Lewis Hamilton walked away from a heavy crash after putting in the first laps of Formula 1’s new turbo era in testing with Mercedes on Tuesday, on a day that saw very little running as teams were caught flat footed and unprepared for the first test of the new season.
Twin black streaks of scorched tyre rubber at the end of the Jerez pit straight marked the asphalt where Hamilton, the 2008 World Champion, had locked up and slammed into the tyre wall.
Mercedes blamed the incident on a front wing failure, on the Briton’s 18th lap of the day, after they investigated the damaged car. Witnesses said that the front wing appeared to break off.
Coincidentally Hamilton also crashed last year in his first test for Mercedes, after moving from McLaren, whose car had yet to break cover on a remarkably quiet Tuesday with all teams grappling with the new Power Units.
The Woking outfit did not turn a wheel on day one, summed up their day, “Today was a challenging start to the MP4-29’s test and development programme. Along with other teams, we faced difficulties [in] readying our new car for the first winter test of 2014.”
By lunchtime only Hamilton and Toro Rosso’s Frenchman Jean-Eric Vergne had set timed laps and only five cars had been seen in action.
One of them was Kimi Raikkonen’s Ferrari, which brought out the first red flag of the day when it stopped out on the circuit early on.
With a thin new moon still visible over the circuit, Hamilton eased the sleek looking F1 W05 out of the pitlane shortly after 09:00 local (08:00 GMT) for an installation lap before silence resumed.
Formula 1 has ditched the ear-splitting 2.4 litre V8 engines for a new turbocharged 1.6 litre V6 with complex energy recovery systems and more emphasis on fuel economy.
Hamilton’s opening lap, the first public appearance of a new car on track, indicated that the whinier and less rasping sound would take some getting used to.
Mercedes, who carried out a private 40 km shakedown at Silverstone with Germany’s Nico Rosberg on Friday, presented the car in the pitlane shortly after dawn with Champions Red Bull taking the wraps off their RB10 challenger minutes later.
More than four hours after the test started, Red Bull’s quadruple World Champion Sebastian Vettel had still to appear on track as the team worked on an unspecified problem that had emerged overnight. As a result by the end of the day there was no lap time next to his name on the timing screens.
“Obviously the car is still extremely new and still being completed as we speak and I think there was just a small setup issue that the guys want to have correct before we go out on track,” principal Christian Horner told reporters.
“Hopefully that will be in the very near future.”
Hamilton, in his second season with the German team and now with the chosen number 44 on his car, said before getting down to work, that his car looked fantastic.
“So aggressive but full of really nice details as well. I’m excited to find out how the new Power Unit feels to drive, to hear how it sounds from the cockpit and to compare the job we have done relative to the competition,” he added.
“I think this is probably the season with the most unknowns that I have faced in my career and that’s just so exciting for all of us.”
While some of the new cars have been startling in appearance, with eye-catching protruding ‘noses’ to meet new regulations dictated by safety considerations, the top two teams from 2013 came up with neater solutions.
“The new car is an elegant but aggressive design and, as is often the way, it’s beauty is much more than skin deep,” commented Mercedes technical executive director Paddy Lowe. “The internal engineering of the car is extremely innovative and intelligent.”
Williams, had a low key day without a launch of any sorts in the pitlane, but managed some laps late in the day with Valtteri Bottas driving the new FW36.
Ten of the 11 teams – all but Lotus – are in Jerez for the test but tail-enders Marussia and Caterham hit early problems.
Marussia’s car was still on it’s way to Jerez after being delayed at the factory by what Team Principal John Booth called a “small but frustrating teething problem”.
Malaysian-owned Caterham delayed their car presentation due, according to their Twitter feed, to “some last minute issues [in] bolting it together”.
“The trials and tribulations of a completely new car have conspired against us today,” they added. (Reuters)
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