Massa fastest for Williams on day 3 in Bahrain

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Felipe Massa has finished quickest on the penultimate day of winter testing in Bahrain by setting the fastest time across the course of the pre-season period at Sakhir.

Massa’s lap of 1:33.258 saw him finish ahead of Mercedes’ Nico Rosberg as the two drivers traded fastest times in the final hour of the session. The German driver eventually fell two-tenths short of the Brazilian’s time and was forced to settle for second place.

However, Rosberg was a full 1.9 seconds ahead of third placed Kimi Raikkonen as the Ferrari driver focused on a race simulation in the afternoon.

The talking point from today’s running in Bahrain was Red Bull’s continued problems. The team appeared to be on the verge of an improvement after a good day of testing for Daniel Ricciardo yesterday, but defending world champion Sebastian Vettel struggled greatly. Upon starting his first run, Vettel managed just half a lap before the Red Bull RB10 ground to a halt.

It was soon recovered and returned to the pits, but when Red Bull sent the car out for a second run, it lasted but a few seconds as Vettel stopped at the end of the pit lane. With just half a lap on the board and one day of pre-season testing left, Red Bull appear to be in trouble.

Besides Vettel’s stoppages, there were also red flags for French duo Jules Bianchi and Romain Grosjean on Saturday in Bahrain. Bianchi finished the day in seventh place for Marussia ahead of closest rivals Caterham, whilst Grosjean was the last classified driver to post a time down in ninth position. Adrian Sutil also hit trouble as a fire on his Sauber C33 early in the morning session meant that he failed to post a time.

Although the Mercedes-powered teams dominated once again, occupying four of the top six positions, Renault showed signs of improved reliability. Toro Rosso’s Daniil Kvyat finished the day in fifth position with 81 laps under his belt, whilst Caterham’s Marcus Ericsson completed the most mileage with 117 laps. Despite Red Bull’s disastrous day, these are good signs for the French engine supplier.

With just one day to go in pre-season testing, the teams will get a final shot tomorrow to understand their cars and perfect their procedure ahead of the first round of the season in Australia (live on NBCSN on March 16).

Bahrain Day 3 – Times

1. Felipe Massa Williams 1:33.258 (99 laps)
2. Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1:33.484 +0.226 (103)
3. Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari 1:35.426 +2.168 (87)
4. Kevin Magnussen McLaren 1:35.894 +2.636 (88)
5. Daniil Kvyat Toro Rosso 1:36.113 +2.855 (81)
6. Nico Hulkenberg Force India 1:36.205 +2.947 (115)
7. Jules Bianchi Marussia 1:37.087 +3.829 (78)
8. Marcus Ericsson Caterham 1:38.083 +4.825 (117)
9. Romain Grosjean Lotus 1:42.166 +8.908 (33)
10. Adrian Sutil Sauber no time (1)
11. Sebastian Vettel Red Bull no time (0)

Robert Wickens in the Indy 500? Bryan Herta making plans to field a car for next year

Robert Wickens Indy 500
Brett Farmer/LAT Images/IMSA
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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — Bryan Herta wants to enter Robert Wickens in the Indy 500 as early as 2024 – a year longer than preferred as work continues on the hand controls needed for the paralyzed driver.

Wickens suffered a spinal cord injury in a crash at Pocono Raceway in his 2018 IndyCar rookie season. He’s worked as a driver coach for the Arrow McLaren IndyCar team since, but last year with Bryan Herta Autosport and Hyundai returned to racing in the IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge.

The 33-year-old Canadian won a pair of races (including the season opener at Daytona) driving a Hyundai Elantra N-TCR that is fitted for Wickens to race strictly through hand controls. Herta said Thursday that perfecting that technology for an Indy car in the biggest race in the world has slowed the project he’s determined to do with Wickens.

‘I’M AS HUNGRY AS EVER’: Robert Wickens’ return to racing

“I’d love to take Robbie back to Indy because I know he could do that, and I think that would be a next step for him in his journey,” Herta told The Associated Press. “We’ve spent a lot of time looking at the logistical side of things, hand controls, and I think we have solutions for that.”

Herta said Honda has been supportive of the process, which Herta called “one of the most important things we’ve done in racing” last year.

“We actually looked at doing it this year, but the logistics of it, the timing, it just wasn’t enough,” Herta said. “That’s not something you can rush. There’s some things that we have to work very closely with IndyCar on, and things we just have to get right. It’s a process, but I can see a path to it.”

Wickens, when told his boss was openly discussing the Indy 500, grinned widely. Herta as a team owner won the Indianapolis 500 with Dan Wheldon and Alexander Rossi.

“That’d be fun,” he said of running the Indy 500.

But like Herta, Wickens said the effort has to be both done correctly and be competitive.

“We’d like to do it right. If we started right now, can we get a car ready for the open test in April? Probably,” Wickens told The AP. “But I don’t know where the systems would be and I want to get on proper simulators to make sure its correct.

“We all want to do a proper, professional effort,” he added. “I don’t want to do it for a marketing campaign. I want to do it for a chance to win.”

Wickens in 2021 did a demonstration in Canada that marketed advancements for paralyzed drivers and gave him a chance to again drive. His entire life had been upended 14 races into his rookie IndyCar season, just three months after winning top rookie honors at the Indianapolis 500.

Wickens has since married, returned to racing last year and welcomed the birth of his first child, an son named Wesley whom is infatuated with both race cars and the trip to Disney he took this week during the off days at Daytona International Speedway.

Wickens, who uses a wheelchair but can stand with some support, marks a full year back racing on Friday in the season-opening IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge race. Despite success last season, Herta made changes to his lineups and Wickens this year will be teamed with Harry Gottsacker.