Nick Heidfeld set the pace as the latest four-day long Formula One group test got underway in Spain.
With the newly-named Brawn GP team joining proceedings and Toro Rosso launching its new STR4 at the circuit, the opening day of the test marked the first time that all ten F1 teams have hit the track together, with Heidfeld ensuring bragging rights for BMW Sauber with a best time of 1min 20.338secs to end up half a second clear of anyone else.
The German focused on procedures linked to the race weekend, including pit-stop practices and practice starts while also completing aerodynamic evaluations.
“The weather was perfect for today's programme,” he said. “We could try a lot of different set-up solutions and even do some aero work.”
Heidfeld was followed on the times by the Ferrari of Kimi Raikkonen with the Finn working on set-up and aerodynamic evaluations on the F60 during his 81 laps on track. Raikkonen was barely 0.029secs clear of third placed Jarno Trulli who continued the impressive off-season performance of the Toyota TF109 as he worked through a programme including work on the aerodynamics, brakes and set-up on the car.
“This morning started off with drizzly conditions but the rain quickly tailed off, giving us the chance to have a good day's work,” the Italian reflected. “The afternoon was windier but the track surface was fine. The car felt well balanced from the start and we worked on several new things on the aero side which gave us positive results. We were competitive throughout the day and we collected a lot of data so this was a useful start to the test.”
Behind Trulli on the timesheets, Jenson Button provided arguably the biggest talking point of the day on the first test proper for Brawn GP after the brief shakedown of the Mercedes-powered BGP01 at Silverstone last week.
Button topped the times at one point and eventually ended the day in a solid fourth place, little more than eight-tenths of a second away from Heidfeld's benchmark.
Nelson Piquet enjoyed a 'really positive day' for Renault as he worked on set-up of the R29 and was fifth quickest ahead of Sebastien Bourdais, who hit the track in Toro Rosso's new STR4; the team having spent most of its time over the winter running the older STR3.
“It's much too early to talk about performance,” he said at the end of the day. “However, the car seems to work well and we've already learned a lot today. If we can carry on like this for the next few days, it will be a good starting point for the season.”