Rosberg quickest as Mercedes shows its hand on day two

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Nico Rosberg has sent out a warning shot to the rest of the F1 field by topping the second day of the final pre-season test in Barcelona.

The Mercedes driver posted a fastest lap time of 1:22.792 on the soft tire, smashing Felipe Massa’s best effort on the same tire on Thursday by seven-tenths of a second.

The defending world champions had been yet to finish fastest on a single day of testing in pre-season, with the team instead opting to focus on reliability after a number of problems with its old car.

However, Rosberg produced a sensational lap to finish 1.2 seconds clear of Valtteri Bottas at the top of the timesheets, making clear that Mercedes is still a long way in front in 2015.

Rosberg’s day was all the more fruitful as he completed over 100 laps for Mercedes, making up for the MGU-K failure that had sidelined Lewis Hamilton on Thursday. The Briton will return to the car on Saturday before handing the reins back over to Rosberg on Sunday.

Despite finishing 1.2 seconds down on Rosberg, Bottas put in another solid, trouble-free day for Williams as the British team looks to establish itself as the best of the rest in 2015. The Finn edged out Felipe Nasr by just 0.076 seconds for P2 on the timesheets as Sauber showed signs of its early testing pace once again in Barcelona.

Having introduced a number of new parts of the final test this week, mileage was the main aim for the drivers on Friday. Sebastian Vettel put Ferrari’s upgrades through their paces, finishing fourth with 142 laps to his name. Pastor Maldonado and Max Verstappen also managed over 130 laps, although the latter’s day was cut short by an electrical issue.

Jenson Button’s testing misery came to an end in Barcelona on Friday as McLaren enjoyed its most successful day of the winter. The Briton racked up exactly 100 laps en route to fifth in the final standings, but his day was cut short when the McLaren MP4-30 came to a halt with 20 minutes remaining in the day. Nevertheless, it was a good performance by the team as it continues to get to grips with the new Honda engine.

Red Bull’s Daniil Kvyat also hit trouble across the course of the day, encountering two problems on his car on Thursday with one warranting a red flag in the afternoon. The Russian managed just 77 laps in total, leaving him eighth in the final standings.

The real surprise of the day came from Force India. After a winter of uncertainty and speculation, the team finally rolled out its new car for 2015, the VJM08, just before lunch on Thursday.

In spite of a puncture on its very first lap, the car was untroubled for the rest of the day as Nico Hulkenberg completed an impressive 73 laps. The team is still a long way behind the other teams given that its car debuted some 26 days late, but the initial signs are positive with the VJM08.

At the front though, it is Rosberg and Mercedes who remain top dogs in 2015. For all of the talk about a possible tilt for the title by Williams, Ferrari and Red Bull, it is clear that the Silver Arrows were simply biding their time.

After today, there can be little doubt that Mercedes is the team to beat, and it will be hoping to make this loud and clear to the rest of the field in the final two days of testing in Barcelona.

Porsche pulls GTLM cars from Mid-Ohio because of COVID-19 positives

Porsche Mid-Ohio COVID-19
David Rosenblum/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images
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Porsche will skip Saturday’s IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship race with its two GTLM cars at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course after three positive COVID-19 tests were confirmed during the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

That resulted in Porsche choosing to pull out of the Nurburgring 24 Hour endurance race in Germany, electing to avoid sending any team members as a precautionary measure.

Porsche Motorsport announced Tuesday that its COVID-19 decision also would apply at Mid-Ohio to its No. 911 and No. 12 teams.

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Three of Porsche’s four IMSA GTLM drivers — Laurens Vanthoor, Frederic Makowiecki and Nick Tandy — also were racing in Le Mans. The trio has remained isolated in Europe and won’t be allowed to travel.

“Based on yesterday’s decision that no employee or racing driver of our Le Mans team will participate in the Nürburgring 24 Hours, we have today decided that this ruling will also apply to the upcoming IWSC race in Mid-Ohio,” Fritz Enzinger, vice president for Porsche Motorsport, said in a release. “This means that Laurens, Nick and Fred will not be traveling to the USA.

“This is very regrettable, but we would like to emphasize that in this case as well the health of all those concerned is the prime focus of the decisions we have taken.”

The decision also affects Earl Bamber, who teamed with Vanthoor to win the GTLM championship last year in the No. 912.

Porsche said its GTLM Porsche 911 RSR-19 entries will return for the Oct. 10 race at the Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval.

That will reduce the GTLM class to four cars — two Corvettes and two BMWs — this weekend at Mid-Ohio, in what could be somewhat of a 2021 preview. Porsche Motorsport announced earlier this year that it will leave IMSA after the 2020 season because of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.