debut, GP3 star George Russell completed 54 laps for Mercedes on his way to the sixth-best time of the morning, his best effort putting him 1.823s behind Vandoorne.
Nicholas Latifi was seventh for Renault, followed by Haas junior Santino Ferrucci and Max Verstappen, whose Red Bull spent much of the morning in the garage with a reported engine problem.
The Dutchman finally hit the track in the fourth hour, but with Vandoorne’s stoppage he only completed 11 laps and ended up 3.6s off the pace.
F2 pair Sean Gelael (Toro Rosso) and Gustav Malja (Sauber) propped up the timesheets, Gelael causing a lengthy red flag period when his car stopped out on track following a spin for the Indonesian.