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Lewis Hamilton: No benefit to sandbagging in F1 pre-season testing

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Lewis Hamilton sees no benefit to sandbagging through Formula 1’s pre-season test running, saying he put in the best time he could for Mercedes on Friday.

Hamilton enters 2017 as the favorite for the drivers’ championship given Mercedes’ recent dominance in F1, having claimed both the individual and teams’ titles for each of the past three years.

However, it was Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen who ended the winter test program with the fastest time after a stunning lap on Friday that wasn’t far off the overall track record at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya.

Despite Ferrari’s headline pace in testing, most in the paddock believe that Mercedes has more time in its pocket, including Sebastian Vettel who finished the week second-quickest for the Italian marque.

Speaking to reporters following the final day of pre-season testing in Barcelona, Hamilton was asked if there were mind games being played between teams when talking up their rivals.

“I don’t know if there’s mind games,” Hamilton said.

“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. And 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.

“Driving today, 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 bluff. I think that’s true. They’ve done a great job.”

Hamilton admitted that he was yet to find the sweet spot with his new Mercedes W08 EQ Power+ car, so was unsure if he could match the pace of his rivals.

“I haven’t got into a good window yet, so I can’t tell you. I don’t know if we can go as fast as them, I really don’t,” Hamilton said.

“We’ll find out. We hope we can, but they’ve done a fantastic job as I said.”

All will become clear when the new Formula 1 season begins on March 26 in Australia.