Formula One: World champion Hamilton sets pace in Barcelona pre-season testing

Hamilton gets into his car during the tests for the new Formula One Grand Prix season. PHOTO: AFP

MONTMELO, SPAIN (AFP) - World champion Lewis Hamilton hammered out an early season warning to his rivals on Wednesday (Feb 19) when he set the fastest time on the opening day of pre-season testing at Barcelona.

Hamilton, who will attempt to equal Michael Schumacher's all-time record of seven world titles this year, clocked a best time of 1min 16.976sec off a total of 94 laps.

He was the only driver at a chilly Montmelo to duck under 1min 17sec.

Worryingly for the rest of the field, Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas was second fastest in 1min 17.313sec.

Testing continues Thursday and Friday before a second three-day session in Barcelona next week.

The season-opening Australian Grand Prix takes place in Melbourne on March 15.

First day test times: Lewis Hamilton (GBR/Mercedes) 1:16.976 (94 laps), Valtteri Bottas (FIN/Mercedes) 1:17.313 (79), Sergio Perez (MEX/Racing Point-Mercedes) 1:17.375 (58), Max Verstappen (NED/Red Bull-Honda) 1:17.516 (168), Daniil Kvyat (RUS/Alpha Tauri-Honda) 1:17.698 (116), Carlos Sainz (ESP/McLaren-Renault) 1:17.842 (161), Daniel Ricciardo (AUS/Renault) 1:17.873 (56), Esteban Ocon (FRA/Renault) 1:18.004 (62), George Russell (GBR/Williams-Mercedes) 1:18.168 (73), Lance Stroll (CAN/Racing Point-Mercedes) 1:18.282 (52), Charles Leclerc (MON/Ferrari) 1:18.289 (132), Nicholas Latifi (CAN/Williams-Mercedes) 1:18.382 (63), Robert Kubica (POL/Alfa Romeo Racing-Ferrari) 1:18.386 (59), Kevin Magnussen (DEN/Haas-Ferrari) 1:18.466 (106), Antonio Giovinazzi (ITA/Alfa Romeo Racing-Ferrari) 1:20.096 (79)

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