Defending Formula One World Champion Sebastian Vettel topped the timing sheets on the opening day of pre-season testing at Circuit Ricardo Tormo in Valencia, Spain. The times are unofficial with teams breaking in their new cars while others have are using their 2010-spec cars with modifications.
With Team Lotus as the only exception (they start their testing tomorrow), all teams were on track with the usual suspects - Red Bull, Ferrari and McLaren setting the competitive times.
"It was good today and I felt comfortable in the car, I enjoyed it," smiled Vettel. "It was day one for most of us and there's a long way to go with testing ahead of the season and a very long racing season after that - with 20 races - so things can change! We've only made the first step today, but we had a reliable day and can be very proud of what we have achieved so far."
With most teams spending the first part of the session making initial checks on the cars, it wasn't until the afternoon session that the times started to come down. Vettel was the first to dip under the 1m14s barrier and he was joined later on by Force India test driver Nico Hulkenberg who drove the first part of the day before handing over to Paul di Resta in the afternoon. Running an interim MP4/25, Gary Paffett impressed in third and with fellow Brit di Resta setting a time 0.5s of his team mate, both demoted Fernando Alonso and Ferrari to 5th.
The day was brought to a slightly premature end when the Ferrari stopped out on the circuit and the session was red-flagged. Alonso managed to restart the car and cruise round to the pits but the allocated session time had expired moments before. Turning 68 laps in total, Sauber's Kamui Kobayashi ended 6th, just over 0.4s ahead of an impressive Jerome d'Ambrosio in the Virgin-Cosworth who completed 71 laps.
Unsurprisingly, the 2010 cars were relatively trouble free and competitive but the same could not be said for some of the new machinery.
Stopping on the main straight, Nico Rosberg was the first casualty of the day - his Mercedes struck down with a hydraulic leak after only 9 laps. Team mate Michael Schumacher ran the car in the afternoon and though only registering 15 laps, set 9th fastest lap, just behind a slow starting Vitaly Petrov in the Lotus Renault*. The Russian completed a mere 6 laps before emerging later in the day running a total of 22 laps - complete with a new and radical exhaust system which exists at the front of the sidepods.
Widespread check being the order of the day for Torro Rosso, Jaime Algersuari took a long break from being on track, eventually setting a time of 1m17.214s, good enough for 10th.
KERS made it's return to F1 though Williams experienced issues with theirs but Rubens Barrichello - entering his 19th season, took 11th in the Cosworth powered FW33 with a 1m17.335s. Running the team's 2010 car, Narin Karthikeyan marked his return to action completing 45 laps for HRT and a best of 1m18.020s and 12th in the standings.
*Lotus Renualt - Name of team is still in dispute while the court battle with Team Lotus is on hold.