Massa fastest for Williams as final F1 pre-season test begins

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Felipe Massa has begun the third and final pre-season F1 test of the year in the best possible fashion by topping the timesheets ahead of Marcus Ericsson and Lewis Hamilton.

The last four-day test of the winter kicked off today in Barcelona, with Massa posting a fastest lap time of 1:23.500 to finish over seven-tenths of a second clear of Sauber’s Ericsson as Williams began to show its true colors.

After focusing on long runs and reliability in the first two tests, the British team finally stirred as Massa recorded the fastest lap time so far from the five days of running at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya.

Williams’ pace was underpinned by a trouble-free day that saw the Brazilian complete over 100 laps, with his fastest time being set on the soft compound tire.

Sauber had failed to continue its early testing pace in Barcelona last week, but showed signs of improvement today as Ericsson finished second with a fastest lap of 1:24.610 on the super-soft tire. With 120 laps in the book, the Swede also finished with the most mileage as a number of teams struggled on Thursday.

Lewis Hamilton managed to continue Mercedes’ impressive medium-tire pace by finishing third, but failed to get out in the afternoon session following an MGU-K failure on his W06 Hybrid. The Briton finished with just 48 laps to his name, and will be hoping for better luck when he returns to the car on Saturday.

Carlos Sainz and Jenson Button also hit trouble, finishing seventh and eighth on the timesheets respectively. Sainz’s day was interrupted by an off at turn ten in the afternoon that brought out a red flag, although he did still managed to complete 85 laps. Button was less fortunate, with another problem on the Honda power unit limiting the McLaren driver to just seven laps as the team continued to struggle.

Red Bull’s day got off to a bad start when Daniil Kvyat’s car ground to a halt at the end of the pit lane, but the issue was minor enough to allow the Russian to get back out on track soon after the stoppage. He eventually finished fourth in the final standings ahead of Romain Grosjean and Kimi Raikkonen.

For many of the teams on Thursday, the running was more about evaluating their new parts ahead of the season opener in Australia as opposed to finding the optimum lap time. Although Massa and Williams finished at the top, the advantage does still appear to lie with Mercedes, with the Silver Arrows’ medium-tire pace giving its rivals serious cause for concern.

Testing continues at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya on Friday, with Force India set to debut its new 2015 car in the afternoon session.

Barcelona 2nd Test Day 1 – Final Classification

1. Felipe Massa Williams 1:23.500 (103 laps)
2. Marcus Ericsson Sauber 1:24.276 +0.776 (122)
3. Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:24.881 +1.381 (48)
4. Daniil Kvyat Red Bull 1:25.947 +2.447 (75)
5. Romain Grosjean Lotus 1:26.177 +2.677 (75)
6. Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari 1:26.327 +2.827 (80)
7. Carlos Sainz Jr. Toro Rosso 1:26.962 +3.462 (86)
8. Jenson Button McLaren 1:31.479 +7.979 (7)