Lewis Hamilton’s first test run in his new Mercedes WO4 came to an early end at the Circuito de Jerez on Wednesday morning.
He was braking at 170mph as he approached the hairpin at Turn 6 when he appeared to lose control of his steering and the car went straight on.
Hamilton had completed 14 laps of his long awaited official debut drive when he left the track and went into the gravel, before he nudged into the barrier.
He seemed unhurt as he got out of the car, leaving his team to assess the extent of the damage, although initially this looked minimal. Mercedes tweeted: “Lewis is back in the garage, we’re waiting for the car to return to find out what happened.”
It was the second setback for Mercedes in as many days. On Tuesday the car – teams are allowed only one each for testing – caught fire as it was driven by Hamilton’s team-mate, Nico Rosberg, also after 14 laps. An electrical fault was diagnosed.
Hamilton’s mishap cut into the limited time he has to become acquainted with the car. After his planned second one here on Friday Hamilton has only two more sessions, both in Barcelona, giving him a total of only six days behind the wheel before the season opens with next month’s Australian Grand Prix.
Before testing he said of his new car: “It’s got lots of different switches and buttons that I have to get used to. On this steering wheel I’ve got at least double the amount of controls I had. I’ve got rid of some of them, but I’ve still got way more than I had before. It’s starting from fresh.”
Hamilton was hoping he would get another chance to start afresh later in the day. It is another headache for Mercedes, who went into 2013 needing to make up a lot of ground on the three frontrunners in Formula One, Red Bull, McLaren and Ferrari.