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.

Driver Team / Entry Time Tyre Laps
1. Valtteri Bottas fi Mercedes AMG Petronas F1W08 1:19.705 Pirelli Ultra Soft 75
2. Sebastian Vettel de Scuderia Ferrari SF70H 1:19.952 Pirelli Soft 139
3. Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull Racing Tag Heuer RB13 1:21.153 Pirelli Soft 70
4. Jolyon Palmer Renault Sport F1 Team RS17 1:21.396 Pirelli Soft 51
5. Nico Hülkenberg de Renault Sport F1 Team RS17 1:21.791 Pirelli Soft 42
6. Marcus Ericsson Sauber F1 Team Ferrari C36 1:21.824 Pirelli Super Soft 123
7. Lewis Hamilton Mercedes AMG Petronas F1W08 1:22.090 Pirelli Soft 95
8. Romain Grosjean fr Haas F1 Team Ferrari VF-17 1:22.118 Pirelli Super Soft 55
9. Lance Stroll ca Williams Martini Racing Mercedes FW40 1:22.351 Pirelli Soft 98
10. Fernando Alonso es McLaren-Honda MP4-31 1:22.598 Pirelli Ultra Soft 72
11. Carlos Sainz Jr es Scuderia Toro Rosso Ferrari STR12 1:23.540 Pirelli Medium 32
12. Alfonso Célis Jr Sahara Force India Mercedes VJM10 1:23.568 Pirelli Super Soft 69
13. Daniil Kvyat ru Scuderia Toro Rosso Ferrari STR12 1:23.952 Pirelli Medium 31

Image via Mercedes AMG F1 Petronas

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Richard Bailey

Founder & Chief Editor at MotorsportM8
Hasn't missed a Grand Prix since 1989. Has a soft spot for Minardi. Tattooed with 35+ Grand Prix circuits.