Barcelona tests: Lewis Hamilton warms up for title defence with fastest time
Hamilton falls short of Rosberg's Day Two soft-tyre pace, but sets new benchmark on mediums; Oil leak strikes McLaren to end day early
By James Galloway
Last Updated: 16/03/15 2:23pm
World champion Lewis Hamilton signed off from pre-season testing with the fastest time on Day Three in Barcelona as Mercedes provided more conclusive evidence that their W06 has a significant pace edge over the field.
Although Hamilton couldn’t quite match team-mate Nico Rosberg’s time from Friday on a chillier day at the Circuit de Catalunya, the Briton’s 1:23.022 lap on the soft tyres was still two tenths quicker than the best Williams and Ferrari – the two teams considered to be leading the chasing pack – could manage on the grippier supersoft rubber.
Rosberg’s 1:22.792 therefore stands as the fastest time of the back-to-back test ahead of Sunday's finale, but Hamilton did still end his final day in the W06 before Melbourne by setting a new benchmark for the medium tyres (1:24.181).
Hamilton's day wasn’t without its delays, however, as he lost around four hours either side of the lunchbreak while Mercedes made what they termed “experimental” set-up changes to the W06.
However, the Briton's 76 laps were still nearly double those completed by his former team McLaren as the Woking outfit suffered a fresh reliability setback just 24 hours after finally appearing to make a breakthrough with the troublesome Honda-powered car when it suddenly racked up 100 laps.
Kevin Magnussen, returning to F1 action for the first time since November as cover for the recuperating Fernando Alonso, was on track for just 39 tours on Saturday before an oil leak ended the team’s day early. The MP4-30 deposited fluid into the pitlane as it made its way back to the garage for what turned out to be the final time on Day Three.
McLaren and Mercedes were actually the only teams in the nine-car field not to clear a century of laps as Saturday's running produced sustained high mileage and race simulations.
As promised, Ferrari completed a full race simulation with the SF15-T for the first time in the afternoon, with Kimi Raikkonen having earlier engaged in something of a 'supersoft shootout' with the Williams of Felipe Massa.
Both teams dispatched their drivers onto the circuit for single flying laps on the red-walled rubber, and the fact there was only 0.014s between the two cars suggests they could be evenly matched for single-lap pace heading into the new season.
Although all clocking up impressive mileage counts, the rest of the field ended Day Three a long way adrift of the top three with Toro Rosso rookie Carlos Sainz fourth on a 1:24.191. The Spaniard, completing his first pre-season as an F1 driver, did stop on track in the afternoon as the team ran a race simulation.
Lotus, who finished fifth on the times with Romain Grosjean, also suffered an on-track stoppage into the closing stages of their 66-lap Spanish GP race distance.
Force India, meanwhile, could have been expected to run into reliability problems of their own given their new VJM08 was completing its first full day of running but the team actually racked up an astonishing 158 laps with Nico Hulkenberg.
Red Bull once again ran completely under the radar, Daniel Ricciardo not joining the lunchtime qualy-style stimulations and racking up 128 laps in the RB11.
Barcelona Test Two, Day Three Timesheet
1) Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, 1:23.022, 76 laps
2) Felipe Massa, Williams, 1:23.262, 102 laps
3) Kimi Raikkonen, Ferrari, 1:23.276, 136 laps
4) Carlos Sainz, Toro Rosso, 1:24.191, 132 laps
5) Romain Grosjean, Lotus, 1:24.200, 116 laps
6) Marcus Ericsson, Sauber, 1:24.477, 123 laps
7) Nico Hulkenberg, Force India, 1:24.939, 158 laps
8) Kevin Magnussen, McLaren, 1:25.225, 39 laps
9) Daniel Ricciardo, Red Bull, 1:25.742, 128 laps