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Lewis Hamilton was the fastest man at the end of a heavily interrupted and wet final day in Barcelona, setting a time of 1:23.282 on Medium tyres during a dry spell. Amid eight red flags, the Mercedes driver led former McLaren team-mate Jenson Button by 0.351 seconds, with Jean-Éric Vergne completing the top three.
The predicted rainfall did not take long to arrive at a cold Circuit de Catalunya on Friday, with Pirelli's Intermediate and Wet compounds getting a full workout. Overnight precipitation had already made for a damp track surface, but a constant run of laps until the next spell of rainfall created a semi-dry line. Hamilton, who initiated the penultimate red flag phase of the day, took full advantage and rounded off a positive week for Mercedes, but he admits work still needs to be done before the team can win races.
Button avoided the slow start he suffered on Wednesday, collecting plenty of data on the wet and slick compounds. Just behind the McLaren driver, Vergne recovered from two incidents to complete a solid total of 80 laps in the STR8, while fellow Frenchman Jules Bianchi brought the day to a close a couple of minutes early after stopping at the end of the pit lane. Although weather conditions were not ideal for the latter on his sole test day of the week, he showed strong pace in both the wet and dry.
Esteban Gutiérrez was the most productive driver of the day in the Sauber, braving the persistent rainfall to rack up 96 tours. However, his enthusiasm got the better of him on two occasions, with the Mexican sliding into the gravel at Turns 4 and 5 on either side of the lunchbreak. A little further back, Giedo van der Garde claimed the highest position achieved by the Caterham team so far this year, finishing sixth despite a light crash at the final corner in the early hours of the morning.
After sitting on the sidelines for the first three days, Felipe Massa took over the cockpit of the F138 chassis this morning. The Brazilian, who caused the first red flag period with a trip into the Turn 4 gravel trap, wound up eighth on the timesheets, just ahead of Red Bull's Mark Webber who spent the majority of his day focusing on practice pit-stops.
At the tail-end of the order, Marussia's Max Chilton enjoyed a positive fourth day behind the wheel of the MR02. The team kept the British driver in the car after a series of delays to its programme earlier in the week, meaning Luiz Razia will have to wait until the second pre-season test for his next outing. Romain Grosjean was the last man to set a time in tenth, placing ahead of Williams duo Valtteri Bottas and Pastor Maldonado who dedicated even more time than Webber to pit lane procedures.
Pre-season testing continues at the Circuit de Catalunya at 9am local time (GMT +1) on 28 February and can be followed via the GPUpdate.net Live Report feature
Mercedes Grand Prix
|6.||G. van der Garde||01:27.429||50|
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