Barcelona Day 3: Hamilton tops as Mercedes pace stuns rivals

Lewis Hamilton

Lewis Hamilton showed some awesome pace on day three in Barcelona

The sun finally shone and the Circuit de Catalunya stayed dry, but shining brightest on the third day of preseason F1 testing was Lewis Hamilton who powered around the Spanish Grand Prix venue faster than anyone has thus far during the seven days of testing in Barcelona, and with it sounded an ominous warning to his rivals.

His best lap of 1:20.558 was a sizzler set on soft tyres late in the morning but the wow factor was, that apart from being the only driver to dip below the 81 seconds mark, he did so on three occasions and one of those with a set of Pirelli medium tyres bolted on to the Mercedes W04.

When Hamilton blitzed the timing screens he was over 1.5 seconds faster than anyone else at that time of the day. Needless to say creased brow syndrome prevailed in the Barcelona pitlane. He also managed to rack up 117 laps in the process which was more than any of the other top teams.

Lewis Hamilton

Lewis Hamilton in the cockpit of the Mercedes W04

Hamilton reflected at the end of his final testing stint of the preseason, “It was great to have a dry track today for my final day of testing, and we were able to get through all the test items that we wanted to achieve by the end of my programme. There’s still a lot of work ahead of us to get to where we want to be but the team is doing a great job. The reliability, the mileage and the step-by-step improvements that we have achieved during the three tests are all very encouraging.”

But added, “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 ended the day second quickest in the Ferrari F138, his best time set late in the afternoon during a run on Pirelli super softs. His day came to a premature end, as with 20 minutes to go the Ferrari lost its front left wheel after what appeared to be a brake exploding, but the team played down the failure merely reporting “a problem with the left front upright”.  The Brazilian racked up 94 laps.

Felipe Massa (BRA) Ferrari F138 lost a wheel.

Felipe Massa’s Ferrari F138 lost a wheel

Formula 1 returnee Adrian Sutil was enjoying his second successive day in the cockpit of the Force India VJM06 with 109 laps to his credit, and the third best time which suggests that if there was any ‘rust’ in the German’s driving it’s gone.

Williams drivers shared the cockpit of the Williams FW35 with Pastor Maldonado doing the morning stint and Valtteri Bottas in action on the afternoon shift. They were fourth and fifth respectively with 65 laps notched up between the two. The team were evaluating a raft of new parts ahead of what will be a performance oriented final test day in Barcelona on Sunday.

Esteban Gutierrez was sixth fastest in the Sauber C32, with 99 laps on his chart, on what was the rookie’s final day of testing before his grand prix debut in Melbourne mid-month.

Adrian Sutil

Adrian Sutil does pit stop practice with the Force India crew

Boasting a new front wing among several tweaks, the Red Bull RB9 with Mark Webber on duty was kept on the harder compound tyre for most of the day with hot laps apparently not on the programme. The world champions keeping just about everyone guessing about what their true potential really is at this stage.

McLaren new boy Sergio Perez ended final day of testing in Barcelona eighth fastest in the MP4-28. Jean Eric Vergne was ninth in the Toro Rosso STR8.

With Kimi Raikkonen reportedly flat on his back with what is said to be food poisoning, Davide Valsecchi was called on to replace him in the Lotus E21 cockpit for a handful of laps in the morning, while Romain Grosjean, who had already departed Barcelona, returned to take over in the afternoon. They were 10th and 11th respectively.

Jules Bianchi made his Marussia debut

Jules Bianchi

Brand new Marussia recruit Jules Bianchi ended his debut session tenth on timing sheets, with 74 laps to hs credit and once again the MR02 out performing their back of the grid rivals Caterham, whose Giedo van der Garde was slowest of all, but did manage to rack up 126 laps which was more than anyone else on the day.

Barcelona Test Day 3, Best lap Times – Saturday, 2 March 2013

P Drivers Cars Times Gap Laps
1 L.Hamilton Mercedes W04 1.20.558 117
2 F.Massa Ferrari F138 1.21.266 +0.708 94
3 A.Sutil Force India VJM06 1.21.627 +1.069 109
4 P.Maldonado Williams FW35 1.22.305 +1.747 34
5 V.Bottas Williams FW35 1.22.468 +1.910 31
6 E.Gutierrez Sauber C32 1.22.553 +1.995 99
7 M.Webber Red Bull RB9 1.22.658 +2.100 59
8 S.Perez McLaren MP4-28 1.22.694 +2.136 101
9 J-E.Vergne Toro Rosso STR8 1.23.448 +2.665 114
10 R.Grosjean Lotus E21 1.23.223 +2.822 46
11 D.Valsecchi Lotus E21 1.23.482 +2.890 16
12 J.Bianchi Marussia MR02 1.24.028 +3.470 74
13 G.Van der Garde Caterham CT03 1.24.235 +3.677 126

-
Stoppages
-

  Driver Team Red Green
1 G.Van der Garde Caterham 10h58 11h06
2 D.Valsecchi Lotus 11h47 12h00
3 F.Massa Ferrari 16h41 16h53
  • Odd Lord

    He is fast little devil of course..

  • Senna one

    In this case it’s the driver prevailing over the car, before it’s the car, tyre over the driver. Still doubting..

  • Hawk

    Lewis’ time last year 1:21.701 for ‘pole’. Cars are much improved now.

  • Riggs

    Cheap PR trick by Merc, nothing more. Other teams don’t even bother to notice such ridiculous stunts. Merc can consider itself lucky if they have 4th or 5th fastest car on the grid in Australia.

  • Tamburello_1994

    Some teams were sandbagging it for sure.

    Was M.Webber trying his hardest?

  • Sush

    No matter what other critisize about the Hamilton’s amazing timing… But haters should know that he was in 1:20:800 on medium compund and then he set the fastest time on soft… Still others where 0.5 s slower that LH’s timing on medium… It was a good Q3 simulation…. Impressive

  • f1fanatic

    @riggs

    considering tyre compounds are much softer now and cars now are an evolution of last year’s, lewis’ 1.20.558 was not that all impressive. But you mentioning its a cheap PR trick by Merc clearly reflects that you know nothing about f1.

    Throughout the whole winter testing so far, MB hasn’t tested the soft compound tyre and today was their first day using it. previously, setting their fastest times on both the medium and hard compound respectively. And yet, they’ve topped the daily timing sheets once or twice so thus far. And if you do take note, they weren’t exactly running on fuel vapours. the fastest times were all set on the first couple of laps of a total of 10 laps and more. Even today’s fastest time 1.20.558 was set in the beginning of a stint of 5-6laps. Also, do note, when ferrari set their fastest time, they were running on a single flying lap stint. so i believe its abit unjust to wrongly criticising MB and dubbing that as a cheap PR trick. Even Button admit that, Merc has impressed him thus far being the most consistent throughout testing.

    Also, another important thing to note is, i suspect Merc slightly sandbagging when setting their fastest time today. as they were running a consistent 1.20.8s during their stint of medium tyres today. and according to the people crunching numbers, softs are a good 0.6 faster than their harder counterpart.

    However, i hate to admit it, but this maybe because of the cold temperatures of winter testing suiting the W04 and favouring less of the big boys on track. Also, it may be due to the fact that Merc as we all know are really solid on their one lap pace, even possibly the fastest in terms of one lap pace. In terms of race pace on the other hand is a whole different story.

  • f1fanatic

    also do note: P2 – P4 are using supersofts.

    Webber is sandbagging though ):

  • Hawk

    @riggs must be an aged Schumie hanger on because he says it with such negative passion. If you thought a little bit longer, Of what use is PR at this stage? Lauda? Lewis? Or Wolff? In any case it would serve them better if they sand bagged so that they remain underdogs for sure. However sandbagging does not help a car that has been crap bse the engineers will not know if their improvements have worked and to what extent. RB will always know even if they sandbag bse they are already at the top.
    @f1fanatic
    Has Merc ever had a reputation of good one lap pace? Not last year. Nico tried all he could in that truck. Race pace was worse. However I notice they have put in the most no. of laps of any team. Not a bad tyre sign.

    Having said that we do not know where the other teams are esp. RB. Sandbagging is their second name. McL can also afford to sandbag. But for sure the Merc is a better car and that is their aim. I can see Nico doing 130 race pace laps today.

    Let the music play.

  • Tamburello_1994

    One thing for sure:

    Merc has got TWO fast drivers now.

  • Eevel

    On one hand I feel quite sorry that Schumacher won’t get to race this car as this may have been the one to give him his first race win since returning.
    On the other hand I think taking on Lewis was the right decision for the team.
    I am a Schumacher fan but I don’t believe that a 40+ year old driver can ever be as good as one in his twenties, especially in a sport where reaction times and tenths of seconds make such a huge difference.
    I think there comes a point in any sport where you’ve passed your peak and the sensible thing to do is to hang it up.

  • Hawk

    Well said..
    Let the hangers on fans do the same. Let go..

  • Riggs

    Ooooh, I see that some Hamster fanboys are already having wet dreams about Merc being by far the fastest car on the grid LOL! Get ready to be very disappointed come Oz. Merc is obviously showboating, I can guarantee you that my poor feeble-minded friends. But if you wanna get excited and go crazy, then by all means do so. Just don’t get upset if after Australian GP I’ll be saying: “I told you so.” :)

  • ROXIN

    Better than showing nothing for fans, I guess. At least they’ve got a much slimer car, that’ good sign.