MOTOR RACING: Hamilton wraps up testing with one last blast
BARCELONA: Lewis Hamilton (pic) wrapped up his pre-season testing with Mercedes in eye-catching style on Saturday with a lap that was easily the fastest seen so far this year in Barcelona.
The 2008 Formula One world champion, who will make his Mercedes race debut in Melbourne on March 17, lapped a dry Circuit de Catalunya in one minute 20.558 seconds to top the penultimate day's timesheets.
Germany's Nico Rosberg will complete testing for the team on Sunday.
Although too much should not be read into what happens at the test track, Hamilton's lap was more than a second quicker than his fastest time in qualifying for last year's race there (1:21.707). It was also well inside Kimi Raikkonen's 2008 race lap record of 1:21.670.
Hamilton's 117 laps on Saturday, equal to 545km, took the Briton's pre-season total distance covered in the new F1 W04 car to 2,585km with Hamilton setting the fastest time on two of the 13 days so far.
Ferrari's Felipe Massa was second on the timesheets, also wrapping up his pre-season testing, in a time of 1:21.266, while Adrian Sutil was third for Force India after an impressive 109 laps by the returning German.
Massa had to stop on track with less than half an hour remaining when the left front wheel came off.
The team, whose F138 car has also looked a lot more competitive than the old F2012 this time last year with Fernando Alonso saying it was "200 times better", blamed a problem with the suspension.
Frenchman Romain Grosjean made an unexpected return to the Lotus after flying home to Paris on Friday night, thinking his testing work was over, only to be summoned back to Spain when team mate Raikkonen reported sick.
Italian reserve Davide Valsecchi filled in for Raikkonen in the morning. Reuters