Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen set the best time of anyone at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya. His team mate Sebastian Vettel was almost a match for Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas in terms of mileage and reliability.
Of of which means that Hamilton is starting to wonder whether this year’s world championship might not be the walk in the park for him that it once seemed.
“They have been doing a fantastic job and I think there’s more to come from them,” Hamilton said when asked by Motorsport.com for his thoughts on Ferrari’s performance. “Their pace this week has been spectacular.
“Red Bull are still there,” he added. “I don’t know if they brought their upgrade package here this week but usually they bring it for the first race. I expect us to be having a real serious battle with both these teams.”
At times it appeared that the Ferrari could have gone even quicker. Vettel backed off on his flying laps on Thursday and later denied that his team were favourites in 2017.
“I don’t know if there are mind games going on,” Hamilton said. “Sometimes there have been potentially some teams sandbagging in the past, but I don’t really see that as being a benefit to any team.
“Every year in testing the goal is not necessarily to go as quick as you can. It’s to find out what you have in the car.”
Certainly as far as Hamilton was concerned, Mercedes weren’t hiding anything in pre-season testing.
“The time you saw was the time we could do. I didn’t feel when I got out that I could have gone faster.
“But of course there are all sort of things that come into play to bring the time down, such as fuel loads, engine modes, those kind of things. The great thing is no one really knows.
“It looks very positive for Ferrari, that’s for sure, and I don’t think that’s a bluff.”
If the disastrous situation faced by McLaren-Honda wasn’t already stark enough, their desperate plight has been exposed by the raw data on mileage and laps completed in pre-season testing.
McLaren’s Fernando Alonso and Stoffel Vandoorne between them completed only 425 laps of the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya in eight days of testing. Alonso himself accounted for only 190 laps, compared to Vandoorne’s 235.
By comparison Mercedes pumped out more than double the number of laps of their rivals with 1096 laps in the books. Valtteri Bottas was the single busiest driver in Spain, undertaking 628 laps in total or 2923km.
Next up was Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel, who chalked up 591 laps or 2751km at the Spanish Grand Prix circuit. Lewis Hamilton was third in the mileage charts with 468 laps (2179km) completed.
Vettel’s team mate Kimi Raikkonen ran a third fewer laps than Vettel, just 365 laps or 1699km. However he came away with the prize of best time of the fortnight when he put in a flying lap of 1:18.634s on the final day. Overall Ferrari completed 956 laps or 4450km to be the second busiest team of pre-season testing after Mercedes.
In terms of engines, the Mercedes power units run by the works team, Williams and Force India cars accounted for 12480km, while the Ferrari power unit which is also used by Haas and Sauber completed 11447km.
The Renault engine ran less than half that number – 5498km – but that figure only accounts for the Renault Sports F1 team and the Toro Rosso. The badged Tag Heuer engine in the Red Bull adds another 3184km to that amount for a total of 8682km. However all the teams ran fewer laps than they did in 2016 – in particular, Toro Rosso completed only just over half its previous year’s pre-season test distance.
Even so, the figures show just how exposed Honda now is. With only one team (McLaren) running their power unit it was always going to be a case that the Japanese manufacturer would run the lowest number of laps of any engine provider in testing.
With persistent electrical problems for the McLaren MCL32 manifesting throughout both four-day tests, the Honda lasted only 1978km. Multiple engine changes were needed during the two weeks, and the car’s best stint lasted just 11 laps which leaves the engine manufacturer over 10,000km behind Mercedes in terms of total mileage and test data.
(Figures in brackets are the equivalent mileage and lap count for teams in 2016. Mileage figures have been rounded to nearest km.)
Lewis Hamilton will go into the new Formula One season as the favourite to win his fourth world title, but the key question will be which drivers can challenge the Brit.
The 31-year-old narrowly missed out on the title in Abu Dhabi last season as Nico Rosberg sealed his first championship before retiring a few weeks after.
With the new driver regulations set to shake up the grid, F1 fans will be hoping the likes of Max Verstappen, Daniel Ricciardo, Valtteri Bottas and Sebastian Vettel can light up the circuit and challenge for glory.
Here, we take a look at four drivers set to shine.
The Finn finally has the chance to showcase his potential in the new Mercedes. With nine podium finishes since 2014, Bottas is still chasing that elusive victory.
Perhaps his best chance could be this year in a faster car and under a different team. But will he sit back and let Hamilton dominate or will he finally step up and have a say in the championship race?
The weight of expectation continues to grow as Verstappen steps out for his second season at Red Bull. A stellar 2016 has many believing the Dutchman can seriously test Hamilton this year.
His drive at the Brazilian Grand Prix in November was hailed as one of the best ever, and at 19, he has the potential to be a future world champion. While some drivers sit back, Verstappen’s biggest strength is his willingness to take risks to score big results.
The Australian finished third in the drivers championships last season and will be bidding to continue his consistent form, especially with an ambitious Verstappen breathing down his neck.
The 27-year-old is highly regarded by his fellow drivers, with Fernando Alonso even labelling him as the best driver in F1.
The four-time world champion looked impressive during testing in Barcelona but can he turn around a disappointing 2016 or will it be the same old reliability problems for Ferrari?
If form is anything to go by, there is a genuine feeling that Vettel can finally be a threat to Mercedes.