Vettel fastest on opening day at Barcelona Testing

Three days after his frustrations in qualifying at the Spanish Grand Prix, Sebastian Vettel returned to the Circuit de Catalunya on Tuesday to clock the fastest time on the opening day of the first in-season test this year.

And, by one of those quirks of motor sport fate, he produced a lap that was faster than any he did on Saturday when he and Ferrari team-mate Kimi Raikkonen qualified on the third row of the grid.

As Mercedes, represented by Nico Rosberg, concentrated on car evaluation – back at the scene of Sunday’s crash between Rosberg and team-mate Lewis Hamilton, Ferrari dedicated time to seeking an understanding of their qualifying problems.

This meant they worked with many short runs on soft tyres and looked for outright speed. In this spell, Vettel clocked a best lap of one minute and 23.220 seconds, more than one-tenth of a second better than his 1:23.334 recorded on Saturday.

Rosberg was second quickest, 1:23.337 ahead of, remarkably, Jenson Button of McLaren Honda, who set his best time of 1:23.752 during the morning. All three did their best laps on soft tyres.

Rosberg took the opportunity at the end of the day to make clear that, as far as he was concerned, the furore in the wake of last Sunday’s crash was over and consigned to history without lasting damage to his relationship to Hamilton.

“It's always very hard because we have been fighting for the championship for the last three years," he said. “Obviously, it didn't go well on Sunday, but our relationship remains as before. I don't even think about it".

“For me, it's way in the past and it surprises me that people are talking about it, but I understand it. For me, though, it's over…  In the end, we're here to fight for the win and to fight against each other.”

Rosberg’s presence ensured a big media corps stayed on in Spain for the test and to see Romain Grosjean, on ultra-soft tyres, clocked the fourth best time for HAAS in the afternoon ahead of Pascal Wehrlein of Manor and Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo.

The Perth man was giving the new Renault engine in his Red Bull an extended test for the first time and produced a best lap in 1:24.307. He hands over to Sunday’s hero, the Dutch teenager Max Verstappen, his team-mate, on Wednesday.

The Red Bull junior driver Pierre Gasly was seventh for Toro Rosso on soft tyres ahead of Force India's Alfonso Celis Jr, who did his lap on super-softs in the closing minutes.

Arguably the most interesting action of the day came from Williams whose test driver Alex Lynn was ninth, having run a radical new rear wing set-up, described as a ‘double decker’, in the morning to simulate the 2017 levels of down-force expected with a new technical package. 

Leading times after the opening day:

Pos.

Driver

Team

Time

Gap

Laps

1

Sebastian Vettel

Ferrari

1:23.220

 

103

2

Nico Rosberg

Mercedes

1:23.337

0.117

119

3

Jenson Button

McLaren

1:23.753

0.533

86

4

Romain Grosjean

Haas

1:23.882

0.662

96

5

Pascal Wehrlein

Manor

1:24.297

1.077

86

6

Daniel Ricciardo

Red Bull

1:24.307

1.087

89

7

Pierre Gasly

Toro Rosso

1:24.821

1.601

78

8

Alfonso Celis

Force India

1:25.467

2.247

99

9

Alex Lynn

Williams

1:26.071

2.851

86

10

Esteban Ocon

Renault

 

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