Formula 1 world champions Mercedes made the perfect start to pre-season testing as Lewis Hamilton led a 1-2 stranglehold in the timesheets on the opening day.

Hamilton, who has the chance to equal Michael Schumacher’s all-time record of seven world championships this season, set the fastest time of the day in the afternoon session on Pirelli’s C1 Hard compound tyres, turning in a 1m16.976s.

The Briton’s benchmark time came after a flurry of improvements on the Hardest tyre, with Hamilton the only driver to dip under the 1m17 bracket on what proved to be a fast start to winter testing that already eclipsed the fastest time set during the entirety of last year’s first test.

Hamilton teased that he could go even faster in the closing stages on a brand new set of Hards as he posted two fastest overall sectors before appearing to back off in the final sequence of corners.

The reigning world champion ended the day 0.377s clear of Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas, who topped the morning session for the German manufacturer, which totalled more than 170 laps between its drivers.

Racing Point driver Sergio Perez’s strong morning time saw him remain third and four-tenths off the pace, ahead of Max Verstappen, who single-handedly racked up a remarkable 168 laps for Red Bull in fourth.

Verstappen’s day did not pass without drama as the Dutchman suffered two spins at Turn 13 within the first two hours of the afternoon, before taking a third trip through the gravel at the Turn 7/8 chicane, though he was able to continue on all three occasions.

Aside from the odd off-track excursion, the reliability and pace shown by all 10 teams was particularly extraordinary during a totally uninterrupted first eight hours of running that did not see a single red flag period. All teams completing more than 100 laps of running between their respective drivers.

Daniil Kvyat was fifth-fastest for AlphaTauri as he completed more than 100 laps for the rebranded Faenza squad. The Russian finished ahead of McLaren’s Carlos Sainz and the Renault pair of Daniel Ricciardo and Esteban Ocon, who split driving duties, with the top eight separated by just over a second.

Williams enjoyed a trouble-free run on an encouraging first day of running for the British squad as it looks to recover from a torrid 2019 campaign.

George Russell lapped the Spanish Grand Prix venue 73 times in the morning and was 1.192s off the pace in ninth, before handing over to his new teammate and rookie Nicholas Latifi, who finished 12th on his first official outing as an F1 driver.

The Williams pair were split by the second Racing Point of Lance Stroll and Charles Leclerc, who was a lowly 11th in the timesheets in what proved to be a quiet start to testing for Ferrari in comparison to the electrifying pace it showed during last year’s winter tests.

A notable absentee from the opening day was four-time world champion Sebastian Vettel, who was due to drive for Ferrari on Wednesday but reported he was unwell and was subsequently replaced by Leclerc at the 11th hour. 

Leclerc will drive once more for Ferrari on Thursday morning to allow Vettel as much time as possible to recover, before he is scheduled to get behind the wheel of the SF1000 for the second afternoon of running.

On his F1 return following his departure from Williams at the end of 2019, Robert Kubica turned in 59 laps on his way to 13th in his first appearance as Alfa Romeo test and reserve driver.

Haas driver Kevin Magnussen suffered a spin at the high-speed Turn 9 in the morning but recovered to record a century of laps as he took 14th.

Getting his first taste of Alfa Romeo’s C39 challenger on Wednesday afternoon, Antonio Giovinazzi propped up the timesheets with 79 laps to his name as he finished the day over three seconds off the pace.

Final times from the opening day of pre-season testing at Barcelona.



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