Racing

Hamilton: We're still the team to beat

Briton claims his 'beast' of a Mercedes is even better than last year's car

Lewis Hamilton fired a warning to his title rivals, after his "beast" of a Mercedes dominated the first two days of pre-season testing in Barcelona.

The three-time world champion clocked the fastest lap of 1min 21.765sec on Monday, and topped the timing charts again in the first session on Tuesday evening (Singapore time) with 1:20.963.

The Briton also completed more laps than any driver on both days.

"I definitely put my body to the test today," said the 32-year-old on Monday.

"These test days are like training. It was good to feel the wider, beefier car. It's faster, more physical... it's a beast.

"You've got to drive it a bit differently. It's so much better than last year's cars."

Hamilton added: "I still think we're the team to beat, but we have a lot of work ahead of us to do."

Hamilton completed 66 trouble-free laps - the equivalent length of a race distance - yesterday before handing over testing duties to his new team-mate Valtteri Bottas after lunch.

Timings from the latter session were not available at press time.

In last night's session, Ferrari were second to Mercedes - Kimi Raikkonen managed 47 laps and was 1.8 seconds slower than Hamilton - while there was yet more trouble for McLaren.

Fernando Alonso missed the majority of Monday's running following an oil leak, and Stoffel Vandoorne, who has replaced Jenson Button this year, encountered further engine woes last night.

Vandoorne stopped at the entry to the pit lane after completing only a handful of laps early on, and then had to be pushed back to his garage by McLaren mechanics.

Later in last night's session, the Belgian lost power from his Honda engine, which then had to be replaced.

This means that the British team will be in a race against time, with just eight days of testing ahead of the new season.

Jolyon Palmer, the only other British driver beyond Hamilton on the grid this year, was also due to get his first proper taste of the new Renault.

But the 26-year-old completed just one lap after his team spent the session fitting new parts to his car, which arrived in Barcelona overnight.

With radically new rules, the 2017 Formula 1 cars are wider and more powerful than their predecessors.

And, combined with Pirelli's wider tyres, their extra oomph was plain to see in Barcelona, with the fastest lap time for the entire eight days of last year's testing lowered several times on Monday.

While the general view from the pits was that the 2017 cars mixed style with power, the one bone of contention was the addition of the prominent "shark fins" rising from the airbox behind the driver's head.

"I think the cars look fantastic, the only thing that lets them down is the shark fins," said Red Bull boss Christian Horner.

The opening test of the season concludes on Thursday, with another four-day session starting next Monday, ahead of the opening Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne on March 26. - WIRE SERVICES

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