Seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton laid down an early marker ahead of the new Formula One season on Friday when he set the fastest time in pre-season testing in Barcelona.
In a further boost for Mercedes, Hamilton’s new teammate George Russell came home in second place.
Reigning world champion Max Verstappen was fourth fastest, just behind Red Bull colleague Sergio Perez.
Hamilton, controversially edged out for the 2021 title by Verstappen in the season finale in Abu Dhabi, clocked a best time of 1min 19.138 seconds.
“It’s been an interesting few days, it’s not been the easiest or smoothest running – we have some obstacles to overcome,” said Hamilton.
“We’d always want more laps but I’m happy with today’s running, I got almost 100 laps in today which for half a day’s running, isn’t too bad.”
Russell, who had topped the morning session, finished with a best of 1:19.233.
Having switched from Williams to Mercedes, Russell insisted the times meant little ahead of the new season which starts in Bahrain on March 20.
“The three days in Barcelona have been incredibly intriguing. I don’t think the lap times are very representative at all,” he said.
“We were top of the timesheets today on the C5 tyre compound which is incredibly strong around Barcelona, but I wouldn’t read much into it. The Ferrari and McLaren look strong.”