Mercedes up the pace in Barcelona


Mercedes are off to yet another strong start in pre-season testing with Valtteri Bottas setting the fastest times of the test so far on the soft, supersoft and ultrasoft tyres.

Fresh from completing a full race simulation on Tuesday, the Finn returned to the wheel on Wednesday morning as Mercedes continue to split their driver schedule throughout the first four days of testing at the Circuit de Catalunya.

Tyre suppliers Pirelli predicted that lap times would continue to drop to the 1:18s region by the end of testing, and Bottas got nearer toward that estimate with a 1:19.705 on ultrasoft tyres to finish P1 before the lunch break – just 0.024s way from beating Pirelli's earlier prediction that cars would be five seconds quicker this year.

Red Bull moved up the boards into P2 with Daniel Ricciardo setting a 1:21.153 on soft tyres, while Renault's Jolyon Palmer recovered from an early spin to go third fastest with a 1:21.396, also on soft tyres.

Sebastian Vettel returned to the Ferrari, who were committed to mediums throughout the morning session and finished P4 with a best time of 1:21.609.

Lance Stroll was able to get back into the Williams FW40 after his spin on Tuesday ruled them out of an entire session – but did spin again before the lunch break and was once again caught in the gravel trap, while Fernando Alonso continued to drive in short stints for McLaren-Honda.

Day Three timesheet (Lunchtime; Session resumes at 1pm UK time):
1) Valtteri Bottas, Mercedes, 75 laps, ultrasoft tyres, 1:19.705
2) Daniel Ricciardo, Red Bull, 48 laps, soft tyres, 1:21.153
3) Jolyon Palmer, Renault, 40 laps, soft tyres, 1:21.396
4) Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari, 62 laps, medium tyres, 1:21.609
5) Marcus Ericsson, Sauber, 38 laps, supersoft tyres, 1:22.326
6) Lance Stroll, Williams, 31 laps, soft tyres, 1:22.351
7) Fernando Alonso, McLaren, 24 laps, soft tyres 1:23.834
8) Daniil Kvyat, Toro Rosso, 21 laps, 1:24.190;
9) Alfonso Celis, Force India, 21 laps, 1:25.524;
10) Romain Grosjean, Haas, 11 laps, 1:25.898