Lewis Hamilton set a blistering pace on day three of the final pre-season test in Barcelona, making good use of a set of Pirelli ‘experimental’ tyres to edge out Ferrari’s Felipe Massa by 0.7 seconds. The time has many predicting a season of domination by the Mercedes team, who have consistently proven they have a car faster than anyone else ahead of the Australian Grand Prix.
Hamilton set his time early in the morning and was initially over 2 seconds clear of anyone else, but in the afternoon Massa put in a series of longer runs on the soft tyre that brought him his own fastest time. The Ferrari F138 appeared immune to the severe tyre degradation experienced by some other teams, and Massa threatened to get even closer to Hamilton before a sudden failure left him with a three-wheeled wagon to wrestle to a stop. Ferrari have yet to fully ascertain the cause of the problem.
Adrian Sutil, Pastor Maldonado, Valtteri Bottas and Esteban Gutierrez rounded out the top 6, while Sergio Perez was 8th fastest for Mclaren behind Red Bull’s Mark Webber. The Australian seemed unperturbed by the time Hamilton’s Mercedes car had achieved:
“It was a good time, yeah. But Merc have done that a few times in the winter.”
A clear reference to the promise shown by Mercedes in pre-season testing in both 2011 and 2012 before development shortcomings blighted their title campaigns. However, fast the F1W04 certainly is, and whether it can allow Nico Rosberg and Hamilton to claim either or both of the World Championships remains to be seen. What is not in doubt is that come Australia, don’t be surprised if we have an all-Mercedes front row. Lewis Hamilton may have jumped ship at exactly the right moment…