Lewis Hamilton: Mercedes on pole for Formula 1 title bid
When BBC F1's Eddie Jordan broke the news last September that Lewis Hamilton was moving to Mercedes this year, everyone thought it was a joke. But the joke might be on them now.
Hamilton joined McLaren as a boy and he never really grew out of that. But he has joined Mercedes as a man and I have to say his body language has been fantastic this winter. He really is up for it.
“Mercedes have the ability to win races and the championship this year”
Can Mercedes make a car that is worthy of his talents? Hamilton has been playing down their chances but I think they've done it this year.
Some of the lap times we have seen from the Mercedes had already been pretty good, when you take into account when they were done and on what tyres.
But on Saturday, on the penultimate day of pre-season testing, Hamilton did a one minute 20.5 seconds lap at Barcelona's Circuit de Catalunya on soft tyres on a low-fuel run.
That is a pretty impressive lap time and I think it proves Mercedes have the ability to win races and the championship this year.
The other teams have sounded relatively unimpressed - both Lotus and Ferrari have indicated that they think their cars could do that sort of time, too.
But the fact is they have not done so yet and we will not know for sure until the first race in Australia in two weeks' time.
Looking at the Mercedes out on the track, the car looks fairly impressive with both Hamilton and Nico Rosberg at the wheel.
Hamilton's F1 record
- 2007 - 2nd
- 2008 - Champion
- 2009 - 5th
- 2010 - 4th
- 2011 - 5th
- 2012 - 4th
First of all, both drivers are pushing hard. You can see some steering wheel action mid-corner, which always shows that for what tyres, fuel load or track condition you have, the driver is using the car to its maximum.
The good points are that the car responds and the driver is able to pull it back onto the racing line if he gets it a bit out of shape.
Some other cars out there, such as the McLaren, just have an inherent understeer, or lack of front-end grip, which means the car does not respond to the steering wheel.
Others, such as the Ferrari, break into snappy oversteer - the rear is loose - on corner exit if the throttle is applied too early.
The Mercedes does all of that but to a much lesser degree and the driver is able to manipulate the car as required.
When watching out on the track, most cars look good if they are on new tyres and especially good on low fuel, and then deteriorate as the tyres go past their best. But the Mercedes never looks very different whatever conditions it is running in.
Some of the other teams, especially Red Bull and McLaren, still haven't let their hair down in public yet, so to speak, and may not do it at all before they get to Australia.
But a 1:20.558 is a very respectable time when you consider that at this test last year the quickest lap overall was a 1:22.030 from Kimi Raikkonen's Lotus. So things have definitely moved on.