Massa fastest as F1 preseason testing resumes in Barcelona

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BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — Williams recovered from last week's problems and Felipe Massa set the fastest time in Formula One preseason testing on Tuesday.

Massa had a time of 1 minute, 19.726 seconds as the cars returned to the Circuit Barcelona-Catalunya for the final four days of testing before the 2017 season begins.

Massa's lap was just a tad slower than Valtteri Bottas' fastest time from last week, when he clocked 1:19.705 with Mercedes.

Massa set his time in the morning session with the quicker supersoft tires. He was nearly two tenths of a second faster than the Red Bull of Daniel Ricciardo and the Ferrari of Sebastian Vettel. Lewis Hamilton was fourth-fastest with Mercedes.

"Very good day for us," Massa tweeted, adding that it was "not bad" for an old and former retired driver.

The Brazilian driver, who returned from retirement after former teammate Bottas replaced retired champion Nico Rosberg at Mercedes, was unable to run on the final day of testing last week after the team discovered chassis damage caused by a crash by 18-year-old rookie Lance Stroll. The team had to prepare a second chassis in time for this week's sessions.

Massa drove a total of 168 laps on Tuesday, the same as Vettel. Esteban Ocon was the only other driver to run more than 100 laps. He had 142 with Force India.

"(Williams) have been coming back strong the last few years," Hamilton said. "I really hope that they are out there fighting with us. That would be amazing for the sport."

Mercedes lost time because of some damage in the morning session, but Bottas ended the day with 86 laps.

"As a team we are not happy with the time we had," Hamilton said. "We stopped early because we wanted to make sure the car got fixed because we had some damage to the floor."

McLaren, which struggled last week, faced more issues with Honda's engine, although rookie Stoffel Vandoorne was able to finish with 80 laps.

"We detected an electrical problem on the engine so Honda decided to swap the power unit," McLaren racing director Eric Boullier said, acknowledging that there is "maximum pressure on the relationship between the team and the engine provider after two disappointing seasons. "It's frustrating for everybody. Because we have a heavy test plan. Last week already we couldn't do everything we wanted so we had to re-plan for this week."

Renault also had to switch engines after problems on Tuesday.

Pascal Wehrlein made his debut with Sauber after missing last week's sessions because of an injury sustained at a racing event in January.

Mercedes and Ferrari dominated testing last week in an early indication that they will be a step ahead when the season begins in Australia on March 26.

Bottas' time was the fastest at the Circuit Barcelona-Catalunya since layout changes were made at the track a decade ago.

New rules introduced in 2017 to bring more excitement to the series gave cars more grip and downforce, making them significantly bigger and faster than in previous years.

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