Valtteri Bottas and Mercedes AMG Petronas were both busy and fast on the second day of Formula 1’s first 2017 in-season test at Bahrain.
The Bahrain Grand Prix polesitter ran nearly three full race distances on Wednesday, completing a staggering 143 laps (race distance is 57 laps) with a best time of 1:31.280 at the Bahrain International Circuit. Lewis Hamilton led Tuesday’s running with a 1:31.358 lap, so Bottas’ time ended as fastest at the test.
Bottas wasn’t the only driver to top 100 laps on the day. Gary Paffett, the longtime McLaren test driver who ran the Mercedes-powered Williams today, ran 126 laps himself.
Fortunately Paffett’s old team, McLaren, had a needed long day of running itself. Stoffel Vandoorne got in 81 laps in the Honda-powered MCL32 chassis, which was huge for him after a pair of power unit issues on the Grand Prix weekend itself, and actually ended fourth fastest with a best time of 1:32.108.
Bahrain race winner Sebastian Vettel (1:31.574, Ferrari) and Carlos Sainz Jr. (1:31.884, Toro Rosso) were second and third in-between Bottas and Vandoorne, having completed 64 and 68 laps respectively.
Besides Paffett, the only other test drivers that ran were Pierre Gasly at Red Bull and Sergey Sirotkin at Renault. Toro Rosso ran both Sainz and Daniil Kvyat today while Sahara Force India ran both Esteban Ocon and Sergio Perez, with both teams having run young drivers on Tuesday (Sean Gelael at Toro Rosso, Alfonso Celis Jr. at Force India).
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Two-time Formula 1 World Champion Fernando Alonso enjoyed his first outing with United Autosports, with whom he will contest the 2018 Rolex 24 at Daytona, in their Ligier JS P217 LMP2 chassis.
The McLaren Formula 1 driver completed the test at Motorland Aragon in Spain alongside co-driver Phil Hanson, who will be a teammate with Alonso at next year’s 24-hour Daytona enduro. Filipe Albuquerque, a former GT class winner at the Rolex 24, was also on hand to help Alonso and the team ahead of Alonso’s first run in an LMP2 car, which comes only a couple days after he made his LMP1 testing debut with Toyota. Albuquerque races with Mustang Sampling Racing in IMSA, but will return to United’s European Le Mans Series program for all but one race in 2018.
“I had a great first test with United Autosports. Obviously, we are on a really tight schedule between now and Daytona, but it was nice to jump in the car for the first time,” said Alonso, who will rejoin the team at the official Roar Before the 24 test on January 5-7.
Alonso added, “There’s quite a few switches and things to study so it was important to do this initial shakedown before Daytona, so I could fully learn about the car. I’m happy with everything – the car felt great and the team were fantastic. The atmosphere here is wonderful, like a big family, so today has been amazing. I cannot wait for Daytona.”
Team owner Zak Brown, who also serves as executive director of McLaren Technology Group and helps lead the McLaren Formula 1 effort, shared Alonso’s enthusiasm and was not surprised he was able to acclimate himself relatively quickly.
“Fernando’s first test with United Autosports went awesome as expected. He is a world champion and it is a pleasure to have him in our car,” he said of Alonso’s debut with the team.
Alonso is currently schedule to contest the Rolex 24 with the aforementioned Hanson and McLaren test driver Lando Norris.