Hamilton fastest as Mercedes impresses again on day three

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Lewis Hamilton has continued Mercedes’ late pre-season push by finishing at the top of the timesheets on day three of the final F1 winter test in Barcelona.

The British driver put in a fastest lap time of 1:23.022 to finish two-tenths of a second clear of Williams’ Felipe Massa, who had led for most of the day after running on the super-soft tire just before lunch.

Hamilton proved once again that Mercedes is still the team to beat in 2015, beating Massa’s time despite lapping on the soft compound tire, which is thought to be 1-1.2 seconds slower than the super-soft.

After evaluating their new upgrades on the first two days of the final test in Barcelona, most teams opted to focus on both one-lap pace and race simulations on Saturday. Seven drivers completed over 100 laps, with Kimi Raikkonen finishing Ferrari’s first full race distance of the winter. The Finn ended the day third, 0.254s down on Hamilton at the top.

Mercedes’ day was not without its problems, though. The German marque was limited to just 76 laps in total after an issue on Hamilton’s car prevented the defending world champion from getting back out on track following the lunch break.

There was worse news down at McLaren, though, as Kevin Magnussen could complete just 39 laps before the team opted to end its running. The MP4-30 suffered an oil leak after lunch, bringing the McLaren reserve driver’s first stint in the 2015 car to an early end.

Sauber’s running was also curtailed when Marcus Ericsson stopped out on track in the final hour of running on Saturday. The Swede had posted a fastest lap of 1:24.477 to finish the day in fourth place, but was unable to complete his race simulation as a result of the issue.

Having only debuted the 2015 car on Friday, Nico Hulkenberg was keen to put in plenty of laps for Force India, and finished with the most mileage of any driver on Saturday. The German finished down in seventh place, but with over 150 laps on the board, the team will be hoping that some of the deficit created by the delays has been made up.

Carlos Sainz Jr. brought his winter testing programme to a close on Saturday by finishing fourth for Toro Rosso, but his hopes of a trouble-free day were ruined when his car stopped at turn three with 15 minutes remaining in the day. Max Verstappen will take over the reins of the STR10 on Sunday.

Romain Grosjean and Daniel Ricciardo both enjoyed solid days in their final runs before the first race of the year, finishing fifth and ninth respectively without suffering any stoppages or problems.

At the top though, it was Lewis Hamilton who followed in the footsteps of teammate Nico Rosberg by turning up the heat for Mercedes on Saturday and gapping the field, leaving little doubt as to where the advantage lies ahead of the new season.

Pre-season testing comes to a close on Sunday in Barcelona, with the first race taking place two weeks later in Melbourne, Australia.