Perez Remains On Top in Bahrain As Red Bull Racing make headway
Posted By:   |  28 Feb 2014   |  4:31 pm GMT  |  81 comments

Sergio Perez maintained his position as pacesetter at this week’s final Formula One pre-season test in Bahrain, heading a tightly-bunched  top three completed by Fernando Alonso and Daniel Ricciardo, Mercedes and Lotus, meanwhile, were force to cut their running short for the second day in succession.

Lewis Hamilton’s penultimate day in the Mercedes W05 before the Australian Grand Prix did not start well – a trip to the gravel trap bringing out the first of four red flags on the day. There were no lingering problems following the Briton’s stop, however, and he soon was back out and conducting a race simulation, matching Nico Rosberg’s Thursday tally of 89 laps before a gearbox issue caused the Brackley-based team to halt running with an hour remaining.

Lotus’ running yesterday was halted by an exhaust issue and day two was also troubled. The red flags came out for Pastor Maldonado in the afternoon as he stopped with flames enveloping the rear of his car. The Enstone squad admitted defeat with two hours of track time remaining.

Enjoying his time in Bahrain much more is Perez. Following a similar regime to yesterday, he and Force India set their quickest time during the morning session before focusing on longer runs this afternoon, a programme which saw him break through the 100-lap mark for the second day in a row. The Mexican finished the day with 108 tours under his belt. Perez also praised his team for making a “great step” forward following yesterday’s performance.

Just 0.06s adrift of top spot was Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso. Building on Kimi Raikkonen’s 54 laps yesterday, the Spaniard put 122 laps on the board in the F14 T, with no mechanical issues arising.

It was a productive day for Red Bull Racing, too, with Ricciardo completing 66 laps and ending the session less than 0.2s off Perez’s pace. And afterwards the team’s Race Engineering Co-ordinator Andy Damerum admitted it had been a good day for the troubled outfit.

“A very much better day’s work for us today,” he said. “We were a bit late out in the morning but that was simply due to the repairs we had to make overnight because of the damage we had yesterday. It was pretty much a ‘fix in the field’. When we did send Daniel out this morning we again put him on short runs just to test everything, as obviously you don’t want to push too hard, have a problem and then wreck the rest of the day. That cautious approach also allowed us to do some pit stop practice, which we haven’t done as yet and also to do some aero work on the car.

“In the afternoon we were very much better again,” he added. “Daniel was able to do a longer run of 20 timed laps, our longest so far. The car is still difficult to drive but we’ll tune that out. We have more parts coming overnight and hopefully we’ll be able to get some more decent runs in with Sebastian over the next two days and also give him the opportunity to do some performance runs. Overall a good day today and very encouraging.”

Felipe Massa had a trouble-free day in the Williams, completing 103 laps to take fourth place by the close of play. The Brazilian will remain in the FW36 tomorrow before letting Valtteri Bottas draw their pre-season programme to a close on Sunday.

Jenson Button set the fifth fastest time on a difficult day for McLaren. The Briton brought out the second red flag of proceedings mid-way through the morning and remained in the garage for much of the afternoon. He eventually emerged with one hour remaining, completing some short runs to finish the day.

After a tough first test in Bahrain last week, Marussia have enjoyed more consistency this time out, with Jules Bianchi completing 75 laps in the Ferrari-powered machine.

Behind Hamilton and taking the eighth-fastest time was Jean-Eric Vergne, the French driver having a decent day at the wheel of the STR9. He finished in front of Sauber’s Esteban Gutierrez, Maldonado’s and Caterham’s Marcus Ericsson.

Ericsson brought out the final red flag of the day after a technical issue caused a fire at the rear of the car and put an end to his day after 55 laps.

Bahrain Test Two; Day Two Times
1. Sergio Perez Force India 1:35.570s 108 laps
2. Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1:35.634s +0.064s 122 laps
3. Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull Racing 1:35.743s +0.173s 66 laps
4. Felipe Massa Williams 1:36.507s +0.937s 103 laps
5. Jenson Button McLaren 1:36.901s +1.331s 52 laps
6. Jules Bianchi Marussia 1:38.092s +2.522s 75 laps
7. Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:39.041s +3.471s 89 laps
8. Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso 1:39.636s +4.066s 61 laps
9. Esteban Gutierrez Sauber 1:39.976s +4.406s 106 laps
10. Pastor Maldonado Lotus 1:41.613s +6.043s 31 laps
11. Marcus Ericsson Caterham 1:42.516s +6.946s 55 laps

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