Hamilton tops rain-hit final day in Barcelona
Mercedes make most of dry spells as rain disrupts day four at Circuit de Catalunya.
Lewis Hamilton finished at the top of the timesheet in Barcelona on a day of intermittent downpours and frequent red flags.
As rain showers swept across the Circuit de Catalunya, the red flags came out eight times, with Hamilton himself being one of the culprits.
"The car felt okay but the conditions were also very cool, so we cannot draw too many conclusions."
The Mercedes driver scored his best time of the day, a lap of 1:23.282, during the earlier dry part of the day, the Briton taking on the medium tyre for a medium length run. Afterwards Hamilton said he had been pleased with the run, though the cold temperatures made the time irrelevant.
“We have been working on our consistency over long runs and we managed one run this morning on dry tyres; the car felt okay but the conditions were also very cool, so we cannot draw too many conclusions,” he said. “Like I said in Jerez, I can feel that we have a good foundation with this car but there is still a lot to learn and we know that the name of the game is to improve our downforce.”
Former team-mate Jenson Button finished the day in second place, with a time of 1:23.633, with Toro Rosso’s Jean-Eric Vergne third and four tenths further back, the Frenchman enjoying the conditions, and the opportunity to try out the new Pirelli wet weather compounds.
“It was useful for me to drive on the extreme wet and intermediate Pirellis and I got a good understanding of how they behave, even if the conditions were extremely cold, so it was actually surprising we had rain and not snow,” he said. “Now I am looking forward to the final test, which will be very important for everyone.”
Force India’s Jules Bianchi was back at the wheel of the Force India VJM06 after Adrian Sutil was given a chance to show what he could yesterday and even though the conditions were tricky the French driver set about proving his worth in determined fashion eventually finishing an impressive fourth.
Elsewhere Felipe Massa returned to the cockpit of the Ferrari F138 following Fernando Alonso’s three days at the wheel and the Brazilian was the first to be caught out by the conditions, spinning on the cold surface after just two laps. He recovered to finish the day in seventh place.
Massa’s off-track moment set the tone for the day. As the rain began to fall more steadily Esteban Gutierrez was next off at Turn Five, followed soon after by Giedo van der Garde, the Dutchman spinning out on the approach to the pit straight. Vergne then brought out the flags for the fourth time, the Toro Rosso driver also losing it in Turn Five.
With Gutierrez fifth, van der Garde finished the day in sixth place, despite another spin, and the Dutchman profited from some front runners behind sticking to high fuel, long runs for most of the day.
Massa’s seventh place left eighth to Mark Webber. Despite more interruption in the afternoon, caused by spins for Gutierrez, Bianchi and Hamilton, the Red Bull Racing driver was delighted with his final outing of the week.
“It was cold out there today, I can’t remember having a full test day this cold,” he said Mark. “But actually it was reasonably consistent; the conditions were pretty stable all day, although not very representative of a grand prix weekend. So, unusual conditions but I was happy with what we got done today. The mechanics were incredible in getting through everything. We got a lot of good stuff done today.”
The teams will return to Barcelona next week for the final pre-season test, which will take place from February 28-March 3.
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Barcelona Test – Day Four times
1 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1’23.282 52
2 Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes 1’23.633 70
3 Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1’24.071 80
4 Jules Bianchi Force India-Mercedes 1’25.732 61
5 Esteban Gutierrez Sauber-Ferrari C32 1’26.239 96
6 Giedo van der Garde Caterham 1’27.429 50
7 Felipe Massa Ferrari 1’27.563 80
8 Mark Webber Red Bull-Renault 1’27.616 64
9 Max Chilton Marussia 1’29.902 51
10 Romain Grosjean Lotus 1’34.800 41
11 Valtteri Bottas Williams No time 23
12 Pastor Maldonado Williams No time 13