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Hamilton: It feels good to be back 22 Jan 2009

Lewis Hamilton (GBR) McLaren Mercedes MP4-24 Formula One Testing, Autodromo Algarve, Portimao, Portugal. 21 January 20 Lewis Hamilton (GBR) McLaren Mercedes MP4-24 Formula One Testing, Autodromo Algarve, Portimao, Portugal. 21 January 2009 Lewis Hamilton (GBR) McLaren Mercedes MP4-24 Formula One Testing, Autodromo Algarve, Portimao, Portugal. 21 January 2009 Lewis Hamilton (GBR) McLaren Mercedes MP4-24 Formula One Testing, Autodromo Algarve, Portimao, Portugal. 21 January 2009

He may have been absent from the McLaren cockpit since clinching his maiden championship last November, but Lewis Hamilton fitted seamlessly back into the British team on Wednesday, as he tested at Portugal’s Algarve Motor Park. Hamilton covered 81 laps in the new MP4-24, recording a best time of 1m 30.242s.

"It was good to be back working with the team - it felt like I’d hardly been away because it was easy to slip back into the routine,” he said. “It’s amazing to think that, while I’ve been to Woking throughout the winter, I haven’t properly driven a Formula One car since the Brazilian Grand Prix two months ago, but everything very quickly felt normal."

The British driver spent his day acclimitising to the newly-launched MP4-24, and adjusting to the rule changes that come into force in 2009. With KERS, slick tyres and a driver-controlled front wing to contend with, he was satisfied with his progress, despite only setting the third-fastest time of the five drivers in action.

"This first test was all about just getting used to the new car and the new regulations and about giving my feedback to the engineers; it wasn’t about setting a fast time,” he said. “I’m pleased to report that the car feels good, we’ve made lots of progress over the winter and I’m looking forward to developing the car ahead of the Australian Grand Prix.”

With in-season testing banned by the FIA for 2009, Hamilton is also aware that he’s going to be kept very busy over the coming weeks ahead of the Melbourne season opener in March.

“It’s going to be an extremely busy winter, I’ve only been in the car for one day and our usual job list for the weeks ahead is already enormous,” he added. “With the limitations on testing during the season, and the few sessions we have over the next two months, this is going to be an intense time and absolutely critical for every team.”

Hamilton, who hands over to team mate Heikki Kovalainen for Thursday's Portimao session, is expected to return to testing in February at the Spanish circuit of Jerez.