Felipe Massa set the morning pace for Williams on Pirelli’s supersoft tyre, but it was Lewis Hamilton who clocked the ultimate benchmark - a 1m 23.022s, recorded on soft rubber - a quarter of a second up on the Brazilian.
“It wasn't a particularly spectacular day,” said Hamilton after his programme of aero evaluation work, set-up analysis and performance tests. “The track seems to have lost a bit of grip in the last few days so the feeling wasn't as good. But I'm still glad we got some running done and I feel good in the car.
“We were trying to understand a few things today with the set up and it gave us a clearer indication of that in the afternoon. The guys in the team have been exceptional during these tests and I just can't wait to get racing now - the fun stuff!”
Kimi Raikkonen all but matched Massa’s time to finish third, also on a qualifying-type supersoft run in the Ferrari, while Carlos Sainz put Toro Rosso fourth, albeit over a second down on Hamilton’s marker.
Commenting on Ferrari’s progress, technical director James Allison said: “We’ve got a lot of laps under our belt in this winter testing; but until you actually go out and do the laps for a race, one after the other, and not stopping except to change tyres, you really can’t claim that you’re ready to go to Melbourne and do it for real. So we’re happy to get our first race distance of the winter done, happy to have achieved at the first attempt, and with the reliability that we showed.”
In a highly productive day’s running, with most teams attempting race simulations and only two drivers failing to reach the 100 lap mark - Hamilton on 76, and Kevin Magnussen, who managed just 39 on his first outing in the 2015 McLaren thanks to an oil leak.
“This year’s car is really different to last year’s,” said Magnussen. “It feels much more consistent; it’s more predictable and driver-friendly. It’s not fast enough yet, but it feels like a solid baseline, and there’s obviously still plenty more to come. I think McLaren-Honda should have a good car if they continue in this direction.”
Busiest man of the day was Nico Hulkenberg, who put another 158 laps on the new Force India following its Friday debut.
“It was our first full day of testing so our main focus remained on getting to know the car, the way we set it up and its characteristics,” reported Hulkenberg. “I think we made some good progress in this regard and we managed to get a decent understanding of how the VJM08 feels under different conditions. That's definitely a positive, although it remains very hard to judge where everyone is in terms of performance.”
The day’s two red-flag stoppages both came in the final hour, with first Marcus Ericsson’s Sauber coming to a halt at Turn 3 and then Sainz’s Toro Rosso stopping at the same corner.
Unofficial Saturday testing times from Barcelona:
1. Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, 1m 23.022s, 76 laps
2. Felipe Massa, Williams, 1m 23.262s, 102 laps
3. Kimi Raikkonen, Ferrari, 1m 25.276s, 136 laps
4. Carlos Sainz Jr, Toro Rosso, 1m 24.191s, 132 laps
5. Romain Grosjean, Lotus, 1m 24.200s, 116 laps
6. Marcus Ericsson, Sauber, 1m 24.477s, 123 laps
7. Nico Hulkenberg, Force India, 1m 24.939s, 158 laps
8. Kevin Magnussen, McLaren, 1m 25.225s, 39 laps
9. Daniel Ricciardo, Red Bull, 1m 25.742s, 128 laps