Old frustrations surface for Fernando Alonso as Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes set blistering pace


A frustrated Fernando Alonso was left ruing another disappointing start to the first day of his Formula One pre-season as history repeated itself in Barcelona today.

Alonso, the 35-year-old Spaniard, completed fewer miles than any other driver here following a day in which McLaren's much-maligned engine partner Honda encountered more reliability issues.

The double world champion was restricted to watching the majority of the opening-day action unfold from the sidelines after an oil leak.

Indeed Alonso, who suffered reliability woes on the opening day of testing at Jerez in 2015, managed just 29 laps. That was in stark contrast to Lewis Hamilton's dominant Mercedes team which racked up more than two race distances while Sebastian Vettel completed 128 trouble-free laps for Ferrari.

"It is definitely not the perfect start for winter testing," said a clearly disgruntled Alonso. "We are disappointed and we are sad to arrive to the first day and not be able to run.

"We know, and we are aware, of the time we lost. We have four days for each driver before the world championship starts and now one day has gone so I have three days to prepare for the world championship. It is not an ideal situation.

"But there is nothing more we can do other than to learn from whatever has happened to the car and try to recover the time.

"Hopefully Honda can quickly find the solutions so we can have more normal days for the rest of the week."

However, Lewis Hamilton started the new Formula One season where he left off as Mercedes set a blistering pace on the opening day of testing in Barcelona on Monday.

Hamilton - winner of the final four grands prix of last year, but who finished runner-up to the now retired Nico Rosberg - had to wait until after lunch to get his first real taste of the car which he hopes will fire him to a fourth world championship.

And it was not long before the 32-year-old Briton was on top of the order in a Mercedes, which seems not only fast but bulletproof in its reliability, too.

Indeed while both Red Bull, the team expected to lead the challenge to Mercedes this season, and McLaren encountered a number of technical problems, Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas, the Finn who has replaced Rosberg, completed more than two race distances.

Valtteri Bottas

Hamilton managed 73 laps after Bottas, who began the Mercedes programme on Monday morning, posted 79.

The overhaul of technical regulations over the winter had been hoped to shake up a sport which has been criticised for becoming too predictable but while the cars are different in their appearance - lower, wider and quicker - the pecking order is not.

It was a thoroughly impressive and ominous show from Mercedes - a team which has won 51 of the last 59 races en route to claiming three consecutive driver and constructor titles - which will leave Hamilton confident he can become the first British driver to win a quartet of championships.

Reflecting on already being earmarked as the early favourite to reclaim the title, Hamilton said: "Firstly, people always want to big you up at the beginning of the season. Secondly, we are the world champions, and thirdly our car looks a thousand times better than everyone else's so that would be expected.

"We are still the team to beat in terms of we are the champions. We have a lot of work ahead of us as does every other team.

"We have gained lots of laps and lots of information to try and improve the car. It has been a good day and a positive one for the team."

Lewis Hamilton

There was unwanted drama for former champions Red Bull, too. Daniel Ricciardo stopped on track in the opening moments of the day with a gearbox issue. A battery problem also hampered his running later in the day.

But there were promising signs for Ferrari. The famous Italian team are bidding to bounce back from a disappointing campaign in which they failed to register a single victory and Sebastian Vettel, the four-time world champion, finished second only to Hamilton with an impressive 128 laps under his belt.

Hamilton will be back in his Mercedes car for the second morning of this four-day test on Tuesday before Bottas takes over in the afternoon.

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