BARCELONA, Spain – Lewis Hamilton put Mercedes back on top of the timesheets in Barcelona on Saturday in the penultimate day of pre-season testing at the Circuit de Catalunya.
With weather conditions much improved on Friday’s, Hamilton set his fastest lap in the morning session as he worked through a series of short runs on Pirelli’s soft tires.
On his final day of testing before making his Mercedes race debut in Australia later this month, the former champion completed 117 laps, equivalent to 545 kilometres, to take his total pre-season mileage in the F1 W04 to 2,585 kilometres.
Ferrari’s Felipe Massa – also enjoying his last day of pre-season testing – improved in the afternoon to climb to second, but ultimately finished more than half a second off Hamilton’s best. After a positive day of development work with the F138, Massa was forced to curtail his running slightly early due to a problem with the left-front suspension upright.
The Force India of Adrian Sutil was an impressive third, while Williams were highly encouraged by Pastor Maldonado’s and Valtteri Bottas’s fourth and fifth places respectively, as the team debuted the updated core bodywork which they plan to race on the FW35 in Australia.
Sauber’s Esteban Gutierrez was sixth, as the Swiss team looked to run their Mexican rookie through a full qualifying and race simulation ahead of his Grand Prix debut in Australia.
Mark Webber was seventh for Red Bull, with Sergio Perez eighth on his final day in McLaren’s MP4-28 before Melbourne. Perez’s morning was devoted to evaluating a number of different mechanical set-ups. The team then committed to a series of system changes over the lunch break before kicking off with a long run in the afternoon, as well as some live pit-stop practice.
Jean-Eric Vergne was back behind the wheel for Toro Rosso and finished the day ninth, the Italian team focussing on suspension settings in the morning and a full race simulation – over which the STR8 ran trouble-free – in the afternoon.
With Kimi Raikkonen sidelined at the last minute with suspected food poisoning, Lotus had third driver Davide Valsecchi on track in the morning, and a recalled Romain Grosjean in the afternoon. They finished the day in tenth and 11th spots, with Grosjean just edging out the 2012 GP2 champion in the timesheets.
Marussia’s new race signing Jules Bianchi took 12th place as he got his first taste of the team’s MR02 machine. Meanwhile, Caterham’s Giedo van der Garde may have finished last on the timesheet, but the Dutchman was the day’s busiest driver, completing a mammoth 126 laps in the CT03.
Testing concludes at the Circuit de Catalunya on Sunday.