Day 1 of pre-season testing officially spelt the end of the Formula 1 off-season, as the cars returned to the track for the first time since Abu Dhabi in December.
The first day of testing was split into morning and afternoon sessions, of which Mercedes came out on top with a one-two. Ferrari were down to one driver for the day after Sebastian Vettel was absent through illness and missed Day 1 of testing in Barcelona.
Alpha Tauri, boasting their new team name, were one of several teams who flaunted their new livery, alongside Renault’s mysterious black carbon coloured machine which has been confirmed as the teams testing livery prior to the start of the season.
The first half of the session in Barcelona started off rather slowly, with Williams’s George Russell being the first car back on track. Shortly followed by the other teams and their contenders for the season.
The early pacesetters in the morning session were the Racing Point team, with Sergio Perez putting in some consistent timings throughout the session, seeing them stay towards the top of the leader board by midday.
However, the man who would top the session by the end was Valtteri Bottas in the Mercedes, picking up where they left off at the end of last season. The Finn put in a time of 1.17.313, only 0.062s quicker than the Racing Point.
The driver who did the most laps early on was Max Verstappen in the Red Bull, who managed to complete 91 laps of the Catalunya circuit, however he only managed to finish the session in third position.
Only one car seemed to struggle in the session and that was the Alpha Tauri of Danill Kvyat, who, at around the half way point, seemed to struggle to get the car out of the pit-lane, and wasn’t seen too much for the rest of the session due to a software issue with the car.
Only a second separated all ten cars in the session, meaning that the early lap times could indicate a much closer set of testing in comparison to last year, however it is to be taken with a pinch of salt.
As the afternoon session started, the first car onto track was the reining champion Lewis Hamilton, donning his new helmet design with the white and purple colour scheme.
The second session also saw more cars on the track, with Mercedes, Williams, Alfa Romeo and Racing Point all having two drivers that set times .
Renault were also due to have two cars on track, however issues with the car halted Daniel Ricciardo getting his first taste of the 2020 car until later in the session. Another driver who was getting his first chance in the 2020 car was Canadian new boy Nicholas Latifi in the Williams.
The session finished with all 15 drivers setting times. The two Mercedes spent most of the session perched at the top of the timings, however their pink counterpart as it was being called on the paddock in the Racing Point was also close-by.
Hamilton managed to edge into the 1:16’s as the track temperature continued to rise and the teams were able to gather further valuable data.
Verstappen continued to push hard in the afternoon, with the Dutchman ending the session with the most laps of anyone on the grid with over 167 laps completed, just ahead of Carlos Sainz who completed 161 laps.
The day wasn’t all smooth sailing for Verstappen however, as he managed to spin the car twice going into the final chicane.
Overall there is little yo be taken from the opening day as it is in the early stages of pre-season, with another five days to go.
The running of all the drivers was done with most of the hard and medium compound tyres. The softer tyres should make an appearance in the latter sessions.
Final Standings – Day 1 testing:
1.Lewis Hamilton – Mercedes-1.16.976
2.Valtteri Bottas – Mercedes +0.337
3.Sergio Perez – Racing Point +0.399
4.Max Verstappen -Red Bull +0.540
5.Danill Kvyat - Alpha Tauri +0.722
6.Carlos Sainz – McLaren +0.866
7.Daniel Ricciardo – Renault +0.897
8.Esteban Ocon- Renault +1.028
9.George Russell – Williams +1.192
10.Lance Stroll – Racing Point +1.306
11. Charles Leclerc – Ferrari +1.313
12. Nicholas Latifi – Williams +1.406
13.Robert Kubica – Alfa Romeo +1.410
14.Kevin Magnussen – Haas +1.490
15. Antonio Giovinazzi – Alfa Romeo +3.120