Nico Rosberg gave Mercedes GP’s Formula One fortunes a lift by setting the fastest lap at a pre-season testing session.

The German driver was more than seven-tenths of a second faster than Sebastien Buemi of Toro Rosso.

Teammate Michael Schumacher has said Mercedes is unlikely to challenge for victory at the season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix next month.

Defending champion Jenson Button finished just behind Buemi for McLaren, while Rubens Barrichello of Williams and Ferrari’s Felipe Massa rounded out the top five.

Ferrari is one of the early favourites for the title along with Red Bull, whose driver Sebastian Vettel was nearly 2.5 seconds back in eighth after being limited to 51 laps due to mechanical troubles.

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