Nico Rosberg sets best-of-test time as Mercedes move clear of Bahrain field
Rosberg tops Hamilton's Friday best by one second; Nasr debuts for Williams; Red Bull complete less than 20 laps as fears grow for the RB10; Kimi Raikkonen spins out in final minutes
By Pete Gill
Last Updated: 23/02/14 9:49am
Although the team have scoffed at the declaration of Red Bull boss Christian Horner that they are the favourites heading into the new campaign, with Lewis Hamilton shrugging off the apparent accolade as F1's version of mind games, there seems little doubt that the W05 is currently the class of the field with just four days of testing remaining before the field moves on to Melbourne for the season-opening race on March 16.
In the hands of Nico Rosberg, the Mercedes car set the fastest time of the test early on Saturday morning, with the German nipping round the Bahrain circuit on the soft compound in a time of 1:33.283 - one second faster than Hamilton managed twenty-four hours previously on the same type of tyre and less than one second slower than Robserg's pole-setting time last April at the same circuit.
With two-thirds of winter testing now complete, a Mercedes-powered car has set the fastest lap in every session since the first day at Jerez.
If that run of form wasn't sufficiently ominous for the Renault-powered Red Bull team, the World Champions' own woes continue to go from bad to worse with their new car suffering another engine unit ailment on Saturday that reduced Daniel Ricciardo's participation to just a handful of laps.
Such is the extent of the team's struggle with the troublesome RB10 that one leading figure within another team has predicted the World Champions could introduce a 'b-spec' car for May's Spanish GP.
In a repeat of Day Three's outcome, a table-topping Mercedes was followed by a McLaren in the timesheets with Jenson Button second fastest, albeit a second slower than Rosberg in the promising MP4-29.
After being waylaid by a telemetry issue on Friday, Kimi Raikkonen enjoyed a more productive day for Ferrari as he completed nearly 100 laps, and set the third fastest time, before a late spin into the barriers, which tore the nose off his F14 T, brought out the seventh red flag of the day and brought an early halt to proceedings.
Brazilian youngster Felipe Nasr, announced overnight as the team's reserve driver for 2014, impressed as he put down 87 laps in the Williams, but the Mercedes-powered quartet of teams didn't have it all their own way with Force India completing less than 20 laps in their new charger due to a drivetrain issue.
That was nevertheless still more than Red Bull were able to achieve with the troublesome and seemingly-fragile RB10, with Lotus, for whom Pastor Maldonado recorded a respectable half-century of laps, ending the test fifth with the fastest time registered by a Renault runner all week.
"We're still very early on in our understanding of this car and we clearly have a lot of work to do, but today has been our most productive day so far," declared Trackside Director Alan Permane afterwards.
Maldonado's effort was, however, still five seconds shy of Rosberg's pace-setting benchmark as Mercedes made a powerful and convincing statement of intent.
Ultimately, this was still a test all about Mercedes - and for altogether different reasons, Red Bull.
Bahrain Test, Day Four timesheet
1. Rosberg, Mercedes, 1:33.283, 89 laps.
2. Button, McLaren, 1:34.957, 66 laps.
3. Raikkonen, Ferrari, 1:36.718, 81 laps.
4. Nasr, Williams, 1:37.569, 87 laps.
5. Maldonado, Lotus, 1:38.707, 59 laps.
6. Perez, Force India, 1:39.258, 19 laps.
7. Ricciardo, Red Bull, 1:39.837, 15 laps.
8. Vergne, Toro Rosso, 1:40.472 19 laps.
9. Kobayashi, Caterham, 1:43.027, 17 laps.
10. Ericsson, Caterham, 1:45.094, 4 laps.
11. Sutil, Sauber, No time, 7 laps.
12. Bianchi, Marussia, No time, 5 laps.
Fastest laps of Bahrain Test One
1. Nico Rosberg, Mercedes, 1:33.283, New Soft tyres, Day Four.
2. Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, 1:34.263, New soft tyres, Day Three.
3. Kevin Magnussen, McLaren, 1:34.910, New supersoft tyres, Day Two.
4. Jenson Button, McLaren, 1:34.957, New soft tyres, Day Four.
5. Nico Hulkenberg, Force India, 1:36.445, New soft tyres, Day Two.
6. Fernando Alonso, Ferrari, 1:36.516, Used soft tyres, Day Two.
7. Kimi Raikkonen, Ferrari, 1:36.718, New soft tyres, Day Four.
8. Felipe Massa, Williams, 1:37.066, New soft tyres, Day Three.
9. Esteban Gutierrez, Sauber, 1:37.180, Unknown tyre compound, Day Three
10. Valtteri Bottas, Williams, 1:37.328, Unknown tyre compound, Day Two.
Total laps by each team during pre-season
Mercedes - 624
McLaren - 541.
Ferrari - 538.
Williams - 498.
Sauber - 403.
Force India - 359.
Caterham - 329.
Toro Rosso - 193.
Red Bull - 137.
Lotus - 111.
Marussia - 59.
Total laps by each engine manufacturer during pre-season
Mercedes - 2002.
Ferrari - 1000.
Renault - 770.
Approximate kilometres by each team during pre-season
Mercedes - 2935 km.
McLaren - 2564 km.
Ferrari - 2544 km.
Williams - 2403 km.
Sauber - 1926 km.
Force India - 1715 km.
Caterham - 1621 km.
Toro Rosso - 943km.
Red Bull - 684 km.
Lotus - 568.
Marussia - 277.
Approximate kilometres by each engine manufacturer during pre-season
Mercedes - 9618 km.
Ferrari - 4747 km.
Renault - 3816 km.
The third and final pre-season test starts on Thursday morning in Bahrain. The Sky Sports F1 Online team will be providing live commentary from dawn until dusk on all four days, with live updates from trackside also on Sky Sports News.