BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — Nico Rosberg posted the fastest time Tuesday in preseason testing for the Formula One season, while world champion Lewis Hamilton used his time on the track for a race simulation.
The two Mercedes drivers completed 675 laps in last week’s first preseason test, confirming expectations that the Silver Arrows will be hugely reliable again when the new season starts on March 20.
Ferrari was quickest over all four days of testing last week, but they were illusory gains until Mercedes showed its speed this week.
With Mercedes using soft tires for the first time — having tested slower medium tires last time — Rosberg sped around in 1 minute, 23.022 seconds.Finnish driver Valtteri Bottas was second fastest; Hamilton sixth best.
With the car’s reliability not likely to be an issue leading up to the Australian GP in Melbourne, racking up laps is not a top priority.But Rosberg still managed 82 laps before lunch, while Hamilton — arriving at the track accompanied by his two dogs — did 90 after the resumption under blue skies and in mild conditions at the Catalunya track just outside of Barcelona.
Hamilton ran a simulation run of the Spanish GP — which will be held here on May 15 — using both sets of medium compounds and saving the quick softs for another day.
Having won back-to-back drivers’ and constructors’ titles, Mercedes is under no pressure to prove its speed.
Bottas logged 123 laps for Williams to go with the second quickest time — .207 behind Rosberg — while there was an encouraging performance for McLaren with Fernando Alonso third fastest and managing 93 laps.
Given McLaren’s problems throughout last season with Honda engines, this will please McLaren’s technical staff as much as two-time F1 champion Alonso — who recently gave an interview to Spanish radio insisting he can still win another F1 title.
The red flag came out early into the afternoon session after Kimi Raikkonen’s Ferrari pulled up at the pit lane exit because of a gearbox problem that kept his car in the garage for a couple of hours. However, he did manage the day’s fourth quickest time ahead of Red Bull driver Daniil Kvyat, who had some rear brake issues.
In the morning, Manor driver Rio Haryanto went back into the garage because of an oil leak, but the F1 newcomer from Indonesia was back out to complete 45 laps.
Haryanto was the slowest on the day, nearly five seconds behind Rosberg.
Mexican Esteban Gutierrez, who did 23 laps before a fuel system issue sent him back to the Haas garage, was the second-slowest.
Haas is the first American-led team in F1 since 1986.Before the session, Toro Rosso unveiled its dark blue livery for the new season, with the young and highly-talented duo of Max Verstappen and Carlos Sainz promising much after successful debut seasons.
The Italian team has switched from Renault to 2015 Ferrari engines and team principal Franz Tost is optimistic.
“I am particularly pleased that 2016 sees a return to Ferrari power, with everyone looking forward to working once again with our friends from Maranello,” Tost said.
Last week, Verstappen and Sainz notched 447 laps — second only to Mercedes — carrying on the consistency shown last season when it regularly outperformed Red Bull.
Verstappen showed his endurance in recording 144 laps for the day’s highest total. The 18-year-old Dutch driver was the seventh quickest.Force India’s Nico Hulkenberg was eighth; Sauber’s Felipe Nasr was ninth and Renault’s Kevin Magnussen 10th, with all managing more than 100 laps.