“Looking ahead, I think the Barcelona test will maybe reveal a bit more, but just because people are running more and teams will play around a bit more there. If you keep your eyes open you might spot some stuff, but, as I've said before, we just focus on what we do. In Barcelona, we'll learn more about ourselves and maybe a little bit about our rivals. It should be interesting.”
Esteban Gutierrez laid claim to the biggest workload of the day after covering 142 laps in the Sauber, but Jean-Eric Vergne was just a tenth behind the GP2 graduate after another solid day in the Toro Rosso. Having run second to Raikkonen early on, the Frenchman's programme saw him slip back down the order, but he left Jerez happy with the progress that had been made.
“In terms of pure mechanical understanding of the car, we've made a significant step forward compared to last year and, specifically today, we got through all our planned work programme,” he claimed, “I am much more confident about the new car than I was before the test and it gives me a good feeling from behind the wheel.
“One of the aims of the design team was to give us drivers a car with a broader operating range in terms of set-up options and I can already say they have succeeded in that point. There is still a lot to do, so I'm looking forward to my next session in Barcelona.”
Hamilton's mammoth effort came up just three laps shy of replicating team-mate Nico Rosberg's from day three, despite the Briton doubting that such a total could be achieved with fewer laps than the German on the board at lunch. With none of the niggling reliability woes that afflicted the pair over the opening couple of days, Hamilton concentrated on set-up changes as he continued to familiarise himself with the W04, but completed a race distance after the enforced break to bring the team's total up to 1426km for the four days.
“Today, we managed the kind of mileage that the car is capable of and I think we have a good platform to start working from,” the Briton noted, “Now we need to understand the W04 even more. Personally, I am learning something with every lap I do and every change I make to the set-up but, overall, I think we are probably at the level we would have hoped to be.”
Once again, Hamilton ended the day ahead of the man who replaces him at McLaren this season, with Sergio Perez one place and four-hundredths shy in seventh overall. Following a similar pattern to the past three days, the Mexican's day began with some aero correlation work, conducted over a number of shorter runs, before the team turned its attention to mechanical set-up work. The afternoon was then spent carrying out a series of longer runs – with live pit-stops – to more fully understand the set-up changes.
Valtteri Bottas got his second day in the cockpit of the 2012-spec Williams, aware that the next time he hits the track it should be in the car that he will campaign for the rest of the year.
“We have gone through a complete programme testing various parts that will be used on the FW35,” technical director Mike Coughlan confirmed, “This compliments our current philosophy of using rigs to pass off systems before running them on the car. The drivers have enjoyed themselves running through tyre comparisons and set-up changes that you would be reluctant to do at a race meeting due to time constraints and, although these results have been a little compromised by the very aggressive nature of the track surface here, we have acquired some useful data to carry forward. We now look forward to the next test in Barcelona and the launch of the FW35.”
After Massa's heroics on Thursday, Pedro de la Rosa would have expected more from his first run in the F138 but, despite only attempting to gather reference points for his work in the simulator at Maranello, the Spaniard was frustrated to spend all morning on the sidelines after a fire broke out in his car after just two laps.