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With Rosberg watching, Bottas sets fastest time in testing

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BARCELONA, Spain (AP) With retired champion Nico Rosberg watching from the pits on Wednesday, Valtteri Bottas set the fastest time since layout changes were made at the Circuit Barcelona-Catalunya a decade ago.

The display in preseason testing made another clear statement about Mercedes’ potential in Formula One this season.

Bottas, who replaced Rosberg after his surprise departure last year, had a time of 1:19.705 seconds in the morning session on Day 3 of testing, nearly one-and-a-half seconds faster than Red Bull driver Daniel Ricciardo.

Bottas’ time came on the supersoft tires, while Ricciardo had his lap on the slower softs. The Mercedes driver also had the most laps in the morning session with 75.

After the track changes in 2007, when a chicane was added, the fastest lap in Barcelona had been set by Mark Webber’s Red Bull in 2010, with a time of 1:19.995 in qualifying. Bottas’ time was considered unofficial because it came in testing.

New tire and aerodynamic rules introduced in 2017 to bring more excitement to the series gave cars more grip and downforce, making them significantly faster than in previous years.

Rosberg, who retired in December five days after clinching the title with Mercedes, was at the track and spent time in the paddock talking to several drivers and teams.

Lewis Hamilton will take over the Mercedes for the afternoon session on Wednesday.

McLaren driver Fernando Alonso had a problem-free session after a series of issues on the first two days.

The teams return to the track on Thursday for the last time this week. Another four-day session will take place from March 7-10.

The season-opening race is in Australia on March 26.

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.