Lewis Hamilton described his latest test shunt as nothing more than “a hiccup” on the day he ushered in Formula 1’s new turbo era with an unwanted bang.
At precisely 9am local time yesterday, Hamilton and the new Mercedes W05 were the first to take to the circuit at Jerez on the opening day of the first pre-season test, which proved to be a nightmare for all on show.
A front-wing failure led to Hamilton hammering nose first into a barrier at the end of the start-finish straight, with the exact cause of the incident currently under investigation.
Mercedes will hope that the repairs can be made ahead of Nico Rosberg’s run today.
For Hamilton, it was the second time in successive years he had been let down by his Mercedes on the first day of testing, as 12 months ago a rear-brake failure brought his maiden outing to a premature end.
Attempting to extract the positives, Hamilton said: “Apart from the ending it has generally been quite a positive day.
“After a tough winter for everyone, to be the first car on track and put in the most laps up until when we finished, was a huge positive step for us.
“You have to remember this is a testing ground, the place to have hiccups, and we’ll overcome them because we have a great team here.”
Hamilton managed 18 laps overall but refused to offer too much of an insight into any feeling gained from the car, or a comparison to that of recent years. Instead, the 29-year-old was just relieved to be unharmed as he added: “Any crash is big, but it’s okay. I was able to walk away. I’ve no bumps or bruises at the moment, but I might do tomorrow.”
It was not the ending envisaged to the first day of F1’s supposedly bright new dawn.
Turbo powertrains may be back in the sport, but the complexities of the unit and the new-for-2014 ERS (energy recovery system) resulted in a day of headaches and frustration for the teams. By comparison to the last two years, when 718 laps were covered after day one at Jerez in 2012 and 657 last year, on this occasion the nine teams on show managed a paltry 91 between them.
For reigning world champions Red Bull, “a silly overnight problem”, as described by chief technical officer Adrian Newey, turned into one of considerable significance.
Four-times drivers champion Sebastian Vettel managed just three untimed laps, all in the final 15 minutes of the eight-hour session. Bearing in mind the car only passed the FIA’s mandatory crash tests ten days ago, team principal Christian Horner was still proud of his team for the effort over the past few months.
“Obviously the car is still extremely new,” said Horner. “But it’s been epic this winter, because the car’s an awfully lot more complicated. There are probably 40 per cent more drawings required to produce the car and the necessary parts to be manufactured as well, so the effort that has gone in from the team has been Herculean.
“To have a car here at the first test is an achievement in itself.”
Asked if it was touch and go that Red Bull were in Jerez, Horner said: “You are always sailing close to the wind, but that’s the nature of Formula 1. It’s all about pushing the boundaries and extracting the most out of ourselves, and that’s something Red Bull has been strong at in the last few years.”
While Vettel managed three laps, Jenson Button spent all day twiddling his thumbs as the new McLaren suffered electrical gremlins. Out in front was Kimi Raikkonen, back in a Ferrari that ground to a halt on its first lap, but accumulating 31 overall.
Raikkonen’s fastest was one minute 27.104 seconds – eight seconds slower than the best on opening day a year ago. Hamilton, Williams’ Valtteri Bottas, Jean-Eric Vergne for Toro Rosso, Force India’s Sergio Perez and Esteban Gutierrez for Sauber were the only other drivers to set a time. Marussia are hopeful of being on track today after missing the day with their own technical issues, while Lotus are not running until the second test in Bahrain next month.