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

Fernando Alonso will decide this summer whether to pursue F1 again

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Fernando Alonso said he will determine by this summer if he would consider a return to Formula One next season.

After announcing Tuesday that he will return to Indianapolis Motor Speedway in May with Arrow McLaren Racing SP, Alonso said “right now the Indy 500 will take all of my concentration” but left the door open for F1 in 2021.

“In my case, probably during the summer period, I’ll make a decision on 2021 if Formula One is still appealing to me,” Alonso told IndyCar on NBC announcer Leigh Diffey in an interview (watch the video above). “The 2021 rules (in F1) are definitely a step forward, and hopefully things can be more mixed and not only three teams capable of winning races. So all this factors into play. I may consider that possibility.”

Alonso won consecutive Formula One championships in 2005-06 with Renault. He has 32 victories in an F1 career that started in 2001 and also includes stints at Ferrari and McLaren.

His last victory on the circuit was May 12, 2013 in Barcelona. He is winless in his most recent 110 starts, including the past 77 races with McLaren in 2015-18.

The Guardian recently reported that McLaren CEO Zak Brown said Alonso wouldn’t be returning to F1 with the team.

Alonso also told Diffey that returning to F1 from a two-season absence wouldn’t necessarily be linked to McLaren’s performance.

“I think they did well last year, and hopefully they make another step forward and close to the top three because they deserve it and are a fantastic team,” he said.

Though he is optimistic about more parity, Alonso said six-time champion Lewis Hamilton should be a favorite for the 2020 title based on preseason testing in which Mercedes turned heads with a new steering system.

“It seemed Mercedes is still quite competitive,” Alonso said. “They show enormous potential on the development side and on the progress from one year to next. Formula One is impossible to predict because many things happen in season.

“At the starting point, (Mercedes) are the favorites. When you have Lewis in the car and Mercedes with the potential they have, they have to be No. 1 probably.”