Sebastian Vettel started 2011 just as he had finished 2010, as he topped the time sheets on the first day of testing at Valencia.
The reigning World Champion notched up 93 laps in the RB7 – Red Bull’s newly designed and built title challenger. Vettel set a fastest lap of 1:13.769 – a lap that was less than two-tenths of-a-second quicker than the man up, Nico Hulkenberg. The Force India reserve set his best time midway through the day, but did so in the 2010 car, before handing the VJM03 over to Grand Prix débutante, Paul di Resta.
The Scot secured the fourth fastest lap, but was only able to manage 28 tours of the Valencia circuit; however di Resta is set to continue his Force India running tomorrow.
Between the Force India pair was McLaren reserve and DTM runner, Gary Paffett. The Englishman piloted an interim version of the MP4-25, placing the Woking-based car 0.523 of-a-second shy of Vettel.
Fernando Alonso was the next 2011-spec car on the timing sheets, as he delivered 5th spot for the Ferrari F150. The double-World Champion completed 98 laps laps – the most of anyone today – finishing 0.784 adrift of the pace setting lap. Kamui Kobayashi was next up in the new Sauber C30 with a best lap of 1:15.621; less than four-tenths ahead of Virgin’s Jerome d’Ambrosio.
The Renault team raised some eyebrows today when they made their track début. An ambitious design that sees their exhaust system exit via the front of the sidepods is certainly a novel approach to channelling hot air beneath the car. However, the secondary pilot, Vitaly Petrov was only able to clock up 28 laps today, with a best lap of 1:16.351 this afternoon. Teammate Robert Kubica takes to the R31 tomorrow – it will be interesting to see what the favoured Pole can achieve with the machine.
Michael Schumacher ran only 15 laps this afternoon as his Mercedes MGP W02 machine suffered hydraulic problems early in the day during Nico Rosberg’s short run. As a result neither driver was able to set a competitive time, with Schumacher 9th on the time sheets and 2.7 seconds off of Vettel’s pace. Rosberg claimed 13th and last spot, while 6.2 seconds adrift.
Jaime Alguersuari rounded out the top-10 in his new Toro Rosso STR6, although the Spaniard only managed 19 laps. Worryingly for Williams, Rubens Barrichello was 11th fastest, some 3.6 seconds slower than Vettel and only 0.7 of-a-second ahead of Hispania Racing’s Narain Karthikeyan.
Of the twelve teams in Formula 1 in 2011, eleven ran today, with the final squad – Team Lotus – joining the fray tomorrow.
Pos Driver Car Time Gap Laps 1. Sebastian Vettel Red Bull-Renault* 1m13.769s 93 2. Nico Hulkenberg Force India-Mercedes 1m13.938s + 0.169s 71 3. Gary Paffett McLaren-Mercedes 1m14.292s + 0.523s 91 4. Paul di Resta Force India-Mercedes 1m14.461s + 0.692s 28 5. Fernando Alonso Ferrari* 1m14.553s + 0.784s 98 6. Kamui Kobayashi Sauber-Ferrari* 1m15.621s + 1.852s 68 7. Jerome D'Ambrosio Virgin-Cosworth 1m16.003s + 2.234s 71 8. Vitaly Petrov Renault* 1m16.351s + 2.582s 28 9. Michael Schumacher Mercedes* 1m16.450s + 2.681s 15 10. Jaime Alguersuari Toro Rosso-Ferrari* 1m17.214s + 3.445s 19 11. Rubens Barrichello Williams-Cosworth* 1m17.335s + 3.566s 77 12. Narain Karthikeyan HRT-Cosworth 1m18.020s + 4.251s 45 13. Nico Rosberg Mercedes* 1m19.930s + 6.161s 9 All timing unofficial * 2011 car