Mercedes set blistering pace in opening test ahead of 2017 F1 season

Lewis Hamilton puts the new Mercedes car to the test
Lewis Hamilton puts the new Mercedes car to the test

Preparations for the new F1 season stepped up a few gears this week when all teams took to the track for the first time ahead of the 2017 World Championship which starts later this month.

The Circuit de Catalunya in Barcelona, Spain, has been alive with action as the first of two pre-Australian Grand Prix tests has allowed the new 2017 specification cars to be seen for the first time.

Reigning world champions, Brackley-based Mercedes, have been predictably swift around the track, setting fast times with their new W08 car.

The hybrid-powered machine, totally new from last year’s championship winning W07, has been on display with both Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas at the wheel.

Hamilton undertook driving duties on the opening day before his new team-mate Bottas took over at the wheel for the very first time.

Mercedes launched the car at a windswept Silverstone last week, before transporting equipment to Spain, with Hamilton commenting: “The new car is amazing and I’m loving driving it. I think we have a great chance this season.

“These cars are very exciting and I think the fans will really enjoy them as they are much faster and look altogether better.”

Bottas added: “It was a special feeling to go on-track as a driver of a famous Silver Arrow. Mercedes have such a fantastic heritage in the sport and I am proud to be part of their F1 story.”

The highly-rated Finn, who has joined Mercedes from Williams for the 2017 season, quickly found pace and was clocking impressive times.

Also fresh from a car launch at Silverstone last week, locally-based Sahara Force India took their VJM10-Mercedes to the test with driving duo Sergio Perez and Esteban Ocon.

Both took turns at the wheel, with Perez saying: “This is really about us trying to work through various issues and develop the car ahead of the opening race.”

Ocon, making his debut in a Force India car, said: “This was a memorable day for me. This was the first time I felt like I was a proper F1 driver.

“I believe we can have a really good season, and from my short time in the car, I think we have a package that can certainly be in a position to battle for podium finishes.

“Obviously we don’t fully know what everyone is capable of yet, as this is just testing, but I am confident for the team.”

The test concluded on Thursday, with the second test to take place next week, again in Barcelona.