Defending world champion Sebastian Vettel has kickstarted his an Red Bull’s title Sebastian Vettel went quickest on the opening day of pre-season testingdefence in the most positive way, by posting the fastest lap time on the opening day of pre-season testing at Valencia’s Ricardo Tormo circuit.

A total of eleven teams (Team Lotus kicks off tomorrow) and thirteen drivers hit the track today, with the ‘big three’ – Red Bull, Ferrari and McLaren – setting the pace.

February presents teams with the sole opportunity to complete some serious testing mileage with in-season testing all but a forgotten concept, and Valencia kicks off a string of four four-day tests that will see the circus move around Spain – via Jerez and Barcelona – before heading to Bahrain where the final test happens before the season-opening race in mid-March.

Despite a chilly start to the day, the weak winter sun managed to lift ambient temperatures as high as 15°C (59°F) at the counter-clockwise circuit.

Gary Paffett ran in an interim-spec McLaren Nico Hulkenberg settled in a Force India
Force India and McLaren featured at the sharp end of the timesheets, although their F-duct-equipped 2010 cars could certainly have been a factor in this result.

As the session got underway at 10am local time, Nico Hülkenberg was the first driver to venture out of pit lane on his first outing for Force India, and the German was closely followed by McLaren test driver Gary Paffett – both drivers were running 2010-spec (and ‘F-duct’ equipped) versions of their teams’ cars.

But proceedings would soon be halted by the day’s first red flag, brought about by Nico Rosberg's W02 stopped after just nine tours of the circuit Rosberg’s Mercedes GP W02, which ground to a halt after just nine laps with an hydraulics problem. The time spent repairing the problem meant that Rosberg’s team-mate Michael Schumacher – a man desperately hoping for as much testing mileage as possible – could only complete a short run late in the afternoon, leaving the Silver Arrows well down on the timesheets.

By the afternoon, the lap times started to drop as the track rubbered in, and a decent crowd of vocal and patriotic fans were happy to see Fernando Alonso take his Ferrari F150 to the top of the timesheets, only to have his time eclipsed by Hülkenberg shortly afterwards.

But by 3pm, it was as though 2010 had never really left us, with Sebastian Vettel assuming Red Bull’s customary position at the top of the timesheets, ahead of Hülkenberg, Paffett, Alonso and Kamui Kobayashi in the Sauber.

Paul di Resta had an outing in the Force India for the afternoon session, and the promoted driver took his VJM03 to fourth position on the timesheets, relegating Alonso and Kobayashi down a place apiece.

Kamui Kobayashi Jerome D'Ambrosio
Kamui Kobayashi and Jérôme D’Ambrosio clocked up decent mileage for Sauber and Virgin Racing, respectively.

Virgin Racing could be well-pleased with their day’s efforts, with rookie driver Jérôme D’Ambrosio winding up seventh-fastest in the older-spec VR-01 after clocking up a decent 71 laps.

Renault achieved limited mileage with Vitaly Petrov having a six-lap run in the morning Vitaly Petrovbefore the radical R31 was confined to the garages for several hours. He made another appearance later in the afternoon, clocking up 28 laps en route to eighth on the timesheets.

Toro Rosso completed equally low mileage on its first day with the STR6 – a car it hopes will take it to the not-very-giddy heights of eights in the Constructors’ Championship standings. Local boy Jaime Alguersuari completed just 19 laps after the team performed extensive checks on their latest creation.

The Williams team experienced a KERS-related delay in the morning before it was able to send Rubens Barrichello out to achieve some serious mileage in the new FW33 decked out in an interim navy blue decal. The new car ultimately proved reliable – albeit not particularly quick as yet – with the veteran Brazilian racking up some 77 laps with a fastest time some 3.5 seconds slower than Sebastian Vettel.Rear view of Ferrari's F150

And Hispania Racing completed its first ever test miles, with F1 returnee Narain Karthikeyan completing 45 laps in the 2010-spec F110 car.

The day finished two minutes short of its planned schedule when Fernando Alonso parked his Ferrari at the entrance of the pit lane.

Testing continues tomorrow, and Richard’s F1 will continue to provide you with all the latest news from Valencia.


Valencia Pre-Season Test (Day 1) Lap Times:

  Driver   Team Time Laps
1. Sebastian Vettel DEU Red Bull Renault RB7 1:13.769 93
2. Nico Hülkenberg DEU Force India Mercedes VJM03* + 0.169 71
3. Gary Paffett GBR McLaren Mercedes MP4-25* + 0.523 91
4. Paul di Resta GBR Force India Mercedes VJM03* + 0.692 28
5. Fernando Alonso ESP Ferrari F150 + 0.784 97
6. Kamui Kobayashi JPN Sauber Ferrari C30 + 1.852 68
7. Jérôme D’Ambrosio BEL Virgin Racing Cosworth VR-01* + 2.234 71
8. Vitaly Petrov RUS Renault R31 + 2.582 28
9. Michael Schumacher DEU Mercedes GP W02 + 2.681 15
10. Jaime Alguersuari ESP Toro Rosso Ferrari STR6 + 3.445 19
11. Rubens Barrichello BRA Williams Cosworth FW33 + 3.566 77
12. Narain Karthikeyan IND HRT Cosworth F110* + 4.251 45
13. Nico Rosberg DEU Mercedes GP W02 + 6.161 9

* Denotes interim-spec or 2010 model

[Original images via AUTOSPORT, GP Update, ITV-F1, LAT and Sutton Images]

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Richard Bailey

Founder & Chief Editor at MotorsportM8
Hasn't missed a Grand Prix since 1989. Has a soft spot for Minardi. Tattooed with 35+ Grand Prix circuits.