Lewis Hamilton not interested in 'favourites' tag despite stunning test speed
Merc driver set fastest time of the Bahrain test so far on Day Three
By James Galloway at Bahrain and Pete Gill. Last Updated: 21/02/14 5:52pm
Hamilton checks out the Red Bull before setting the fastest time at Bahrain
Lewis Hamilton has shrugged off Red Bull's claim that Mercedes are the new favourites to win the 2014 World Championship, despite underpinning the team's impressive start to the sport's new turbo era by setting the fastest lap time of the Bahrain test so far on Friday.
Hamilton, who says he will need to drive "better than I've ever driven before" in order to win this year's title, lapped the Bahrain circuit in a time of 1:34.263 whilst running on the soft compound to blitz the field by seven-tenths of a second on Day Three.
Twenty-four hours previously, Red Bull boss Christian Horner had declared to Sky Sports F1 that Mercedes were the new favourites to prevail this season, but an unmoved Hamilton has brushed off the apparent accolade as an attempt to divert attention from the World Champions' ongoing struggles with the RB10.
"We are just focusing on ourselves," the 2008 title winner insisted. "Generally every time we go to a test, one team will build up the focus on one team just to take the focus off themselves - everyone has done it so it doesn't really mean anything to us."
Hamilton says he's determined to stay focused on 2014
While Red Bull once again failed to put any sort of significant mileage under the belt of the seemingly-fragile RB10, a series of short stints during the morning for Hamilton in the W05 culminated in the Englishman setting a time two seconds quicker than the fastest lap recorded in last April's Bahrain GP.
"The car seems to be responding well to my style of driving and it was nice to put together a lap," said Hamilton, "but it's difficult to know where everyone is. Some people are doing ten laps, some people are doing long runs, but the good news is that Mercedes have done a fantastic job and the power unit is really performing well. So that's a real good step for is, but we won't know where we stand until we get to Melbourne."
Hamilton will hand the W05 back to team-mate Nico Rosberg on Saturday and was denied his first full race simulation this winter by a hydraulics problem that curtailed his afternoon running. Yet Hamilton insists that he wasn't in the least bit bothered by the failure - in fact, he wants more such 'disappointments' before arriving in Australia for the traditional curtain-raiser to the new season.
"It wasn't frustrating at all, we feel quite blessed that we've done as much mileage as we've done so far because we are way ahead of where we thought we would be. And we actually see it as a blessing when we find an issue because then we know what [we have to fix], so I'm glad all these bugs are coming - I am trying to break the car as much as possible so that they can fix it before the races."
It's a relaxed attitude that Mercedes can afford at this stage of proceedings in 2014. At an unofficial count at the end of Day Three in Bahrain, the team have completed almost 2500 kilometres of track action this winter. Red Bull, by salient contrast, have only managed 607.
Hamilton pushing hard out on track on Day Three
Total laps covered by each team during pre-season:
Mercedes - 535
McLaren - 475
Ferrari - 456
Williams - 411
Sauber - 396
Force India - 340
Caterham - 308
Toro Rosso - 174
Red Bull - 122
Marussia - 54
Lotus - 52
Total laps covered by each engine manufacturer during pre-season:
Mercedes - 1761
Ferrari - 906
Renault - 656
Approximate distance covered by each team during pre-season:
Mercedes - 2480 km
McLaren - 2226 km
Ferrari - 2124 km
Williams - 1957 km
Sauber - 1891 km
Force India - 1618 km
Caterham - 1513 km
Toro Rosso - 846 km
Red Bull - 607 km
Lotus - 266 km
Marussia - 251 km
Approximate distance covered by each engine manufacturer during pre-season:
Mercedes - 8281 km
Ferrari - 4266 km
Renault - 3232 km.
Fastest laps of the Bahrain test so far
Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, 1:34.263, Day Three.
Kevin Magnussen, McLaren, 1:34.910, Day Two.
Jenson Button, McLaren, 1:34.976, Day Three.
Nico Hulkenberg, Force India, 1:36.445, Day Two.
Fernando Alonso, Ferrari, 1:36.516, Day Two.
Nico Rosberg, Mercedes, 1:36.965, Day Two.
Felipe Massa, Williams, 1:37.066, Day Three.
Esteban Gutierrez, Sauber, 1:37.180, Day Three
Valtteri Bottas, Williams, 1:37.328, Day Two.
Sergio Perez, Force India, 1:37.367, Day Three.
Kimi Raikkonen, Ferrari, 1:37.467, Day Three.
The Sky Sports F1 Online team will be providing live commentary of all three winter tests, with live updates from trackside also on Sky Sports News.