for day three times.
Pastor Maldonado returned himself and Lotus to the top of the timesheets once again on the third day of Formula 1 testing at the Circuit de Cataunya in Spain.
The Venezuelan, who was fastest on the first day around the circuit in the Lotus E23 Mercedes, hit the front during the afternoon session on a day occasionally hampered by light rain.
Despite the occasionally inclement conditions, Maldonado found a good moment to set the fastest time of the test so far with one day remaining, his 1min 24. 348secs lap proving a comfortable four tenths up on morning pace setter Max Verstappen.
Having led the way up to lunchtime, Verstappen's early effort was still good enough for an easy second place – 1.3secs faster than anyone else -, the rookie completing a useful 129 laps before his STR10 cried enough with 20mins of the day remaining.
Lewis Hamilton maintained a fairly low profile throughout the day, completing just over 100 laps en route to the third fastest time in the Mercedes, while Marcus Ericsson recovered to fourth best despite sitting out much of the morning with gearbox problems on the Sauber.
Behind them, Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel bounced back from his very early spin to end the day in fifth place, while Daniil Kvyat blended pit stop simulations and a long race stint to complete 109 laps. It means, between STR and Red Bull, that the Renault engine has put in a significant 734 laps over the test thus far.
Williams split its day between Felipe Massa in the morning and Valtteri Bottas in the afternoon, the former going seventh fastest and the latter completing 42 untimed pit simulation laps before finally putting a full lap together with just five minutes of the session remaining. He ended the day in ninth, the team-mates split by Pascal Werhlein, who got a full day in the Force India VJM07.
Jenson Button's week went from bad to worse as the MGU-K seal problem that limited his running on Thursday made its presence felt again today after the re-engineered part failed again after just seven laps. Completing just limited power runs thereafter, Button ends the test having managed just 43 laps in the car.