Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes-Benz walk away from the final day of F1 pre-season testing with their heads held high. Lewis (1:33.278) finished the day on top of the timesheets, just 0.02s off Felipe Massa’s fastest time at Bahrain during testing. While Mercedes AMG completed 4973km of testing in all, more than any other team.
Hamilton had a delayed start to his day with a gearbox issue, but was able to put that behind him with most of his running done during the afternoon session which was peppered with red flag stoppages.
“This has definitely been the most challenging winter I’ve experienced and the car is still very much a work in progress,” Lewis said. “But we’ve learnt a lot over the course of these last few weeks and overall it’s been a good winter of testing for us.
“There’s been an incredible amount of work put in by the team back at the two factories and on track. I have to say a special thanks to the crew here today who had a tough task in front of them but never lost their cool.
“It was a tough start to the day but they managed to get the car turned around for me to complete some good laps in the afternoon, which was a fantastic effort.”
Valtteri Bottas (1:33.987) went second fastest for the increasingly confident Williams team. That’s despite an old skool engine failure for Bottas right near the end of the day, which was extended by 25 minutes to make up for the lost time due to red flags.
A transmission problem interrupted the day of Fernando Alonso (1:34.280), but not enough to stop him from registering the third best time. A little over a second behind was Nico Hulkenberg (1:35.577) in the always thereabouts Force India.
Fifth fastest was Jean-Eric Vergne (1:35.701) who was pleased his testing ended with a 77-lap haul. Sauber ran both of its drivers for an incredible combined tally of 177 laps. Adrian Sutil (1:36.467) took the intra-team honours with the sixth fastest time and 91 laps. Esteban Gutierrez (1:37.303) went eighth fastest during his 86 laps.
The Sauber pair were split by Marussia’s Max Chilton (1:36.835). Sebastian Vettel (1:37.468) was ninth fastest, but his overall pace won’t have been a huge concern with track time the aim for Red Bull. He managed 44 laps in the morning session and a further 33 after lunch. That was his best result, in terms of mileage, during testing and much better than the day in the garage he spent on Saturday.
Jenson Button (1:38.111) ended testing on a relatively sour note for McLaren who have been used to being at the pointy end. Button managed just 22 laps and his day was curtailed by an engine failure and an unspecified electronics fault.
There was no surprise to see a couple of Renault-powered runners at the foot of the timesheets. As usual mileage wasn’t a problem for Caterham and Kamui Kobayashi (1:38.391) racked up 106 slow laps.
Romain Grosjean (1:39.302) and Lotus have the indignity of the day’s slowest time and whether or not they think they’ve suffered by being absent from the opening four days in Jerez they clearly have a lot of work ahead of them.
However, Lotus is not alone there. All teams are speaking very cautiously about their prospects in Melbourne and while this is normal behaviour after F1 winter testing there’s a definite sense that we’re about to head into the unknown when the cars head out on the Albert Park circuit.
There’s less than two to go now and, like you, we can hardly wait!