BARCELONA – Nico Hulkenberg enjoyed a successful first session behind the wheel of the Force India VJM09 as he topped the timesheets on day three of Formula 1 pre-season testing.
Following on from Alfonso Celis Jr. and Sergio Perez, Hulkenberg enjoyed his first taste of the new Force India car on Wednesday at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya.
The German driver immediately put it to good use by finishing over two seconds clear at the head of the field, posting a best lap of 1:23.110 on the soft tire in the afternoon session after also topping the timesheets in the morning.
Romain Grosjean enjoyed a strong day in the Haas VF-16 to finish second, 2.7 seconds down on Hulkenberg’s time at the top. The Frenchman completed over 80 laps, marking the rookie team’s most productive day so far as its impressive start to life in F1 continued.
Kimi Raikkonen spent much of the morning sat in the garage as a fuel system check prevented Ferrari from running, but he too impressed on his first run in a 2016-spec car by finishing third, one-tenth shy of Grosjean’s time.
Kevin Magnussen did his best to put Renault’s difficult start to testing behind him to finish fourth, albeit suffering two stoppages himself as the issues on the new R.S.16 car continued to rear their heads. He did rack up over 100 laps though, giving the French manufacturer some much-needed mileage.
Mercedes opted to split its Wednesday running between Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton in a bid to keep both fresh given the extreme mileage the team had already achieved. Rosberg finished fifth in the final standings with 74 laps on the board, while Hamilton ended the afternoon in P8.
Carlos Sainz Jr. bounced back from an early stoppage to finish the day sixth ahead of Felipe Nasr, while Daniil Kvyat ended up ninth for Red Bull in front of Felipe Massa of Williams.
Jenson Button finished 11th as McLaren suffered its first major setback of testing, with a hydraulic failure restricting him to just 51 laps in total. Rio Haryanto propped up the timesheets as he made his debut for Manor, ending the day five seconds off the pace.