BARCELONA – Germany’s Sebastian Vettel (Ferrari) was the fastest driver on Monday on the first day of 2019 Formula 1 pre-season testing at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, while Spaniard Carlos Sainz gave the McLaren team their best start in five years.
Just as he did on the first day of the 2018 pre-season, Vettel led all competitors with a fastest run of 1:18.161. He also completed the highest number of laps at the track in suburban Barcelona, 169.
For the Mercedes team, which has dominated both the driver’s and constructor’s competitions in recent years, Finland’s Valtteri Bottas and British five-time world champion Lewis Hamilton finished in eight and ninth place, respectively, out of 11 cars.
The unimpressive times match the results Mercedes has had in the first tests in previous years, as the team usually treats the opening session as an opportunity to gauge the reliability of their cars.
“We couldn’t have hoped for a better day,” Vettel said at the end of the session. “I think it was unbelievable. The car was working really well, we had no issues slowing us down, we did the program just the way we wanted – we were able to squeeze a little bit more out, even.”
Sainz, in his debut with McLaren, set the second-fastest time. He was the only driver to use the faster ultra-soft tires.
“Definitely a good day. I think everyone in the team has to be proud and has to be happy. The hard work over the winter, the plan we put together to have the car ready nice and early for the presentation to be out on track at 9 a.m. and, as the morning was going by, not having any issue with the car at all to complete almost 120 laps, is definitely a good place to start the year,” the Spanish driver said.
The start of pre-season testing was also the debut of the new F1 regulations on aerodynamics and of Pirelli’s 2019 tire selection, which offers five compounds rather than seven.
Another novelty was the appearance of the team previously known as Sauber under their new name, Alfa Romeo, reflecting a deepening of the Italian automaker’s existing technical and commercial relationship with the squad.
Driving for Alfa on Monday was Kimi Raikkonen, who decided last year to return to his old team, Sauber, after Ferrari declined to renew his contract for 2019.
The Finn completed 114 laps and set the fifth fastest time.