Lewis Hamilton powered to top spot on the timing screens to end the final day of Formula 1 preseason testing fastest of all at Bahrain International Circuit, and with it bringing an end to a very successful preseason for Mercedes.
Hamilton’s big lap came late in the day, which was packed with stoppages with no fewer than eight interruptions to retrieve stranded cars – and was only fractionally slower than Felipe Massa’s best lap time, of all eight days in Bahrain, set 24 hours earlier. But the Silver Arrows outfit would probably have wanted a few more than 70 laps on their chart.
Williams were again impressive with Valterri Bottas second fastest, and with 108 laps to his credit the Grove based outfit leave Bahrain on a high, and emphasising the fact that Mercedes power units currently have the edge.
Fernando Alonso was third fastest in the Ferrari, his day also curtailed by long a spell in the garage to change a gearbox. He managed 74 laps in total. His best time of 1:34.280 was the fastest that the F14T had gone around Sakhir during the eight days of testing in the island kingdom.
Force India’s Nico Hulkenberg and Jean Eric Vergne in the Toro Rosso also completed 74 laps, finishing fourth and fifth respectively on the timing sheets. Vergne fastest of the Renault powered contingent.
Sauber completed a huge 177 laps on the day with Adrian Sutil and Esteban Gutierrez sharing the cockpit on the day, an enormous achievement and 40 laps more than any team managed on a single day during the 12 days of testing. Sutil was sixth fastest, and Gutierrez eighth best.
Splitting the Sauber duo on the time sheets was fellow Ferrari powered driver Max Chilton in the Marussia, who ticked off 86 laps on what was one of the better days of testing.
Ninth fastest was reigning world champion Sebastian Vettel who suffered brake failure, which caused the problematic Red Bull RB10 to spin. Despite this and ongoing niggles the German enjoyed his most productive day of testing with 77 laps to his credit, but over four seconds down on Hamilton’s top time.
McLaren endured nightmarish final day of testing as the hitherto bullet proof MP4-29 was struck by problems which curtailed Jenson Button’s track time to a mere 21 laps. The team reported a high-mileage internal combustion engine failure which required an engine change, and later any further attempts to run were stopped by a control electronics problem.
Caterham finally got out of the GP2 lap time zone with Kamui Kobayashi managing 106 laps in the process.
The dubious honour of being slowest on the final day of testing went to Romain Grosjean in the Lotus E22, and a fire further exacerbating the situation for the team who completed the least preseason testing mileage of all teams. Grosjean goes to Melbourne with less than 100 laps to his credit during his six days in the cockpit.
Thus ended a drama packed Formula 1 preseason, the next episode being the real deal when engines fireup in anger for the Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne – bring it on!
Bahrain Test II, Day 4 Lap Times – Saturday, 2 March