Massa sets the mark in Jerez, notching fasting time of testing

Maybe Felipe Massa is back.

During the third day of Formula 1 testing on Thursday, the Ferrari driver topped the time sheets with both the day and testing’s best time: 1:17.879. That’s the first sub-1:18 of testing.

Here’s the full, unofficial times:

Unofficial Thursday test times from Jerez:
1. Felipe Massa, Ferrari, 1:17.879, 85 laps
2. Nico Rosberg, Mercedes, 1:18.766, 148 laps
3. Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull, 1:19.052, 102 laps
4. Kimi Raikkonen, Lotus, 1:19.200, 40 laps
5. Jean-Eric Vergne, Toro Rosso, 1:19.247, 85 laps
6. James Rossiter, Force India, 1:19.303, 42 laps
7. Jenson Button, McLaren, 1:19.603, 83 laps
8. Esteban Gutierrez, Sauber, 1:19.934, 110 laps
9. Max Chilton, Marussia, 1:21.269, 78 laps
10. Valtteri Bottas, Williams, 1:21.575, 86 laps*
11. Charles Pic, Caterham, 1:22.352, 57 laps
12. Paul di Resta, Force India, 1:23.729, 7 laps
* using 2012 ca

You might notice Paul di Resta’s lousy time and short stint. He suffered an exhaust failure.

Beyond that, what jumps out? Pretty much the top four, I’d say, including our first-of-the-year turns for Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen.

Given the start Mercedes has had, it sounds like the team, and Nico Rosberg, are pretty happy with his near epic run.

“I’m very happy with today and I think it was probably a personal record for me to do almost 150 laps,” he said. “I’ve never been so well prepared physically as I am this season; I feel on top form and it was no problem to complete the programme.

“To drive the distance from Silverstone to Spa in one day with no problems whatsoever is a fantastic achievement from the team. It really made up for the last two days and put a smile on everybody’s face. In terms of driving the car, I have a good feeling, I can push it and feel comfortable – but obviously we still have plenty of work to do to continue improving.”

Perhaps this will be Britney’s year. Do we all assume the presence of Lewis Hamilton adds more pressure than having Michael Schumacher in the garage next to him?

I’m also happy to report that Kimi put together more than a few one syllable  words. His day was cut short by a clutch problem.

“It was good to get behind the wheel of a Formula One car again,” Raikkonen said. “The E21 feels quite good so far, even if the balance isn’t quite to my liking yet. That didn’t stop us going through the programme we wanted to do which had a lot of aero runs in it.

“We know the car can go faster, we were just running through what we needed to achieve. It’s a shame that we had a clutch issue at the end of the day, but that’s why we come testing so we can find these problems and fix them.”

It sounds like the big wow of the day came courtesy Force India’s new driver, James Rossitor. He hit a mechanic after misjudging a braking point. The mechanic suffered just a few bruises and is OK.

There’s one more day of testing on Friday.

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