Lewis Hamilton cools talk of championship challenge

 

Lewis Hamilton has dismissed claims from long-time rivals Sebastian Vettel and Fernando Alonso he will be in the hunt for this season's Formula One world title.

On a rain-hit final day of the second pre-season test in Barcelona, Hamilton finished top of the standings in his Mercedes, although on this occasion the times were relatively meaningless.

Instead, it was an opportunity for all the teams to at least give an airing to Pirelli's range of intermediate and wet-weather tyres.

Hamilton's best lap today at the Circuit de Catalunya of one minute 23.282secs was set on medium tyres on a drying track in between the showers.

In contrast, it was 1.4secs adrift of the fastest this week from the driver who replaced him at McLaren in young Mexican Sergio Perez.

Although Hamilton produced a seemingly impressive time on the hard compound of rubber on Wednesday, suggestions he is a championship contender again this season are far from his thoughts.

"I think people are talking us up at the moment," said Hamilton.

"Vettel, and maybe Fernando, were saying I'm maybe going to be competing for the world championship, but I really don't see that happening at the moment.

"Of course that's our goal, but you have to remember the car was over a second off, sometimes two seconds off, last year and we've not caught up a second.

"Other teams will also have put a second on over the winter, so we've not gained three seconds, that's a fact.

"Hopefully by the end of the year, that's our goal, but definitely not at the beginning."

It could be Hamilton is severely downplaying his chances because the car has so far certainly appeared to be within touching distance of the likes of Ferrari, Red Bull, McLaren and Lotus.

"The downforce isn't great, but we have some updates," added the 28-year-old, who this week brought dog Roscoe with him to the paddock.

"It (the car) is probably not fast enough to be the quickest, but it's not slow, that's for sure.

"So I don't think there should be a reason not to succeed. I think sometimes people lose their way and it takes a group of people to try and put the train back on its tracks.

"We've lots of great people here who I think have been doing that and we're now rolling in the right direction."

Overall, it proved a frustrating day for all the teams and drivers, none more so than Jenson Button who only yesterday complained about his lack of mileage in testing so far.

On a day when there were also eight red flags for various spins and incidents, the 33-year-old was second quickest on the timesheet in his McLaren, finishing 0.351s behind Hamilton.

Jules Bianchi was fifth fastest in his Force India, but with a time and data the team will be unable to compare against Adrian Sutil.

Force India deputy team principal Bob Fernley confirmed this week the board would make a decision on their second driver over the weekend after studying the data of Bianchi and Sutil, who was back in the car yesterday for the first time in 15 months.

With insufficient data, it could be Force India will run both drivers again in next week's third test that starts on Thursday in Barcelona, with an announcement to come after that.

Ferrari's Felipe Massa, Mark Webber in his Red Bull, Caterham's Giedo van der Garde, Max Chilton for Marussia, the Toro Rosso of Jean-Eric Vergne, Sauber's Esteban Gutierrez and Lotus' Romain Grosjean all set lap times, but given the weather, it was more about data collection.

For Williams duo Pastor Maldonado and rookie Valtteri Bottas, neither man set a time, but there was plenty of pit-stop practice for the team.

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