sport

Hamilton plays down title talk

Lewis Hamilton has insisted he still can't foresee himself challenging for the 2013 World Championship despite setting the pace on the final day of the first Barcelona test.

As temperatures stayed in single digit territory and the rain - which arrived almost as soon as cars took to the track - intensified, it was Hamilton who set the pace as the conditions ebbed and flowed.

A brief period of dry running late in the morning saw the 2008 World Champion switch from wet-weather tyres to slicks before anyone else and Hamilton ended up setting the fastest time. With track conditions worsening in the afternoon, his 1:23.282s lap looks set to stay the benchmark for the day.

Speaking as rain turned to hail on Friday lunchtime, Hamilton joked that he'd rather take his dog Roscoe for a walk during the afternoon than head out on track again.

On the subject of chasing performance, however, he was rather more serious. Summing up the strengths and weaknesses of his W04, Hamilton said: "The engine is the strongest point, the downforce is the weakest point. Nice and easy.

"The downforce factor is what everybody's pushing massively hard for. The team won a race last year so they clearly have not such a bad foundation in terms of the mechanical side of the car. But in terms of downforce, that's where we need to improve."

Hamilton said that he is targeting top ten finishes in the early races. "I think that people are talking us up at the moment," he said. "(Sebastian) Vettel and Fernando (Alonso) are saying that we're going to compete for the World Championship. I really don't see that happening. Of course that's our goal, but you've got to remember the car was over a second, sometimes two seconds, off last year. We haven't caught two seconds up and the other teams would have put another second on this year, so we've not gained three seconds. That's just a fact.

"Hopefully by the end of the year, we'll have gained three seconds - that's our goal. But definitely not at the beginning."

Hamilton is, of course, a noted wet-weather driver but said that Mercedes should not rely on conditions similar to Friday's if they are to win this coming season.

"When it rains, it definitely makes it more of a lottery," he said. "We're working towards being quick in the dry. We don't want to have these days gifted to us where some people fall off and we happen to overtake them through luck. We want to do it through hard work, and that's what the guys are working towards."