Maldonado led Wednesday’s F1 testing in Spain for Lotus

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First it was Marussia on Tuesday, then Lotus on Wednesday. Call it Formula One bizarro world if you like, or just call it two teams playing it smart in running late on Pirelli’s super soft compounds to get headlines and attention for pacing testing.

But as Max Chilton was a surprise leader of Tuesday’s testing at the Circuit de Catalunya in Barcelona, Pastor Maldonado was the surprise leader on Wednesday.

The Venezuelan’s flier of 1:24.871 beat Lewis Hamilton’s pole time for the Grand Prix last week, and was nearly a second clear of Hamilton’s Mercedes AMG teammate Nico Rosberg who was second on the day.

Say what you will about the ultimate lap time but Maldonado hailed the overall performance improvement by the team, fresh after teammate Romain Grosjean finally got on the scoreboard with eighth place in the Spanish Grand Prix on Sunday.

“It’s been a big step forward,” Maldonado said of the second day, via the official Formula One website. “That was a complete day for us and my first normal day of testing this season.

“We didn’t have any problems and we gained a lot of good running with good track conditions compared to [day one]. We ran to plan and completed everything we wanted to do.”

Rosberg’s day was a mix between normal testing and the additional running of the exhaust extension, or megaphone, that ran in the morning.

Both Maldonado and Rosberg completed 102 laps. The leader in laps on the day though was McLaren test and reserve driver Stoffel Vandoorne; the Belgian’s 136 laps on his debut (he’d been delayed testing earlier this year) were enough to secure him his F1 Superlicense.

Vandoorne wasn’t the only test driver getting running in on the afternoon, with Williams’ Susie Wolff turning 55 laps and Force India’s Daniel Juncadella turning 91.

A driver from each team ran except Caterham, which was out due to an accident on Tuesday.

Unofficial Wednesday times from Barcelona:
1. Pastor Maldonado, Lotus-Renault, 1m 24.871s, 102 laps
2. Nico Rosberg, Mercedes, 1m 25.805, 102
3. Kimi Raikkonen, Ferrari, 1m 26.480, 94
4. Esteban Gutierrez, Sauber-Ferrari, 1m 26.972s, 85
5. Susie Wolff, Williams-Mercedes, 1m 27.280s, 55
6. Jules Bianchi, Marussia-Ferrari, 1m 27.718s, 55
7. Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull-Renault, 1m 27.973s, 73
8. Daniel Juncadella, Force India-Mercedes, 1m 28.278s, 91
9. Stoffel Vandoorne, McLaren-Mercedes, 1m 28.441s, 136
10. Daniil Kvyat, Toro Rosso-Renault, 1m 28.910s, 21