Hamilton itching to race after setting Barca benchmark

Lewis Hamilton

Lewis Hamilton topped the fourth day of pre-season testing as he finally notched up a decent day of mileage in the new Mercedes W09.

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). New Zealand driver Brendon Hartley did not take the track on day four.

"It's hard to say whether the car's that much better or how much of that is the track and how much is the grip". So far it's positive.

"It definitely does feel like a better vehicle compared to last year's auto, so that's a positive".

Ferrari driver Vettel is expected to close the cap to Hamilton this year after losing out on the title to his fierce English rival last season.

"The closer it is, the better it is when you win", he said. "You want the guys you are racing with on a level playing field so you can really show the differences between us as drivers".

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One would imagine that as he heads off for the weekend, in his mind's eye, Lewis Hamilton is already preparing a space in his trophy cabinet for the fifth title that will put him alongside Juan-Manuel Fangio. "I don't normally like testing but we hadn't had many miles so I was keen to stretch the legs on the new auto and so far it is positive".

"The track is quicker than it was in the past".

It's silly to read too much into testing times and performance, just as free practice session results aren't always indicative of race performance.

As was the case past year he was eager to insist his rivals had the early advantage.

However, Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel thinks that Mercedes is clearly the favourite. So it's a long time from here to the end of the season'.

Vettel led the title race until the 13th round at Monza in 2017 and at times enjoyed a distinct advantage over Hamilton.

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"For my mindset, if I am at my best then I should have no problems", he said.

"It's always tricky when everyone is so excited, they have a new auto, and you're not able to tick all the boxes and can't find an answer to all the questions that you have".

"The next few days we'll get a better understanding".

We could go to Melbourne now and just go for it - I just want to race! he said.

"Having run in the morning, he was comfortable in the vehicle already and we would have lost about an hour of running time with the driver switch".

McLaren appeared to be settling in well with new engine provider Renault, whose works team has been tipped by Wolff to make the biggest step up of any this year. They lost time when a wheel came off on day one and to an exhaust issue damaging wiring on day two. He was second fastest, albeit on the fastest, hypersoft rubber.

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