McLaren will head to the Bahrain Grand Prix as the team to beat after Lewis Hamilton posted the quickest time of the Barcelona test on the final day of running in Spain.
Hamilton took over running in the MP4-25 from team-mate Jenson Button for the final day of the Catalunya session and worked on fine-tuning the set-up of the car before completing a series of qualifying simulations and a full race run.
His best lap of 1min 20.472secs proved to be the quickest of the four day test, although an interesting season opener lies ahead with the top 15 drivers over the course of the test lapping within a second of each other.
With Red Bull Racing having lost track time on Saturday, the team elected to field both Mark Webber and Sebastian Vettel on the final day, with Webber emerging as the closest challenger to Hamilton on the times with the second quickest lap – just 0.024secs behind. Felipe Massa was third quickest for Ferrari, only 0.043secs further back at the wheel of the F10 as the Brazilian worked on a series of race and qualifying runs and evaluation of the Bridgestone tyres.
Force India enjoyed a fine end to its pre-season running as Adrian Sutil posted the fourth quickest time, with the German pleased with how his final day of running ahead of Bahrain had panned out.
“I feel like this was the first proper test day for me,” he said. “We did our long race simulation and I think we can be quite happy and confident. The pace was good, the tyre life was very good, and I was able to run a lot of laps on both the soft and the hard tyres without any problems so both compounds seem to be working really well for us. Also the qualifying sim went well. Speed-wise the car is competitive and we have to show it in Bahrain now.”
Vettel was fifth quickest for Red Bull while Michael Schumacher rounded out the top six in his final outing prior to making his F1 race return. The German however admitted that there was still more to come from the W01 with times 'not always showing the true picture'.
"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,” he said. “It is always difficult to read too much into testing but knowing our programme, it is fair to say that the times did not always reflect the true picture. We have worked through many set-up 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."