Hamilton on top in Barcelona

Lewis Hamilton emerged quicker than both world champion Kimi Raikkonen and Michael Schumacher as F1 teams commenced their final pre-season group test in Barcelona on Monday.

The three-day session at the 2.875-mile Circuit de Catalunya track is the last opportunity for teams to prepare their cars ahead of the curtain-raising Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne on March 16th.

McLaren-Mercedes star Hamilton set a time of one minute 22.276 seconds, just 0.043secs ahead of Ferrari's Raikkonen, who pipped the young Briton to the title last season by a point.

Meanwhile, seven-times world champion Schumacher, who is back testing Ferrari's F2008 car for the first time this year in his advisory role for the team, was third quickest with a lap of 1min 22.428secs.

Williams' strong pre-season continued as drivers Kazuki Nakajima and Nico Rosberg were fourth and sixth quickest, sandwiching the second McLaren of Heikki Kovalainen.

Double world champion Fernando Alonso was seventh quickest for Renault, while BMW Sauber's Nick Heidfeld had the eighth best time, ahead of Force India's Adrian Sutil - the latter debuting the team's VJM01 chassis.

Toyota, Honda struggling

Toyota and Honda continue to struggle, with Timo Glock and Kamui Kobayashi respectively 13th and 16th for the former, while Rubens Barrichello and Alexander Wurz were 17th and 18th fastest for the latter.

Red Bull's David Coulthard was slowest of the 19 drivers taking part, although technical problems resulted in him completing only 25 laps.

The only team absent were Super Aguri, who have been forced to pull out of this test due to ongoing financial problems, and whose future remains unclear.

Barcelona (times):

1 Lewis Hamilton McLaren 1'22.276 78 laps
2 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari 1'22.319 82
3 Michael Schumacher Ferrari 1'22.428 83
4 Kazuki Nakajima Williams 1'22.724 54
5 Heikki Kovalainen McLaren 1'22.852 71
6 Nico Rosberg Williams 1'22.974 108
7 Fernando Alonso Renault 1'23.021 79
8 Nick Heidfeld BMW Sauber 1'23.075 75
9 Adrian Sutil Force India 1'23.091 62
10 Mark Webber Red Bull Racing 1'23.115 71
11 Sebastian Vettel Toro Rosso 1'23.188 95
12 Vitantonio Liuzzi Force India 1'23.239 43 laps
13 Timo Glock Toyota 1'23.270 70
14 Christian Klien BMW Sauber 1'23.442 42
15 Nelson Piquet Jr. Renault 1'23.609 86
16 Kamui Kobayashi Toyota 1'23.880 29
17 Rubens Barrichello Honda 1'24.460 115
18 Alex Wurz Honda 1'23.667 109
19 David Coulthard Red Bull Racing 1'24.826 25