Nightmare start for Hamilton

  • Last Updated: March 14 2014, 21:07 GMT

Lewis Hamilton endured a wretched start to the new Formula One season as he mustered just half a lap before his Mercedes ground to a halt.

Lewis Hamilton: Not the start he was looking for
Lewis Hamilton: Not the start he was looking for

Following a strong pre-season campaign from Mercedes as the Brackley-based marque completed more laps than any of their rivals, bookmakers installed Hamilton as favourite for the championship.

The new regulations, however, have resulted in the build of highly complex and technical cars, even if they are supposed to be greener and leaner.

It means there are teething problems, as all the teams encountered over the 12 days of testing, with reliability over speed the core ingredient to initial success.

Unfortunately for Hamilton, his Mercedes required a power unit change - due to a problem with an ancillary system - ahead of the opening 90-minute practice session for the curtain-raising Australian Grand Prix on Sunday.

On his installation lap the 29-year-old had made it through nine of the 16 corners when he was forced to stop.

Via a radio message Hamilton said: "Car's stopped. Got smoke coming out of the back. Engine just cut out," to which race engineer Pete Bonnington replied: "Looks like we've got an engine kill."

With no flat-bed trucks available in practice, unlike in testing as the cars are returned to the garage to be fixed, it meant Hamilton's session was immediately over after less than five minutes.

The team later discovered an oil pressure alarm had resulted in a precautionary engine shutdown, which should ensure the Briton is back on track for the second session.

On Hamilton's disconsolate return to the Mercedes paddock building, dressed in his full race suit and with helmet on, there was a comedy moment as a security guard asked him to show his pass.

Hamilton was not the only driver, though, who ran into trouble as Lotus' Romain Grosjean sat out the entire session.

Lotus missed the first test in Jerez due to the late build of their car, whilst over the course of the second and third in Bahrain they completed fewest kilometres due to countless problems.

Team-mate Pastor Maldonado did venture out, but ran into problems on only his second lap as puffs of smoke filtered out from his cockpit.

Like Lotus, Caterham are also supplied by Renault, who struggled in pre-season as they encountered issue after issue that limited their running to less than half that of Mercedes.

Both Marcus Ericsson and Kamui Kobayashi completed one installation lap apiece, and that was it as the Swede's car had an electrical fault, whilst the Japanese was laid low by a fuel-system glitch.

Reigning world champion Sebastian Vettel had to wait 50 minutes prior to taking to the Albert Park track in his Red Bull, managing 10 laps and finishing seventh quickest.

Overall, it was Ferrari's Fernando Alonso who topped the timesheet, albeit with a lap 4.6secs slower than the fastest from FP1 last year set by Vettel.

Alonso set a time of one minute 31.840secs, half a second quicker than McLaren's Jenson Button and Williams duo Valtteri Bottas and Felipe Massa.

It was not all doom and gloom for Renault as Daniel Ricciardo ran for 26 laps in his Red Bull and was fifth overall ahead of Mercedes' Nico Rosberg and then Vettel.

For Toro Rosso, also powered by Renault, Jean-Eric Vergne and rookie Daniel Kvyat completed 30 and 27 laps respectively.

Last on the timings was Marussia's Max Chilton, over 15 seconds down and with only four laps to his name as the 22-year-old also ran into gremlins.

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