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Hamilton backs Red Bull to recover
Two of Formula One's top stars are convinced Red Bull will bounce back after the sport's brightest creative mind was forced to return to his drawing board on Thursday to find a cure for the team's early crisis.
Over the past three days, the reigning four-times world champions have been reduced to testing chumps due to a problem-plagued car that has amassed a paltry total of just 14 laps around the circuit in Jerez.
The highly complex nature of this year's cars following a major rules overhaul has so far caused considerable consternation for Red Bull.
For the first two days, Sebastian Vettel was predominantly a spectator as he completed 11 laps in the RB10 the team have conceded was rushed in the build process.
On his debut for the Milton Keynes-based team, Daniel Ricciardo had barely been in the car for two minutes when he was forced to stop as wisps of smoke drifted from the car.
The Australian managed another couple of laps soon after, but had to return to the garage, with one observer noting there was a rancid smell coming from the car.
By 1500 local time the team again called an early halt to their day, with team boss Christian Horner and chief technical officer Adrian Newey returning to the United Kingdom.
For design guru Newey, the most decorated man in the sport given the titles he has won over the years with a number of teams, he now faces one of the greatest challenges of his career.
Renowned for still using old-fashioned pencil and paper to draw up his cars rather than computer, Ricciardo said: "Adrian's gone back to the drawing board, definitely.
"For now there's only so much they (Horner and Newey) can do at the track, and for Adrian he's pretty happy working in his office back in Milton Keynes.
"He will definitely be getting involved and just trying to sort out the next best step."
Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso, however, know Red Bull are not a team that will be down for long.
"Anything can happen to any team because there are so many factors that come into play, and everyone's trying their best to get things ready," Hamilton said.
"I'm sure they'll get their issues sorted and be back out on track."
Hamilton was third quickest in his Mercedes on a more productive day than Tuesday when the car made its debut, only for it to suffer a front wing failure that pitched the 29-year-old into a barrier.
Despite that incident, Mercedes have still completed 177 laps - more than any other team - with Hamilton adding: "There are only positives at the moment to take from these days.
"These are trying times and we never expected to have covered as many laps as we have, particularly when other people like Red Bull haven't had many."
Fernando Alonso also believes Red Bull will rise again, as he said: "Okay, they've had little running so far, but there is plenty of time until Australia.
"In terms of preparation and approach, there are so many things that have to be developed and learned before the first race in Australia, but I'm sure they will quickly put things in place."
As for Ricciardo, promoted from Toro Rosso as replacement for the retired Mark Webber, his customary grin was still in evidence, with the 24-year-old far from concerned at the current situation.
"We have still got a lot of time; time is definitely on our side," Ricciardo said.
"Even if we go to Melbourne (for the season-opening Australian Grand Prix in mid-March) still a bit whatever, it's a long season and these guys know how to win. That's important.
"I'm sure sooner rather than later we're going to get it all together."
Red Bull's race engineering co-ordinator Andy Damerum echoed Ricciardo's sentiments as he said: "It's obviously not where we want to be, and naturally the whole team is frustrated by these issues.
"However, we're pretty good at bouncing back from this type of thing.
"This is where the whole team pulls together and I'm sure we will get these problems fixed."
Mercedes' power led the way, occupying the top four positions, led by McLaren rookie Kevin Magnussen with the quickest lap of the week so far of one minute 23.276 seconds.
The Dane finished ahead of Williams' Felipe Massa on his debut for the Grove-based team, with Hamilton third and Jenson Button fourth for McLaren after he had half the day in the MP4-29 in the morning prior to Magnussen taking over in the afternoon.
Marussia, meanwhile, finally made their track debut with the MR03, with Max Chilton completing five trouble-free laps.