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.
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.
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.
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.
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