28 February 2015
Barcelona F1 Test (2): Hamilton fastest despite Mercedes set-up dilemma
Lewis Hamilton sets the pace on his final day in the Mercedes before the Australian Grand Prix, but ongoing set-up concerns lose him track time.
Lewis Hamilton has brought his pre-season preparations to a positive conclusion by topping the timesheets on the penultimate of winter testing, despite spending a significant period of time consigned to the pit lane.
The defending champion was up to speed early on in the Mercedes W06, but pulled into the pit lane after 36 laps and proceeded to remain there until mid-way through the afternoon session.
With Mercedes claiming to be working on 'experimental set-up changes', Hamilton's lengthy time-out appeared to resonate with comments made by team-mate Nico Rosberg a day earlier after the German complained about the handling of the car on medium tyres, despite its rapid pace on softs.
Despite this, when Hamilton did eventually emerge, he gave further evidence of Mercedes' apparent advantage over the opposition as he topped the timesheets with a 1min 23.022secs, once again on soft tyres.
Though three tenths slower than Rosberg, he was still two tenths faster than Felipe Massa and Kimi Raikkonen, whose morning efforts on the super-soft tyres held firm until the chequered flag.
Massa's day ended an hour early and though Williams gave little indication as to why, the Brazilian still brought his winter programme to a close with 102 laps.
Indeed, it was a largely productive day all round for the teams, with just Mercedes and McLaren failing to exceed 100 laps, the latter forced to call it a day after just 39 revolutions when the MP4-30 developed an oil leak.
Carlos Sainz progressed to fourth fastest late on before promptly stopping with a technical issue, his stop bringing an early end to proceedings. Similarly, Romain Grosjean made gains with just 10mins remaining in the Lotus to finish the day in fifth.
Only 20 minutes before Sainz, Marcus Ericsson brought out his own red flag at the same third corner with a technical stop in the Sauber, but still accumulated 122 laps over the course of the day.
However, it was Force India and Nico Hulkenberg that proved the day's most prolific lappers, the German picking up a mighty 157 laps in the VJM08. . As a point of reference, Force India has now accumulated 234 laps in just a day and a half – that is compared with McLaren's current total of 349 laps over 11 days.
Bringing up the rear was Daniel Ricciardo, the Australian returning to the cockpit and getting to work on longer runs on medium tyres in the Red Bull. Though every other driver has completed its programme for the winter, Ricciardo will return to the RB11 tomorrow for the final day of testing.
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