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    REPORT: Clawing Back Lost Ground in Barcelona The paddock was left playin...

The paddock was left playing catch-up on Thursday, as the first 2018 pre-season test came to a close

Wednesday's extraordinary snowstorm confined the Mercedes-AMG F1 W09 EQ Power+ and its rivals to their respective garages, prompting teams to change plans and adjust programmes for the final day of the opening pre-season test.

With new team member Karl Snowman (@KarlSnowmanF1 on Twitter, in case you didn't know) watching on from the comfort of his fridge, teams got back to work as they attempted to claw back lost ground and gain as much information as possible on Thursday.

Because a whole day of running was lost, testing ran uninterrupted from 09:00 to 18:00 at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, with many teams opting to split running between their two race drivers to maximise track time.

Things still weren't particularly straightforward, though. Because the track was saturated in water for most of the morning, full Wet tyres were needed before the eventual switch across to Intermediates. Dry tyres made an appearance for the first time at around 13:00.

Valtteri Bottas was the first driver to bravely venture out on slicks - just before he handed the W09 over to team-mate Lewis Hamilton for the afternoon running, which (thankfully) took place in more suitable conditions.

'Everything has been working well'

As Valtteri was the first of the team's two drivers to get behind the wheel of the W09 on Thursday, he had to contend with damp but gradually drying conditions. It was no issue for the Finn, though, and proved to be an incredibly useful session.

Valtteri's best time of 1:22.789 on the Medium tyre was shuffled down to 12th place by the chequered flag, but he completed 60 laps in total - a very healthy tally, with plenty of valuable information gathered from his on-track exploits.

"We started in the wet today and got some very useful running done on both the Wet and the Intermediate tyres," he explained.

"I did a long run of roughly 30 laps on the Intermediates and could really feel the track conditions evolve during that run. We got some insights into the Intermediate tyres and their durability in temperatures like these.

"We later had a cross-over, changing from Inters to slicks tyres with a pit stop. That was very useful for the strategy team, but also for us as the drivers, as you learn a lot when you try and find the grip on the slicks and feel how the car behaves.

"I did about 60 laps which is what we had targeted. It would have been nice to drive a little more in the dry, but I think we made the most out of these conditions. Everyone in Brackley and Brixworth has done an amazing job, everything on the car worked so well since day one and the engine is running very smoothly as well."

'Today has been positive'

Lewis enjoyed the bulk of the dry running during the afternoon and put down his first meaningful laps in the W09. Times quickly tumbled, as drivers started to find the limits of their new 2018 machines.

The four-time World Champion moved to the top of the leaderboard mid-way through the afternoon, with a 1:19.333 on the Medium tyre. He held on to the top spot by the end of the session to secure the quickest lap of the first test - and managed 69 laps in the process.

"Today has been positive, I'm so happy that I could get in the car and I'm really excited that I could get some running in," Lewis explained. "It's been the first time today that I've really been out to learn a lot more about the car and its characteristics.

"I got to see what she's like and stretch her legs a little bit. Driving a new car is like trying to crack a new code: you have to figure out which different techniques you need to get the most out of it. But the W09 feels like last year's big sister.

"Out on track, the Pirelli tyres have been very hard to get working in these unusually cold conditions but they feel pretty good once they are up to temperature.

"Of course we've got things to learn and things to improve on balance-wise but overall my feeling is positive. I'm really looking forward to next week and to getting back in and learning more."

Next up, there's a brief pause. But don't worry! F1's back in action next week, with the second test taking place in Barcelona from 6 - 9 March.

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