Lewis Hamilton gave the new Mercedes W08 its first exploratory laps at windy Silverstone today, before handing the car over to team newcomer Valtteri Bottas.
The Mercedes is the second car to run on track, after Marcus Ericsson gave the Sauber its first mileage at Barcelona on Wednesday.
“In all honesty, it is so exciting to see this thing come together,” said Hamilton if the new car. “These guys are working in the wind tunnel, then they have this jig which is obviously not the real carbon fibre, faster prototype parts, then you see it all come together, do the seat fit over the winter, and then in last couple of days seeing it bit by bit just appearing out of all the different departments, all finished. Somehow they all just slot in perfectly.”
Hamilton said he already had a positive impression from the bigger tyres.
“Driving today, naturally the car feels wider, which it is obviously, so the front tyres feel huge, there is quite a lot of grip already even in the cold conditions here. This is not a test, the laps I did today were behind a vehicle to get filming in, and then it’s really just a shakedown – so you do a couple of slow laps just to see if the car will run.
“So it is not actually a test. I got to go a little bit faster in some places, but it’s so gusty here, so it’s quite tricky, and it’s wet, so I was on slicks on a damp track. The car honestly just feels almost identical to last years car in terms of the ergonomics, the seat position and steering, but then you’ve got bigger and this more powerful beast around you.”
Hamilton stressed that there’s still a lot of work to do.
“Finding the limits of the car is the big question mark, where is the limit of the car where is the limit of tyres? At what point is the car going to roll over tyre and oversteer, understeer, or lock up. So that’s what we have to do. You basically have learn to walk as fast as you can before you run, and when we get to Barcelona that’s when where that comes into play.
“Then we have to understand how to switch these tyres on, if it’s a one lap or two warm-up laps or more, and then how long the tyres last, how you utilise the life of the tyres over a long run, so part through test we will get into race runs, which is gruelling, because you go in, you do your pit stops, and it’s practice for everyone. The tyres are bigger and heavier, so the mechanics are going to have to be bulking up a little bit to lift these tyres.”