Lewis Hamilton sets fastest time of Bahrain test so far as Mercedes turn the screw
Silver Arrows match reliability with pace; Red Bull wanting for both once again as RB10 breaks down after just 28 laps
By Mike Wise
Last Updated: 22/02/14 6:58am
While Red Bull and Ferrari struggled, the newly-installed favourites for the 2014 title ramped up the pressure on their rivals by claiming P1 for the first time during pre-season testing this winter.
Hamilton was quickly up to speed on the 5.412km Bahrain International Circuit, heading out for a series of short runs during the morning that culminated in a lap of 1:34.263s on soft tyres.
The time was, for a while, the fastest by about three seconds and suggested that Mercedes, having got more mileage under their belts so far this winter than any of their rivals, are now turning their attentions towards outright performance. Having said that, with the fastest time of the week secure for now, Hamilton spent the remainder of the day concentrating on longer runs, which were also limited by a hydraulics problem.
"It was nice to put together a lap," said Hamilton afterwards, "but it's difficult to know where everyone is. We won't know where we stand until we get to Melbourne."
Jenson Button - whose engagement to longtime girlfriend Jessica Michibata was announced on Friday - was second fastest, 0.7s slower than his former team-mate with a time set on supersofts. Button also topped the mileage charts with 103 laps in all.
Of the remaining two customer Mercedes-powered teams, Williams concentrated on pit stop practice during the morning. As such, Valtteri Bottas didn't set a time but Felipe Massa jumped in the FW36 later in the day to go third fastest - albeit 2s slower than Button - with Force India's Sergio Perez fifth after a slow start to the day.
Sauber's Esteban Gutierrez split them while behind Perez came Kimi Raikkonen as Ferrari endured a more difficult day - the Finn limited in his mileage after teething troubles, specifically the F14 T's telemetry, intervened. However, he returned to the track during the last 90 minutes or so and eventually completed 44 laps.
Granted it's not much of an accolade right now, but at least Toro Rosso's Daniil Kvyat could lay claim to being the fastest of the Renault-powered cars after a 1:38.974s lap in the closing minutes saw him leapfrog Pastor Maldonado, who was having his first proper day of running in Lotus's E22.
The Venezuelan was limited to 26 laps, however, as first a gearbox problem and then an unspecified issue caused him to stop twice on track, bringing out the red flags.
Daniel Ricciardo's first day of running this week in Red Bull's RB10 was again circumspect - the Australian ninth fastest and completing just 28 laps as the World Champions once more spent long periods shuttered away trying to fix a mechanical problem.
In the event, Red Bull decided to bring a premature halt to their running and concentrate instead on Saturday.
Caterham again achieved more mileage than their Renault cohorts, with Marcus Ericsson also passing the 300km mark needed to qualify for his FIA Superlicence. The Swede ended the day 10th fastest ahead of Max Chilton, whose Marussia spent most of the day in the pits as the team worked in vain to change its Ferrari power unit.
Bahrain Test, Day Three timesheet:
1. Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, 1:34.263, 67 laps
2. Jenson Button, McLaren, 1:34.976, 103 laps
3. Felipe Massa, Williams, 1:37.066, 60 laps
4. Esteban Gutierrez, Sauber, 1:37.180, 96 laps
5. Sergio Perez, Force India, 1:37.367, 57 laps
6. Kimi Raikkonen, Ferrari, 1:37.467, 44 laps
7. Daniil Kvyat, Toro Rosso, 1:38.974, 57 laps
8. Pastor Maldonado, Lotus, 1:39.642, 26 laps
9. Daniel Ricciardo, Red Bull, 1:40.781, 28 laps
10. Marcus Ericsson, Caterham, 1:42.130, 98 laps
11. Max Chilton, Marussia, 1:46.672, 4 laps
12. Valtteri Bottas, Williams, No time, 55 laps.
Total laps covered by each team during pre-season:
Mercedes - 535
McLaren - 475
Ferrari - 456
Williams - 411
Sauber - 396
Force India - 340
Caterham - 308
Toro Rosso - 174
Red Bull - 122
Marussia - 54
Lotus - 52
Total laps covered by each engine manufacturer during pre-season:
Mercedes - 1761
Ferrari - 906
Renault - 656
Approximate distance covered by each team during pre-season:
Mercedes - 2480 km
McLaren - 2226 km
Ferrari - 2124 km
Williams - 1957 km
Sauber - 1891 km
Force India - 1618 km
Caterham - 1513 km
Toro Rosso - 846 km
Red Bull - 607 km
Lotus - 266 km
Marussia - 251 km
Approximate distance covered by each engine manufacturer during pre-season:
Mercedes - 8281 km
Ferrari - 4266 km
Renault - 3232 km.
Fastest laps of the Bahrain test so far
Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, 1:34.263, Day Three.
Kevin Magnussen, McLaren, 1:34.910, Day Two.
Jenson Button, McLaren, 1:34.976, Day Three.
Nico Hulkenberg, Force India, 1:36.445, Day Two.
Fernando Alonso, Ferrari, 1:36.516, Day Two.
Nico Rosberg, Mercedes, 1:36.965, Day Two.
Felipe Massa, Williams, 1:37.066, Day Three.
Esteban Gutierrez, Sauber, 1:37.180, Day Three
Valtteri Bottas, Williams, 1:37.328, Day Two.
Sergio Perez, Force India, 1:37.367, Day Three.
Kimi Raikkonen, Ferrari, 1:37.467, Day Three.
The Sky Sports F1 Online team will be providing live commentary of all three winter tests, with live updates from trackside also on Sky Sports News.