As he had on day two, Romain Grosjean emerged as the pacesetter at Mugello but, this time, the Frenchman had no equal after heading the field by a couple of tenths.
Having missed out on top spot by the smallest of margins, Grosjean was determined to reclaim the position by the time the chequered flag dropped over the Tuscan circuit, and had the chance to up his pace after lunch.
The morning had seen the F1 returnee complete a series of short stints as the team evaluated aerodynamic and set-up options on the medium compound Pirelli, but that did not deter him from appearing at the top end of the timesheets and, after an early lunch, a raft of set-up changes dominated the afternoon session as Lotus attempted to gain as much data as possible from the final hours of the only in-season test of 2012.
Despite numerous red flags and two lengthy periods in the garage while the alterations were made, Grosjean still managed to post the fastest time of the afternoon, day and test as a whole as he lapped in 1min 21.035secs, fully two-tenths clear of second placed Sebastian Vettel.
“We spent the first hour this morning gathering further information for the aerodynamic department with a series of very short runs before starting our planned programme,” race engineer Simon Rennie told the team's official website, “Our focus was on set-up work to help us get the most out of the tyres and we found some good solutions [before] we stopped early for lunch, as we had another suspension change to carry out which takes about two hours.
“[Since then] we have been working on set-up tests since then to establish how to get the best from [the suspension change]. We also trialled some aerodynamic parts which had already been looked at over the last two days to confirm the findings we had attained previously which produced some promising results.
“After a baseline run, we had another long intermission while a third variation of the suspension was fitted, which again looked positive. Romain went through two sets of hard compound tyres and two sets of mediums, running on scrubbed rubber towards the end to give us data relevant to a race weekend scenario. It's been an extremely useful session with a lot of quality mileage preferred to a huge quantity.”
Vettel had the full attention of Red Bull for the final day, and rounded out the team's test with 106 trouble-free laps. Over the course of the day, RBR managed to get through its full planned programme, which, like yesterday, focused largely on aerodynamic testing. Having amassed a vast amount of data over the past three days, the team will now return to Milton Keynes to analyse the numbers in the run-up to next week's Spanish Grand Prix.
“It's been a useful couple of days and I've enjoyed the track a lot,” Vettel said, “As usual, we now have a lot of data to get through and that will take some time. We tried a few things and the results look encouraging - it's always difficult to tell whether we improved and by how much, but we got some good laps and some good information.”