Lewis Hamilton claimed his first ever P1 for Mercedes as he topped the time sheets on a rain-affected final day of testing at Barcelona.
With rain greeting the teams in the morning, the fastest times of the day were set just before lunch on a drying track. Hamilton took advantage and set a 1:23.292 on the medium compound tyre, leaving Sergio Perez to have the fastest time on the second day for McLaren.
While the rain stayed away long enough before lunch for the times to be set, it returned in the afternoon, with heavy rain forcing the teams to practice their wet weather setups and not focus on the time sheets.
Jenson Button finished second for McLaren with a 1:23.633, just ahead of Jean-Eric Vergne in the Toro Rosso, who was the only other driver to finish within a second of Hamilton. Jules Bianchi on his first run for Force India will be happy to finish in fourth, but his 1:25.732 isn’t a true reflection on his performance given the wet track. No doubt the final test in Barcelona next week will be another chance for Bianchi and Sutil to fight over the second Force India seat again.
Esteban Gutierrez continued Sauber’s good fortune by finishing in fifth, ahead of Giedo van der Garde for Caterham. Van der Garde managed to complete 50 laps and narrowly edged out both the Ferrari of Felipe Massa and Red Bull of Mark Webber.
Max Chilton could only manage a 1:29.902 to finish in ninth but interestingly spent his fourth day behind the wheel and didn’t allow Luiz Razia any track time during the test. Lotus struggled in the conditions and Romain Grosjean could only set a 1:34.800 for tenth place. Valterri Bottas and Pastor Maldonado both focussed purely on pit stop practice for the day and neither set a time.
With the conditions, several red flag incidents occurred throughout the day. Hamilton stopped out on track towards the end of the day, but this was most likely due to fuel simulation work. Gutierrez ran wide in the gravel at turn four late in the day as well, with the test ending early again after Bianchi stopped on the pit straight.
The majority of red flags happened during the morning rain period though, with Massa and van der Garde both running wide at separate corners and beaching their cars in the gravel. Gutierrez also set another red flag, with his first of two for the day happening at turn five, and Webber would follow as well and just missed out on hitting the barriers. Vergne also ended up the gravel trap, and van der Garde caused his second for the day just before lunch time.
The teams will remain in Barcelona ahead of the final pre-season test commencing at Barcelona next Thursday.