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Barcelona F1 Pre-season Test [1]: Hulkenberg quickest as rivals falter

Nico Hulkenberg comfortably topped proceedings on the third day of the opening F1 test after being the only driver to set a time on the super-soft tyres
Nico Hulkenberg has comfortably topped proceedings on the third day of the opening F1 test after being the only driver to set a time on the super-soft tyres as the majority of the field worked through intensive and long run programmes.

The Force India driver enjoyed a flawless debut in the new VJM09 and set the second-fastest time of the entire test with a 1m 23.110s on the red-banded super-soft Pirelli tyres while running a full programme of 99 laps.

The German was hardly challenged for top spot in truth as no other driver set a fast lap on the super-softs and only three others lapping on the yellow soft Pirellis. One of those was Romain Grosjean who leapt into second place with less than 20 minutes remaining.

The new Haas team hasn't missed a beat since Grosjean suffered a front wing failure on the opening morning and ran a complete programme of 82 laps with its Ferrari-powered VF16.

However, the factory Ferrari suffered problems as Kimi Raikkonen missed the first three hours of track action with a fuel flow issue. Looking to make up for lost time, the Finn notched up laps at an impressive rate and finished the day third overall albeit on the medium compounds.

After its own power unit blowout yesterday, Renault enjoyed a stronger day with the return of Kevin Magnussen to F1 on his debut in the RS16. The Danish driver completed a whopping 111 laps, more than Palmer could manage on his two days combined, to finish fourth overall but missed most of the final hour with an engine fault.

Reigning champions Mercedes endured no such pain by topping the total number of lap chart once again. The German manufacturer revised its driver strategy by splitting the day between Nico Rosberg (74 laps), in the morning, and Lewis Hamilton (88 laps), in the afternoon. The pair finished fifth and eighth on the timesheet respectively.

Another driver to produce a mega amount of laps was Carlos Sainz in the Toro Rosso who notched up 161 to finish sixth overall ahead of Felipe Nasr in the 2015 Sauber.

Daniil Kvyat had a quiet debut in the new Red Bull-Tag-Heuer combination with 74 laps and down in ninth after a best time of 1m 26.497s, in front of a similarly mild start to 2016 by Felipe Massa who produced 109 laps with a personal best of 1m 26.712s.

McLaren had a small flashback to 2015 after a positive start in the morning when Button suffered a hydraulic leak in the MP4-31 which ended his running by mid-afternoon as the team investigated the problem.

Finally, Rio Haryanto enjoyed a solid F1 debut for Manor despite a small spin at turn five which placed him in the gravel trap just before lunch. The former GP2 race winner charged back out in the afternoon to complete a total of 78 laps but was over 1.5 seconds off the pace of the next closest car.

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February 25, 2016 8:46 AM

Go Nico! Yes I know, don't read into testing times.... But Force India have always had a special place for me with teams. The plucky underdog who often has a great looking car and now they have 2 very good drivers.

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