Ferrari's Vettel tops opening day in Jerez; McLaren hits early trouble
Sebastian Vettel was fastest for Ferrari on the first day of testing for the 2015 season - but the big story was an impressive performance by Mercedes as Nico Rosberg logged a marathon 157 laps compared with the best mark of 73 achieved by anybody else.
Vettel had driven an old car at Fiorano, but this was his first go in a contemporary machine. The team had some issues that restricted his running in the morning, notably with telemetry, but in the end he managed to complete 60 laps.
"Today was a good start," he said. "I can't say more than that, because this is only the beginning. Everything is different, even the philosophy behind the car, when compared to what I was used to. But I immediately felt at ease within the team and the guys gave me a very warm welcome. For now, lap times aren't important: I did mine on the medium compound, but the comparison has to be made yet again with the Mercedes. They are very quick, let's just hope they are not quite as fast as last year."
Much attention was on the first appearance of Fernando Alonso in a McLaren since 2007, but in the end the Spaniard completed only six stop-and-start laps as once again Honda chased problems, in this case related to a sensor. The team is confident that it will be able to get some decent running in on Monday.
Sauber had a solid first day with the new C34, and by the end of it, Marcus Ericsson posted the second fastest time, having run 73 laps.
"It was a very good day," said Ericsson. "First of all it was great to be back in the car after the winter break. I think we have good reasons to be happy. We were able to complete a lot of laps, and we went through quite a few different small tweaks on the setup and did all the installations needed. There were no major problems with the car, which was really the main thing. Overall it's been a good day, and I'm looking forward to the rest of the week. I hope we can continue like this."
Rosberg was comfortably fastest for much of the day, until Vettel went ahead. The W06 ran like clockwork and completed more miles than the team had anticipated. Clearly his final lap time, which saw him third for the day, meant little.
Red Bull surprised everyone when the RB11 emerged from the garage in a camouflage livery. The car had a few minor problems, including with the brakes in the morning, but Daniel Ricciardo was happy with progress.
"We got going pretty well this morning and I got a few laps under my belt," said Ricciardo. "So the first impressions are good. We'll get a few more laps over the next few days, but so far everything seems pretty encouraging. I can feel a step forward. I won't go into too much detail but it's there.
"We didn't do a whole lot of laps but definitely more than at this test last year. In general everything is behaving as it should. Obviously we had a couple of issues, but once the car is running it's all going pretty normally. A good first day, there are some positive signs there."
The Williams FW37 was the last car to emerge having missed the first couple of hours of the test, but Valterri Bottas still managed to complete 73 laps over the rest of the day, setting the fifth fastest time.
With little F1 running on his resume Carlos Sainz Jr. concentrated on feeling his way with the Toro Rosso STR10, in which he was sixth fastest.