The first day of pre-season testing for the 2016 Formula One season went underway at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya. After a full day on track, Sebastian Vettel finished on top with the Ferrari SF16-H, four tenths ahead of Lewis Hamilton in his new F1 W07 Hybrid.
The first of four full days of testing saw every team take to the track with their 2016 competitors, except Sauber who used their 2015 chassis. Each team runs one car with one driver. Conditions for the test were overcast with air temperatures of around 20°C. The track was open from 9am to 6pm, with an hour long lunch break at 1pm.
This session provided the first look of many of the 2016 competitors including Force India’s VJM09, Manor’s MRT05 and Toro Rosso’s STR11.
Ferrari’s SF16-H at the top was ahead by 4.417 seconds to Jolyon Palmers RS16 from the bottom. This is the first real glimpse at the pace of teams for the season, however the focus was on mileage more than speed, which means these tests cannot be 100% accurate.
The session finished with Sebastian Vettel on top after completing 69 laps (321km), with a fastest time of 1:24.939. He commented on the session saying: “We had the first proper day of testing today, from which we got a first feeling from the car and the first impression is good, I think the new car is a step forward. I felt confident enough, but we know there is still a lot of work in front of us”.
Second place was Mercedes’s Lewis Hamilton who clocked the most laps of any drivers with 156. He finished with a fastest time of 1:25.409. Mercedes said that the day was focused on set up evaluation and analyzing the 2016 Pirelli tires. Hamilton commented on the session saying: “The key is to get as much mileage as possible in the short time we now have for testing and we’ve made a fantastic start. The team has done an incredible job to get the car running the way it has – completing so many laps with no real problems”.
Red Bull and McLaren provided the surprises of the session, as they appeared not to struggle and finished in third and sixth respectively. Daniel Ricciardo drove for Red Bull, clocking up an impressive 87 laps. He stated, “It was important to get in some good 15-lap runs to make sure the car is not doing anything silly and we did that. Once we have that then we can find the pace, but reliability is the first thing you want.”
Jenson Button drove for McLaren and commented on his day: “I’ve missed Formula 1 massively over the last few months – it seems like the longest break I’ve ever had in my career – so it’s great to be back, to be in the car, and get some laps under my belt”.
Overall day one of testing appeared to go how many of the teams wanted. They will be back at the track again tomorrow ready for another full on day. Testing runs right through to the February 25 before another test on the March 1, again at Catalunya.