The final pre-season test of 2014 drew to a close under floodlights at the Bahrain Int’l Circuit on Sunday, with Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton setting the pace ahead of the Williams of Valtteri Bottas.
Hamilton’s best time of 1:33.278 was just two-hundredths down on the winter benchmark at Sakhir, set by Williams’ Felipe Massa on Saturday. The teams’ next track outing will be opening practice in Australia in less than two weeks.
“It was a tough start to the day,” said Hamilton after an early gearbox problem. “But they managed to get the car turned around for me to complete some good laps in the afternoon, which was a fantastic effort. There’s so much to learn with these new cars; it’s just mind-blowing and I don’t think anybody can be fully ready for the challenge of this season. But I feel as ready as I can be and I’m looking forward to seeing where we are in Melbourne.”
As Hamilton led the way, it was another highly productive day for Williams. Bottas racked up 108 laps, despite an engine failure – remarkably the team’s first and only on-track stoppage of pre-season testing.
“We ran a similar program with Valtteri as we did with Felipe yesterday, starting off with some chassis and aero tests this morning,” explained Rod Nelson, Williams’ chief test and support engineer. “We did some long runs after the lunch break to look at tyre degradation before moving on to a qualifying simulation. Towards the end of simulation, and before we were able to fit the supersoft tyres, we had a high mileage failure in the Internal Combustion Engine.
“With the number of laps we have put on it, it wasn’t a big surprise but it was still a shame that Valtteri couldn’t get that final chance to push. However, with an overall team total of 936 laps under our belt, we are still pleased that that is the only time the FW36 has stopped on track throughout testing. We end the pre-season running feeling very happy with the car, power unit, drivers and team. Everything is working together as it should and we are pleased with the direction that the team is going in.”
At Ferrari, Fernando Alonso’s progress with the F14 T was hampered somewhat by the need for a gearbox change, but the Spaniard finished the day third.
Force India’s program ended slightly early due to a suspected component failure, which meant Nico Hulkenberg, fourth fastest, wasn’t able to complete his planned race simulation. Hulkenberg was followed in the times by Toro Rosso’s Jean-Eric Vergne. Sauber had both their race drivers in action, with Adrian Sutil sixth fastest and Esteban Gutierrez eighth, as the Swiss team wrapped up their winter test program.
Max Chilton was an encouraging seventh for Marussia, despite losing substantial track time to an electrical problem on the MR03, while world champion Sebastian Vettel managed a vast improvement on his zero lap count of Saturday, as he finished ninth after 77 tours of Sakhir.