F1 2014: Hamilton fastest on final day of Bahrain testing
- Credit: Sean Ramsell
Formula One racer Lewis Hamilton was fastest on the final day of pre-season winter testing in Bahrain as Mercedes completed its programme ahead of the opening 2014 Australian Grand Prix.
Hamilton, the 29-year-old Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 driver from Hertfordshire, topped the timesheets around the Bahrain International Circuit today (Sunday).
The 2008 world champion clocked a lap of 1m33.278s in the Mercedes F1 W05, just 0.020s slower than the quickest time of the four-day test, set by Williams’ former Ferrari driver Felipe Massa.
Hamilton said: “This has definitely been the most challenging winter I’ve experienced and the car is still very much a work in progress, but we’ve learnt a lot over the course of these last few weeks and overall it’s been a good winter of testing for us.
“There’s been an incredible amount of work put in by the team back at the two factories and on track.”
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Over the course of the final pre-season test, Mercedes and Williams drivers recorded the four fastest lap times, with Nico Rosberg and Valtteri Bottas third and fourth respectively behind Massa and Hamilton.
Stevenage-born Hamilton completed 70 laps today, as Mercedes concluded the third and final pre-season test of 2014.
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The team’s running was delayed during the morning after a gearbox problem and Lewis didn’t emerge for his first run until 12.40pm. He completed five laps before the lunch break.
A further 65 laps followed in the afternoon as part of a programme including set-up evaluation and qualifying simulation.
Hamilton said: “It was a tough start to the day but they managed to get the car turned around for me to complete some good laps in the afternoon, which was a fantastic effort.
“There’s so much to learn with these new cars; it’s just mind-blowing and I don’t think anybody can be fully ready for the challenge of this season.
“But I feel as ready as I can be and I’m looking forward to seeing where we are in Melbourne.”
Mercedes technical guru Paddy Lowe said: “It was another difficult start to the day having discovered a problem with the gearbox at around 4am this morning, which then cascaded into a number of other faults and meant we didn’t get out on track until 12.40pm.
“Great credit to the crew who I know must have been tired after an intense month-long testing programme, but still went the extra mile to get the car turned around before lunch.
“In the afternoon there were a lot of red flags which further hindered our progress but, with the session extended slightly, Lewis managed to get in some useful runs which brought our mileage total above any other team during this winter programme.”
Lowe added: “It seems far longer than a month ago that we first rolled the car out on a cold, wet filming day at Silverstone for some very delicate running.
“It’s been a long road to get to the stage we’re at today, running reasonably reliably and showing potential in terms of pace, so all credit once again to everyone involved.
“There’s still a lot to do before we get to Melbourne but we look forward to the challenge.”
Mercedes-Benz Power Units completed a total of 1,483km between all teams today.
After 12 days of testing, Mercedes completed the highest mileage of any constructor, with 4,973km between Hamilton and Rosberg.
The Mercedes-Benz PU106A Hybrid also topped the charts with a total of 17,993km across all teams.
With the pre-season programme now complete, the team returns to Brackley to conduct final preparations ahead of the season-opening Australian Grand Prix weekend, which begins with free practice on Friday, March 14.
Mercedes chief Toto Wolff said: “We come to the end of our winter programme with plenty to think about heading to Melbourne.
“The first race is now less than two weeks away and it will inevitably be a reality check for every team on the grid.
“We have experienced ups and downs during these pre-season tests, with two challenging days in particular right at the end.
“The problems we have faced during the last 48 hours would have had a significant impact on a race weekend and reliability is still the biggest obstacle we have to overcome.
“With that in mind, we will be taking nothing for granted in our preparations for the first race and beyond.
“However, I must pay a big compliment to our teams at Brackley and Brixworth; they have delivered a very promising platform to work from this year.
“Now we want to step things up to the next level to be successful this season.”
While Hamilton topped the timesheets on the final day of pre-season testing, it was a difficult session for Jenson Button and the McLaren team.
The engineers were able to carry out some significant set-up work during the morning’s early laps.
However, the team’s attempts to understand the behaviour of McLaren’s Melbourne-spec front wing – which arrived only this morning – were curtailed by a late-morning red-flag.
After lunch, 2009 F1 world champion Button only managed a few laps before suffering a high-mileage internal combustion engine failure, which kept his car in the garage for much of the afternoon while the unit was replaced.
At the end of the day, any further attempts to run were hit by an as-yet undiagnosed control electronics problem – the result of which is that the team had no driver feedback upon which to evaluate the new front wing.
A McLaren statement said: “The engineers will be able to evaluate its strengths using the limited run-data we accumulated during the day.”
Jenson was able to run a final lap under the Bahrain International Circuit’s spotlights after the session was extended by 30 minutes to allow the new system to be tested ahead of next month’s night race.
The new F1 season opens in a fortnight’s time with the 2014 Australia Grand Prix in Melbourne.