Lewis Hamilton returned to the track for the first time in 2008 as he got a first chance to sample McLaren's new MP4-23 in a private test at the Jerez circuit in southern Spain.

The Briton, who came close to taking the world title in his rookie year, left the garage a shade after 9am and completed 103 laps - over 456km - during the course of the day. Hamilton's first impressions were positive, but he refused to be carried away by first day excitement.

"It was fantastic to get my hands on the MP4-23 this morning," he admitted, "I saw the completed car for the first time at the team's launch in Stuttgart on Monday and have been pretty impatient since then!

"My first run was at 0910 and my first impressions are encouraging. Considering this is only the second day that the car has been on track, I am pretty happy. We have a lot of work to do, but now we have a real understanding of where we are starting from. I will be back in the MP4-23 tomorrow and I am looking forward to continuing the programme and moving forward."

Hamilton was not alone on the circuit, as new team-mate Heikki Kovalainen ran for the second day of four planned over the coming week. The Finn, who shared track time with reserve pilot Pedro de la Rosa on Wednesday, also passed the 100-lap mark as he continued to get to grips with both car and team.

"Today was my second day with the MP4-23, and I have now been able to complete over 447km in total," he said, "We are all still spending time learning about the car and starting to get used to it. That we were on track for 204 laps in total today is definitely helping us to learn and progress with the car.

"For me in particular, the car is very different from last year, and I have been focusing on that side of things. Settling into the team has been very easy, and I am looking forward to continuing our preparations for Melbourne next Tuesday."

de la Rosa and fellow test driver Gary Paffett will take over testing duties on Monday, with Hamilton and Kovalainen returning to the cockpit for the final two days of the session on Tuesday and Wednesday.



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