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Valtteri Bottas fastest as times tumble on third day of Barcelona F1 test

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Valtteri Bottas continued his impressive start to life with Mercedes by topping the third day of Formula 1 pre-season testing as times tumbled at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya.

Bottas split running with new teammate Lewis Hamilton once again on Wednesday in Barcelona, taking the reins of the Mercedes W08 EQ Power+ for the morning session.

The Finn was given the chance to chase fast laps, utilizing the quicker compounds in Pirelli’s range and even getting a run on the ultra-softs.

Bottas turned in a best lap 1:19.705 to finish two-tenths of a second clear at the top of the timesheets, with his time being the fastest of pre-season testing so far.

The time is also just 1.3 seconds off the lap record for an F1 car around the current layout of the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, set by Felipe Massa during a test in 2008 during the V8 era.

Ferrari continued its strong start to testing as Sebastian Vettel finished second, completing his fastest lap on the soft compound tire and also dipping below the 1:20s mark. Daniel Ricciardo was third for Red Bull, 1.2 seconds further back.

Jolyon Palmer enjoyed an impressive run-out for Renault to finish fourth-fastest, although his running was interrupted in the morning by a spin at Turn 2 after getting on the power too early. Teammate Nico Hulkenberg was fifth, the pair having split the running on Wednesday.

Marcus Ericsson finished the day sixth for Sauber ahead of Haas’ Romain Grosjean, who enjoyed his first extended run in the VF-17 car after seeing teammate Kevin Magnussen take the opening two days of running. Lewis Hamilton followed in eighth for Mercedes.

Lance Stroll’s steep learning curve in F1 continued as he suffered two spins on Wednesday, the second of which caused damage to his Williams FW40 and ended the team’s running early (much as it did on Tuesday). The Canadian racked up 98 laps in total.

Fernando Alonso had a more productive day for McLaren after engine woes limited its running on the first two days, the Spaniard racking up 72 laps in total en route to P10. Compatriot Carlos Sainz Jr. was 11th for Toro Rosso, with teammate Daniil Kvyat 13th. The pair were split by Force India junior Alfonso Celis Jr.

Thursday marks the final day of the first pre-season test in Barcelona, and is set to see the track be artificially dampened to allow Pirelli to test its wet-weather tire compounds.

Hamilton, Red Bull teammates both go to NASA before USGP

Photo: Red Bull Content Pool
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One of the more intriguing United States Grand Prix adventures occurred on Wednesday, as both Lewis Hamilton and the pair of Red Bull Racing teammates, Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen, all went to NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston – in separate sessions – before heading onto Austin.

Hamilton posted on his Instagram story on Wednesday that he’d “quit his day job in a second” to work at NASA and become an astronaut, and the unbridled enthusiasm spoke to the three-time Formula 1 World Champion’s love of different life aspects entirely outside of racing.

“(I) had an incredible day yesterday, having a bit of a comedown today,” Hamilton said today at the FIA Press Conference. “I was just buzzed all day yesterday because it’s always been something I’ve wanted to do. It’s always something I’ve been fascinated about, space and space travel particularly.

“So to actually go there… and I had a million questions. I’m sure the guy got fed up with me. I asked a lot of questions and I got to see a lot of great things, some of the new technology they are working on and yeah, I want to go back.”

The Mercedes AMG Petronas team posted a gallery of Hamilton’s adventure on its website, linked here, and a few samples are below.

As for the Red Bull pair, the young duo of Ricciardo and Verstappen were equally awestruck by the experience.

“There really are a lot of similarities between this and F1, just the technology alone,” Ricciardo said. “I had a guest come to a race last year, when they got into the garage they were like: ‘this is like a space station’. We went to mission control here and it’s really like what we have in the Ops Room in Milton Keynes. Even the safety technology is similar. The astronauts go through the same measurements, a similar kind of HANS device etc. It’s really cool.”

Verstappen added, “There are quite a lot of comparisons, if you really want to talk about it we could go on for an hour! The control center looks pretty similar to ours. We share a lot of the same technology. It was really interesting for us to see that and I bet it would be the same if they could see ours.”

Here’s a link to Red Bull’s gallery and some teaser shots below.