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Lewis Hamilton set the standard on the penultimate day of pre-season testing in Barcelona, making the most of much improved weather conditions. The Mercedes driver, who posted a personal best time of 1:20.558 on Soft tyres, ended up seven tenths clear of Felipe Massa, while Adrian Sutil completed the top three.
After two severely rain-hit test days, clear blue skies were welcomed by the entire paddock this morning. However, there was a change to the agenda at Lotus before the action got underway. Kimi Räikkönen was forced to miss his first outing of the week after falling ill overnight, with reserve driver Davide Valsecchi substituting until Romain Grosjean returned to the Montmeló track after an emergency recall by the team.
Pace-setter Hamilton, who will hand over to team-mate Nico Rosberg for the fourth and final test day, turned a few heads up and down the pit lane with his consistently strong pace in the F1 W04 chassis, backing up his Soft tyre work with a number of consistent runs on the Medium compound. These stints raised the former McLaren man's lap count to a healthy 117, the highest total seen throughout the field.
The most dramatic moment came in the final half an hour, with Massa's Ferrari losing its front-left wheel on the approach to Turn 10. Although no serious damage was caused, it raised heartbeats in the Scuderia's garage and brought its running to a premature end. Behind the Brazilian, Sutil pumped in a handful of Soft tyre runs to feature near the front, gaining some more crucial mileage ahead of his race return.
Williams duo Pastor Maldonado and Valtteri Bottas, as they have done on a number of occasions this year, equally shared the FW35 by completing respective morning and afternoon sessions. The team has bolted on a new rear bodywork package for the final two days, mirroring the layout used by Red Bull and Lotus at the rear of its new car. Esteban Gutiérrez narrowly missed out on the 100 lap milestone in sixth, edging out Mark Webber and fellow Mexican Sergio Pérez.
Towards the back, Jean-Éric Vergne enjoyed a trouble-free day for Toro Rosso, finishing just ahead of compatriot Grosjean who spent the early hours catching a private flight back to the circuit from Paris. Valsecchi, the cause of the first red flag when his car stopped on-track, wound up 11th after his short spell at the wheel, while newly-signed Marussia driver Jules Bianchi kept his team ahead of rivals Caterham.
Pre-season testing continues at the Circuit de Catalunya at 9am local time (GMT +1) on Sunday and can be followed via the GPUpdate.net Live Report feature
Mercedes Grand Prix
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