Hulkenberg sets the pace as F1 teams gear up for new season

Nico Hulkenberg set the pace on the opening day of F1 testing in Bahrain this week
Nico Hulkenberg set the pace on the opening day of F1 testing in Bahrain this week

Driving for the Silverstone-based Sahara Force India team, Nico Hulkenberg clocked the fastest time on the opening day of the second pre-season F1 test in Bahrain.

With the 2014 World Championship only a month away, Hulkenberg, who has made a return to the team for this year after spending a season at Sauber, was in impressive form on-track as he drove to the fastest time of 1.36.880 in his Mercedes-powered VJM07 .

The German said afterwards: “The day proved to be a very positive and satisfying one. We had a busy programme and we learned a lot. Time in the car is very valuable at the moment, so it feels good to cover so many laps and even complete two long runs at the end of the day.

“That gave me a chance to see how the car behaves and to start getting a feel for it, which was not something I was able to do in Jerez.

“It’s great that we’ve already done some set-up work and started to improve the drivability of the car. But it’s still very early stages; we are learning with every lap and we face a very steep learning curve in the coming days.”

The Bahrain test is scheduled to continue until tomorrow, Saturday, with all 11 Formula One teams present.

Lewis Hamilton started the test as lead driver for the Brackley-based Mercedes AMG Petronas team, who are one of the hot favourites for this year’s title, with German Nico Rosberg taking over driving duties on Thursday.

For the Toro Rosso team, Russian youngster Daniil Kvyat was seen in the cockpit, and the GP3 Series graduate set the eighth fastest time.

The 19-year-old said: “For me it is all about spending as much time in the car as possible. I need to gain as much track time as possible but we did have problems.”

During the opening morning, the part Bicester-based Toro Rosso saw their Renault-powered car suffer an oil leak, while in the afternoon Kvyat ground to a halt on-track when the car’s engine stopped. “We have work to do but so does everyone else,” Kvyat added.

The 2014 F1 season begins with the Australian Grand Prix on March 16.