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Hamilton crashes new Mercedes as teams struggle with new rules to start preseason

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JEREZ, Spain - Defending champion Sebastian Vettel could hardly get out of the garage, and Lewis Hamilton drove his new car into a barrier.

All of Formula One's teams struggled to get on the track during the first session of preseason testing on Tuesday following a rules overhaul forcing cars to be thoroughly redesigned.

Hamilton started the day by proudly unveiling Mercedes' new car in the pit lane, but before lunch a technical failure had sent him into the barrier at the Jerez track.

Despite the crash, Mercedes could still boast having one of the most productive opening days as most teams only mustered a few laps, battling with a variety of problems ranging from electrical systems to the tweaks F1 has enforced on the body of the car.

Vettel, the four-time defending champion, couldn't get his new Red Bull out of the garage until the final 15 minutes, managing three laps.

McLaren, coming off a disappointing 2013, didn't get any laps in because of a malfunctioning electrical system.

Hamilton emerged unscathed from his crash and said "there is a lot to get used to."

"It's been, apart from the ending, a positive day," Hamilton said. "You are going to have hiccups."

Kimi Raikkonen debuted in his return to Ferrari, and the Finn clocked the fastest lap at 1 minute, 27.104 seconds and the most laps with 31.

But those are poor numbers compared to last year's opening day of testing, when Paul di Resta led the session with 89 laps while all 11 drivers managed faster times than Raikkonen's leading mark this year.

The circuit was eerily silent for long stretches, and as Mercedes driver Nico Rosberg pointed out, the new turbo engines are also quieter than their predecessors.

"I think it's extreme because even when the cars were out you couldn't hear them," Rosberg said. "It's evidence how big this challenge is for everyone. It's massive."

Force India also revealed its car in the morning, while Caterham and Williams both had to delay their presentations before eventually rolling out their new cars.

The major change teams face is switching to a 1.6-litre V6 turbo engine from last year's 2.4-litre V8. The new regulations focus on boosting cars' energy recovery systems, which generate energy from braking and through waste heat from the engine. F1 has also lowered fuel to 100 kilograms per race, down from 160 kilos, increased the car's weight, and forced alterations to gearboxes, exhaust, wings and nose height.

Testing continues in southern Spain until Friday, followed by two more tests in Bahrain. The season opens with the Australian Grand Prix on March 16.

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