Sergio Perez, Force India top Day 1 of final F1 preseason test

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As one of three drivers to log more than 100 laps today at Bahrain International Circuit, Force India’s Sergio Perez was quickest in the first day of the final Formula One preseason test with a time of 1:35.290 in the VJM07.

Perez’s lap was slower than the 1:33.283 that Mercedes’ Nico Rosberg put down at the end of last week’s first preseason test at Bahrain, but it was still a solid display of reliability that appears to have pleased his colleagues on the Silverstone-based outfit:

Today was also another strong day for Mercedes-powered teams as a whole. Williams’ Valtteri Bottas was second-fastest but logged the most laps with 128, while McLaren rookie Kevin Magnussen turned in 109 laps.

Only one Merc-powered driver, Rosberg, didn’t go over 100 laps – and he was still close to the mark with 89 circuits.

Meanwhile, the Renault-powered squads – led by four-time reigning World Champions Red Bull – continued to struggle mightily.

Things appeared to be looking up for Red Bull after Daniel Ricciardo ran 32 laps early in the session. But they were kept out of much of the afternoon session as a reported overheating problem on the RB10 forced them inside the garage for a while.

As for the other Renault teams, an exhaust problem on Pastor Maldonado’s E22 caused Lotus to call it a day earlier than anticipated. Red Bull’s “brother” team, Scuderia Toro Rosso, managed to put together 56 laps with Daniil Kvyat at the controls, but Caterham’s Kamui Kobayashi was only able to log 19 laps.

Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen came to a stop on the track during the final moments of today’s test, but not before posting the third-fastest time after an electrical problem had dogged the Scuderia for a bit in the morning.

THURSDAY TIMES FROM BAHRAIN:
1. Sergio Perez, Force India-Mercedes, 1m35.290s, 105 Laps
2. Valtteri Bottas, Williams-Mercedes, 1m36.184s, 128
3. Kimi Raikkonen, Ferrari, 1m36.432s, 54
4. Nico Rosberg, Mercedes, 1m36.624s, 89
5. Adrian Sutil, Sauber-Ferrari, 1m37.700s, 89
6. Kevin Magnussen, McLaren-Mercedes, 1m37.825s, 109
7. Daniel Ricciardo, Red Bull-Renault, 1m37.908s, 39
8. Max Chilton, Marussia-Ferrari, 1m38.610s, 44
9. Daniil Kvyat, Toro Rosso-Renault, 1m39.242s, 55
10. Pastor Maldonado, Lotus-Renault, 1m40.599s, 31
11. Kamui Kobayashi, Caterham-Renault, 1m42.285s, 19

Hartley happy with ‘big progression’ on first day with Toro Rosso

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With 69 laps completed (28 in free practice one and 41 in free practice two) and respectable lap times in both sessions, Brendon Hartley quickly acclimated to a modern day Formula 1 chassis in his first run with Scuderia Toro Rosso in Friday practice for the United States Grand Prix.

The Porsche factory driver has been drafted into the team following a convoluted series of musical chairs that sees Daniil Kvyat back after a two-race absence, Carlos Sainz Jr. now at Renault and Pierre Gasly racing at the Super Formula season finale in Suzuka.

Over the time in the car today, Hartley experienced changeable conditions in FP1 before a more normal FP2, and discovered the new F1 cockpit after a day learning in the garage yesterday.

“A steep learning curve today! It all went pretty smoothly and I kept the car on track without making too many mistakes, so I’m quite happy,” the New Zealander reflected at day’s end.

“I didn’t really know what to expect from today because I just had so much to learn! I think I made quite a big progression throughout the day.

“The biggest difference from what I’m used to is the high-speed grip, it’s incredible here in Formula 1…it was quite an eye-opener! Another challenge are the tires, which are also quite different to what I’m used to. On the other hand, the long-run looks quite positive and I did a good job managing the tires there – the biggest thing I need to work on now is the new tire pace, and I’ll get another crack at it tomorrow morning before qualifying.

“All in all, I’d say it’s all coming together. We’ll now work hard and go through plenty of data tonight and hopefully I’ll make another step forward tomorrow.”

His best lap was 1.1 seconds up on Friday driver Sean Gelael, the Indonesian Formula 2 driver, in FP1 (1:39.267 to 1:40.406, good enough for 14th) and 1.1 seconds off the returning Kvyat in FP2 (1:37.987 to 1:36.761, good enough for 17th). Interestingly, the Gelael/Hartley combination in FP1 marked the second time in three races that Toro Rosso had a pair of drivers in its cars without a single Grand Prix start between them – Gasly’s debut at Malaysia was the other, when he and Gelael were in in FP1.

Coming into Friday’s running, Hartley said he was more ready for this opportunity now than he had been as a teenager. He admitted he’d called Red Bull’s Helmut Marko in the wake of Porsche’s LMP1 withdrawal news earlier this year to say he was game for any chance that might come.

“I’m a lot stronger than I was back then, basically. I wasn’t ready at 18 years old. I like to think I’m ready now,” he said.

“I haven’t driven a single-seater since 2012, but I like to think that Porsche LMP1 has hopefully prepared me well.”

As for the rest of his weekend, it’s been made more complicated by Hartley being assessed a 25-spot grid penalty, even though Hartley had done nothing to accrue the penalties.

The roundabout sequence of driver changes at Toro Rosso saw Gasly replace Kvyat, Kvyat replace Sainz, and now Hartley replace Gasly, as is outlined by NBCSN pit reporter Will Buxton below.