Sebastian Vettel showcased the significant potential of Ferrari's sleek new SF16-H by securing the fastest lap on day one of 2016 pre-season testing in Barcelona. The former Red Bull stalwart, who finished third in the Drivers' Standings last year, clocked a time of 1:24.939 in the morning session at the Circuit de Catalunya that was not bettered throughout the day.
Reigning world champion Lewis Hamilton was by far the busiest driver on the grid, completing 156 laps – almost double the amount of any competitor – in his Mercedes, which looks similar to last season's title-winning car. Such a considerable distance eclipsed the 695.196km previously set by the W07 hybrid's predecessor and should have the Brackley-based team quietly confident of winning a third consecutive Constructors' Championship. Nico Rosberg will take over testing duties on 23 February.
Hamilton won 10 races en route to a third world title in 2015, but was bested by Rosberg in each of the final three outings in Mexico, Brazil and Abu Dhabi. Rather than be threatened by his teammate's impressive performance, however, the 31-year-old insists he will use it as motivation to improve even further.
"I'm not really too fussed about what happened in the final few races of 2015 as it didn't affect my championship," he was quoted as saying by the Press Association. "Of course, I love winning and that's always the goal – but to be honest my attention was elsewhere at that point. It had been such a successful season and you can't win them all, so that was my feeling at the end of the year.
"If anything, it motivated me. It made me think 'okay, next year Nico is going to be super quick and super strong, so I've got to make sure I raise the bar again'."
Daniel Ricciardo was third fastest, recording a time of 1:26.044 in the Red Bull RB12. Williams enjoyed a consistent day courtesy of Valtteri Bottas, while 19-year-old development driver Alfonso Celis finished fifth during the first run of Force India's VJM09.
McLaren endured a torrid time on the opening day of testing last year, with Fernando Alonso finishing a dreadful session 18 seconds behind pace-setter Vettel in Jerez. The team's new MP4-31 thankfully fared much better this time around as Jenson Button completed 84 laps of the track.
Carlos Sainz, Romain Grosjean and Marcus Ericsson all featured in the top 10, as did Manor debutant Pascal Wehrlein. Britain's Jolyon Palmer, who has been paired alongside Kevin Magnussen for Renault's comeback, was 11th with a strong time of 1:29:356.