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Hamilton, Bottas clock fastest time as F1 testing starts

Mercedes drivers Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas clocked the two fastest times to start Formua One's preseason testing on Wednesday.

Hamilton set the opening session’s top lap time of 1 minute, 16.976 seconds, after he took over from Bottas behind the wheel of the new Silver Arrow for the 2020 season. Bottas’ best effort came in 0.337 seconds slower.

Hamilton enters the season as the clear favorite as he seeks to equal Michael Schumacher’s record of seven world titles and surpass the German's mark of 91 career wins. Hamilton has six titles and 84 wins.

Mercedes-AMG Petronas' Lewis Hamilton prepares for a Formula One pre-season testing session at the Barcelona Catalunya racetrack in Montmelo, outside Barcelona, Spain, Wednesday, Feb. 19, 2020. (AP PhotoJoan Monfort)

Hamilton and Bottas had nine one-two race finishes last season as they dominated the field to finish first and second in the overall points standings.

In last year’s preseason testing, the Mercedes cars were slower than the rival Ferraris. But they beat them come the first race of the year and never lost their advantage.

The day’s eight hours of running went smoothly for all teams, with no accidents or breakdowns.

Mercedes-AMG Petronas' Lewis Hamilton prepares for a Formula One pre-season testing session at the Barcelona Catalunya racetrack in Montmelo, outside Barcelona, Spain, Wednesday, Feb. 19, 2020. (AP PhotoJoan Monfort)

Testing continues on Thursday and Friday at the Barcelona-Catalunya Circuit, home to the Spanish GP, and again from Feb. 26-28.

The season-opening Australian GP is on March 15.

More AP racing: https://www.racing.ap.org

Mercedes-AMG Petronas' Valtteri Bottas drives during a Formula One pre-season testing session at the Barcelona Catalunya racetrack in Montmelo, outside Barcelona, Spain, Wednesday, Feb. 19, 2020. (AP PhotoJoan Monfort)