Lewis Hamilton enjoyed his new ‘beast’ of a car when he topped the times as Mercedes and Ferrari made impressive starts on an action-packed opening day of pre-season testing in Spain on Monday.
The three-time champion, who was beaten to the title by his now-retired team-mate Nico Rosberg last season, came out quickest with a best first day time of one minute and 21.765 at the Circuit de Catalunya.
That was enough for the Englishman to outpace four-time champion German Sebastian Vettel by a tenth of a second in the afternoon session, the Ferrari man having been quickest in the morning ahead of Mercedes new boy Finn Valtteri Bottas.
In his first outing as Hamilton’s latest team-mate, Bottas clocked a best time of 1:23.169, finishing the day sixth behind the top two, third-placed Brazilian Felipe Massa, back from retirement, for Williams, Dane Kevin Magnussen for Haas and Australian Daniel Ricciardo in his Red Bull.
"It has been a good day, a positive day for the team," said Hamilton. "Lots of laps and information gained so we can try to improve the car."
Asked how he enjoyed his first experience in the faster and fatter cars, that are expected to be up to five seconds a lap quicker, he said: “The G forces are definitely higher. The load on the drivers is a considerable amount more than before. It is a lot more physical.
"I was always trying to pick up the speed through the corners and you have to drive a little bit different. It is a beast. It is so much better than last year!"
Hamilton added that the new tyres, designed to allow drivers to push flat-out for longer, had worked well.
"Normally you have a lot of degradation in these tyres but these ones don't, but there is not a lot of performance at the beginning of the tyre. They are very consistent, hard tyres. There is not a big difference from early on to later. There is a bit of a drop-off but not massive."
Hamilton came out using a shark-fin engine cover in the afternoon, but his best lap came after the Mercedes team reverted to the regular launch specification design.
As well as topping the times, Mercedes also completed the most laps on Monday with Hamilton adding 73 to Bottas's tally of 79, giving the team a total of 152.
Ferrari and Williams also broke the 100-lap mark with 128 and 103 respectively.
After a troubled morning, when a broken sensor and a battery issue on his RB13 car restricted him to only four laps, Ricciardo bounced back to complete 50 laps by the end of the afternoon.
Mexican Sergio Perez was seventh for Force India, despite losing much of the afternoon with a broken exhaust, followed by Spaniard Carlos Sainz of Toro Rosso and German Nico Hulkenberg in his first run with Renault.
Two-time champion Spaniard Fernando Alonso managed to complete a total of 29 laps after an oil leak in the morning in his McLaren-Honda. He was 10th fastest.
Opening day times:
- Lewis Hamilton (GB) Mercedes 1:21.765 *
- Sebastian Vettel (Ger) Ferrari 1:21.878
- Felipe Massa (Brz) Williams 1:22.076 *
- Kevin Magnussen (Den) Haas 1:22.894 *
- Daniel Ricciardo (Aus) Red Bull 1:22.926 *
- Valtteri Bottas (Fin) Mercedes 1:23.169 *
- Sergio Perez (Mex) Force India 1:23.709 *
- Carlos Sainz (Spa) Toro Rosso 1:24.494
- Nico Hulkenberg (Ger) Renault 1:24.784
- Fernando Alonso (Spa) McLaren 1:24.852 *