Maldonado led Wednesday’s F1 testing in Spain for Lotus


First it was Marussia on Tuesday, then Lotus on Wednesday. Call it Formula One bizarro world if you like, or just call it two teams playing it smart in running late on Pirelli’s super soft compounds to get headlines and attention for pacing testing.

But as Max Chilton was a surprise leader of Tuesday’s testing at the Circuit de Catalunya in Barcelona, Pastor Maldonado was the surprise leader on Wednesday.

The Venezuelan’s flier of 1:24.871 beat Lewis Hamilton’s pole time for the Grand Prix last week, and was nearly a second clear of Hamilton’s Mercedes AMG teammate Nico Rosberg who was second on the day.

Say what you will about the ultimate lap time but Maldonado hailed the overall performance improvement by the team, fresh after teammate Romain Grosjean finally got on the scoreboard with eighth place in the Spanish Grand Prix on Sunday.

“It’s been a big step forward,” Maldonado said of the second day, via the official Formula One website. “That was a complete day for us and my first normal day of testing this season.

“We didn’t have any problems and we gained a lot of good running with good track conditions compared to [day one]. We ran to plan and completed everything we wanted to do.”

Rosberg’s day was a mix between normal testing and the additional running of the exhaust extension, or megaphone, that ran in the morning.

Both Maldonado and Rosberg completed 102 laps. The leader in laps on the day though was McLaren test and reserve driver Stoffel Vandoorne; the Belgian’s 136 laps on his debut (he’d been delayed testing earlier this year) were enough to secure him his F1 Superlicense.

Vandoorne wasn’t the only test driver getting running in on the afternoon, with Williams’ Susie Wolff turning 55 laps and Force India’s Daniel Juncadella turning 91.

A driver from each team ran except Caterham, which was out due to an accident on Tuesday.

Unofficial Wednesday times from Barcelona:
1. Pastor Maldonado, Lotus-Renault, 1m 24.871s, 102 laps
2. Nico Rosberg, Mercedes, 1m 25.805, 102
3. Kimi Raikkonen, Ferrari, 1m 26.480, 94
4. Esteban Gutierrez, Sauber-Ferrari, 1m 26.972s, 85
5. Susie Wolff, Williams-Mercedes, 1m 27.280s, 55
6. Jules Bianchi, Marussia-Ferrari, 1m 27.718s, 55
7. Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull-Renault, 1m 27.973s, 73
8. Daniel Juncadella, Force India-Mercedes, 1m 28.278s, 91
9. Stoffel Vandoorne, McLaren-Mercedes, 1m 28.441s, 136
10. Daniil Kvyat, Toro Rosso-Renault, 1m 28.910s, 21

Sainz keen to race in Russia; decision to be made on Sunday

xxxx during final practice for the Formula One Grand Prix of Russia at Sochi Autodrom on October 10, 2015 in Sochi, Russia.
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Carlos Sainz Jr. has been discharged from hospital in Sochi following his practice accident, and is now hoping to take part in tomorrow’s Russian Grand Prix.

Sainz crashed at turn 13 with considerable force during final practice on Saturday, pitching underneath the TecPro barrier that made extracting him from the car difficult.

After 20 minutes, the rescue staff on site were able to remove Sainz from the car before transporting him in an ambulance to the medical centre.

Sainz gave a thumbs up to fans on the way there, and tweeted from hospital that he was unharmed after undergoing a number of checks.

In a statement issued by Toro Rosso after qualifying on Saturday, it was confirmed that Sainz had been discharged from hospital. The Spaniard has now set his sights on starting tomorrow’s race.

“My back and my neck are just a bit sore from the accident, but I’m totally ready,” Sainz said. “Hopefully tomorrow I will wake up in a good shape and maybe I can try and race – this is definitely the intention!

“Obviously we need to be cautious. I’ve always been conscious. As soon as the accident happened I tried to talk to the team on the radio, but it wasn’t working and those must have been some scary moments.

“I’d like to thank everyone for their support, it’s really nice to receive all your messages at a moment like this one! I hope to see you all tomorrow out there!”

Team principal Franz Tost confirmed that a decision will be made on Sainz’s participation following further medical checks on Sunday before clarifying the suspected cause of the accident.

“I’m very happy that Carlos is okay and out of hospital, this is the most important thing for us,” Tost said. “I hope he will have a good night’s sleep and tomorrow morning he will have to go through the FIA medical checks to decide if he will be able to take part in tomorrow’s race.

“Now, just to clarify what happened. Prior to the accident, Carlos had completed a long-run on the option tire, before changing to the prime to do two further laps. On primes the grip level is lower.

“In addition he had changed the brake shape on the steering wheel, which meant he had more braking rearwards. A combination of these two factors might have been the cause of the rears locking, which made the car uncontrollable.”

Should Sainz be deemed fit by the FIA medical delegate, he will have to start the race from the pit lane.

The Russian Grand Prix is live on NBCSN and Live Extra from 6:30am ET on Sunday.

Hamilton unsure about Mercedes’ race pace in Russia

xxxx during qualifying for the Formula One Grand Prix of Russia at Sochi Autodrom on October 10, 2015 in Sochi, Russia.
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Lewis Hamilton remains unsure about Mercedes’ race pace after losing the majority of practice running to a number of incidents on Friday and Saturday.

The entire field was limited to just one hour of dry running on Friday when a diesel spillage caused the session to be shortened.

Heavy rain washed out FP2, and FP3 was red flagged after 35 minutes when Carlos Sainz Jr. crashed hard at turn 13.

Mercedes showed few signs of weakness in qualifying, though, as it locked out the front row of the grid with Nico Rosberg scoring his third pole position of the season.

Hamilton admitted that he made a mistake on his final lap in Q3, but is unsure how Mercedes will shape up in the race compared to the rest of the field.

“Everyone was in the same position today with the limited practice,” Hamilton said. “I didn’t get a hooked-up lap together but Nico did, so well done to him.

“It’s going to be a long race tomorrow though, so hopefully I might have a chance. There’s a long run down to turn two, so we’ll both be studying the line to take tonight. Maybe I can get a good start, we’ll see.

“We haven’t done a lot of laps, so I’m not really sure what our pace is like compared to the others. Our goal in the race as always is to finish well for the team, so we’ll be trying to do that.”

The Russian Grand Prix is live on NBCSN and Live Extra from 6:30am ET on Sunday.