• British driver’s car runs heavier fuel load in Barcelona
• Hamilton aiming at podium in F1 opener at Melbourne
Lewis Hamilton brought the new McLaren home in ninth place in testing on Friday, behind such teams as Toro Rosso, Force India, Sauber and Caterham. But he then warned his more serious rivals at Red Bull and Ferrari that the team were preferring to keep their powder dry until the opening race of the F1 season in Melbourne in two weeks’ time.
Hamilton, in fact, was running heavier fuel loads than many of the other cars and said: “We won’t take the fuel out [to make the car lighter] until Melbourne.”
He added: “The car is strong. Stronger than it was last year. I think we are relatively strong compared to the others. I am not saying we are the fastest – we will find out when we get to Melbourne.
“But I definitely think we have a competitive car and should be fighting for a podium.”
The feeling in the paddock is that Red Bull, who have dominated the past two seasons, may still have the edge going into the new season.
But McLaren are delighted that they have at least put last year’s nightmare start behind them, when they failed to do enough mileage in pre-season testing.
Hamilton did not do much mileage on Thursday, because the car stopped for a number of changes. But the mileage chart for the past two days has been good.
Hamilton said: “The car’s better this week. A little bit better, set-up wise. We haven’t improved the car anywhere else, in terms of aerodynamics, just yet. But I’m sure the next couple of days we could get a better picture of what the car’s going to be like in Australia.”
Hamilton had the worst year of his career last season but he said: “I have come a long way in six years and I am still learning today.
“I am applying the things I have learned over those six years in a better way than I have in previous years. I am in a good place and I am making right choices. My mind is in the right place for the season.”
The Lotus driver Romain Grosjean was the fast driver for second successive day. He was third fastest in the morning and backed that up with even more competitive running in the afternoon session.
Jean-Eric Vergne was second fastest in a Toro Rosso – even though the car briefly caught fire after developing an engine problem and champion Sebastian Vettel’s Red Bull came third.