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Maldonado fastest again at Circuit de Catalunya

Lotus driver tops timesheet with lap on supersoft tyre. McLaren hit more trouble as power unit issues continue.

Lotus’ Pastor Maldonado grabbed the limelight on the penultimate day of this week’s Barcelona test, the Venezuelan topping the timesheet with a lap of 1:24.348 set on Pirelli’s supersoft tyre compound.

Maldonado’s best time, set midway through the afternoon session, put him three tenths clear of Toro Rosso rookie Max Verstappen, who also had used the supersoft compound in the morning session to seize P1.

Both Verstappen and Maldonado enjoyed largely trouble-free runs, though Toro Rosso’s Dutch teenager did bring out the red flags in the final 20 minutes of the session stopping at the pit exit with a late clutch problem. Despite the setback the 17-year-old completed 129 laps of the Circuit de Catalunya – the day’s largest total – while Maldonado too broke century barrier, logging 104 laps.

The same could not be said for troubled McLaren. On Thursday, the team was forced to abandon running due to a seal failure on the MGU-K of its MP4-20 and the team subsequently revealed it would not have access to a redesigned part until today. The setback didn’t appear to hamper Fernando Alonso yesterday, as the Spaniard got through 59 laps.

However, despite installing a redesigned part today, Jenson Button’s running was interrupted for a long spell when the new seal failed. The team later stated: “After the morning session, we found similar issues to Thursday. We will resume testing this afternoon with limited power to the MGU-K.

“A new, re-engineered seal is scheduled to arrive and will be applied later this evening.”

Button completed just 12 laps in the morning and then only managed another nine in the afternoon before he had another stoppage at the end of the pit lane with 20 minutes left in the session.

With Maldonado first and Verstappen second, third place on the timesheet went to Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton. The champions had another low-key outing in Barcelona today as it worked through long runs, but Hamilton’s pace throughout signals once again that the chasing pack may still have considerable ground to make up this season.

Fourth on the timesheet was Sauber’s Marcus Ericsson. The Swiss team has a difficult morning as it worked to solve the gearbox issues that had caused it problems yesterday but once Ericsson took to the track the team had a solid outing, with the Swede putting 53 laps on the board for a best time of 1:26.340 – some 1.9s adrift of Maldonado’s showboating supersoft time.

Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel finished the day in fifth place. The four-time champion was the first to bring out the red flags this morning, spinning into the gravel as he struggled for grip in the cold early morning conditions. Once back out Vettel worked through an unshowy programme of medium and long runs and eventually cracked the century mark to post 105 laps for the day.

Red Bull Racing enjoyed another successful outing, with Daniil Kyvat working through a similar programme to that conducted by team-mate Daniel Ricciado yesterday. That meant a morning split into a sequence of untimed runs and pit stop practice, followed by short runs. Those laps in the run-up to the lunch break netted the Russian a best time of 1:26.589.

In the afternoon Kvyat switched over to long runs and a full race simulation. That resulted in his morning time being his best of the day and it earned him sixth spot on the timesheet. He completed 111 laps.

Williams had another inscrutable day. The team split driving duties, with Felipe Massa getting through 55 laps in the morning and Valtteri Bottas taking over in the afternoon. The Finn spent the bulk of his 49-lap afternoon running untimed laps and diving for the pit lane for pit stop practice. He eventually set a time shortly before chequered flag but it was only good enough for ninth place. Massa finished seventh just ahead of Pascal Wehrlein in the Force India.

Barcelona Test - Day Three
1 Pastor Maldonado Lotus 1:24.348s 104 laps
2 Max Verstappen Toro Rosso 1:24.739s 0.391s 129
3 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:26.076s 1.728s 101
4 Marcus Ericsson Sauber 1:26.340s 1.992s 53
5 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 1:26.407s 2.059s 105
6 Daniil Kvyat Red Bull Racing 1:26.589s 2.241s 111
7 Felipe Massa Williams 1:26.912s 2.564s 55
8 Pascal Wehrlein Force India 1:27.333s 2.985s 81
9 Valtteri Bottas Williams 1:27.556s 3.208s49
10 Jenson Button McLaren 1:29.151s 4.803s 24