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Hamilton stays on top for Mercedes after rainy test day at Barcelona

By Berthold Bouman

Hamilton stays on top for Mercedes after rainy test day at Barcelona - Photo: Mercedes-BenzLewis Hamilton topped the time sheets for Mercedes today after a rainy test day at the Circuit de Catalunya in Spain. Hamilton set his time on the medium Pirellis during a dry spell in the morning, but, due to the rain in the afternoon, others were not able to improve on the pace of the 2008 World Champion.

“We have been working on our consistency over long runs and we managed one run this morning on dry tyres; the car felt okay but the conditions were also very cool, so we cannot draw too many conclusions,” Hamilton said.

But he thinks Mercedes still needs to do some work to improve the car, “Like I said in Jerez, I can feel that we have a good foundation with this car but there is still a lot to learn and we know that the name of the game is to improve our downforce.”

Hamilton fastest today at Barcelona despite the rain - Photo: Mercedes-Benz

 Hamilton fastest today at Barcelona despite the rain – Mercedes-Benz

Closest was Hamilton’s old team mate Jenson Button, who took second place for McLaren, with a time of 1m23.633, also recorded in the morning on the mediums, he was 0.351s slower than Hamilton.

Jean-Eric Vergne in the Toro Rosso STR8 was third after completing 80 laps, he was followed by Jules Bianchi in the Force India who took over from Adrian Sutil who tested the VJM06 yesterday, both drivers are in a race to conquer a race seat at the Indian team.

The day was also disrupted by many red flags, Hamilton caused one by stopping in Turn 6, and when Bianchi also stopped on track with just 15 minutes to go, it was decided to end the last test day of this week.

Bianchi later commented, “We did most of our dry running this morning and then did our aero work this afternoon when the track was wet. We didn’t manage to do the long runs we planned because it was so wet, but we still managed to look at a lot of things.”

Esteban Gutierrez 5th in the C32 - Photo: Sauber Motorsport

Esteban Gutierrez 5th in the C32 – Photo: Sauber Motorsport

Fifth fastest today was Esteban Gutierrez in the Sauber, but he was almost three seconds off Hamilton’s pace. “It was a very interesting day for me as  well as for the team, because it was important to get some experience in wet conditions,” said the young Mexican driver.

“For me it was the very first time I had driven a Formula One car in the wet. It was particularly interesting in the morning, when the track was wet to begin with and then started to dry out. I was able to drive with dry tyres in very tricky conditions, which was a situation I could experience in a race.”

Times were almost meaningless with the low temperatures and the rain, but it must have been a good feeling for rookie Giedo van der Garde to finish in sixth place, just 0.134s ahead of Felipe Massa in the Ferrari F138, who was the first to cause a red flag today as he ended up in the gravel trap at Turn 4 after just ten minutes of testing.

Van der Garde said, “The cold weather meant it might not have been much fun for the fans in the stands, but it was useful to get some laps done on the intermediate tyres as it was my first time in a Formula One car in the wet, and to experience the car in the wet/dry conditions we had today. We also tried a couple more ideas to help improve the rear stability but, again, as the tyres weren’t really coming up to temperature we weren’t able to push too hard today.”

Giedo van der Garde on a cold Barcelona circuit - Photo: Caterham F1

Giedo van der Garde on a cold Barcelona circuit – Photo: Caterham F1

Mark Webber’s day in the Red Bull RB9 was also hampered by the rain, he was eighth, 4.334s slower than Hamilton. “It was cold out there today, I can’t remember having a full test day this cold,” Webber said. “But actually it was reasonably consistent; the conditions were pretty stable all day, although not very representative of a Grand Prix weekend. So, unusual conditions but I was happy with what we got done today.”

Max Chilton in the Marussia and Romain Grosjean in the Lotus E21 completed the top ten, while Valtteri Bottas and Pastor Maldonado again shared testing duties today, Bottas had some pit stop practice in the morning, but both Williams drivers did not officially record a time.

The whole Williams race team was present and Bottas said about his pit stop training, “The key things to work on as a driver are breaking as late as possible for the pit lane speed limit to minimise the time lost, perfecting your positioning in the box and finally pulling away quickly and cleanly.”

And he added, “It’s really interesting as there are a lot of things to think about, but the better I get, the more trust you build with the pit crew which means they are able to react even quicker. We’ll be doing a few more at the next test but then I feel I will be ready for Melbourne when it comes to pit stops.”

Next and final pre-season test will also be held at the Circuit de Catalunya from February 28 to March 3 next week. The first race of the season is the Australian Grand Prix on March 17.

Barcelona testing Day 4 – February 22

 Pos  Driver                Team            Time       Gap       Laps
  1.  Lewis Hamilton        Mercedes        1m23.282              52
  2.  Jenson Button         McLaren         1m23.633   + 0.351    70
  3.  Jean-Eric Vergne      Toro Rosso      1m24.071   + 0.789    80
  4.  Jules Bianchi         Force India     1m25.732   + 2.450    96
  5.  Esteban Gutierrez     Sauber          1m26.239   + 2.957    61
  6.  Giedo van der Garde   Caterham        1m27.429   + 4.147    50
  7.  Felipe Massa          Ferrari         1m27.563   + 4.281    80
  8.  Mark Webber           Red Bull        1m27.616   + 4.334    64
  9.  Max Chilton           Marussia        1m29.902   + 6.620    51
 10.  Romain Grosjean       Lotus           1m34.800   + 11.518   41
 11.  Valtteri Bottas       Williams        --                    23
 12.  Pastor Maldonado      Williams        --                    13

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