Hamilton enjoys best ever start to testing

Mon Feb 22, 2016 1:52pm EST
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By Alan Baldwin

BARCELONA (Reuters) - Triple Formula One world champion Lewis Hamilton completed the equivalent of nearly 2-1/2 race distances on what he said ranked as his best ever start to pre-season testing on Monday.

The Mercedes driver completed a whopping 156 laps at the Circuit de Catalunya -- where the Spanish Grand Prix lasts for 66 -- to eclipse the mileage of all his rivals as the new cars hit the track for the first time.

Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel, who was fastest overall and 0.470 of a second quicker than the 31-year-old Briton, did 69 laps in total.

"Today is just a real show of just how amazing this team is," said Hamilton. "From as far as I can remember, and I've been driving a long time, I'm certain this is the most impressive first day I've had," he added.

"If you look back at the first days I've had in 2013 and maybe 2014, I had those glitches with the brakes so it's nice to have a clean day without any issues with the car. Really just go above and beyond."

Hamilton, champion in 2014 and 2015 with Mercedes, had completed a race distance by lunchtime and told reporters anxious for first impressions that the car felt just like last year's dominant one.

Mercedes won 16 of 19 races last year, taking both the driver and constructor titles, and have triumphed in 32 of the last 38 grands prix.

Valtteri Bottas was third quickest in a Mercedes-powered Williams in the morning but Red Bull's Daniel Ricciardo ended the day in that position with the Finn fourth.   Continued...

Mercedes Formula One driver Lewis Hamilton of Britain drives his new Mercedes F1 W07 hybrid car during the first testing session ahead of the upcoming season at the Circuit Catalunya-Barcelona in Montmelo, Spain, February 22, 2016. REUTERS/Sergio Perez