Hamilton and Russell top of the pile in Barcelona

Henry Valantine
Lewis Hamilton in wet conditions. Formula 1 Barcelona February 2022.

Lewis Hamilton drives on wet tyres in pre-season running. Barcelona February 2022.

Lewis Hamilton and George Russell finished pre-season running in Barcelona by being first and second quickest on the final day of Formula 1 action in Spain.

Russell finished top of the morning session before Hamilton stole top spot towards the end of the afternoon, lapping faster than the Red Bulls of Sergio Perez and Max Verstappen behind them – albeit on softer compound tyres – with Aston Martin’s Sebastian Vettel rounding out the top five.

Several team-mates followed the top five in pairs, with both Ferrari drivers coming before the Williams twosome, with McLaren’s Daniel Ricciardo and Lando Norris either side of the top 10.

The morning had seen plenty of red flag stoppages – five, to be precise – and half the teams struggled to get on with their programmes one way or another, as only 16 of the 20 drivers took to the track on Friday.

Alpine were ruled out of the rest of the day’s running completely, following a hydraulic problem which led to a small fire at the back of their car.

Aston Martin also suffered the consequences of an oil leak of Vettel’s car in the morning, as they were unable to get back on track in the afternoon through Lance Stroll.

Alfa Romeo too had trouble after Guanyu Zhou’s trip into the gravel in the morning, as Valtteri Bottas managed only 10 laps in the afternoon, in the last chance to gain valuable data in Barcelona.

AlphaTauri rounded off the toils of all the ‘A’ teams by being marooned in their garage all afternoon as well, following Pierre Gasly’s spin in the morning with only 40 laps on the board.

Haas have been the talk of the paddock for non-sporting reasons away from the circuit, but they were unable to get out on track at all in the afternoon either – after Nikita Mazepin only completed nine laps in the morning.

But for those who were able to get going, the final session of this pre-season shakedown came with a difference, as circuit marshals sent out water tankers to wet the surface as Pirelli and the teams looked to gain crucial data on their full wet and intermediate compounds.

Ricciardo was first out onto the track on wet tyres, but quickly came back into the pit lane for a set of inters as the track was better suited to those conditions.

Nonetheless, drivers were able to get a feel for the track on non-slick rubber for the first time, with initial lap times a whopping 20 seconds down compared to dry conditions, but the weather eventually allowed a drier line to emerge on track as they got used to the grip levels available to them.

Times eventually started to fall as water was cleared, with Hamilton driving almost 40 laps in the wetter conditions and, as the drivers reached the crossover point, dry running resumed prior to the halfway point of the afternoon session, with more than two hours to go.

Hamilton quietly but comfortably kept ploughing on with his schedule for the afternoon, lapping towards the bottom of the field for the majority of the session before a 1:20.410 put him into the top six, while running on harder C2 tyres.

He and Alex Albon would end up joint-top for the number of laps completed by a single driver in the day, clocking 94 apiece in productive days with their teams.

But Hamilton and Perez decided to put in some faster laps between them towards the end of the session, getting sets of softer tyres on their Mercedes and Red Bull cars respectively to get closer to the limits of their cars.

The seven-time World Champion subsequently put himself top of the timesheets with a 1:19.138 on the softest C5 tyres – the fastest time of the three days of running – while the Mexican pipped team-mate Verstappen into P3.

The amount of true pace on show in Barcelona is up for debate, but it’s last season’s two title-contesting teams that ended the first three days of pre-season at the top of the leaderboard nonetheless.

Three days of official pre-season testing will come in Bahrain from 10-12 March, around a week before the 2022 season gets underway in earnest.

 

Day 3 Leaderboard

1 Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, 1:19.138, C5 [tyres] – 94 laps
2 George Russell, Mercedes, 1:19.233, C5 – 66 laps
3 Sergio Perez, Red Bull, 1:19.556, C4 – 74 laps
4 Max Verstappen, Red Bull, 1:19.756, C3 – 59 laps
5 Sebastian Vettel, Aston Martin, 1:19.824, C5 – 48 laps
6 Charles Leclerc, Ferrari, 1:19.831, C3 – 44 laps
7 Carlos Sainz, Ferrari, 1:20.072, C3 – 92 laps
8 Alex Albon, Williams, 1:20.318, C4 – 94 laps
9 Nicholas Latifi, Williams, 1:20.699, C4 – 13 laps
10 Daniel Ricciardo, McLaren, 1:20.750, C3 – 86 laps
11 Lando Norris, McLaren, 1:20.827, C3 – 52 laps
12 Fernando Alonso, Alpine, 1:21.242, C3 – 12 laps
13 Zhou Guanyu, Alfa Romeo, 1:21.939, C3 – 41 laps
14 Pierre Gasly, AlphaTauri, 1:22.469, C4 – 40 laps
15 Nikita Mazepin, Haas, 1:26.229, C3 – 9 laps
16 Valtteri Bottas, Alfa Romeo, 1:30.433, C3 – 10 laps