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Lewis Hamilton: No benefit to sandbagging in F1 pre-season testing

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Lewis Hamilton sees no benefit to sandbagging through Formula 1’s pre-season test running, saying he put in the best time he could for Mercedes on Friday.

Hamilton enters 2017 as the favorite for the drivers’ championship given Mercedes’ recent dominance in F1, having claimed both the individual and teams’ titles for each of the past three years.

However, it was Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen who ended the winter test program with the fastest time after a stunning lap on Friday that wasn’t far off the overall track record at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya.

Despite Ferrari’s headline pace in testing, most in the paddock believe that Mercedes has more time in its pocket, including Sebastian Vettel who finished the week second-quickest for the Italian marque.

Speaking to reporters following the final day of pre-season testing in Barcelona, Hamilton was asked if there were mind games being played between teams when talking up their rivals.

“I don’t know if there’s mind games,” Hamilton said.

“Every year in testing the goal is not necessarily to go as quick as you can, it’s to find out what you have in the car. And sometimes there have been potentially some teams sandbagging in the past, but I don’t really see that as being a benefit to any team.

“Driving today, the time you saw was the time we could do. I didn’t feel when I got out that I could have gone faster.

“But of course there are all sort of things that come into play to bring the time down, such as fuel loads, engine modes, those kind of things.

“The great thing is no one really knows. It looks very positive for Ferrari, that’s for sure, and I don’t think that’s bluff. I think that’s true. They’ve done a great job.”

Hamilton admitted that he was yet to find the sweet spot with his new Mercedes W08 EQ Power+ car, so was unsure if he could match the pace of his rivals.

“I haven’t got into a good window yet, so I can’t tell you. I don’t know if we can go as fast as them, I really don’t,” Hamilton said.

“We’ll find out. We hope we can, but they’ve done a fantastic job as I said.”

All will become clear when the new Formula 1 season begins on March 26 in Australia.

Raikkonen sets blistering pace as F1 winter testing ends in Barcelona

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Kimi Raikkonen offered a further indication that Ferrari may be one of the teams to beat in Formula 1 this year by setting a blistering pace on the final day of pre-season testing in Barcelona.

Raikkonen managed to better the existing best time of the winter set by Ferrari teammate Sebastian Vettel on Thursday, posting a lap of 1:18.634.

The Finn ends pre-season as the only driver to have dipped below the 1:19s range, with his lap being just a couple of tenths off the overall lap record at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya.

However, Raikkonen’s day was not without trouble as a late stoppage at the final chicane cost Ferrari some mileage, but it nevertheless ends the winter as the fastest team on paper.

Red Bull’s Max Verstappen was left to finish as the best of the rest on Friday, posting a fastest lap of 1:19.438, while Toro Rosso’s Carlos Sainz Jr. ended up third overall, albeit suffering one stoppage on the main straight in the afternoon.

Mercedes split its running between Valtteri Bottas and Lewis Hamilton once again in Barcelona, with the drivers finishing fourth and fifth respectively.

Nico Hulkenberg wound up sixth for Renault ahead of Force India’s Sergio Perez and new teammate Jolyon Palmer, while Williams rookie Lance Stroll had a trouble-free day en route to P9 overall.

McLaren ended pre-season testing on a sour note as Fernando Alonso’s running was limited once again by issues with his Honda power unit, the Spaniard suffering two on-track stoppages. Alonso finished up 10th, 2.7 seconds off Raikkonen’s benchmark.

Romain Grosjean had one on-track issue for Haas but finished the day 11th ahead of Sauber drivers Marcus Ericsson and Pascal Wehrlein, the latter propping up the timesheets.

With winter testing now complete, the F1 drivers will get their next taste of on-track action during first practice for the Australian Grand Prix on March 24.

Vettel sets new fastest time on penultimate day of F1 testing

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Sebastian Vettel set the fastest time on the penultimate day of Formula 1 pre-season testing, edging out Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton as times once again were slashed in Barcelona.

Vettel managed to dip under the previous benchmark set by Valtteri Bottas on Wednesday, recording a best time of 1:19.024 on the super-soft tire.

Although the lap was the fastest of pre-season so far and just six-tenths of a second off the record time in Barcelona, Vettel could have gone quicker still, having backed off in the final sector.

The result means that Ferrari has now led three days of pre-season testing, equal with Mercedes, as it continues to build on an impressive testing period.

Hamilton split running in the Mercedes W08 car with Bottas, the Finn finishing eighth overall. Hamilton was three-tenths of a second shy of Vettel’s time in second place.

Force India’s Esteban Ocon ended the day third-fastest, one second off Vettel, while Toro Rosso’s Daniil Kvyat put in an impressive display to wind up fourth on the final timesheets. Kevin Magnussen finished fifth for Haas ahead of Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo.

McLaren had another mixed day as Stoffel Vandoorne suffered two on-track stoppages due to electrical issues, adding more misery to a difficult testing period. The Belgian ended the day seventh on the final timesheets.

Pascal Wehrlein and Marcus Ericsson both conducted running for Sauber, finishing P9 and P11 respectively as Renault’s Jolyon Palmer split the pair. Palmer suffered an on-track stoppage at one point during the day. Williams drivers Felipe Massa and Lance Stroll were 12th and 13th, with Nico Hulkenberg propping up the timesheets for Renault after failing to set a time.

Pre-season testing concludes in Barcelona on Friday with another eight hours of running.

Bottas edges Massa to lead second day of F1 test in Barcelona

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Valtteri Bottas edged out former Williams teammate Felipe Massa to lead day two of Formula 1’s second pre-season test in Barcelona.

Bottas posted the quickest overall time during the first week of running at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, but was able to go faster still on Wednesday as times edged towards the circuit’s lap record.

Bottas recorded a best lap of 1:19.310 on the super-soft tire to finish one-tenth of a second clear of Massa at the top of the timesheets, having spent the morning behind the wheel of the Mercedes W08 car.

Teammate Lewis Hamilton took over in the afternoon and focused on long runs, ending up sixth overall in the final classification.

Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen wound up third, but was forced to cut his day short after crashing at Turn 3 in the afternoon, denting the Scuderia’s erstwhile-impressive run of reliability through pre-season.

Max Verstappen was fourth for Red Bull, but he too hit trouble in the afternoon, his RB13 car stopping out on-track with around 15 minutes left in the day.

Williams rookie Lance Stroll returned to the cockpit after a tough first week that saw him crash a number of times, and had a trouble-free day en route to fifth place overall. Nico Hulkenberg followed behind Hamilton in P7, with Sergio Perez eighth for Force India.

Romain Grosjean completed close to 100 laps for Haas, finishing the day ninth in the timesheets ahead of Toro Rosso’s Carlos Sainz Jr. Pascal Wehrlein and Marcus Ericsson split running for Sauber once again, finishing 11th and 13th respectively, with McLaren’s Fernando Alonso squeezing between the two. Jolyon Palmer propped up the timesheets for Renault in 14th.

Felipe Massa tops opening day of second Barcelona F1 test

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Williams bounced back from a troublesome first week of Formula 1 pre-season running in Barcelona to top the opening day of the second test on Tuesday through Felipe Massa.

Williams was forced to end running early on two days last week and skipped Thursday altogether due to damage sustained in crashes involving 18-year-old rookie Lance Stroll.

Massa was handed the opening day of the second test in a bid to maximize track-time, and the Brazilian duly delivered by racking up over 160 laps, one of which proved to be the fastest of the day.

A best time of 1:19.726 saw Massa flirt with the fastest overall time in testing, set last week by Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas, while Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo finished second, two-tenths of a second behind.

Ricciardo’s lap was a first sign of raw one-lap pace from Red Bull, which opted to spend all of last week focusing on reliability.

Sebastian Vettel continued Ferrari’s impressive start to testing by finishing third, as well as completing more laps than any other driver. The German was just six-thousandths of a second shy of Ricciardo’s time.

Mercedes split its running between Lewis Hamilton and Bottas once again on Tuesday, taking the morning and afternoon sessions respectively. Hamilton was unhappy with his morning running, with the team ending its program early so it could make changes to the car. The Briton ended up fourth-fastest ahead of Bottas in P5.

Esteban Ocon was sixth for Force India ahead of Renault’s Nico Hulkenberg, the latter splitting running with teammate Jolyon Palmer. Kevin Magnussen was eighth in the Haas VF-17, while Toro Rosso bounced back after a tough first week with Daniil Kvyat winding up P9.

McLaren’s nightmare start to pre-season testing continued as Stoffel Vandoorne’s running was once again interrupted by an engine issue, forcing Honda into changing the power unit on his car over lunch. The Belgian completed just half the mileage of the pace-setters and ended the day 10th.

Sauber split its running between Pascal Wehrlein and Marcus Ericsson, the former making his first appearance in the C36 car after missing the opening test through injury. They finished 11th and 12th ahead of Renault’s Palmer, who propped up the timesheets.