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Hamilton on top for Mercedes on penultimate day of Barcelona testing

By Berthold Bouman

Hamilton on top for Mercedes on penultimate day of Barcelona testing - Photo: Mercedes-BenzLewis Hamilton set the fastest time on the penultimate day of pre-season testing at the Circuit de Catalunya in Spain today, the Mercedes driver set a time of 1m20.558s, the fastest time of the week, thanks to a dry and sunny Barcelona circuit.

Hamilton was pleased to finally be able to test on a dry track today, and he commented after his final day of testing, “The reliability, the mileage and the step-by-step improvements that we have achieved during the three tests are all very encouraging. Whilst we’ve been focusing on our own performance, we definitely haven’t seen the full potential of our competitors yet, so it’s difficult to predict where we might be.”

Felipe Massa was second fastest today for Ferrari, but seven-tenths of a second slower than Hamilton. In the morning Ferrari tested ‘aerodynamic components over short distances’, and in the afternoon Massa practiced pit stops, but the day came to a premature end after a ‘problem with the left front upright’, as Ferrari described it.

Felipe Massa was second-fastest today at Barcelona - Photo: Ferrari

Felipe Massa was second-fastest today at Barcelona – Photo: Ferrari

Adrian Sutil was again in the Force India VJM06 and took possession of third place, but he was a full second slower than the pace-setter. Thanks to the weather gods, Force India was able to carry out their complete test programme to prepare for the first race of the season in two weeks time.

Sutil said, “There was a lot of pit stop practice throughout the day and it’s good that we managed to do a race distance without any disruptions. It was less windy today, which made things easier, and the higher temperatures helped give us ideal testing conditions for understanding the tyres and the degradation.”

Pastor Maldonado and Valtteri Bottas shared testing duties for Williams today, Maldonado finished in fourth, and Bottas in fifth place today. Williams were one of the teams who already tested an upgrade package for Melbourne and Technical Director Mike Coughlan said, “We brought our updated core bodywork for the first race here this weekend.”

“Pastor spent the morning doing system checks with it before Valtteri went through new sets of each compound tyre this afternoon. Tomorrow we aim to do more performance runs with some further upgrades ahead of Australia.”

Esteban Gutierrez was again fast in the new Sauber, he recorded a time of 1m22.533s after completing 99 laps, good for sixth place on today’s time sheets. He, too, was happy with the sunny weather today in Spain, Sauber did a qualifying and race simulation today.

“It gave me the opportunity to see how the car feels in qualifying and race conditions. The understanding of the tyres was a very important point, especially here in Barcelona where we know graining of the front tyres is a big issue. However, we were able to manage the degradation of the tyres quite well,” Gutierrez later commented.

Mark Webber - Photo: Red Bull Racing

Mark Webber – Photo: Red Bull Racing

Mark Webber was only 0.105s slower than the Mexican in the Red Bull RB9, and he said, “We had a few small issues with the car today which delayed us a couple of times and while it wasn’t ideal I think we still learned plenty.”

“In terms of the overall feeling at the end of my spell of testing, I think we’ve done well and we have made a step forward. As I’ve said before it’s very difficult to see a real pecking order. We’ve just always been focused on what we have to do and not really looked too hard at anyone else.”

Again, a bit further down the order, was Sergio Perez who took over from Jenson Button for McLaren today, a bit of a disappointment as the second Mexican driver in Formula One was over two seconds slower than Hamilton. As usual, no official comments from the McLaren drivers, the team reported in a press release they tested ‘different mechanical set-ups’ in the morning, and did ‘long runs’ and ‘live pit stop practice’ in the afternoon.

Jean-Eric Vergne was in the car for Toro Rosso today, he was ninth after completing 114 laps, Toro Rosso also did qualifying and race simulations today. “We can ignore the lap times, because, unlike some other teams we did not do a qualifying simulation. However, our race simulation this afternoon went well,” said Vergne.

Some extra time in the car for Romain Grosjean, as Kimi Raikkonen called in sick today. The Frenchman was tenth, just a few thousandths of a second faster than Lotus reserve driver Davide Valsecchi, who also got an unexpected opportunity due to Raikkonen’s illness, who reportedly suffered from a food poisoning.

Iceman Raikkonen called in sick today - Photo: Lotus F1

Iceman Raikkonen called in sick today – Photo: Lotus F1

Lotus also tested new parts for Melbourne and Director of Trackside Operations Alain Permane reported, “Despite the disrupted running, we still completed a Grand Prix distance worth of laps and were able to put valuable miles on our latest rear wing concept as well as evaluating a new front wing. Both look to be a step in the right direction so it’s likely we’ll use them in Australia.”

Jules Bianchi, who joined the Marussia team yesterday after Luiz Razia was ousted, was in the MR02 for the first time, but was at least faster than, also rookie, Giedo van der Garde, who was 13th and last today for Caterham.

Van der Garde, who put 126 laps on the board today, commented about his last test day, “We took full advantage of the weather today, running through the final tyre and setup evaluations this morning and then running a full race simulation after lunch. We only had one minor issue with the car this morning, but apart from that it ran well all day and it was good to get a full race distance done, both for me and the whole team.”

Barcelona testing Day 3 – March 2

Pos  Driver                Team          Time       Gap       Laps  
  1.  Lewis Hamilton        Mercedes      1m20.558             117     
  2.  Felipe Massa          Ferrari       1m21.266   + 0.708    94      
  3.  Adrian Sutil          Force India   1m21.627   + 1.069   109     
  4.  Pastor Maldonado      Williams      1m22.305   + 1.747    34      
  5.  Valtteri Bottas       Williams      1m22.468   + 1.910    31      
  6.  Esteban Gutierrez     Sauber        1m22.553   + 1.995    99      
  7.  Mark Webber           Red Bull      1m22.658   + 2.100    59      
  8.  Sergio Perez          McLaren       1m22.694   + 2.136   101     
  9.  Jean-Eric Vergne      Toro Rosso    1m23.223   + 2.665   114     
 10.  Romain Grosjean       Lotus         1m23.380   + 2.822    46      
 11.  Davide Valsecchi      Lotus         1m23.448   + 2.890    16      
 12.  Jules Bianchi         Marussia      1m24.028   + 3.470    74      
 13.  Giedo van der Garde   Caterham      1m24.235   + 3.677   126

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