Hamilton fastest as F1 wraps up first test of 2018

Christian Horner

After getting the better for his fellow four-time F1 world champion previous year, including their on-track clash behind the safety vehicle during the Azerbaijan Grand Prix, Hamilton wants Vettel in his best form so he can deliver a mental blow in their race to a fifth title in 2018.

"I think Mercedes is the favourite going into this year, so if we can be close - very close - closer than last year then that would be great". So it's a long time from here to the end of the season'.

"So it was great to get a feel for the tyres, the warm-up process and trying to stretch the legs a little bit on this new vehicle".

"Definitely the closer it is the better it is when you win", he grinned.

"It was really satisfying to have done so many laps", Gasly said. It is not the best of readings but it is positive. "But the W09 feels like last year's big sister." .

Because of the very cold and wet weather over the previous three days, including Wednesday being written off due to snow, Hamilton had completed only 25 laps and those with a low track temperature that prevented the auto being pushed to its limit.

McLaren took advantage of the opportunity to finally manage a serious amount of laps after reliability problems affected them on the first two days.

The reigning world champion clocked 69 laps en route to the top of the timesheet - a 1m19.333s set on medium tyres proving to be the fastest time of the day.

And he did it on the medium Pirelli tyres, slower than the ones used by Ferrari - whose best lap was a 1:19.673 by Sebastian Vettel on softs on Tuesday.

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Haas F1 was next up in the timesheets with Kevin Magnussen's best of 1m20.317s, set on supersoft tyres, while the team completed a total of 187 laps in the course of the test.

The mix of tyres underlines the difficulty of reading true competitiveness from the list of headline times - and that's before considering that the teams will also have had varying fuel loads and engine modes, both of which can make significant differences to lap times.

"So far things are looking OK", the four-time champion said, "but there has been very limited running for everyone so it is very hard to judge - not just yourself, but also judge compared to the others".

"To be honest though it's not that important in the first week".

"He did great in the last couple of races which is awesome and I'€m expecting him to be in tip-top shape", Hamilton said. We see from there.

'But it's a long year.

It was a busy day at the Circuit de Catalunya-Barcelona on Thursday (NZT Friday) after snowfall and cold temperatures had kept most cars in the garage on Wednesday (NZT Thursday).

Bottas joined the German team past year, replacing the retired Nico Rosberg, and produced a mixed debut season with three grand-prix wins, four poles and two fastest laps over the 20 races.

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