Hamilton quickest as McLaren struggles again

© XPB 

Lewis Hamilton set the fastest time of the penultimate day of pre-season testing as McLaren’s troubles returned.

With Nico Rosberg comfortably fastest on the soft tyre on Friday, Hamilton enjoyed a much smaller advantage on day three of the final test as his time of 1:23.022 left him a quarter of a second clear of Felipe Massa and Kimi Raikkonen. However, the closer times could be explained by Hamilton only running the soft compound tyre, while the six cars below him all set their best times on the supersoft.

Similar to Rosberg, Hamilton spent a lot of the middle of the day in the garage which mean he finished with the second lowest total, with Mercedes one of only two teams not to reach 100 laps.

The other team to struggle for mileage was McLaren as it failed to capitalise on yesterday’s encouraging running. Having completed 101 laps on Friday, McLaren was running Kevin Magnussen in the car on day three and showed positive signs with more than 30 laps in the morning session and the team’s quickest time of testing so far.

However, Magnussen returned from an out lap in the afternoon session and left a trail of oil in the pit lane which required cleaning up. The leak was to prove terminal, ending McLaren’s day after 39 laps.

With Hamilton on the soft tyres the top three cars were covered by just a quarter of a second, with Raikkonen in third place in the SF15-T. Ferrari carried out a race simulation in the afternoon session, completing a two-stop race which ended on the prototype medium tyre but showed solid if unspectacular pace throughout.

Carlos Sainz Jr was fourth on another busy day for Toro Rosso, also carrying out race runs. The rookie was the cause of the second of two red flags late on Saturday as he stopped at Turn 3 with 15 minutes remaining having just set his fastest time on the supersoft tyre.

Romain Grosjean was fifth for Lotus after two late runs on the supersoft, registering a best time just 0.009s slower than Sainz. Having faced the media during the lunch break, Grosjean said he was pleased with the steps forward Lotus has made over the winter but thinks it will realistically have to aim for just scoring points at the start of this season.

Sauber carried out a race simulation for the third day in succession as Marcus Ericsson completed his last day in the car before Melbourne, but the team’s running was cut slightly short when Ericsson caused the first red flag of the day with a little over half an hour remaining.

Nico Hulkenberg had the most productive day as Force India gained significant mileage with the VJM08 on only its second day of running. Hulkenberg completed an encouraging race simulation - albeit returning to the garage between stints on medium tyres - and set times comparable to the Sauber’s long run pace.

Magnussen ended the day second slowest of the runners after setting his best time on softs, while Daniel Ricciardo was slowest having also not run the supersoft compound as Red Bull focused on its long run pace. All nine teams were covered by just 2.7s.

Full times and day three of the final test as it happened

Click here for the gallery from day three of the final test

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1L. HamiltonMercedes1:23.02276
2F. MassaWilliams1:23.262102
3K. RäikkönenFerrari1:23.276135
4C. SainzToro Rosso1:24.191132
5R. GrosjeanLotus1:24.200116
6M. EricssonSauber1:24.477123
7N. HülkenbergForce India1:24.939158
8K. MagnussenMcLaren1:25.22539
9D. RicciardoRed Bull1:25.743128