Lewis Hamilton rounded off his pre-season preparations with a strong performance on the final day of testing at Barcelona in Spain on Sunday, setting the quickest time and delivering an impressive race distance simulation run.
Getting his first taste of the series of aerodynamic updates that McLaren brought to the MP4-25 on Saturday, Hamilton spent the morning focusing on qualifying simulation work. His best time of 1m20.472 came while most of his potential title rivals were working on qualifying simulations too – and showed how competitive the field will be this year at least in terms of single-lap pace.
In the afternoon, Hamilton switched to a race distance simulation run, completing it with two stops and without any dramas. More importantly, it was consistently fast and showed that McLaren appears to be in good shape for the first race of the season.
Behind Hamilton, Mark Webber ended the day just 0.024sec behind on the time sheets – having taken over the RB6 from teammate Sebastian Vettel after the mid-day break. Red Bull Racing's problems on Saturday had forced the team to change its original program, and Vettel had tried out some low-fuel simulations in the morning to set what would ultimately be the fifth-fastest time. Webber undertook a varied program in the afternoon – running through both qualifying simulations and longer runs to round off his team's preparations for the season.
Felipe Massa ended the day third overall – just 0.067sec behind Hamilton's best effort, as he too spent the day working on qualifying in the morning and an attempted race distance run in the afternoon. His race distance run did not go as smoothly as Hamilton's, being broken up into four separate stints. Nevertheless, Ferrari will have been pleased with how the F10's winter testing program has gone – with many in the paddock still believing that the Italian outfit is the favorite for the start of the season.
Adrian Sutil continued to show evidence that Force India has made progress with its new car as he set the fourth quickest time during an afternoon qualifying simulation. Although track conditions were slightly better in the afternoon – with wind and dust in the morning having left the circuit low on grip – his strong day was encouraging for the German.
Behind Sebastian Vettel, Michael Schumacher was sixth fastest – albeit just 0.273sec behind Hamilton's best effort as he too conducted a race simulation run in the afternoon.
"The four testing days here in Barcelona have helped us to make significant progress with the MGP W01 and I am feeling quite confident for the start of the season," Schumacher said. "It is always difficult to read too much into testing but knowing our program, it is fair to say that the times did not always reflect the true picture. We have worked through many setup and development evaluations this week and gained valuable information to study before Bahrain.
"We are heading the first race with a good feeling and we know that we will have our upgrades there. But most of all we know that our prospects for even the first races are looking very reasonable now."
Rubens Barrichello ended the day seventh overall, having run through some qualifying simulations in the afternoon. His day was far from incident free, however, after he spun off in the gravel in the morning and then stopped out on track late in the afternoon.
Kamui Kobayashi was eighth fastest for Sauber, having spent the day working through a series of short runs in his C29. Sebastien Buemi was another driver playing around with setups and mechanical tweaks as he ended up ninth overall.
Robert Kubica got his first taste of the updates that his Renault team had brought to the car for this week's Barcelona test as he ended up 10th overall – but he focused on a race run and never bothered with an all-out qualifying run when the track was at its best.
Formula 1's newest teams ended the day at the bottom of the times, but both had an encouraging day in terms of reliability. Heikki Kovalainen was 11th fastest for Lotus with at time of 1m25.251s, while Lucas di Grassi was 12th quickest with a best of 1m26.160s.
"It was a game of two halves, as they say; we had a good morning where we were able to complete all our plans but a problem with the program change on the gearbox delayed us in the afternoon, which meant we weren't able to do as much running as we wanted," said Lotus's tech boss Mike Gascoyne. "Overall, however, the test has been extremely productive – in general we've had very good reliability, and the team is in very good shape going to the first race.
"Considering the length of time we've had to work on the project it's a fantastic effort from the whole team. Everyone has worked exceptionally hard over the two tests and we now have to work on the pace of the car and improve that, but it's been a tremendous effort from the whole team and I'm very proud of them."
Pos Driver Team Time Laps
1. Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes (B) 1:20.472 134
2. Webber Red Bull-Renault (B) 1:20.496 59
3. Massa Ferrari (B) 1:20.539 113
4. Sutil Force India-Mercedes (B) 1:20.611 99
5. Vettel Red Bull-Renault (B) 1:20.667 76
6. M.Schumacher Mercedes GP (B) 1:20.745 122
7. Barrichello Williams-Cosworth (B) 1:20.870 83
8. Kobayashi BMW-Sauber (B) 1:20.911 67
9. Buemi Toro Rosso-Ferrari (B) 1:22.135 87
10. Kubica Renault (B) 1:23.175 106
11. Kovalainen Lotus-Cosworth (B) 1:25.251 65
12. di Grassi Virgin-Cosworth (B) 1:26.160 47
All Timing Unofficial