• First Barcelona Test, Day Four

Hamilton fastest on rain-affected final test day

Chris Medland at the Circuit de Catalunya February 22, 2013
Lewis Hamilton in action in the wet in the afternoon © Sutton Images

Lewis Hamilton set the pace on a disjointed final day of testing at Barcelona, with rain and numerous red flags interrupting running.

After early drizzle forced teams to set their first lap times on intermediate tyres, conditions improved to allow slick tyre running and Hamilton ensured he was quickest at lunch with a 1:23.292 set on the medium tyre. However, hail and heavy rain fell over lunch and made for a wet track for the rest of running, preventing any improvements.

Hamilton's time left him 0.351s clear of his former team-mate Jenson Button, who also managed to complete a run on medium tyres. Jean-Eric Vergne was the only other man to get within a second of the pace-setting Mercedes as getting the tyres to work proved to be a real challenge on a track that never reached double figures in temperature.

Hamilton did cause a red flag late in the day as his car stopped between turns five and six - most likely as part of a fuel run-out test - while the only other afternoon stoppages were caused by Esteban Gutierrez running off in to the gravel at turn four and Jules Bianchi stopping on the pit straight to bring the test to an end a few minutes early.

The morning session, however, was punctuated by no fewer than five red flags, with six cars encountering problems. First up was Felipe Massa who slid off in the gravel at turn four just ten minutes in to the day's running. He was followed by Giedo van der Garde who ran wide out of the final corner and stopped just before the barrier.

With light rain continuing to fall, Gutierrez was the next driver to cause a stoppage as he ended up in the gravel at turn five, and strangely his wasn't the only car that needed recovering as Mark Webber came to a halt between turns nine and ten at the same time.

No sooner had the pit lane light gone green then Vergne followed Gutierrez in to the turn five gravel trap on his out lap, before conditions improved to allow the medium-tyre times to be set. The only driver not to set a time in the morning was Valtteri Bottas, who still completed 23 laps in the Williams but focused on pit stop practice. Team-mate Pastor Maldonado took over the car for the afternoon and repeated the schedule as he completed just 13 laps.

The rain returned in the final hour of the morning to force drivers back on the intermediate tyres, and van der Garde again caused a stoppage as he crawled to a halt between turns nine and ten 15 minutes before the lunch break.

Despite his two offs, Gutierrez still got through plenty of running as he completed 96 laps. It was perhaps a more productive day for the rookies trying to learn procedures, but large differences between fastest lap times made performance comparisons virtually impossible, with Romain Grosjean over 11 seconds off the pace. Strangely, Max Chilton got a fourth consecutive day in the Marussia, preventing Luiz Razia from any track time. The team said the decision was made to help consistency.

Friday times
1 Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) 1:23.282, 52 laps
2 Jenson Button (McLaren) 1:23.633, 70 laps
3 Jean-Eric Vergne (Toro Rosso) 1:24.071, 80 laps
4 Jules Bianchi (Force India) 1:25.732, 61 laps
5 Esteban Gutierrez (Sauber) 1:26.239, 96 laps
6 Giedo van der Garde (Caterham) 1:27.429, 50 laps
7 Felipe Massa (Ferrari) 1:27.553, 80 laps
8 Mark Webber (Red Bull), 1:27.616 64 laps
9 Max Chilton (Marussia) 1:29.902, 51 laps
10 Romain Grosjean (Lotus) 1:34.800, 41 laps
Valtteri Bottas (Williams), 23 laps
Pastor Maldonado (Williams), 13 laps