Lewis Hamilton has already ear-marked a likely rival for this year's F1 world championship, and it comes as no surprise to learn that it's Red Bull.

Although times from winter testing, and the first test of the winter in particular, generally have little bearing on the season ahead, the Briton was quick to acknowledge that Adrian Newey seems to have got it right 'out of the box' with the new RB8, while admitting that his own McLaren team may have a little work to do with its MP4-27.

"You've got to remember that everyone is just focusing on their own programmes, [so] it's not a contest for who's the fastest at the moment," he told Sky Sports, "We're just trying to get lots of running, testing the items.

"Over the coming weeks we'll get a better indication of where everyone is. The Ferrari's not really showing anything just yet [but], of course, the Red Bull looks fast - as it usually does - and we're there I think."

Hamilton, who heads into the 2012 campaign hoping to shrug off a turbulent year in which he finished a distant fifth in the standings amid off-track distractions, drove the latest McLaren for the final two days at Jerez, taking over from team-mate Jenson Button.

As the Woking team grew to learn more about its new creation, the 2008 world champion was able to lower its benchmark time, eventually coming in seventh fastest overall, comfortably ahead of his countryman. However, even as he claimed that the team had established a useful base from which to pursue further development, he also sounded a note of concern that all is not yet right with the car.

"It felt pretty good to be out there first time, to get back out on track after such a long winter, [and] my initial thoughts were pretty good," he admitted, "Every year you arrive and you never know what to expect, but you always hope for a good platform to start from and something that the team can build from.

"I think that, after today, I feel quite positive about where the car is at the moment and I'm confident that the guys can push it forward."

Despite the praise, however, Hamilton admitted that there were one or two areas where the car did not necessarily feel as good as its race-winning predecessor.

"There's a couple of small things in the car that we have, [but] there are no real problems - it's just different in driving with the tyres and everything," he conceded, "I tested in the simulator and it's a little bit different [in reality] to what it is in the simulator, [so] we'll go back and adjust the simulator to what it's like in real life."

"The car is different [to 2011]. Last year, we had so much support and stability, particularly in the high-speed corners, but now we're having to find that grip. We'll take grip off the front and try to offload it to the rear somehow, but I think the baseline that we have is something we can really work with."


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