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Vettel quickest as pre-season testing concludes


Sadly, there was no last minute super-lap to bring pre-season testing to a dramatic close, no old-time Senna-like, Hakkinen-like late show, not unless you count Nico Rosberg's cheeky last-dash improvement of 1.3s to close the gap on Rio Haryanto.

Then again, maybe that was a sly demonstration by Mercedes of what it has up its sleeve come Melbourne, the W07 only resorting to the soft rubber on a couple of occasions, never feeling the need to resort to the supersoft, far less the ultrasoft rubber.

And if the German team was dallying with the opposition, offering a tantalising carrot to Ferrari and friends, did that stretch to Lewis Hamilton's 'early bath', the Briton bringing out the red flag when he stopped on track just before lunch.

As rivals pondered the prospect of a chink in the Silver Arrows armour, Mercedes revealed that the problem was gearbox related an issue so minor it didn't even necessitate a change of unit.

Nonetheless, not for the first time over the last four days, Ferrari topped the timesheets, but those of a certain age will remember those heady days when Tom Walkinshaw's Arrows would put in a couple of flyers, though usually with the aim of convincing a sponsor to come on board.

More important than topping the timesheets for the Maranello squad is the fact that Vettel was able to complete 142 laps without any significant issues.

Behind the Ferrari, it was another impressive day for Toro Rosso, as the Faenza squad seriously threatens to outshine its (big) sister, leading to the prospect of another endless summer of the Austrian team giving us whinge.

OK, Sainz' best time was set on the ultrasofts, however, over the course of the entire test the STR11 has shown pace and reliability.

Williams finally showed a glimpse of its hand also, Felipe Massa posting the third best time of the day on the supersofts. Indeed, during the course of the day the Brazilian tried almost every compound available including full wets and inters, without even a hint of the wet stuff.

Just when it had been looking good for Force India, the Silverstone outfit ran into problems, Sergio Perez, one of the many drivers to go for a race simulation this afternoon, causing the second red flag of the day when he stopped on track just an hour into the afternoon session. Consequently the Mexican managed a measly 60 laps.

Other than the gearbox issue is was another day at the office for Mercedes, Hamilton completing 69 laps in the morning and teammate Nico Rosberg 70 in the afternoon.

The German never strayed from his mediums, nor did he seek to thrill by banging in a stunner. Instead he continued to complete lap after reliable lap, finally allowing himself the satisfaction of taking a late 1.3s out of Haryanto as the chequered flag was about to be waved.

Anyone who reads anything into Rosberg's place at the foot of today's timesheets should seek medical advice... urgently.

Again Red Bull did the laps, but has it got the pace? All these questions, and more, will be answered when Daniel Ricciardo takes to the streets of Melbourne in a couple of weeks. The RB12 completed 123 laps, but we cannot help but feel that over the course of the summer the big team is going to be shown the way home by 'little Sis'.

Seventh on the timesheets and 121 laps must make Barcelona 2016 seem like a lifetime ago for many of the McLaren squad, but it is clear that the Woking team faces another difficult year and a lot of hard work.

Certainly the foundations are there, now it is up to McLaren and Honda, in particular, to get to grips with the various issues and provide a car worthy of their drivers' talents.

Having lost much of the morning, Jolyon Palmer finally got some serious running this afternoon, nonetheless the poor chap must be wondering who he's offended as all the issues that strike the RS16 happen when he's at the wheel.

Another decent day for Sauber after the glitch earlier in the week, and while we don't know how vulnerable Mercedes might be this year, we do know that the midfield will be tighter than the McLaren's rear end.

If nothing else, in the face of the adversity they have suffered this week, Haas has shown a backbone worthy of some of the other teams that have gained the hearts of fans over the years.

The swagger with which they entered the sport, suggesting that it was a lot easier than it looked, has taken a bit of a knock this week, and the team is all the better for it, demonstrating an admirable resilience.

Romain Grosjean and Esteban Gutierrez were both given time in the car today, and though the session wasn't without its issues, the team kept its head down and got on with it.

Another day of learning for Manor also, which missed much of the morning, that's unless you count Rio Haryanto nipping out for a barely legal lap in the aftermath of Hamilton's stoppage.

Like Haas, the Banbury team is facing a season of learning at the school of hard knocks however, like its American rival it has some powerful allies and technical partners.

"I am happy," said Vettel, "and I think that even with Kimi we have been successful so far. We were able to do quite a lot of laps, going through our program well, so I think it was a good test.

"We have to see if this car can be a winner, but I think that the first impression was good and everything we have built is positive. So, overall, I am happy with the feeling in the car. And we are happy with the step we have made.

"In terms of reliability, though, Mercedes seems to be very strong, irrespective of the issue they had today.

"I think the "Halo" is ok," he added, "even if I believe that this system can be improved in terms of both aesthetic and visibility and I think we will see an evolution of it very soon.

"In principle, I think it doesn't look very nice but if it can help saving lives, and if thanks to it at least the two drivers who died recently could still be here with us, then I think it can be the ugliest system, but nothing could justify not having it fitted.

"We try to close the gap to the cars in front, which has been quite big last year. I think we did a good job during the last season and now I think that the new car can close the gap even more, but we have to be patient a little bit longer, for a couple of weeks at least.

"In terms of show and sporting rules," he concluded, "I think that Formula1 is doing fine, I also think that it is important that the sport remains a sport so that the fastest driver comes up on top. This has been the DNA of Formula1 since ever."

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