Lewis Hamilton confident W05 can go even quicker despite fastest time on final day
But newly-installed 2014 favourite refusing to rule out Red Bull
By Pete Gill
Last Updated: 04/03/14 1:38pm
In a stunning late burst with less than an hour of Day Four in Bahrain remaining, Hamilton blitzed the field with a time of 1:33.278.
Although the Briton's effort was a fraction slower than the best time set in the two tests at Bahrain this winter, a 1:33.258 by Williams' Felipe Massa on Day Three of week two, the 2008 World Champion's lap was seven-tenths faster than any other driver managed on Sunday as the field completed its preparations for the new season.
Mercedes have confirmed that Hamilton's fastest time was set on the first of his two runs on the supersoft tyre, with Hamilton abandoning his second effort after going even quicker in the first sector and adamant afterwards that his new car had still not been fully stretched.
"There's a lot more to come," insisted Hamilton. "I did two runs on the supersofts - the first run was not very good, part of the lap was okay but there were a few mistakes, and then the second run was terrible. But that's just part and parcel of trying to learn how to extract the most from those tyres and now that I know there's a whole heap more grip to come from those tyres I'll set up the car better to extract it."
Reviewing what Hamilton termed a "weird" pre-season in which the 11 teams' attempts to grapple with a complex and revolutionary set of regulations consistently produced wildly divergent lap times and a spate of car failures, the Mercedes driver was particularly coy when pressed to assess his chances of landing a second world title.
"All I can say is that we will definitely be shooting for the top five!" he dead-batted to reporters. "There were loads of stuff we could have done and we could do with another couple of weeks of testing but I'm sure that's the same for everyone!"
There would certainly be no argument with that assertion from World Champions Red Bull after they completed the fewest miles in testing with the exception of minnows Marussia and, after they missed the Jerez test, Lotus.
Yet despite Red Bull's pronounced winter woes, Hamilton is refusing to write off Sebastian Vettel and the Milton Keynes outfit as they seek a fifth consecutive title double.
"They look like they have a stunning car and usually the more beautiful it is, the faster it is, so I'm sure they have a fast car this year. Once they have the engine sorted they will be tough to beat," he mused.
"But I know my team is stronger than ever."