Mike Stevens | Dec 4, 2009

has capped off a stunning debut performance to set the fastest time of the week on day three of the Formula 1 young driver’s test at Jerez in Spain.

After regularly clocking in the top four times on the first two days of the event, Ricciardo set the quickest mark for the entire test as he crossed the finishing line in 1:17.418, nearly one and a half seconds faster than nearest rival Paul di Resta in a Force India.

The Red Bull driver completed 77 laps of the circuit to cap off a scintillating first appearance behind the wheel of an F1 car, to catapult himself into contention for the reserve driver’s position with the team next season.

Ricciardo was unable to better his time later in the afternoon when he suffered a mechanical failure, bringing the session to a halt.

The 20-year-old said he was delighted to set the benchmark time for the week, which was also the fastest time recorded at Jerez all year, including February’s F1 test which featured the sport’s big guns.

“These last three days have been an incredible experience for me,” Ricciardo said.

“I would like to thank Red Bull for giving me this great opportunity, which has made me even more determined to make it into F1 one day. I know it was just a test, but seeing my name on the top of today’s timesheet was really something special.”

Kiwi rising star Brendon Hartley continued to struggle behind the wheel of the faltering Toro Rosso, but managed to thoroughly outshine Italian Mirko Bortolotti, who also tested for the team.

Hartley’s best time on day three was nearly eight tenths quicker than that of Bortolotti, providing the 20-year-old with a heartening end to the week.

“We did a lot of running and I think my pace was pretty good, when fuel-corrected, so from my side I’m quite happy,” Hartley said.

“It was interesting for me to work with so many people, with such a big team, as I am used to working with just one engineer. It was a great experience and I really want to say thank you to Red Bull.”

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