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Hamilton sets ominous pace as first test comes to an end

NEWS STORY
01/03/2018

Though it is far too early to start drawing conclusions, it's fair to say that Lewis Hamilton, Toto Wolff and the rest of the Mercedes crew will head into the weekend finding it hard to supress broad grins.

While Valtteri Bottas set the pace for much of the morning, completing 60 laps in the process, teammate Hamilton ramped things up in the afternoon, finally getting some time in the W09 following those 25 brief laps on Monday.

With Sebastian Vettel finishing third on the timesheets - behind Stoffel Vandoorne - it wasn't merely the 0.908s gap between the two world champions but rather the fact that the Briton posted his best time on mediums while the German had to resort to softs.

After the non-event that was Wednesday, when snow stopped play, today the teams buckled down and got some serious lappery under their belts.

Between them the 15 drivers completed 1,101 laps of the Spanish track, with Pierre Gasly responsible for 147 of them.

Indeed, in one of those strange twists of irony, as Toro Rosso, along with new engine partner Honda, topped the mileage stats, between them Vandoorne and Fernando Alonso, who drove the last couple of hours, just about out-did them, the MCL33 completing 161 laps. A year ago McLaren managed just 208 laps over the whole four days of the first test.

But with Hamilton and Bottas completing 129 laps, Mercedes also has a grip on reliability, as does Ferrari (120), Sauber (138) and Renault (109).

The day saw a number of red flags, and while a couple this afternoon were false starts, Max Verstappen's off with around two hours to go will have left the Dutch driver and his team frustrated.

Not posting his first time until three hours into the day, Verstappen was immediately on the pace. However, there followed another long period in the garage before he finally reappeared only to head off into the gravel at T12 shortly after improving to ninth. In an attempt to extricate himself from the kitty litter the youngster put the RB14 in reverse but only succeeded in further embedding the car.

After a slow start to the week, Haas will be delighted to have finished fourth on the timesheets, Kevin Magnussen completing 96 laps on his way to posting a 20.317.

A foggy start to the day and a track still damp from overnight rain eventually gave way to a little sunshine and temperatures reaching a heady 16 degrees, hence the improved lap times on Monday.

With the second test getting underway on Tuesday, with this week being about reliability and consistency, we can expect next week to be about pace also.

While Mercedes looks set for an easy weekend, the midnight oil will be burning at Maranello, and also at Milton Keynes, Silverstone and Hinwil.

As we said, far too early to start drawing conclusions, though other than the fact that Mercedes once again looks to be the benchmark, McLaren and Honda both appear to have taken a significant step forward... though not together.

Check out our Thursday gallery from Barcelona, here.

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1. Posted by Spindoctor, 02/03/2018 15:48

"Mad Matt has pretty-much nailed it.
Mercedes had two major issues last year: an occasional failure to make the tyres work, and an inability to run fast enough in dirty air to catch & pass a competitive car.

Although the car looks fast in the cold, who knows what it'll do when the temperature is higher."

Rating: Positive (1)     Rate comment: Positive | NegativeReport this comment

2. Posted by Mad Matt, 02/03/2018 7:59

"It could be that we're about to see another year of Mercedes dominance but on the other hand how much of their speed comes from being able to get the tyres into their optimal window in such cold conditions? If that's the case then it probably won't translate into such a big gap during the season as the temperatures will be much higher.

It's difficult, on the one hand I'm not a Merc fan and it is boring if they are runaway winners all season long (although I don't mind if there's a fight in the following pack and the TV coverage concentrates on that). On the other hand it's hard to fault them for being successful. It's clearly not just the engine as there are other Merc powered teams, there's not constant controversy about them "bending" the regulations unlike when Red Bull dominated. I think oil burning is the only thing that they may have exploited more than others.

So, what can we do? Changing the regulations or engine formula is really just another way of adding success ballast, wouldn't it be cheaper all round if they either just added ballast? Either that or just shut up and accept that it's for the other teams to catch them up?

OK, handing out the money more evenly is also something to look at but that's not keeping Red Bull, Ferrari Renault or McLaren behind. They've all got sufficient funds to compete.

Oh well, I hope the other do catch Merc and apparently Renault have got the engines turned down at the moment and most teams will bring upgrades next week and more still for Australia......"

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3. Posted by Barslug, 02/03/2018 1:53

"All I can hear in my head is Bender from Futurama saying “Well, we’re boned” "

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4. Posted by alfsboy, 01/03/2018 20:42

"Of course he does. Formula Mercedes ,by design and finance."

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