F1: Preseason Testing Kicks Off in Jerez; Vettel Tops Opening Day Time Sheets for Ferrari

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JEREZ, Spain – official series release — Mark Thompson/Getty Images Europe photo —

Sebastian Vettel made the perfect start to his Ferrari career by sending the Italian team to the top of the time sheets on the opening day of Formula One preseason testing at Jerez on Sunday.

The four-time world champion, who switched to Ferrari from Red Bull over the winter, completed 60 laps in the new SF15-T, setting a best time of 1:22.620 in the afternoon session to go clear of the field.

“Today was a good start,” commented Vettel. “I can’t say more than that, because this is only the beginning. Everything is different, even the philosophy behind the car, when compared to what I was used to. But I immediately felt at ease within the team and the guys gave me a very warm welcome.”

The second-fastest time on the day went to Sauber’s Marcus Ericsson who, like Vettel, was making his first appearance for his new team. The Swede, who completed 73 laps, took his blue and yellow C34 round in 1:22.777 late in the day to demote early pacesetter Nico Rosberg to third.

“I think we have good reasons to be happy,” said Ericsson. “We were able to complete a lot of laps, and we went through quite a few different small tweaks on the set-up and did all the installations needed. There were no major problems with the car, which was really the main thing.”

The loss of position would have mattered little to Rosberg on a day when reigning champions Mercedes demonstrated ominous form. Having shaken down the F1 W06 Hybrid at Silverstone last week, the German clocked up a remarkable 157 laps in the freshly-unveiled car – a tally more than twice that managed by any other team.

“That was a great start to the winter testing,” Rosberg commented. “In the beginning it’s all about reliability and we managed to do a lot of mileage today. The guys in the factories built a complete new car and now we come here and it’s working great, so the team did a fantastic job over the winter.

“I was able to do some good long runs on the first day and that’s really amazing. We have such a great team and this is what makes me really happy. As a driver, you always want to find out how quick you are compared to the others – but that will have to wait until qualifying in Melbourne. The next testing days are all about making sure we know the car inside out and we’ve made a good start with that today.”

Daniel Ricciardo was fourth-quickest in Red Bull’s uniquely liveried RB11, though mechanical issues restricted the Australian to just 35 laps. Williams, meanwhile, were late to join proceedings, but eventually completed a useful 73 laps and set the fifth-fastest time with Valtteri Bottas at the wheel of the FW37.

Carlos Sainz Junior recorded the sixth-quickest time as he gave Toro Rosso’s STR10 its maiden outing, though it proved a rather stop-start day for the Spanish rookie who caused the session’s second red-flag stoppage when he came to a halt on the back straight late on.

The times were rounded out by Fernando Alonso who managed just six laps in McLaren’s new Honda-powered MP4-30. The Spaniard did complete one timed effort, though it was a full 18 seconds off the leading pace.

Absent from the timesheet were Force India, who have opted to skip the first test completely, and Lotus, whose car only arrived in Spain late on Sunday. The Enstone-based team say the E23 Hybrid is now undergoing its build program and is not expected to run until the third day of the test on Tuesday.

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