Lewis Hamilton says his new Mercedes is a beast, but has predicted less overtaking in Formula One this year after struggling to follow other cars on track during the opening day of testing.
Hamilton split the day's running with teammate Valtteri Bottas, with both comfortably completing more than a race distance. He set the fastest time by just over a tenth of a second from Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel, but in doing so also beat his pole position time from last year's Spanish Grand Prix by a quarter of a second.
"It is a beast," he said after getting out the new Mercedes W08. "It is so much better than last year. It is much more beefed up version of the car we have had in previous seasons.
"It was a great first day to get that many laps in and our car looks the best. I think the cars look fantastic, the tyres look fantastic, the wider wheels, the wider body and the wider chassis. Hopefully it is great for the fans."
As part of Formula One's makeover, Pirelli have provided new wider tyres that supply the cars with more mechanical grip. They are also less susceptible to thermal degradation -- meaning the tyres will not drop off in performance as quickly as before -- but Hamilton reiterated that that could have a negative effect on racing.
"I was behind a couple of cars out there and it was harder to follow but that is to be expected. The tyres are so hard. They do not drop off. They keep going and going. So it is most likely we will be doing a lot more one-stoppers and as there is not any degradation less mistakes and less overtaking. That is my prediction." Mercedes set the fastest time and the most laps on the opening day and Hamilton is confident his team is still the reference for its rivals.
"We are still the team to beat in terms of we are the champions still. We have a lot of work ahead of us as does every other team.
"Firstly, people always want to big you up at the beginning of the season. Secondly, we are world champion, and three our car looks a thousand times better than everyone else's so that would be expected!"