Hamilton tops Bahrain timesheets

We hate to be the ringing in Red Bull’s ear but… there are just five days of testing left to get the RB10 working. Just three weeks on Sunday before you have to race it.

If you can qualify it that is; the champions are currently still six seconds off the pace.

The pace in today’s testing in Bahrain — day three of four, with just four more to come in another week’s time also in Bahrain — was again set by a Mercedes-engined car. This time it was Lewis Hamilton, whose 1:34.2 eclipsed McLaren driver Kevin Magnussen’s 1.34.9 of yesterday, which in turn beat Force India’s Nico Hulkenberg’s best of 1.36.8 on Wednesday.

There’s one more day to go in Bahrain. Anyone fancy a bet on a Mercedes-engined car not topping the time sheets again tomorrow? Maybe a Williams this time? Williams split today between drivers Felipe Massa and Valtteri Bottas, but didn’t appear to be looking to set fast lap times. Indeed Bottas spent most of the morning doing pit-stop practices.

That fact alone will tell you how far behind Red Bull are on the learning curve teams are facing with 2014’s 1.6-litre turbo-hybrids. Hamilton, who spent most of the afternoon fine-tuning set-ups on the W05, is less than 1.5secs off Bahrain’s 2013 pole position pace. Mercedes, like McLaren and Ferrari among others, have run race simulations. Williams are practicing pit stops.

Red Bull managed just another 28 laps today before hauling Daniel Ricciardo out of the car, pulling down the garage door and tearing the RB10 to pieces. Again.

Rubbing salt in Red Bull’s wounds – and making it ever more explicit that the problem is the car and not just the Renault engine – are the 98 laps Swedish rookie Marcus Ericsson completed in the Caterham CT05. Once observers had torn their bloodshot eyes away from the CT05’s hideous nose, almost all focused on the car’s simply enormous air intakes. It’s now starting to look like Caterham’s caution was correct: like Red Bull, fellow Renault runners Toro Rosso and Lotus continue to struggle to get their cars to run reliably and run long.

Still, unlike Red Bull at least they’ve lapped under 1:40 this week.

Ah, Lotus and that odd looking E22. Today was Pastor Maldonado’s official debut for the team. It didn’t go well, Pastor twice causing the test to be stopped and managing only 26 laps all day.

And Ferrari? Well, the fastest and longest running Ferrari-engined car of the day was Esteban Gutierrez in the Sauber. The Mexican managed 96 laps (second only to Jenson Button’s 103) and recorded the fourth best time, just under three seconds slower than Hamilton, and behind Button (second) and Massa (third).

‘Works’ Ferrari driver (funny how this year’s overt emphasis on engines — sorry ‘power units’ — seems to have reinstated the divide between ‘works’ and ‘non-works’ teams) Kimi Raikkonen did not have a great day on his return to the cockpit of the F14-T. Having shaded Fernando Alonso in Jerez, he never got the chance to match the Spaniard’s promising race-simulation of yesterday.

Kimi’s total of 44 laps was, say Ferrari, the result of problems with the car’s telemetry. And we must assume that was indeed the case: it’s not like Kimi to not to call a telemetry failure a shovel given half a chance.

Last day tomorrow, when we’ll wrap up all the times of the week in a vague attempt to give you some indication of what might be on the cards when these astonishing new cars turn wheels in anger in Australia in only three weeks.

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