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Hamilton shows pace on final morning

Lewis Hamilton delivered the perfect evidence of the step forward McLaren has made at Barcelona as he set the quickest time of the week on an exciting final morning of pre-season testing on Sunday

With the leading teams all spending their morning running through some low-fuel qualifying simulations, it offered a proper glimpse of the current competitive order - and it was Hamilton who eventually emerged on top shortly before the lunch break.

Getting his first experience of the raft of updates that McLaren had brought onto its MP4-25 for this week's test, Hamilton's best effort of 1m20.472 seconds was just six hundredths of a second quicker than Felipe Massa in the Ferrari.

Hamilton's time came on the fourth lap of a run and it offered the first hint of the week that McLaren may have the pace to take the fight to Ferrari at the start of the season.

Massa completed his own qualifying simulations, setting his benchmark 1m20.539s on the second flying lap of a run before switching his programme over to race simulation work.

Red Bull Racing had handed Sebastian Vettel another morning of running in the RB6 following the frustrations of Saturday - when a technical issue and bad weather hampered his day's work - as he set the third quickest time of the day on the second lap of a four lap run.

Vettel, whose best lap of 1m20.667s was just 0.128 seconds behind Massa, then switched over to some race preparation work before the lunch break - when the car will be readied for Mark Webber to finish his pre-season running.

Michael Schumacher was another driver spending most of the morning working through low fuel runs to set his best time of 1m20.745s - leaving himself 0.273s off Hamilton's best effort.

Rubens Barrichello continued to show that Williams was ready to mix with the four pre-season favourites as his own qualifying simulation work left him less than two tenths behind Schumacher with a best lap of 1m20.925s.

The Brazilian did cause one of the two red flags of the morning, however, when he spun off at Turn 4 early on.

Behind Barrichello, the other teams spent their mornings focusing on more race-type set-up work, with more than a one second gap back to Sebastien Buemi in the Scuderia Toro Rosso.

Seventh fastest Kamui Kobayashi caused a red flag shortly after 11am when he stopped on track at Turn 9, while behind him Adrian Sutil carried out race simulation work for Force India.

In the battle of the new teams, Lotus' Heikki Kovalainen ended up 1.5s quicker than Lucas di Grassi - who completed 35 laps during an encouraging morning of improved reliability for Virgin Racing.

Pos  Driver              Team         Time       Gap       Laps
 1.  Lewis Hamilton      McLaren      1m20.472s            53
 2.  Felipe Massa        Ferrari      1m20.539s  + 0.067s  55
 3.  Sebastian Vettel    Red Bull     1m20.667s  + 0.195s  76
 4.  Michael Schumacher  Mercedes     1m20.745s  + 0.273s  55
 5.  Rubens Barrichello  Williams     1m20.925s  + 0.453s  40
 6.  Sebastien Buemi     Toro Rosso   1m22.135s  + 1.663s  46
 7.  Kamui Kobayashi     Sauber       1m22.713s  + 2.241s  32
 8.  Adrian Sutil        Force India  1m23.079s  + 2.607s  60
 9.  Robert Kubica       Renault      1m24.293s  + 3.821s  35
10.  Heikki Kovalainen   Lotus        1m25.251s  + 4.779s  58
11.  Lucas di Grassi     Virgin       1m26.790s  + 6.318s  35

All timing unofficial

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