Lewis Hamilton relished his return to the cockpit during testing in Portugal this week – the first time he has driven a Formula One car since winning the world championship in Brazil last year.
Despite completing only 27 laps on his first day of action due to poor weather at the Autodromo do Algarve circuit – not to mention what the team described as a “precautionary engine systems shutdown” – defending world champion was quick to get to grips with the new KERS-fitted McLaren MP4-24, which he unveiled at McLaren’s headquarters in Woking the week before.
Hamilton, who spent the winter training and relaxing in Switzerland, said it felt as if he had never been away.
“It was good to be back working with the team – it felt like I d hardly been away because it was easy to slip back into the routine,” he reflected after setting a best time of 1m30.242.”
“It s amazing to think that, while I ve been to Woking throughout the winter, I haven t properly driven a Formula 1 car since the Brazilian Grand Prix two months ago, but everything very quickly felt normal today.”
“This first test was all about just getting used to the new car and the new regulations and about giving my feedback to the engineers; it wasn t about setting a fast time. I m pleased to report that the car feels good, we ve made lots of progress over the winter and I m looking forward to developing the car ahead of the Australian Grand Prix.”
With a ban on in-season testing coming into force Hamilton is under no allusions of the significance of McLaren’s pre-season programme.
“It s going to be an extremely busy winter,” he said. “I ve only been in the car for one day and our usual joblist for the weeks ahead is already enormous. With the limitations on testing during the season, and the few sessions we have over the next two months, this is going to be an intense time and absolutely critical for every team.”