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13 Feb 2010

Jerez day four - Hamilton and McLaren end on a high

Lewis Hamilton (GBR) McLaren MP4/25. Formula One Testing, Day Four, Jerez, Spain, Saturday 13 February 2010. (L to R): Felipe Massa (BRA) Ferrari with Rob Smedley (GBR) Ferrari Race Engineer. Formula One Testing, Day Four, Jerez, Spain, Saturday 13 February 2010. Michael Schumacher (GER) Mercedes GP MGP W01. Formula One Testing, Day Four, Jerez, Spain, Saturday 13 February 2010. Adrian Sutil (GER) Force India F1 VJM03. Formula One Testing, Day Four, Jerez, Spain, Saturday 13 February 2010. Lucas di Grassi (BRA) Virgin Racing VR-01. Formula One Testing, Day Four, Jerez, Spain, Saturday 13 February 2010.

Lewis Hamilton clocked the fastest time of the week around Jerez on Saturday as the four-day test drew to a close in Spain. With the track dry for the majority of the day, the McLaren star set a best lap of 1m 19.533s late in the final hour, putting him over half a second clear of closest rival, Force India’s Adrian Sutil.

Hamilton spent the early part of the day running through an aero mapping programme, with distinctive measuring rakes fitted to the car, before evaluating brake and brake materials while also working on weight distribution. His best lap came on his final run on a fresh set of dry tyres.

Sutil ran through systems checks, set-up evaluation and tyre comparisons to bring Force India’s total test mileage with the new VJM03 to more than 1,200km.

“Set-up wise, we were pretty good already and the car balance is not so far away,” said the German. “We also tried a couple of longer runs and saving the tyres seems to be the key point as we could set some quick times on the early laps but then the tyres dropped off towards the end of the runs. We weren't going for a time, just trying to get as much information as possible at this stage to feed back into the programme for next week.”

Rubens Barrichello was third fastest for Williams, the team focussing on set-up and systems work before a gearbox problem brought a slightly premature end to their day. The issue is now being investigated.

“The car has performed well these past two days and we’ve discovered some interesting things which will help us move it forward,” said the Brazilian driver. “I was hoping to go for a performance run at the end of the day because the car felt good, but unfortunately my session was cut short. There’s work to do in terms of improving performance, but I’m happy with the results that are coming out.”

Renault reported improvements in the performance and driveability of the R30 as Robert Kubica went fourth fastest. "We were unlucky again with the weather this morning but it was dry in the afternoon and we managed to improve the car quite a bit,” said the Pole. “Each day of testing the car feels better and the progress we have made this week confirms that we are moving in the right direction."

Michael Schumacher set the fifth fastest time of the day as he returned to the cockpit of Mercedes’ MGP W01. "We completed everything that we wanted and were able to increase our understanding of the car a step further so overall it's been positive,” stated the German. “It's very tough to understand the order of the teams just yet as everyone can play so much with the fuel loads. So there is a lot of speculation going on but it's very interesting!"

A fuel pump failure in the afternoon cost Red Bull around three hours of dry running time, but Sebastian Vettel still managed 90 laps on his way to sixth in the time sheets. Ian Morgan, the team’s head of race engineering said: “It’s been a productive first week with the RB6, despite the weather and lack of dry conditions. We’re pleased with the car overall, it’s showing a lot of promise.”

Felipe Massa was again on duty for Ferrari, completing a long run in the morning and then concentrating on tyre comparison work in the afternoon. The Brazilian was seventh quickest in the F10.

Eighth spot went to Pedro de la Rosa in the BMW Sauber C29. "In the morning we started with a long-run of 20 laps on intermediate tyres,” explained Giampaolo Dall'Ara, the team’s head of track engineering. “We then worked on the mechanical set- up of the car. Around half past two we swapped into a tyre comparison programme and in the end we carried out some aero tests. Because of the difficult weather situation this week in Jerez we are a little below expectations in terms of mileage but we still managed to cover all our topics and had no major technical problems."

For Virgin, it was the first real opportunity to gauge the relative performance of the VR-01 in the dry, as Lucas di Grassi completed 63 laps en route to ninth place. “The car was behaving much better after the work we did since yesterday and I think what we have achieved today is a very good start for our team,” said the Brazilian.

Technical director Nick Wirth added: “It is very pleasing to end our first test on such a positive note, having finally achieved some solid running in dry conditions. We have remained focused on the job list in hand and given that we have been working with a representative fuel load to evaluate various set-ups, our lap time and rate of progress is encouraging at this very early stage.”

Completing Saturday’s line-up was Jaime Alguersuari in the Toro Rosso. The Spaniard carried out race set-up work, using the soft and medium Bridgestone tyres, and a back-to-back comparison of some aero parts.

“I’m pleased with how these two days of testing went,” said Alguersuari. “It was very useful to drive the car with different fuel loads and in different track conditions, in the dry, in the wet and ‘intermediate’ conditions. Overall, it has been a positive week for me and also for the team.”

Testing resumes at Jerez next week, with another four-day session commencing on Wednesday February 17.

Unofficial Saturday times from Jerez:
1. Lewis Hamilton, McLaren, 1:19.583, 113 Laps
2. Adrian Sutil, Force India, 1:20.180, 84 Laps
3. Rubens Barrichello, Williams, 1:20.341, 90 Laps
4. Robert Kubica, Renault, 1:20.358, 86 Laps
5. Michael Schumacher, Mercedes GP, 1:20.613, 84 Laps
6. Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull, 1:21.203, 90 Laps
7. Felipe Massa, Ferrari, 1:21.486, 160 Laps
8. Pedro de la Rosa, BMW Sauber, 1:22.134, 105 Laps
9. Lucas di Grassi, Virgin, 1:22.912, 63 Laps
10. Jaime Alguersuari, Toro Rosso, 1:24.072, 98 Laps