Formula One: Hamilton fastest on penultimate day of testing

Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team's British driver Lewis Hamilton signs autographs during the first day of the third and last segment of Formula One pre-season tests at the Circuit de Catalunya, in Montmelo on the outskirts of Barcelona on Feb 26, 2015.
Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team's British driver Lewis Hamilton signs autographs during the first day of the third and last segment of Formula One pre-season tests at the Circuit de Catalunya, in Montmelo on the outskirts of Barcelona on Feb 26, 2015. -- PHOTO: AFP

BARCELONA (AFP) - World champion Lewis Hamilton was fastest on the third day of the final Formula One pre-season test in Barcelona as Mercedes proved they remain well ahead of the chasing pack on Saturday.

Hamilton eased to the fastest lap of the day once he changed onto soft tyres, although his time of 1min 23.022sec was nearly three tenths off the quickest time set by teammate Nico Rosberg on Friday.

Rosberg will take over the wheel for the final day on Sunday and Hamilton admitted he would have liked to have more laps under his belt heading to the first race of the season in Melbourne after being affected by an illness at the second test last week.

However, the two-time world champion is happy with the form shown by the new W06 ahead of the defence of his title.

"It's been generally good. The team has done a great job to get all the componenets here and reliability has been strong," he said.

"We are in as good a shape as we can be." Williams were once again the closest challengers to Mercedes as Felipe Massa produced his best time of the testing season, but was still over two tenths down on Hamilton despite being on the faster supersoft tyres.

"The car has remained very reliable over all three tests. Our long runs look positive and the car remains consistent throughout the stints," said Massa.

"We are not the only quick car on the track, though, and the fight behind Mercedes will be interesting." Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen was just over a hundredth of a second behind Massa on his best lap on the supersofts.

On a day in which seven drivers managed over 100 laps, McLaren's reliability problems were again highlighted as an oil leak restricted test driver Kevin Magnussen to just 39 laps.

"The day stopped a little too early for us," said McLaren racing director Eric Boullier.

"We didn't do as many laps as we wanted. It is true it is going to hurt the development of the car on the performance side, but we will recover."

Results from day three of the final pre-season test in Barcelona: 1. Lewis Hamilton (GBR/Mercedes) 1:23.022 (76 laps) 2. Felipe Massa (BRA/Williams) 1:23.262 (102 laps) 3. Kimi Raikkonen (FIN/Ferrari) 1:23.276 (136 laps) 4. Carlos Sainz Junior (ESP/Toro Rosso) !:24.191 (132 laps) 5. Romain Grosjean (FRA/Lotus) 1:27.200 (116 laps) 6. Marcus Ericsson (SWE/Sauber) 1:24.477 (123 laps) 7. Nico Hulkenberg (GER/Force India) 1:24.939 (156 laps) 8. Kevin Magnussen (DEN/McLaren) 1:25.225 (39 laps) 9. Daniel Ricciardo (AUS/Red Bull) 1:25.742 (126 laps).