Norris tops busy first day of F1 testing

Steven Tee/Motorsport Images

Norris tops busy first day of F1 testing

Formula 1

Norris tops busy first day of F1 testing

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Lando Norris set the benchmark on the first day of pre-season testing with the 2022 cars while Ferrari and Mercedes also showed early pace at Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya.

On a day when all of the brand-new cars were finally seen running in anger, it was Ferrari who set the pace for most of the day, starting with Charles Leclerc going quickest in the morning session with a 1m20.165s. When Carlos Sainz slotted into second after taking over for the afternoon, it looked like being the perfect start to pre-season for the Scuderia, but Norris had other ideas and registered a 1m19.568s during two quick C4-tire runs late in the day.

Leclerc was watching Norris trackside and commented on how low the McLaren was running, with sparks visible only from the MCL36 while the majority of the other teams appeared to run slightly higher ride heights while gathering data on the opening day.

Fourth-quickest was George Russell on what was his first outing as a full-time Mercedes driver, with a 1m20.784s leaving him just under 0.15s clear of teammate Lewis Hamilton; the defending constructors’ champions having also opted to split the running.

Sixth was Sebastian Vettel, who drove only in the morning before handing over to Lance Stroll who ended up 13th, the Aston Martin pair combining to complete 119 laps, a little way off Ferrari’s benchmark of 153.

Behind Vettel came Yuki Tsunoda, Fernando Alonso and Max Verstappen who all completed more than 100 laps on their own as they were handed full days of running, and it was Verstappen’s car that was the center of attention early on. The RB18 hadn’t been seen prior to the start of testing, but emerged from the garage with a radically undercut sidepod design and bodywork protruding in front of the radiator inlets.

Even Hamilton was out in the pit lane in the opening hour to take a look at his rival’s new car, while also walking past the other garages to see the other solutions that were on show.

Red Bull’s RB18 caught the attention of its rivals. Mark Sutton/Motorsport Images

The only car he’ll have seen that wasn’t running in full livery was the Alfa Romeo as it is testing in a camouflage color scheme, although Robert Kubica managed just nine laps in the morning due to a small part breaking and needing to be replaced. He handed over to Valtteri Bottas at lunchtime who set the 10th-fastest time, some three seconds off Norris.

Bottas is one of only four drivers in a new car this year, and he ended up a little under 0.2s clear of a returning name as Alex Albon made his Williams debut. The Red Bull-backed driver completed the same number of laps as teammate Nicholas Latifi, with 66 each.

Remarkably there were no red flags during the opening day of testing, with the closest coming when Norris stopped at the end of the pit lane early in the afternoon. McLaren team members quickly ran to the car and pushed it back to the garage, with a power unit issue to blame as it went into a protective mode run specifically during testing.

It was a tough day for Haas, however, despite many rival teams noting how sophisticated the VF-22 looks after the team wrote off last year. Nikita Mazepin was hampered by a cooling leak in the morning session that required the floor to come off, limiting him to 20 laps in total, before Mick Schumacher then suffered a damaged floor that left him doing just 12.

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