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Hulkenberg, Force India off to flying start in Bahrain

Feb 19, 2014, 3:45 PM EDT

F1 Testing in Bahrain - Day One Getty Images

The “why is he not in a top seat” narrative for Nico Hulkenberg may continue fully into the 2014 Formula One season. But if he and Force India’s preseason testing pace is anything to write home about, perhaps his position in the Silverstone-based squad may become “a top seat” on its own.

Hulkenberg set Wednesday’s fastest time at 1:36.880 at the Bahrain International Circuit, which eclipsed the fastest race lap (1:36.961) set by Sebastian Vettel in the 2013 Bahrain Grand Prix.

But while the time was nice, the extending running was a better note to emerge out of Wednesday’s testing, as the Mercedes-powered cars continue to hold an early reliability edge over Renault.

That was the takeaway Hulkenberg had on the day, as he continues to reintegrate himself back into the Force India mold after a year away at Sauber.

“Time in the car is very valuable at the moment and so it feels good to cover so many laps and even complete two long runs at the end of the day,” Hulkenberg said, via the team’s official website. “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.”

An even more telling quote was the fact that for the first time this winter, the team was able to work on actual setup of the car rather than sorting through installation, mapping and other bits and pieces to make the new car run.

“It’s great that we’ve already done some set-up work and started to improve the driveability of the car,” he said. “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. ”

Team chief operation officer Otmar Szafnauer said the team completed successful aero running in the morning, with the setup evaluation including various Pirelli tire compounds, ride heights and balance occurring in the afternoon.

Hulkenberg tests again on Thursday, with Sergio Perez taking over on Friday.

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