Lewis Hamilton finished pre-season testing by giving Mercedes their third day on top of the order. The Briton recovered from a slow start at the hands of a gearbox issue to take the fastest lap by six-tenths of a second.
After his trouble yesterday where he failed to complete a single lap, Sebastian Vettel was the first man to grace the track this morning, and was also the first to cause a red flag – the first of eight throughout the day. The team blame a brakes failure for his spin into the gravel at turn 1 three hours into the morning. His car was collected by the recovery truck and shipped back to the Red Bull garage where it stayed in the garage until the afternoon session. He eventually got out on track but his tally of 77 laps could only get him up to ninth on the time sheets – and five seconds off Hamilton’s best lap.
Hamilton’s day got off to a slow start as Mercedes nursed a gearbox issue which restrained them to the garage until twenty minutes before the lunch break. However his running didn’t last long as he had done a mere five laps before Romain Grosjean ground to a halt on the back straight and prompted the second red flag – and an early lunch.
Hamilton was the first back on track and was keen to make up for his lost time, but Jenson Button threw a spanner in the works when his McLaren stopped at the same place as Grosjean after just eight minutes. This caused the third red flag. Fifteen minutes later and the green flag was shown, prompting a keen Hamilton and Kobayashi to take to the track immediately.
Running continued for an hour before Grosjean’s E22 came to a smoky end on the side of the track. The recovery teams had plenty of practice and so the green flags were out pretty quickly. This time it was Bottas and Gutierrez to take to the track for Williams and Sauber respectively. Hamilton eventually re-emerged and jumped to second in the timesheet, behind Bottas, before a fourth red flag. This time it was Nico Hulkenberg’s Force India which had stopped on track at turn 3.
The VJM-07 was shipped back to the garage and the track went green for ten minutes until Fernando Alonso’s Ferrari pulled over after the back straight. His car was cleared and returned to the track relatively quickly, but the Spaniard had only just grabbed second place when Bottas pulled over on the start/finish straight. Once his car was cleared, it was the turn of Esteban Gutierrez to cause a stoppage when his Sauber stopped out on track. His team explained that it was simply a fuel system test, meaning they basically ran out of fuel on purpose.
Jean-Eric Vergne was one of the few men not to cause a stoppage today and his reward was fifth overall for Toro Rosso. Chilton’s Marussia also had a good day’s running with 61 laps under his belt. After Marussia missed the first test and had limited track time during the second test, three consecutive days of running will be more than welcome.
It still seems to be an uphill battle for the Renault teams, however, with three of the four Renault-powered teams (Lotus, Red Bull and Caterham) occupying the bottom spaces. With twelve days of testing completed, it is very much advantage Mercedes. Any last-minute work will have to be done before the Australian Grand Prix, which kicks off with Free Practice 1 in twelve days.
|Lewis Hamilton||Mercedes||1.33.278||69 laps|
|Valtteri Bottas||Williams||1.33.987||108 laps|
|Fernando Alonso||Ferrari||1.34.280||74 laps|
|Nico Hulkenberg||Force India||1.35.577||74 laps|
|Jean-Eric Vergnne||Toro Rosso||1.35.701||74 laps|
|Adrian Sutil||Sauber||1.36.467||91 laps|
|Max Chilton||Marussia||1.36.835||61 laps|
|Esteban Gutierrez||Sauber||1.37.303||86 laps|
|Sebastian Vettel||Red Bull||1.37.468||77 laps|
|Jenson Button||McLaren||1.38.391||22 laps|
|Kamui Kobayashi||Caterham||1.38.391||106 laps|
|Romain Grosjean||Lotus||1.39.302||32 laps|