Lewis Hamilton delivered the perfect evidence of the step forward McLaren has made at Barcelona as he set the quickest time of the week on an exciting final morning of pre-season testing on Sunday.
With the leading teams all spending their morning running through some low-fuel qualifying simulations, it offered a proper glimpse of the current competitive order – and it was Hamilton who eventually emerged on top shortly before the mid-day break.
Getting his first experience of the raft of updates that McLaren had brought onto its MP4-25 for this week's test, Hamilton's best effort of 1m20.472 seconds was just six hundredths of a second quicker than Felipe Massa in the Ferrari.
Hamilton's time came on the fourth lap of a run and it offered the first hint of the week that McLaren may have the pace to take the fight to Ferrari at the start of the season. Massa completed his own qualifying simulations, setting his benchmark 1m20.539s on the second flying lap of a run before switching his program over to race simulation work.
Red Bull Racing had handed Sebastian Vettel another morning of running in the RB6 following the frustrations of Saturday – when a technical issue and bad weather hampered his day's work – as he set the third-quickest time of the day on the second lap of a four-lap run. Vettel, whose best lap of 1m20.667s was just 0.128 seconds behind Massa, then switched over to some race preparation work before the mid-day break – when the car will be readied for Mark Webber to finish his pre-season running.
Michael Schumacher was another driver spending most of the morning working through low fuel runs to set his best time of 1m20.745s, leaving himself 0.273sec off Hamilton's best effort.
Rubens Barrichello continued to show that Williams was ready to mix with the four pre-season favourites as his own qualifying simulation work left him less than two tenths behind Schumacher with a best lap of 1m20.925s. The Brazilian did cause one of the two red flags of the morning, however, when he spun off at Turn 4 early on.
Behind Barrichello, the other teams spent their mornings focusing on more race-type set-up work, with more than a one second gap back to Sebastien Buemi in the Scuderia Toro Rosso.
Seventh-fastest Kamui Kobayashi caused a red flag shortly after 11am when he stopped on track at Turn 9, while behind him Adrian Sutil carried out race simulation work for Force India.
In the battle of the new teams, Lotus' Heikki Kovalainen ended up 1.5sec quicker than Lucas di Grassi, who completed 35 laps during an encouraging morning of improved reliability for Virgin Racing.
Pos Driver Team Time Gap Laps
1. Lewis Hamilton McLaren 1m20.472s 53
2. Felipe Massa Ferrari 1m20.539s + 0.067s 55
3. Sebastian Vettel Red Bull 1m20.667s + 0.195s 76
4. Michael Schumacher Mercedes 1m20.745s + 0.273s 55
5. Rubens Barrichello Williams 1m20.925s + 0.453s 40
6. Sebastien Buemi Toro Rosso 1m22.135s + 1.663s 46
7. Kamui Kobayashi Sauber 1m22.713s + 2.241s 32
8. Adrian Sutil Force India 1m23.079s + 2.607s 60
9. Robert Kubica Renault 1m24.293s + 3.821s 35
10. Heikki Kovalainen Lotus 1m25.251s + 4.779s 58
11. Lucas di Grassi Virgin 1m26.790s + 6.318s 35
All timing unofficial