Lewis Hamilton’s return to the test track saw him top the 2009 cars’ unofficial standings in Jerez on Thursday after only Sebastien Bourdais’ interim Toro Rosso was able to go faster.
The Frenchman was no doubt relieved to be back behind the wheel after a long winter of uncertainty while he waited to learn whether or not he would retain his drive.
Meanwhile the three teams testing at Bahrain lamented a lost day – no joke with a testing schedule as tight as this one – after a second standstorm brought proceedings to a complete halt and no times were recorded.
In Spain Bourdais’ machine was still nearly two seconds faster than the new McLaren – but Hamilton topped the with a fastest lap of 1:20.737, beating the Toro Rosso driver’s former team-mate Sebastian Vettel by just one-thousandth of a second.
If this is any sort of indicator of possible on-track action then 2009 could be an exciting year.
In fourth place was Williams’ Kazuki Nakajima little more than a tenth of a second behind Vettel on 1:20.898 while Fernando Alonso’s Renault, clearly still shaking down, was fifth on 1:21.307 following a marathon 133 laps.
McLaren said of the test: “Lewis jumped into the car this morning, picking up where Heikki left off yesterday. He spent the morning concentrating on aero mapping and finding a good balance ahead of the afternoon’s long runs.
“The day was extremely productive and saw the team continue its work with its KERS programme.”
Hamilton added: “Today’s test gave me the first opportunity to drive MP4-24 in warm, dry conditions – and I’m very encouraged by what I felt. The car feels strong, very similar to last year’s car, in fact.
“It doesn’t take long to get used to the new [KERS and front-wing flap] buttons in the cockpit but the real test for everyone now is to understand the slick tyres ahead of the first race in Melbourne next month.”
Jerez test times day three
- Sebastien Bourdais, Toro Rosso: 1:18.493 (128 laps)
- Lewis Hamilton, McLaren: 1:20.737 (93 laps)
- Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull: 1:20.738 (92 laps)
- Kazuki Nakajima, Williams: 1:20.898 (92 laps)
- Fernando Alonso, Renault: 1:21.307 (133 laps)