Pastor Maldonado tops testing; Sick Hamilton sidelined

BARCELONA: Venezuelan Pastor Maldonado led the timesheets for Lotus on the first day of Formula One testing on Thursday while world champion Lewis Hamilton was sidelined by sickness and McLaren by power unit problems.

Dutchman Max Verstappen, 17, completed the most laps on a day interrupted by a collision between Susie Wolff’s Williams and the Sauber driven by Brazilian rookie Felipe Nasr.

Maldonado, whose only career grand prix win came at the Circuit de Catalunya with Williams in 2012, completed 69 laps with a best time of one minute 25.011 seconds.

Kimi Raikkonen was second fastest for Ferrari with Australian Daniel Ricciardo third in a Red Bull.

Champions Mercedes, who have completed far more laps than rivals in five days of pre-season testing in Jerez and Barcelona, had a mixed day after a high fever ruled out Hamilton following 11 laps in the morning.

German reserve Pascal Wehrlein, who was testing Force India’s 2014 car, was recalled to replace the champion despite the Briton’s team mate Nico Rosberg being at the circuit.

Rosberg also complained of a sore nerve in his neck and his presence in the car on Friday remained uncertain.

Verstappen, who will be Formula One’s youngest ever driver when he makes his debut with Toro Rosso in Australia on March 15, completed a hefty 94 laps – the most he has done in a single day.

Wolff, Williams test driver and wife of Mercedes motorsport head Toto, completed 86 laps but her display was interrupted by the collision.

Nasr, who was Williams test driver last year, suggested his former team mate was to blame.

“I think Susie did not see me coming and then we unfortunately collided in turn five,” he said. “We had quite a lot of damage to fix which hurt our programme.”

Wolff saw things differently. “I think it’s on video for everyone to see but the facts are that I stayed on line and he came across and his rear hit my front. It was an unnecessary coming together,” she said.

McLaren called an end to their day before lunch when a problem with the energy recovery system on Jenson Button’s car required lengthy work on the power unit.

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