Force India’s Nico Hulkenberg was a surprise leader at the conclusion of Day 3 of the Formula One pre-season testing in Barcelona.
Hulkenberg finished the morning session on top and continued his fine form throughout the afternoon, clocking the fastest time on the soft and medium tyres.
Elsewhere, Mercedes’ Nico Rosberg was once again the busiest driver during the morning session, as he totted up 74 more laps to go alongside the whopping total of 172 from Tuesday. It was a frustrating morning for Ferrari, though, as Kimi Raikkonen only made it out on track very late in the session for a quick dart.
Raikkonen bounced back to put together a solid run in the afternoon, and Lewis Hamilton took the wheel of the Mercedes, ending Rosberg's day.
Here's a look at the full times for the afternoon session, courtesy of F1's official Twitter account:
Hulkenberg continued his fantastic day in the new Force India, leading the pack throughout both sessions on Wednesday without ever touching the ultra-soft tyres.
With Rosberg and Raikkonen both mainly focusing on long runs, his top time of 1:23.110 was never truly challenged, but that shouldn't take away from the fantastic day the German had. The team's official Twitter account couldn't hide its enthusiasm:
For Force India, the difference between 2015 and 2016 couldn't be any greater. The team missed last year's first pre-season test altogether, used their old car for the second and found themselves on the back foot for the rest of the season.
In Barcelona, they've been among the standout teams so far, and big things are expected in 2016, despite a sharp increase in competition.
Romain Grosjean and Haas also caused a minor shock, shooting into the top three late in the afternoon session with a time of 1:25.874 on the soft tyres.
While it's only pre-season testing and fans shouldn't get too carried away, it's hard to deny Haas have looked very impressive so far in Barcelona. The newcomers look like they'll fit right in for the 2016 season.
McLaren had some issues during the afternoon session, and a hydraulic leak even caused a mild panic in the pit, via F1 reporter Tobias Gruner:
McLaren also suffered an on-track breakdown, as did Kevin Magnussen, whose Renault had to be returned to the garage.
Toro Rosso's Carlos Sainz led all drivers in completed laps, logging an impressive 161, and youngster Rio Haryanto bounced back from his morning spin to finish the day with 78 laps and a respectable time of 1:28.249 in his Manor.
Here are the key details from the morning’s session, with the overall classification provided by the F1 Twitter feed:
After two days of sharp driving in the morning, a new man behind the wheel brought a change in fortune for Ferrari. Indeed, after Sebastian Vettel impressed for two successive days in the new SF16-H, Raikkonen was only afforded four laps before lunch, as the Italian outfit lost some crucial running time due to fuel systems checks.
As noted by Sky Sports’ Rachel Brookes, it was a long time coming for the Ferrari to get out of the garage, leaving Raikkonen unable to set a time:
The biggest surprise of the morning was seeing Hulkenberg lead the way in his Force India, posting an impressive 1:25.286, which was 0.728 seconds quicker than his nearest competitor, Magnussen.
While the former McLaren driver did set his time on the soft compound—Hulkenberg was on the medium tyre—overall he was one of the most impressive drivers on circuit. A total of 63 laps will have delighted the Renault engineers, especially with Jolyon Palmer really struggling on the opening two days in Jerez.
Here’s a look at Magnussen getting his stint underway, per the F1 Twitter feed:
Elsewhere, Mercedes continued to rack up laps, with Rosberg going through 74 before the interval on Wednesday.
The German showed no signs of jadedness as he continued to chip away out on circuit, giving his team ample opportunity to accrue further crucial data.
In the afternoon, when world champion Hamilton is set to take over in the cockpit, they look as though they’re going to experiment, per F1 reporter Tobias Gruner:
Additionally, we caught our first glimpse of Felipe Massa in the new Williams, completing an admirable 57 laps, while Haas’ encouraging beginning to life in the sport continued, with Grosjean getting 54 laps under his belt and achieving a commendable pace, too.
There were only a couple of stoppages before lunch, with errors from Sainz in the Toro Rosso, fourth-quickest in the session, and Haryanto in the Manor, making his Formula One debut, prompting red flags.