Lewis Hamilton shocks F1 opponents on 'amazing day' in Barcelona
Published 22/02/2016 | 21:40
Lewis Hamilton hailed his greatest-ever day of Formula One testing as the triple world champion turned in an ominous display in Barcelona on Monday.
The 31-year-old, bidding to become the first British driver to win four championships, completed a startling 156 laps - the equivalent of nearly two-and-a-half race distances - as the sport roared back into action at the Circuit de Catalunya.
While the Ferrari of Sebastian Vettel, widely expected to be Hamilton and Mercedes' closest challenger this season, ended the mammoth nine-hour session on top of the timesheets, it was the stunning mileage clocked up by the reigning world champion which caught the eye.
Hamilton surpassed more than 450 miles, and the buoyant Briton was in good spirits as the sun set on the opening day.
"I am most certain this is the most impressive first day I have had," said Hamilton, who will start his 10th F1 campaign when the season gets under way in Melbourne next month.
"If you look back at the first days that I have had - in 2013 I had glitches with the brakes - it is nice to have a clean day without any issues with the car to go above and beyond."
Hamilton, who will resume testing duties on Wednesday with team-mate Nico Rosberg in the car on Tuesday, added: "It has been an amazing day. To get in the new car and to have no problems is just a remarkable job by the team.
"It was encouraging and there was no need to find motivation. The motivation was to get the car as far as possible in terms of distance because that will put us in good stead for the season, but 156 laps is quite long here.
"However, the training has paid off, and to be able to do that today, I feel really happy."
Hamilton's dominant Mercedes team have won 32 of the last 38 races, and will head into the new season as the favourites to win a third consecutive driver-and-team title.
Mercedes boss Toto Wolff added: "While it went so well, like last year, there is still room for progress and our plan for today was to do lots of laps and lots of mileage to collect data and check various systems before we head into the next phase which will start after tomorrow.
"When we discussed the plan of clocking so many kilometres with Lewis and Nico before testing, Paddy Lowe said we might be doing 700, 800, 900 kilometres a day. It was an ambitious target but we showed that we are capable of doing it."
Behind Vettel and Hamilton, the Williams of Valtteri Bottas was third fastest with Red Bull's Daniel Ricciardo fourth. Jenson Button showed signs of a McLaren resurgence after clocking up 84 laps and finishing within two seconds of Vettel's best time.
Vettel, the four-time champion, said of the new Ferrari: "The car is a step forward. It was the first proper day and it was good to get some laps and a first feel for the car. The first impression was very positive."