MONTMELO, Mar 2 (AFP): World champion Lewis Hamilton set the fastest time of the week in pre-season Formula One testing on Thursday as Mercedes gave a powerful illustration of why they will once again be the team to beat in 2018.
“It’s been the first time today that I’ve really been out to learn a lot more about the car and its characteristics,” said Hamilton.After Wednesday’s testing at Montmelo was wiped out by the snow, Hamilton made up for lost time with a lap of 1 min 19.333 sec.
“I got to see what she’s like and stretch her legs a little bit. Driving a new car is like trying to crack a new code: you have to figure out which different techniques you need to get the most out of it.
“But the W09 feels like last year’s big sister.”
Belgian driver Stoffel Vandoorne, in a McLaren, was 0.521sec off the Briton’s pace while former world champion Sebastian Vettel in a Ferrari finished at 0.908sec back.
Thursday witnessed a bumper day of action as the snow and rain finally cleared with 1,101 laps racked up by the teams compared to 725 on Monday, 736 on Tuesday and just 17 on Wednesday, 11 of which were claimed by carefree two-time world champion Fernando Alonso in his McLaren.
Testing was briefly interrupted after Sauber’s Marcus Ericsson and Max Verstappen in a Red Bull went off the track and into the gravel.
“We had a couple of little hiccups today and then in the afternoon I had a little moment where I went into the gravel, tried to reverse but it got stuck,” explained Verstappen who was looking forward to the second testing session in Barcelona from 6-9 March.
“However, I’m quite happy with the car so far, and maybe the second week will show a bit more how we compare against our rivals. I certainly hope it’s a bit sunnier next week.”