Mercedes new boy Hamilton shrugs off debut crash as ‘a blip’

DIFFICULT DAY - Lewis Hamilton explains his crash on his first day of testing for the Brackley-based Mercedes F1 team
DIFFICULT DAY - Lewis Hamilton explains his crash on his first day of testing for the Brackley-based Mercedes F1 team

Lewis Hamilton is itching to climb back into his Mercedes following a debut accident he has described as nothing more than “a blip”.

In terms of a learning curve with his new Brackley-based team, these past two days have been relatively steep as Hamilton and Nico Rosberg have managed a mere 29 laps between them at the first pre-season test at the Circuito de Jerez.

Rosberg chalked up 14 laps yesterday before an electrical fault caused a small fire and a replacement of the wiring loom.

Taking up the reins from Rosberg today on his maiden outing for the Brackley-based team, Hamilton would naturally have stepped into the cockpit of the W04 hoping for a much smoother ride.

But the 28-year-old, who quit McLaren at the end of last season and signed a three-year deal with Mercedes, was also left a spectator less than two hours and 15 laps into the session.

Hamilton’s car suffered a rear-brake failure, later traced to the hydraulic brake line connecting to the right-rear calliper.

At the end of a long straight with a top speed of 200mph it resulted in the 28-year-old hitting his brakes whilst travelling at 160mph at the turn-six hairpin known as ‘Dry Sack’.

The almost instant failure resulted in Hamilton ploughing through a wide expanse of gravel, and after travelling 70 metres, eventually hitting a tyre barrier at 35mph.

It was certainly not the first day on track of his three years with the team Hamilton had envisaged.

Reflecting on the accident, Hamilton added: “I hit the brake, and for a split second they worked, but then the pedal went straight down. It wouldn’t work any more.

“If all the brakes had stopped working then I would have hit the wall pretty bad.

“After that I just had to brace for impact. It wasn’t a big one. It didn’t feel great initially, but there was nothing much I could do.

“Because I went in straight my legs took a bit of a thump.”

Aside from that, Hamilton emerged unscathed before being forced to undertake a watching brief, as will be the case tomorrow as Rosberg returns before the Briton concludes the test on Friday.

Asked whether he could glean any positives from the experience, he smiled and replied: “Definitely, I’m alive!”

Hamilton then added: “This is what testing is all about.

“What’s happened is disappointing for all of us in the team because everyone has worked so hard over the winter, and we didn’t anticipate this.

“But I’m glad we get things like this out of the way now so we don’t have to worry about it in the future, and I’m glad it hasn’t happened in the last test at Barcelona. That would really suck.

“If there are any more problems to come I hope they come tomorrow or the next day.

“But hopefully this is just a blip. We have a long way to go until Melbourne, with more days of testing and hopefully they will all go smoothly.”

Despite the issues over the past two days, Hamilton’s confidence in Mercedes’ latest car has not been dented.

“I have had so many experiences like this,” said Hamilton.

“I think about the Nurburgring (a crash in the 2007 German Grand Prix) when the wheel came off (his McLaren) and that was a lot more painful, but I got back in the car and got on with it.

“I’ve had lots of crashes in my career and been able to bounce back and overcome them, so I’m not fazed by this.

“I’ve been racing for seven years, so it is not like I am lacking in experience. I am pretty relaxed about it.”

With a time of one minute 19.519secs, Hamilton still managed sixth quickest, a lap he said was “easy, and with plenty more to come”.

Lotus’ Romain Grosjean took the honours for the day with a 1:18.218, quicker by six tenths of a second than Jenson Button’s best from yesterday in his McLaren.

Silverstone-based Force India’s Paul di Resta was 0.785secs adrift in his Force India before the Scot gave way to James Rossiter for the final hour, with the 29-year-old finishing 10th.

Toro Rosso’s Daniel Ricciardo and Mark Webber in his Red Bull were third and fourth fastest, the latter clocking up a day-high 101 laps.

Either side of Hamilton were Sauber’s Nico Hulkenberg and, on his debut for McLaren, Sergio Perez who was 1.254secs adrift.

The Mexican was followed by Massa, Pastor Maldonado in last year’s Williams, Rossiter and Giedo van der Garde for Caterham.

At the rear was another debutant in Marussia’s Luiz Razia, who was finally confirmed as the team’s second driver at the start of the day.