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Hamilton paces opening day of Bahrain test

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The first in-season test of the new Formula 1 season is underway with a mostly busy day at the Bahrain International Circuit.

Lewis Hamilton paced the runners in his Mercedes with a best time of 1:31.358. More to the point of the test, he was one of the busiest drivers on the day with 97 laps completed.

Sauber’s Marcus Ericsson led the way with 106 laps in the books, with Ferrari reserve Antonio Giovinazzi posting 93 in his first day in that car this year, Bahrain race winner Sebastian Vettel 89 laps and Haas driver Romain Grosjean 86, just a day after he turned 31 years old.

Yet more issues struck McLaren Honda, this time with test and development driver Oliver Turvey on board. The team detected a water leak in the ERS system, which prompted a full PU change to further investigate the issue. Turvey did make it out for some running near the end of the day.

Besides Giovinazzi and Turvey, other young drivers running today included Sean Gelael, the Indonesian rookie in his first day with Toro Rosso and Alfonso Celis Jr. with Force India.

Times are below, with the second day of running to come on Wednesday:

Fernando Alonso completes first test with United Autosports

Photo: United Autosports
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Two-time Formula 1 World Champion Fernando Alonso enjoyed his first outing with United Autosports, with whom he will contest the 2018 Rolex 24 at Daytona, in their Ligier JS P217 LMP2 chassis.

The McLaren Formula 1 driver completed the test at Motorland Aragon in Spain alongside co-driver Phil Hanson, who will be a teammate with Alonso at next year’s 24-hour Daytona enduro. Filipe Albuquerque, a former GT class winner at the Rolex 24, was also on hand to help Alonso and the team ahead of Alonso’s first run in an LMP2 car, which comes only a couple days after he made his LMP1 testing debut with Toyota. Albuquerque races with Mustang Sampling Racing in IMSA, but will return to United’s European Le Mans Series program for all but one race in 2018.

“I had a great first test with United Autosports. Obviously, we are on a really tight schedule between now and Daytona, but it was nice to jump in the car for the first time,” said Alonso, who will rejoin the team at the official Roar Before the 24 test on January 5-7.

Alonso added, “There’s quite a few switches and things to study so it was important to do this initial shakedown before Daytona, so I could fully learn about the car. I’m happy with everything – the car felt great and the team were fantastic. The atmosphere here is wonderful, like a big family, so today has been amazing. I cannot wait for Daytona.”

Team owner Zak Brown, who also serves as executive director of McLaren Technology Group and helps lead the McLaren Formula 1 effort, shared Alonso’s enthusiasm and was not surprised he was able to acclimate himself relatively quickly.

“Fernando’s first test with United Autosports went awesome as expected. He is a world champion and it is a pleasure to have him in our car,” he said of Alonso’s debut with the team.

Alonso is currently schedule to contest the Rolex 24 with the aforementioned Hanson and McLaren test driver Lando Norris.