Hamilton Ends Final Day of First Test on Top ahead of Vandoorne

Lewis Hamilton set the fastest time of the week in pre-season Formula One testing on Thursday

Lewis Hamilton set the fastest time of the week in pre-season Formula One testing on Thursday

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.

When addressing the media at the launch day for Mercedes' 2018 model, Hamilton told the assembled media: "You have to expect that it could be worse".

After Wednesday's testing at Montmelo was wiped out by the snow, Hamilton made up for lost time with a lap of 1 min 19.333 sec.

Ultimately, the Mercedes driver, with 58 laps under his belt, put in the fastest lap of the day with a 1:22.789s, but Renault's Nico Hulkenberg was hot on heels of the Finn.

The day got off to a damp start, but thankfully not an icy one, and the teams headed to the track on the full wet tyres initially. I'm one that doesn't like testing but today I was really keen to get out because we haven't had many laps, so it was great to get out to get a feel for the tires and the warm-up process and try to stretch the legs a little bit on the new vehicle.

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"We could go to Melbourne now and go for it".

You just focus on getting through the run plan, keeping the auto on track, learning as much as you can and giving constructive feedback so the guys at the factory hearing everything you say can work on everything.

Sauber's duo of Charles Leclerc and Marcus Ericsson finished 13th and 14th.

Running for Ferrari, Sebastian Vettel was conspicuously absent among the front-runners, as the Scuderia driver focused on his specific programme rather than any search for performance. Belgian Stoffel Vandoorne, in the now Renault-powered McLaren after that team's split with Honda at the end of a year ago, did 110 laps and was second quickest although he was using the much faster hyper-soft tyres. When Max Verstappen finally took to a drying track in the afternoon, the RB14 suffered a mechanical issue and had to return to the pits after just a couple of runs.

Pierre Gasly's Honda-powered Toro Rosso led the lap charts with 147. Not many people would have bet on that at the start of the week!

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Mercedes also ended the first test with the second-highest mileage, completing 306 laps.

"The track is quicker than it was, much smoother, a lot more grip so it is hard to tell whether the auto is that much better, how much is track, tyres", he said.

Eventually, Ericsson completed a solid morning's testing.

Not posting his first time until three hours into the day, Verstappen was immediately on the pace.

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

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"I want to make sure that I can bring that championship back to Maranello".

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