Lewis Hamilton was reduced to a spectator and his Mercedes team cut short its Formula One preseason trials after a brakes failure sent him crashing into the barrier in Jerez on Wednesday.
Hamilton’s debut drive under competitive conditions for his new team came to a jarring halt after he’d set the second fastest lap of the day. The rear brakes failed at 250 kph (170 mph) due to a hydraulic fault and his Silver Arrow went straight on at the Dry Sack hairpin, careered across the gravel trap and slammed nose-first into a tire barrier.
Hamilton, unhurt, climbed out unaided from the cockpit and walked away in oil-spattered overalls, but his car’s nose and front wing were damaged. "The front brakes enabled him to slow the car but, he couldn’t avoid the barrier," Mercedes tweeted.
It has not been a good start for the team, as Nico Rosberg endured a spectacular car failure with flames erupting from his car’s rear on Tuesday. Rosberg has been unable to resume testing. After a few warm-up laps, Hamilton looked to be comfortable behind the wheel and clocked a fast 1 minute, 19.519 seconds on medium compound tires.
The abrupt end to testing came on turn six after just 15 laps, only four more than Rosberg managed on Tuesday before what the team said was an electrical problem in the wiring loom. All hope of Hamilton returning to the track was scotched when Mercedes said it was stopping testing for the day.
"We will not run again today as work continues with the repairs required on the car," it said in a Tweet. Meanwhile, Sergio Perez, Hamilton’s replacement at McLaren, took to the track for the first time. However, it was Lotus driver Romain Grosjean who beat Jenson Button’s previous day’s benchmark time, a fraction ahead of Daniel Ricciardo in a Toro Rosso.
Sauber said it had a good roll-out of its C32-Ferrari as driver Nico Hulkenberg completed 79 laps "without any noteworthy problems."