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Times plunge as Hamilton leads first day of first Barcelona test

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All the talk heading into the 2017 Formula 1 season was that the new cars would be significantly quicker than their predecessors, and in day one of testing at the Circuit de Catalunya-Barcelona, that was exactly the case.

Lewis Hamilton took the new Mercedes F1 W08 EQ Power+ to a best time of 1:21.765, which was nearly 3.2 seconds faster than the quickest time on day one of testing last year, set by Sebastian Vettel of Ferrari (1:24.939).

Vettel was second today in the Scuderia Ferrari SF70H, also in the 1:21 bracket at 1:21.878. Former Ferrari driver Felipe Massa, now back for 2017 despite his planned retirement, was third in Williams Martini Racing’s FW40 chassis at 1:22.076.

MORE: Hear sounds from the cars at today’s test (VIDEO)

Vettel led the way from a lap count standpoint at 128 of them, with Massa also cracking the 100-lap threshold at 103.

But as Mercedes AMG Petronas banked over 150 laps on day one last year, they’ve done the same this year – albeit with both drivers.

Hamilton ran the afternoon session and completed 73 laps while the team’s new recruit, Valtteri Bottas, did 79 for his first official running with the team in the morning session. That meant Mercedes had 152 laps in the books out of the box.

While Mercedes was pounding away, others were less successful from a lap count and mileage standpoint.

Sensor and battery issues limited Red Bull Racing’s Daniel Ricciardo to 50 total laps on the day, but the Australian was back going fuller in the afternoon in the not-so-unlucky RB13.

Kevin Magnussen completed the same number of laps in his first day at Haas F1 Team, despite an off at Turn 10 that damaged his front wing of the VF-17 chassi. Magnussen (1:22.894) and Ricciardo (1:22.926) were fourth and fifth on the day.

Their days were still slightly better than Sahara Force India, with Sergio Perez only clocking 39 laps in his VJM10 and McLaren, which lost most of the day to an oil systems issue for Fernando Alonso. The Spaniard made it out for 29 laps.

All drivers with the exception of Sauber F1 Team’s Marcus Ericsson ran a faster lap today than Vettel’s best time of last year; Ericsson was only able to muster a 1:26.841.

Most of the fast runs were set on Pirelli’s soft compounds.

As ever, times aren’t as important as lap counts in testing and from that standpoint, Mercedes seems to have got off to another fast start with the other two 100-lap teams not as far behind.

Times are below; more to follow.

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Reports: Fernando Alonso to test on September 5 at Barber Motorsports Park

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According to a number of media stories Thursday afternoon and evening, two-time Formula One champion Fernando Alonso will reportedly test an Indy car at Barber Motorsports Park on Wednesday, September 5.

The 2.38-mile permanent road course just outside Birmingham, Alabama, per those stories, will play host to Alonso as he reportedly tests with IndyCar’s Andretti Autosport team and Honda.

Honda Performance Development (HPD) President Art St. Cyr issued a statement late Thursday afternoon about Alonso’s reported upcoming test:

“Fernando Alonso is one of the premier racing drivers of this generation, and we very much enjoyed working with him at the 2017 Indianapolis 500.

“He has shown that he can be very competitive right off the bat, and it would be great for IndyCar if he were to decide to drive here full-time after his F1 career. Having Alonso as a driver would be an obvious benefit for any team or manufacturer.”

However, St. Cyr’s statement also included a reference to Honda potentially not being able to field a new engine for Alonso in the IndyCar series in 2019.

“Our engine lease agreements are made between HPD and specific teams,” St. Cyr’s statement said. “Several of our current IndyCar Series teams already have agreements in place with HPD for the 2019 season, and we have been operating near maximum capacity all year long to properly provide powerful, reliable engines for all of our teams.

“We have had discussions with several current and potential teams for 2019, and those discussions are ongoing.”

Rumors of Alonso potentially racing for a hybrid operation that would include Andretti Autosport, McLaren and Harding Racing have been picking up speed. But there’s one potential major hurdle: Harding’s Dallara’s are powered by Chevrolet engines.

Alonso announced earlier this week that he’d be retiring from Formula One at season’s end, saying he’s looking forward to new adventures.

Because of his loyalty to McLaren, it’s increasingly looking as if Alonso comes to IndyCar, McLaren will have some involvement – although perhaps not as much as it potentially could do if it went all-in with a full-time effort immediately in 2019.

There is no word whether Chevrolet or Harding Racing could potentially be on hand at the Sept. 5 test at BMP, even in just an observation role.

Since being part of the winning team at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in June, Alonso’s desire to become only the second driver to win motorsport’s triple crown – the Monaco Grand Prix, Le Mans and the Indianapolis 500 – has increased exponentially.

He’s already won the first two; just a Indy 500 triumph remains on his bucket list.

The late Graham Hill is the only driver to have accomplished the triple crown feat to date.

Alonso, who turned 37 on July 29, has made just one prior IndyCar start, in the 2017 Indianapolis 500. He led 27 laps of the 200-lap event and appeared to have a car strong enough to win before it suffered engine failure with 21 laps remaining.

Instead of what likely could have been a top-five finish, if not a win, Alonso’s first foray into IndyCar racing ended disappointingly with a 24th-place finish.

In addition to being courted by IndyCar, NASCAR has also jumped into the Alonso sweepstakes, saying he’d be welcome to race in the 2019 Daytona 500.

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