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Rapid Rosberg keeps Mercedes ahead on final day in Bahrain

22 Feb 2014

The second of 2014’s three pre-season tests drew to a close in Bahrain on Saturday, with Mercedes leading the way by a clear margin. Nico Rosberg’s best lap of 1m 33.283 was over 1.5s quicker than that of nearest rival, McLaren’s Jenson Button, and a second faster than team mate Lewis Hamilton’s P1 time from Friday.

“This morning we were able to try some qualifying practice runs which felt good, meaning I could attack the lap a bit as I found a good balance,” said Rosberg, whose best time was the fastest of the week. “Later in the day we did a race simulation, which was crucial to learn all the new things in the car. There was a lot of feedback from the engineers, so my head was full of information!”

Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen was third in the timesheets after a programme of set-up work and practice starts, despite a late crash which brought the day’s running to an end five minutes early.

“We have managed to improve some things compared to Jerez and we continue to understand more about the behaviour of the car,” Raikkonen told Ferrari’s website. “We tried various solutions to try and be as well prepared as possible for next week’s test and for the start of the season. Hitting the barrier? I spun on the kerb at the exit of turn 4, these things can happen! Luckily, it was right at the end of the day, I’m only sorry because it means the team now has more work to do.”

Raikkonen was followed on the timesheet by Williams debutant Felipe Nasr, the Brazilian making an impressive first appearance as the team’s new test and reserve driver.

“I am very happy to have driven a Formula One car for the first time, and reaching 87 laps made it also a very productive day,” said Nasr. “There were so many things going through my head before sitting in the car. It was what I was expecting though: very different to any other car I have ever driven with the amount of downforce, brake efficiency and the power. It was a learning process for me, but I was giving feedback to the engineers all day and I think we found some good things. I'm so pleased to have had this opportunity and I am now looking forward to the next time.”

“(Felipe) did a very good job for us,” added Williams’ chief test and support engineer, Rod Nelson. “We were keen for him to get some experience of the FW36 under his belt as it's important that he gets up to speed quickly so he can help us with the development of the car. He had a very sensible measured approach so we are happy with what we have seen so far. He gives good feedback, works well with his engineers and is also quick, and so we couldn't ask for more and are also looking forward to running him at some races this season.”

Lotus completed their first test of the year (having missed the Jerez opener) with Pastor Maldonado fifth fastest after a day described by the team as their ‘most productive so far’.

“We gained a lot more laps today and it was good for me to get time in the car,” said Maldonado. “There was a lot of work with different settings, aero runs and similar which meant there was quite a lot to think about, but I think it all went well. The car was much more reliable which has helped with our work and hopefully it’s a good sign for next week.”

Sixth place went to Force India’s Sergio Perez, despite his day ending just before lunch with a drivetrain issue, while Red Bull had yet another frustrating session, as first a software problem, then a mechanical issue and some car damage meant Daniel Ricciardo was able to complete only 15 laps en route to seventh place overall in his Renault-powered RB10.

"In all honesty it wasn't a great day today," said Ricciardo. "I guess we still need more time. We have four more days coming up and hopefully we can maximise those. I have to say that on the run we did today the car did feel better. But unfortunately another problem arose and we couldn't exploit that potential. I hope we can do more running next week. I'm happy I'm doing the first two days. At this stage we just need laps and I'm just hanging to get back in the car."

It was a similar story at Red Bull’s sister team Toro Rosso, where more teething problems with their identically powered STR9 limited Jean-Eric Vergne to 19 laps and eighth on the timesheet

“There’s no point in making negative comments, because everyone knows we are facing major problems and we are not alone in that,” commented Vergne. “We knew when we came to Bahrain that there had not been enough time since the previous test to have solved all our issues.

“On the positive side, we have managed to fix some of them now. Also, even if I have not done so many laps, it’s clear from those I have managed to complete, that Toro Rosso has done a good job to give me a car that feels nice to drive, if we talk about the elements that used to be the main topics before this year, such as the aero and mechanical side of the package.

“It’s frustrating, but we need to keep calm and not get stressed as there are still a few weeks before Melbourne. We will try again here in Bahrain starting on Thursday. Clearly, in Melbourne, just finishing the race will mean you have a good chance of scoring points.”

The final Renault-powered team, Caterham, had both Kamui Kobayashi and team mate Marcus Ericsson on track during the day, though an electrical problem on the CT05 meant they racked up just 21 laps between them as they ended the day ninth and tenth respectively.

“Overall this has been a positive test for us and Renault who have made good progress from where we were in Jerez,” said Jody Egginton, Caterham’s deputy technical director. “The multiple red flags throughout the four days hurt us and all the teams but we’ve run more laps than any of the other Renault powered cars and have made substantial progress on understanding how to operate the 2014 package, as well as completing significant long run mileage that has given us a lot of useful data on the car, power unit and the 2014 tyres.

“It’s obviously disappointing that we had limited running today due to an electrical issue with the Power Unit but we worked hard throughout the day to rectify that problem with Renault and add more mileage for the last hour, so it wasn’t a wasted day by any means.

“Pace-wise, Kamui’s time on day two was the first time we started really pushing overall performance and we know there is a lot more to come, from the Power Unit and the car in general, so we have plenty of reasons to be positive ahead of the final test here in Bahrain.”

At the bottom of the timesheet, neither Sauber’s Adrian Sutil nor Marussia’s Jules Bianchi recorded a time. Sutil’s running was limited to seven laps by a problem with an interior part of the C33’s monocoque, which required a chassis change, while Bianchi ran just five laps at the end of day due to continuing component reliability issues on the MR03.

The final pre-season test, again in Bahrain, takes place over four days next week from February 27-March 2.

Unofficial Saturday test times from Bahrain

1. Nico Rosberg, Mercedes, 1m 33.283s, 89 laps

2. Jenson Button, McLaren, 1m 34.957s, 66 laps

3. Kimi Raikkonen, Ferrari, 1m 36.718s, 82 laps

4. Felipe Nasr, Williams, 1m 37.569s, 87 laps

5. Pastor Maldonado, Lotus, 1m 38.707s, 59 laps

6. Sergio Perez, Force India, 1m 39.258s, 19 laps

7. Daniel Ricciardo, Red Bull, 1m 39.837s, 15 laps

8. Jean-Eric Vergne, Toro Rosso, 1m 40.472s, 19 laps

9. Kamui Kobayashi, Caterham, 1m 43.027s, 17 laps

10. Marcus Ericsson, Caterham, 1m 45.094s, 4 laps

11. Adrian Sutil, Sauber, no time, 7 laps

12. Jules Bianchi, Marussia, no time, 5 laps