Lewis Hamilton believes Mercedes’ new W09 car already feels better than its double title-winning predecessor, after a “positive” run to the fastest time of the first winter test.
The world champion has declared he would already feel ready to go to the Australian season-opener despite completing fewer than 100 laps during the opening week at Barcelona.
“We could go to Melbourne now and just go for it – I just want to race!” he said.
F1 Testing: The conclusions
Hamilton came into Day Four with just 25 laps under his belt at testing after his scheduled runs had coincided with the worst of Barcelona’s bad weather. But he made an eye-catching return to action in Thursday’s dry afternoon running.
The 33-year-old completed 69 laps and set the fastest time of the test – 1:19.333 – by three tenths of a second from Sebastian Vettel despite using harder tyres than the Ferrari driver.
Asked if it felt if Mercedes had made another step with the W09, Hamilton said: “It definitely will, but it will be the same for everyone. Naturally it’s an evolution of last year’s car and we’ve got better tyres and here we’ve got a new [Barcelona track] surface, so that might make things seem even better than it really is.
“But so far it’s good. I was really happy to get out today to be honest. You know I don’t like testing but today I was really keen to get out because we hadn’t had many laps.
“So it was great to get a feel for the tyres, the warm-up process and trying to stretch the legs a little bit on this new car. So far it’s positive.”
He added: “It definitely does feel like a better car compared to last year’s car, so that’s a positive.”
Sebastian Vettel had earlier said four-time champions Mercedes were “favourites” for F1 2018, but Hamilton says he was not yet sizing up the competition.
“In these test days you don’t look at other teams generally,” he said.
Ted Kravitz brings you all the latest news from the paddock on day three of the first pre-season test in Barcelona
“You just focus on getting through the run plan, keeping the car 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.
“I don’t know what they’ve been doing. I’ve seen a couple of them on track but I’ve not even really seen their livery. I just know that it’s red.”
Hamilton sets ominous Test One pace
Hamilton has previously said he anticipates Mercedes to face a three-way battle with Ferrari and Red Bull.
Asked if he wanted a closer fight, he replied: “Definitely. The closer it is the better it is when you win. As simple as that.
“You want it to be a level playing field. There are only these small differences between us as drivers but if it’s only a per cent you want to show that and it’s magnified.”
The Sky Sports F1 Digital team will be providing live commentary from dawn until dusk for every day of the final test while Sky Sports News will also deliver live updates from trackside.