Hamilton leads busy day as F1 tests resume after snowfall

The world champion has declared he would already feel ready to go to the Australian season-opener despite completing fewer than 100 laps during the opening week at Barcelona. I think Mercedes is the favorite going into this year, so if we can be close - very close - closer than last year then that would be great.

The world champion headed into Thursday's outing with just 25 laps to his name this week due to the poor weather at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya. What is less clear is what is going on at Red Bull, with Verstappen having very little running, and then going off at turn 12, bringing out the second red flag of the day as the Red Bull was recovered.

Hamilton posted a lap of 1 minute, 19.333 seconds, the best of the week. Hamilton felt the new W09 seemed a much better auto than last year's "diva", a nickname bestowed on it early on by team boss Toto Wolff for its sometimes twitchy and temperamental behaviour. In terms of laps, it was the Japanese manufacturer's most successful test day since returning to the sport in 2015 and means Toro Rosso was only beaten for mileage on Thursday by McLaren. "To get a feel for the new auto and so far it is positive. It definitely does feel like a better auto so that's a positive".

"So far things are looking OK", the four-time champion said, "but there has been very limited running for everyone so it is very hard to judge - not just yourself, but also judge compared to the others".

The team said a broken exhaust clip had led to hot gases being blown back onto a wiring loom which included the brake wire.

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Vettel, whose Ferrari was quicker than the Mercedes on certain tracks last season, also made the most of the warmer weather by completing 120 laps; he was third fastest, nine-tenths behind Hamilton. "But I would say that about anyone, its nothing about Valtteri. It is up to me how I perform on track, and I'll decide if I'll show muscle when it's needed", Sport24 quoted Bottas, as saying. "I've not even seen their livery, I just know it's red".

Australian Daniel Ricciardo, who will be out of contract at Red Bull, and young Mercedes protege Esteban Ocon, who is now with Force India, are two strong candidates should Bottas fall short of what is required.

Asked if he wanted a closer fight, he replied: Definitely.

"The closer it is, the better it is when you win", he said. As simple as that. You just want to make sure the vehicle is running.

"You want to make sure you bring it back".

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