Valtteri Bottas has returned Mercedes to the top of the timesheets in Formula 1 pre-season testing with the fastest time on the third day of running at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya.
Under the gaze of a clearly impressed Nico Rosberg – the reigning Formula 1 World Champion and the man he replaced – Bottas shattered the circuit’s unofficial lap record during his half-day stint behind the wheel.
He became the first driver to lap the Spanish Grand Prix circuit in under 80 seconds during the morning session on a Soft tyre run, before lowering the benchmark to a time of 1:19.705 on Ultra Soft tyres.
By the time he handed over controls of his F1W08 to teammate Lewis Hamilton for the afternoon session, he was some 1.5 seconds faster than anyone else. Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel managed to cut the deficit to just under a quarter of a second in the afternoon, with the German’s best time coming on the Soft compound tyre.
While the pre-season test lap times are largely meaningless, what was impressive once again was the mileage that a number of the teams racked up over the day.
Bottas and Hamilton combined to give the Mercedes team a total of 170 laps for the day and 470 laps over the three days of running so far – a tally no other team can come close to.
Hamilton ran in the afternoon, clocking 95 laps which included a complete race simulation – his times were considerably slower than the Finn’s.
Vettel’s 139 laps – the most of any individual driver on Wednesday – pulled Ferrari’s tally to-date towards 350, although the German caused the day’s final red flag when his SF70H ground to a halt on the pit straight in the closing minutes of the day. The timing of the incident suggests the team was simulating a systems shutdown or ‘out of fuel’ issue.
A distant third-fastest was Red Bull Racing’s Daniel Ricciardo, who posted his quickest time in the morning session and managed 70 laps over the day. The Australian’s day was interrupted with a suspected exhaust issue, limiting the RB13’s tally to 210 laps to-date.
Jolyon Palmer pushed his Renault to fourth-fastest in his morning session of running (51 laps), before the Englishman handed over to teammate Nico Hülkenberg who completed another 42 laps and was 0.4 seconds slower in fifth.
Marcus Ericsson clocked plenty of miles in the Sauber C36 in a productive day, and wound up sixth-fastest with a best time of 1:21.824 – quicker than last year’s Spanish Grand Prix pole position time – on the Super Soft tyres.
With Hamilton seventh-fastest, Romain Grosjean was immediately behind and managed 55 laps for the day in his Haas Ferrari to help the team push over 200 testing laps for the week-to-date.
Lance Stroll looked on course to notch up a century of laps for the Williams FW40, but twice blotted his copybook with incidents. The first was a minor spin just before the lunch break, while the second saw him hit the wall at Turn 5 and bring the team’s running to a close. The Canadian finished ninth-quickest with a best time of 1:22.351.
The McLaren Honda MCL32 finally found some reliability after its previous two days were interrupted with power unit troubles. Fernando Alonso chalked up 72 laps en route to tenth on the timesheets, with his fastest time posted on the Ultra Soft tyres.
Scuderia Toro Rosso was another team to split its running between its two drivers. Daniil Kvyat and Carlos Sainz Jr both had their programmes interrupted with technical issues and languished well down the order.
The pair sandwiched Force India’s test driver Alfonso Célis Jr, whose Mexican backers helped buy him some seat time for a day. The 20-year-old didn’t set the timing screens alight, but did a steady and sensible job to give the VJM10 another 71 laps of critical pre-season data.
F1 pre-season testing continues in Barcelona on Thursday, where the track will be artificially soaked for the teams to sample Pirelli’s wet weather and intermediate tyres.
|2017 FORMULA 1 PRE-SEASON TEST – DAY 3 UNOFFICIAL TIMES|
|Driver||Team / Entry||Time||Tyre||Laps|
|1.||Valtteri Bottas||Mercedes AMG Petronas F1W08||1:19.705||75|
|2.||Sebastian Vettel||Scuderia Ferrari SF70H||1:19.952||139|
|3.||Daniel Ricciardo||Red Bull Racing Tag Heuer RB13||1:21.153||70|
|4.||Jolyon Palmer||Renault Sport F1 Team RS17||1:21.396||51|
|5.||Nico Hülkenberg||Renault Sport F1 Team RS17||1:21.791||42|
|6.||Marcus Ericsson||Sauber F1 Team Ferrari C36||1:21.824||123|
|7.||Lewis Hamilton||Mercedes AMG Petronas F1W08||1:22.090||95|
|8.||Romain Grosjean||Haas F1 Team Ferrari VF-17||1:22.118||55|
|9.||Lance Stroll||Williams Martini Racing Mercedes FW40||1:22.351||98|
|10.||Fernando Alonso||McLaren-Honda MP4-31||1:22.598||72|
|11.||Carlos Sainz Jr||Scuderia Toro Rosso Ferrari STR12||1:23.540||32|
|12.||Alfonso Célis Jr||Sahara Force India Mercedes VJM10||1:23.568||69|
|13.||Daniil Kvyat||Scuderia Toro Rosso Ferrari STR12||1:23.952||31|
Image via Mercedes AMG F1 Petronas