MONTMELÓ, SPAIN: 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.
After Wednesday’s testing at Montmelo was wiped out by the snow, Hamilton made up for lost time with a lap of 1 minute and 19.333 seconds.
“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.
“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,” he said.
“But the W09 feels like last year’s big sister,” Hamilton added.
Belgian driver Stoffel Vandoorne, in a McLaren, was 0.521-second off the Briton’s pace while former world champion Sebastian Vettel in a Ferrari finished at 0.908- second 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 Barcleona from March 6 to 9.
“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.”