More Mercedes speed, Red Bull issues during Bahrain Day 3

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As Formula One’s testing period enters its second half – today was the seventh of 12 official days of 2014 preseason testing – the narrative didn’t change too much. Mercedes-powered cars again were fast and reliable. Renault-powered ones were again not-so-fast and fragile.

Lewis Hamilton took his turn atop the timesheets, back in the Mercedes W05 after Nico Rosberg had it on Thursday, with a best lap of 1:34.263 the fastest of the week thus far. Hamilton spent some time in the garage during the afternoon while the team experimented with different set-ups, but he wasn’t resigned to the garage because of any issues.

Jenson Button enjoyed a rather good day with second at 1:34.976, and completed the most laps on the day with 103 in the McLaren MP4-29-Mercedes. And after a rough month or so to start the year, with the loss of his father John in January, he announced much happier news with his engagement to longtime girlfriend Jessica Michibata.

Williams-Mercedes also enjoyed a positive day with Felipe Massa clocking in third, albeit some 2.8 seconds back at 1:37.066 in 60 laps, and Valtteri Bottas providing the winter’s oddest statistic thus far with 55 laps completed but no time registered. The reason for that was that the talented Finn spent the majority of his day entering and leaving pit lane, to provide the team a chance at live pit stop practice.

Things were less rosy for the Renault brigade. Daniel Ricciardo managed 28 laps for Red Bull, most in the morning and only 5 in the afternoon, thanks to further mechanical problems. Ricciardo remained upbeat, as the Australian usually is, while the now oft-quoted Red Bull race engineering coordinator Andy Damerum said the car needed to be stripped for repairs ahead of Saturday’s running.

“We came across a mechanical issue that we hadn’t encountered before and because of its nature it means we have to take the car apart,” he said in the team’s release. “As everyone in the pit lane is finding out this is a long process, so we decided to suspend running in the afternoon so that we can be ready for the final day. These issues are of course frustrating but this was unrelated to the others so it’s just a case of tackling each issue as it appears.”

Elsewhere Lotus managed its most laps thus far this week  – 26 with Pastor Maldonado – and broke into the 1:39 bracket at 1:39.642. Daniil Kyvat bettered that mark in the Toro Rosso-Renault at 1:38.974.

Ferrari’s day was neither great nor negative. Meanwhile for the tail-enders, Marussia’s Max Chilton completed only four laps before an engine change, and Caterham’s Marcus Ericsson completed 98 laps as he garners the necessary mileage for his FIA Superlicense.

Here’s Friday’s breakdown of laps completed by manufacturer, although note Bottas’ were all in-and-out laps:

  • Mercedes: 342 (Hamilton 67, Button 103, Massa 60, Sergio Perez 57, Bottas 55)
  • Renault: 209 (Kvyat 57, Maldonado 26, Ricciardo 28, Ericsson 98)
  • Ferrari: 144 (Esteban Gutierrez 96, Kimi Raikkonen 44, Chilton 4)

For the week, Mercedes holds a clear laps completed lead and have also had their teams be able to work on setups and pit stops. Renault, largely thanks to Caterham’s pounding over the three days compared to Marussia’s struggles, is ahead of Ferrari on total laps completed:

  • Mercedes: 886 (238 Wednesday, 306 Thursday, 342 Friday)
  • Renault: 505 (95 Wednesday, 201 Thursday, 209 Friday)
  • Ferrari: 462 (149 Wednesday, 169 Thursday, 144 Friday)

And here’s Friday’s times:

1. Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, 1m34.263s, 67 Laps
2. Jenson Button, McLaren-Mercedes, 1m34.976s, 103
3. Felipe Massa, Williams-Mercedes, 1m37.066s, 60
4. Esteban Gutierrez, Sauber-Ferrari, 1m37.180s, 96
5. Sergio Perez, Force India-Mercedes, 1m37.367s, 57
6. Kimi Raikkonen, Ferrari, 1m37.476s, 44
7. Daniil Kvyat, Toro Rosso-Renault, 1m38.974s, 57
8. Pastor Maldonado, Lotus-Renault, 1m39.642s, 26
9. Daniel Ricciardo, Red Bull-Renault, 1m40.781s, 28
10. Marcus Ericsson, Caterham-Renault, 1m42.130s, 98
11. Max Chilton, Marussia-Ferrari, 1m46.672s, 4
12. Valtteri Bottas, Williams-Mercedes, no time, 55

Hartley says debut F1 point would be ‘a dream’ from last on grid

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Brendon Hartley says scoring a point on his Formula 1 debut would be “a dream” after being resigned to last place on the grid for the United States Grand Prix following an engine penalty.

Porsche factory driver Hartley was drafted in by Toro Rosso to replace Pierre Gasly for the USGP when the Frenchman was ruled out due to clashing commitments in Super Formula.

Despite having not driven an F1 car since 2012, Hartley came within one-tenth of a second of making it through to Q2 on Saturday at the Circuit of The Americas, ultimately qualifying 18th.

“Obviously I’d love to be quicker but we knew we were starting at the back, so we put a lot of focus on long runs, getting the peak performance out of this Pirelli tire I didn’t get today,” Hartley told NBCSN after the race.

“In FP3 I had a good feeling. There’s a lot of quirky things to manage with these tires. Honestly I should be happy with how the weekend’s gone so far.”

The New Zealander will start last due to a 25-place grid penalty for changes made to his power unit ahead of practice on Friday, and is daring to dream of making the top 10 in his first race out of a sports car for more than five years.

“I don’t do the 24 hours completely alone!” Hartley joked. “It’s quick. It’s physical to drive. I’ll be happy to be done after an hour and a half.

“A point would be a dream starting from the back. If I can move forward and put a race together, I’ll be happy.”

The United States Grand Prix is live on NBCSN and the NBC Sports app from 2pm ET on Sunday.