Hamilton hits the wall in first Mercedes test

Wed Feb 6, 2013 1:27pm EST
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By Alan Baldwin

JEREZ, Spain (Reuters) - Lewis Hamilton escaped unscathed from a high-speed scare that brought a premature end to his Formula One test debut with Mercedes on Wednesday.

The 2008 world champion was doing about 300kph at the end of the straight when his rear brakes failed and pitched his car off the track, across the gravel and head-on into the tire wall at the Jerez circuit.

Mercedes put the impact, after just 15 laps and only an hour and 48 minutes into the morning session, at around 60kph and the damage to the front suspension was enough to rule out any further track time for the day.

"I hit the brake, and for a split second it was working, but then the pedal just went straight down. It wouldn't work anymore. Then I just had to brace for impact," the 28-year-old former McLaren driver told reporters.

Asked if there were still some positives from the day, he smiled and replied: "Definitely. I'm alive."

The crash, at the Dry Sack corner made notorious in 1997 when title rivals Michael Schumacher and Jacques Villeneuve collided there in the decisive 1997 European Grand Prix, compounded a difficult start to testing for Mercedes.

The British-based team are already under pressure to succeed after a lackluster three years with now-retired seven times champion Michael Schumacher and have signed Hamilton to spearhead their challenge.

Their first pre-season test of the new car had already got off to a difficult start on Tuesday when an electrical problem and brief flare-up sidelined Germany's Nico Rosberg for the whole day after just 14 laps.   Continued...

Mercedes Formula One racing driver Lewis Hamilton of Britain attends a news conference at the Jerez racetrack in southern Spain February 4, 2013. REUTERS/Marcelo del Pozo