Lewis Hamilton said that he enjoyed his runs on low fuel as Mercedes AMG Petronas showed its potential pace on the final day of 2019 Formula 1 winter testing.
Hamilton used the softest C5 tyres for the first time in anger on Friday at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya and completed a set of low fuel runs in the afternoon to try and displace Scuderia Ferrari‘s Sebastian Vettel from top spot, after the German had his day ended prematurely with an electrical problem.
The reigning world champion’s best lap of a 1 minute 16.221 seconds put him a comfortable second in standings, but three-thousandths of a second shy of Vettel’s time.
Team-mate Valtteri Bottas rounded out the top three, over three-tenths adrfit of Hamilton, also on the C5 tyres.
“The last couple of days have been very positive,” said Hamilton.
“It felt like the changes we were making helped us progress and gave us clear feedback of when we were moving in the right or the wrong direction.
“Today, it was nice to feel the car on lighter fuel and to discover it a little better.
“I really enjoyed the day and got a good feel for the tyres as well.”
Throughout the fortnight Mercedes has tended to focus on gathering tyre and aerodynamic data on the C2 and C3 compounds in the morning, before moving to set-up work in the afternoon.
Its programme has left Bottas and Hamilton firmly in the midfield on the timing screens, but today’s showing proved what had been widely predicted – despite Hamilton’s claim that Ferrari is 0.5s faster than Mercedes.
Hamilton acknowledged that the test period has been “positive” for Mercedes, but remained wary that there is still plenty of work to do before the season-opening Grand Prix in Melbourne in two weeks’ time.
“I’m not the biggest fan of testing, as everybody knows, but it has been a positive week overall,” he added.
“Even so, there is still a lot to do and we are not there yet; there are lots of areas that we are working on and we are heading in the right direction.”
Rumours emerged on Thursday that Mercedes may be working on two different specifications of the W10 to circumvent the relatively lacklustre weekends it suffered in the first half of 2018, but these rumours have not been confirmed by any Mercedes-related sources.