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Hamilton and Mercedes start favorites: Vettel

03 March 2018

BC-CAR-F1-Testing, 3rd Ld-Writethru, 356 Hamilton leads busy day as F1 tests resume after snowfallAP Photo FS117, FS130, FS105, FS113, FS115, FS104, FS109, FS108Eds: Updates with Hamilton quotes.

Hamilton came into Day Four with just 25 laps under his belt at testing after his scheduled runs had coincided with the worst of Barcelona's bad weather.

The Mercedes driver was 0.5 seconds clear of the rest and 0.9s quicker than 2017 title rival, Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel, despite using a harder tyre.

It was a busy day at the Circuit de Catalunya-Barcelona after snowfall and cold temperatures kept most cars in the garage on Wednesday.

McLaren were clearly aiming to put as much mileage on the auto as possible today, and Vandoorne did so while still remaining top of the leaderboard until he was deposed by Sergey Sirotkin's Williams as the track dried further. "I want him to be at his best so it is more painful when you do out-perform them".

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The British driver was a half-second faster than Stoffel Vandoorne of McLaren, who had his time on the faster hypersoft tires.

Bottas knows he has to be consistently at the top of his game this year, with Hamilton gunning to become only the third driver to win five world titles. At the other end of the spectrum, Pierre Gasly completed 147 laps in the Honda-powered Toro Rosso.

However, Stoffel Vandoorne completed 110 laps on Thursday and displayed positive indications that the auto has some pace.

The vehicle was returned to the Red Bull garage, with mechanics carefully trying to hide its floor from the view of cameras, but Verstappen did not return to action before the chequered flag and ended the day with him as the ninth quickest.

Bottas was also beaten by Hamilton for most pole positions and fastest laps, with the Briton's domination at the Silver Arrows rarely disturbed since Nico Rosberg's retirement. "I'm really looking forward to next week and to getting back in and learning more".

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Kevin Magnussen was fourth-fastest with Hass.

Verstappen's off was one of three red flags during the day after Marcus Ericsson put his Sauber in the gravel at Turn 2 in the morning and Charles Leclerc, who took over driving duties at Sauber in the afternoon, caused a red flag when he ran wide at Turn 3.

Drivers still needed wet tires early in the session but conditions improved significantly in the afternoon and drivers were able to finish on dry tires.

F1 teams now have a four-day break from track action before the final pre-season test starts at the same venue on March 6.

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Hamilton and Mercedes start favorites: Vettel