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Norris quickest on first day of testing


Lando Norris topped the timesheets at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya today, ahead of Ferrari pair, Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz.

With the three day test officially relegated to 'event' level, Bahrain having paid for the privilege of hosting the sole pre-season test, it was appropriate that all in all it was a largely uneventful day.

Indeed, on a day the only incident was Norris stopping at the end of the pitlane due to an engine mode issue and Fernando Alonso was somehow officially confused with Esteban Ocon, the highlight of the day was the much anticipated appearance of the Red Bull RB18.

Then again, Adrian Newey's latest creation is likely to dominate conversation over the coming days and possibly beyond, such was the excitement it caused.

Looking at the timesheets one might be forgiven for thinking the RB18 is a bit of a dud and Max will require all the help from race officials he can get, however this week is all about consistency, reliability and data acquisition as opposed to outright pace. Therefore the fact that the latest from Milton Keynes completed the most laps (147) will send the Dutchman to bed smiling tonight.

Despite the fact the official timing transponder though Esteban Ocon was driving this afternoon - even though Fernando Alonso was in the A522 for the whole day - the fact is the Alpine completed 146 laps, compared to 153 (Ferrari), 127 (Mercedes) and 121 (AlphaTauri).

Alonso's tally was all the more impressive because he missed the first hour of running after lunch, while technical issues compromised Haas and Alfa Romeo in both of today's sessions.

Having set the early pace, Verstappen began to slide down the timesheet as he switched to the harder tyres, and while Charles Leclerc was the pace-setter for much of the day, around a half-hour before close of play Lando Norris went quicker, the McLaren driver subsequently consolidating his top spot with a quicker time.

Though aero rakes and flo-vis were in much use this morning, this afternoon attention switched to longer runs.

While, other than the aforementioned issues for Haas and Alfa, there were no serious issues, Lewis Hamilton lost track time this afternoon as his team worked on his front suspension, however, all-in-all the German team will be happy with its first day of testing.

Along with Red Bull, AlphaTauri, Alpine and McLaren were the only teams to run just one driver, the rest opting to split duties.

Tomorrow sees a number of drivers get their first taste of the 2022 regulations, including Guanyu Zhou, Daniel Ricciardo and Sergio Perez.

Again we stress , today wasn't about pace but rather reliability and the 1,122 laps completed with brand new, out of the box, cars is a good sign.

Initial thoughts?

Mercedes and Red Bull looking good, as does Ferrari. Too early to even try making other predictions, but while McLaren looks good also, it looks as though it could be another long, hard year for Haas and Alfa... Valtteri is going to wonder where he went wrong.

"I'm really happy to be back behind the wheel," said Norris at the end of today's running. "It's nice to be in the car again and get to push the limit. It's been good for me to get used to this new car, because I've driven the same regulations for my whole F1 career.

"It's nice to have a change and it was a productive day. We learned a lot of things for the team, and we got all the information we wanted to. We can now compare it back to the simulator and the wind tunnel. A good day, and a good start to this test."

"After two years in the design process, it's great to finally see the MCL36 on track, alongside all of the other new cars," added technical director, James Key. "It's remarkable how many laps have been completed by teams today, considering how new these cars are, and how much there is to learn. It's good to see F1 getting winter testing off to such a positive start.

"This has been a productive first day for us. We're not taking any notice of lap times at the moment, it's all about learning and following our own directions and priorities. We gathered some important data points during this first day of testing and learned a great deal, both to carry forward for the rest of this test and also to use as we develop the car further.

"Like many teams, we undertook initial runs with aero rakes on the car this morning which provided some useful initial correlation data. Aerodynamics is the biggest change with the '22 cars so it is important to take some basic initial measurements at an early stage. Through the rest of the day, we did a fair amount of set-up and exploratory work, beginning to understand the car and the tyres a step at a time. I think we can be pleased with the number of laps we've covered with Lando today and look forward to going again with Daniel tomorrow."

"I think the car looks good but the most important thing is that it is fast, and that's what we are trying to see," said Verstappen. "We wanted to get laps in today to get used to the car and to get a general understanding about how it's behaving. As well as that, we needed the mileage to see how the parts held up. Everything worked pretty well, so it was a good start and a positive day.

"Tonight, we will look into things in more detail and see what we need to do to improve. Checo will drive tomorrow and then I am looking forward to getting back in the RB18 on Friday."

"It was a very short off-season," added Christian Horner, "but it's great to be back at the track and see the number one on the car, it's been a long time since it's been on an F1 car and our target this year is to keep it there. We are excited to get this new era of the sport underway and see the car run on track in anger for the first time.

"With such a big regulation change it's even more fascinating this year. We've got a great Team and we're fully motivated coming into this season. Max felt the car was good to drive, so it was a positive first morning. It is going to be a good year for Checo, now he is in his second year with us more familiar with the team."

"I'm happy because today went really well for the team," said Head of Race Engineering, Guillaume Rocquelin. "We gave ourselves the optimistic target of 700km and we finished around three laps short of that, which for the first day of testing is quite unusual. Things went well, we did some tests and we have a good direction for how to improve the car. Max is pleased so far, there are some balance limitations but nothing that makes us think we need to turn things upside down to make the car work."

Both Ferrari drivers had several items on their worksheet. First off was a function check for the car over a longer distance, the F1-75 having previously only completed 15 kilometres in a demonstration event on the 18 February, plus a further 100 during yesterday's filming day. Another task for the drivers was for them to familiarise themselves with what is a totally new car. Today was also an opportunity for the drivers and the team to get used to the car's increased size, with particular regard to pit stops. Another item was correlating the car's behaviour on track compared to the results of the simulation work carried out during its design phase.

Tomorrow continues along the same lines with the two drivers on duty once again: this time Carlos will start the day while Charles will take over in the afternoon.

"The first day of testing is behind us," said Leclerc. "This is always a really exciting moment at the start of each season. It was the first time that we could really push in our new car and it felt really good to be back behind the wheel. We completed all the tests we wanted to and ran through our full programme smoothly, which is good for a new car. I'm looking forward to being back on track again tomorrow.

"The initial feeling is not bad, but we shouldn't get carried away by the timesheets today, as these are early days and everyone is still hiding their true form. It's impossible to have a clear picture just yet, so we have to stay focused and keep working hard. We put in a lot of laps, more than any other team today, and that's a positive we will build on."

"Today was the first time I was in the car with a proper run plan," added Sainz, "unlike the previous times when we basically did shake downs. We could finally push a bit and start learning from these cars. The timesheet is unimportant at this early stage, but it was very positive to put in a good number of laps and get a real feel at the wheel.

"We still have a lot of work to do but today we could already start feeling some differences from last year, although in terms of getting used to it I don't feel it's going to take too long. For sure the last tenths will be tricky to find, but that is the interesting part! Anyway, that's not the aim here in Barcelona as we still have more testing ahead of the first race. A good first day and I'm looking forward to tomorrow."

Check out our Wednesday gallery from Barcelona, here.


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