Mercedes driver Valtteri Bottas set the fastest time so far in Formula One’s preseason testing, with Williams rival Felipe Massa close behind.
Bottas had a lap of 1 minute, 19.310 seconds at the Circuit Barcelona-Catalunya on Wednesday, eclipsing his time from a week ago by nearly four tenths of a second. His lap last week had already been the fastest at the track since layout changes were made a decade ago.
After a chicane was introduced in 2007, the fastest lap had been set by red Bull driver Mark Webber in 2010, with a time of 1:19.995 in qualifying.
Cars have been revamped for the 2017 season under new tire and aerodynamic regulations, becoming a lot bigger and faster than in previous years.
Massa impressed again with Williams, finishing Wednesday’s morning session about a tenth slower than Bottas.
The Brazilian driver, coming back from retirement after Bottas left Williams to replace retired champion Nico Rosberg at Mercedes, had been fastest on Tuesday, the first of the final four days of testing ahead of the season-opener in Australia on March 26.
Bottas ran 70 laps on Wednesday, the most among the 10 drivers who made it to the track in the morning. Massa had 63 with Williams, which struggled last week after problems caused by a crash with rookie driver Lance Stroll.
Kimi Raikkonen was third-fastest with Ferrari, nearly one second behind Bottas. Max Verstappen of Red Bull finished just behind Raikkonen.
McLaren, which has been dealing with problems since the beginning of testing, ran only 27 laps with Fernando Alonso. He had the slowest time in the morning session, almost four seconds behind Bottas.