Lewis Hamilton’s opening day for Mercedes at the Australian Grand Prix was marred by a minor crash and a lonely walk back to the paddock but the former world champion said he was “massively happy” about his new team’s practice sessions on Friday.
The 28-year-old Briton clocked the seventh fastest time of the day in the second session before driving over the gravel and into a wall at turn six of Albert Park, a mishap his team blamed on a bodywork problem that caused him to understeer.
Hamilton’s team mate Nico Rosberg upstaged the Briton by finishing third fastest behind Red Bull’s pace-setting Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber, but the German’s car ground to a halt with a gearbox problem near the end of the day’s action.
“A really good day, a surprisingly good day. Really positive,” Hamilton gushed to reporters in the paddock. “Obviously there’s been a couple of issues but they weren’t hard to fix. I think it’s too early to say we’re ‘best of the rest’ but I think we’re definitely up there, which I’m massively happy about, really.”
Having left McLaren after six seasons which included winning the 2008 drivers’ championship, Hamilton’s minor crash on Friday may have revived unpleasant memories of his opening day of winter testing with Mercedes.
Hamilton ploughed into a wall at high speed when his rear brakes failed early into his first session but escaped unscathed.
With his move to a team that has underperformed in its three seasons under heavy scrutiny, Hamilton has been unfailingly diplomatic throughout the teething problems and was not about to let the good cheer slip.
“I wasn’t expecting to be as competitive as we are… It’s not been the smoothest of Fridays but it is only a Friday,” he said.
Noting the competition, however, Hamilton could only shake his head at Red Bull’s impressive practice times, that came despite the British-based team’s underwhelming performances at winter testing.
“They’ve have obviously been sand-bagging it the whole time in winter as expected and all of a sudden they’ve pulled out (that) time,” he said.
“But I have to say I don’t feel we’re miles away. We’ve come from being really far away, to being not too far away from Red Bull and that’s impressive.” (Reuters)