Barcelona F1 testing, Day One: Ferrari start fast, Mercedes go long
Sebastian Vettel outpaces Lewis Hamilton, but new W07 dominates mileage charts; Jenson Button sixth fastest for McLaren
By James Galloway in Barcelona
Last Updated: 23/02/16 3:46pm
F1 in 2016 has officially begun with Ferrari giving an early tantalising glimpse of a potential head-to-head title fight with Mercedes on the opening day of Barcelona testing.
Sebastian Vettel clocked a fastest time of 1:24.939 to outpace world champion Lewis Hamilton by half a second as Ferrari and Mercedes gave the full debuts to the cars which are expected to lead the way in the new season.
But while Ferrari may have taken early bragging rights on the timesheet, Mercedes conquered the mileage charts with their W07 clocking an astonishing 156 laps - nearly double that of any other new car.
"It's been an amazing day," a beaming Hamilton said. "I've never had a Day One practice like today."
Lap times in testing are notoriously unreliable indicators of true form and Ferrari have topped Day One of testing in each of the last two years only for Mercedes to dominate the season. Vettel's best time - which, like Hamilton's, was set on the medium tyres - was two seconds slower than the fastest of winter testing 12 months ago but was also just 0.3 seconds shy of the pole position time for last May's Spanish GP.
However, Nico Rosberg, who takes over the W07 from Hamilton on Tuesday, believes the Ferrari threat has grown.
"Ferrari are looking strong already and definitely we are expecting them to be a big threat," Rosberg told Sky Sports News HQ. "It would be great if Ferrari are very, very close to us so long as they are never in front of us!"
Team boss Toto Wolff added: "We're very happy that Ferrari look like they have a great car because that could be a great battle between the teams."
The new Ferrari and Mercedes cars ended up clear of the pack on the timesheet, with Daniel Ricciardo third in the Red Bull RB12 and Valtteri Bottas fourth in Williams' FW38.
Inevitably, after the team's worst season in history, plenty of eyes were on McLaren and engine partners Honda as the MP4-31 made its track debut at the Circuit de Catalunya.
Twelve months after the tone of the team's season was set when its predecessor completed a disastrous six laps on day one at Jerez, the new car proved far more reliable out of the box with Jenson Button able to rack up 83 laps.
However, team boss Eric Boullier earlier sounded a note of caution by stating that their performance was "not good enough" during the morning session. Button finished sixth and 1.8 seconds off the Ferrari pace - despite using the faster soft compound.
Newcomers Haas, meanwhile, ran into more fundamental problems as their first F1 car, the VF-16, made its long-awaited debut.
The Ferrari-engined machine suffered a front-wing failure down the circuit's main straight, keeping Romain Grosjean in the garage for several hours. The Frenchman returned in the closing stages and finished 10th with 31 laps.
After a delayed start, new Mercedes engine customers Manor wound up ninth with rookie Pascal Wehrlein - although it was a less successful day for fellow newcomer Jolyon Palmer whose Renault ran into problems and propped up the timesheet.
Day One Timesheet
1. Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari, 1:24.939, 69 laps;
2. Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, 1:25.409, 156 laps;
3. Daniel Ricciardo, Red Bull, 1:26.044, 87 laps;
4. Valtteri Bottas, Williams, 1:26.091, 80 laps;
5. Alfonso Celis, Force India, 1:26.298, 58 laps;
6. Jenson Button, McLaren, 1:26.735, 84 laps
7. Carlos Sainz, Toro Rosso, 1:27.180, 55 laps;
8. Marcus Ericson, Sauber, 1:27.555, 88 laps;
9. Pascal Wehrlein, Manor, 1:28.292, 54 laps;
10. Romain Grosjean, Haas, 1:28.399, 31 laps;
11. Jolyon Palmer, Renault, 1:29.356, 37 laps.
Keep up to speed with all the latest news, pictures and video from all eight days of F1 testing via the daily live blog on the Sky Sports website and mobile apps. Sky Sports News HQ will also broadcast regular updates from trackside in Barcelona.
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