MANAMA, March 02, 2014 (AFP) - Former world champion Lewis Hamilton will head for the season-opening Australian Grand Prix in two weeks' time installed as an early title favourite after topping testing in Bahrain on Sunday.
The 2008 champion took his Mercedes to 1min 33.278sec having put in 69 laps, just two hundredths of a second off the best time of the four-day session at the Sakhir Circuit set by Felipe Massa in the resurgent Williams.
Hamilton's Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg was third fastest over the four days with Williams confirming their early promise with Valtteri Bottas the fourth fastest overall.
The top eight over the week was filled out by Fernando Alonso in a Ferrari, Sergio Perez in a Force India, Kimi Raikkonen in the second Ferrari with Nico Hulkenberg next in the other Force India.
"The car is still very much a work in progress, but we've learnt a lot over the course of these last few weeks," said Hamilton, whose morning efforts were hampered by gearbox trouble.
"It was a tough start to the day but they managed to get the car turned around for me to complete some good laps in the afternoon, which was a fantastic effort."
With the season-opener taking place in Melbourne on March 16, world champions Red Bull are struggling.
Drivers champion Sebastian Vettel was only ninth fastest on Sunday with a best time of 1min 37.468sec although he did at least manage to complete 77 laps unlike Saturday when his Red Bull failed to make a single circuit. But his time was still over four seconds off Hamilton's best.
Overall, Vettel was just 18th fastest over the four days, finishing ahead only of the two Caterhams and the struggling Lotus team.
"We cannot do the times that the guys at the top are doing for a couple of reasons, but at the moment we have bigger problems to solve than just the pace," Vettel told autosport.com.
"I'm not calling us favourites. We haven't done enough laps, the speed is not there compared to some other teams so we have to wait and see when we get to Australia."
Times on Sunday on the final day of Formula One pre-season testing at the Sakhir Circuit:
1. Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, 1m 33.278s, 70 laps
2. Valtteri Bottas, Williams, 1m 33.987s, 108 laps
3. Fernando Alonso, Ferrari, 1m 34.280s, 74 laps
4. Nico Hulkenberg, Force India, 1m 35.577s, 74 laps
5. Jean-Eric Vergne, Toro Rosso, 1m 35.701s, 74 laps
6. Adrian Sutil, Sauber, 1m 36.467s, 91 laps
7. Max Chilton, Marussia, 1m 36.835s, 61 laps
8. Esteban Gutierrez, Sauber, 1m 37.303s, 86 laps
9. Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull, 1m 37.468s, 77 laps
10. Jenson Button, McLaren, 1m 38.111s, 22 laps
11. Kamui Kobayashi, Caterham, 1m 38.391s, 106 laps
12. Romain Grosjean, Lotus, 1m 39.302s, 32 laps