Formula 1

Lewis Hamilton maintains Mercedes grip on top in Barcelona

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Lewis Hamilton ensured Mercedes maintained their strong grip at the top of the timings with the quickest time on the penultimate day of pre-season testing.

The world champion's 1:23.022 may have been a quarter of the second slower than team-mate Nico Rosberg's headline grabbing time from Friday but his time was still fast enough to lead nearest rivals Felipe Massa and Kimi Raikkonen despite their use of the super-soft Pirellis.

With more than enough laps accumulated over the opening 10 days of running, Mercedes have begun looking in greater detail at what the new W06 can do sacrificing track time to experiment with different set-up ideas in the garage.

The more focussed testing meant Hamilton was actually second from bottom on the lap tally board with 76 laps as seven of the nine teams surpassed 100 laps on the day.

McLaren's problems return

As Mercedes focus on the little things that make an F1 car go faster McLaren are still working out how to get their car running consistently.

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After surpassing the 100-mark on Friday with Jenson Button, an oil leak forced the team to curtail their action early into the afternoon with Kevin Magnussen, standing in for the resting Fernando Alonso, managing just 39 laps on Saturday.

When the car is working as it should, however, there is some raw pace in the Honda powered MP4-30 as the Dane proved with a 1:25.225. With the team likely only using a mere fraction of the engine's output, as they continue to iron out niggles, that time, roughly within a second of what Williams, Ferrari and Red Bull have done on the soft compound tyres is a very good baseline.

Ferrari and Red Bull play the long game

While Mercedes have finally begun showing their single lap performance, Ferrari and Red Bull have been concentrating on longer runs during this final test.

Though Kimi Raikkonen did complete qualifying simulations on both the soft and super-soft tyres just before lunchtime, the Finn completed the first full race simulation we have seen from the SF15-T averaging the mid 1:30's using the hard and medium compound as well as a final stint on the winter tyre which was a second faster on average.

As a result of the race simulation and other runs on the medium tyres, Raikkonen completed a second best total of 136 laps on the day.

At Red Bull it was about pushing the limits of the medium compound tyres as Daniel Ricciardo completed many runs on the white-striped tyre average the mid-teens in stint length and ending the day with 128 lap in total.

Hulkenberg sets record in strong midfield battle

At Force India, the bid to make up for lost time continued on the second day of running for the 2015 car, the VJM08.

Nico Hulkenberg got off to a positive start on Friday managing 77 laps on Friday afternoon and when given a whole he doubled that total with a pre-season best of 158 laps on Saturday.

There is also the first real indication of just where the midfield teams could stack up in the pecking order thanks to a number of qualifying-style runs.

Hulkenberg and Sauber's Marcus Ericsson traded positions within tenths of each other and after Ericsson got the upper hand on the soft compound, the Swede also moved clear on the super-softs eventually finishing half a second clear of the Force India with a 1:24.477.

Interestingly, leading the four expected midfield teams is Toro Rosso as Spanish rookie Carlos Sainz set the fourth best time of the day, a 1:24.191 on the super-soft tyre just nine thousandths of a second faster than Romain Grosjean who also set his time at the end of the day when the track had the most rubber laid down.

Eight hours left before Melbourne

So after 11 days Formula 1 teams just have one day left of full testing before the opening race of the 2015 season.

For some preparation is near enough complete with attention now on fine tuning and finding the optimum set-up heading to Albert Park, for others there is still plenty to be solved before confidence is where they would like it going Down Under.

We can expect more race simulations, more qualifying-style runs and likely a few twists and turns in the final eight hours of official pre-season testing ahead of the Australian Grand Prix in two weeks time.  

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