Nico Rosberg set the fastest time of the opening morning of testing in Barcelona, beating his Spanish Grand Prix pole position time.
Fresh from his victory in Sunday’s race, Rosberg was the busiest driver in the opening four hours of running in Barcelona, setting a best time of 1:24.374 and completing 78 laps.
With Mercedes testing tyres for Pirelli on the first day, Rosberg’s time was set on unmarked rubber but was 0.3s quicker than his pole lap on Saturday.
Much like this weekend’s race, Ferrari was closest to Mercedes but comfortably adrift in terms of pace.
Raffaele Marciello is driving the SF15-T on Tuesday and also passed the 50-lap mark as he posted a 1:26.648 to end the morning session over two seconds adrift of Rosberg.
Pastor Maldonado was third quickest for Lotus, 0.7s off Marciello. It was a more productive start to the day for the Venezeulan than Sunday’s race, with 53 laps on the board and all the bodywork intact after he was forced to retire from the grand prix with rear wing damage.
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Red Bull again struggled for mileage, with Daniil Kvyat fourth fastest but only registering 20 laps in the morning session.
The team is likely to be careful with its running as it has suffered numerous power unit failures this season, although team principal Christian Horner says he wants to see Renault push for performance rather than reliability.
There were two debutants on Tuesday morning, with Pierre Gasly fifth in the Toro Rosso and completing 60 laps. Gasly – who finished 3.7s off Rosberg’s time – will switch to the Red Bull on Wednesday.
The other new driver was Nick Yelloly who made his debut for Force India.
Yelloly was originally scheduled to drive on Wednesday but an illness for Pascal Wehrlein saw the young British driver switch to Tuesday, with Esteban Ocon called up for day two as a result.
Yelloly enjoyed a solid morning, completing 49 laps and ending up just 0.053s slower than sixth-placed Marcus Ericsson.
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Oliver Turvey got his first run in the McLaren MP4-30 as the team worked on aerodynamic analysis.
Turvey’s total of 31 laps saw a best time over five seconds off the pace, and he is scheduled to have a long lunch break as the team makes substantial changes ahead of the afternoon session.
Williams’ Felipe Massa was slowest in the morning, six seconds off Rosberg’s pace in a session which saw no interruptions.
Nick Yelloly could become Force India’s official third driver if he impresses during a test outing for the team in Barcelona.
The young Briton is taking part in his first F1 test on Tuesday at the Circuit de Catalunya, driving the VJM08.
With Yelloly also racing for Force India-affiliated Hilmer Motorsport in GP2, Force India deputy team principal Bob Fernley told F1i the outing is the next step in preparing him for a potential future third driver role.
“He’s been with us for a little while actually and he’s doing a super job on the simulator program, so the idea behind this is to give him some actual track experience so that it enhances his simulator development program,” Fernley said.
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With Fernley confirming Force India is still talking about who should be its third driver, he says Yelloly is currently top of the list.
“I think we should always keep doors open and Nick’s proving to be a very valuable team member. Obviously he’s doing some work with Hilmer now as well, so all that bodes well for him for the future.”
Ferrari team principal Maurizio Arrivabene does not believe the team can challenge Mercedes for the championship this year – even if Sebastian Vettel feels he is still in the title hunt.
Despite a number of upgrades for almost every team on the grid at the Spanish GP, it was the Mercedes duo who dominated again as Nico Rosberg won from pole and championship leader Lewis Hamilton took second.
Vettel finished third to remain on the coat-tails of the leaders but the four-time world champion was some distance behind and never looked like adding to the one race victory he has to his name this year.
The German was asked after the race if he thought he was still in the battle for the championship and he replied: “Yes, I think I’m still in the fight. We are able to improve our car.”
But Arrivabene gave a more damning prediction on Ferrari’s hopes of winning this year and insisted his only interest is on catching Mercedes.
“Fighting for the championship I think is a bit too much,” he conceded.
“I didn’t say (we would win) two races this year. To be honest, I said three races. I still believe that this is achievable but there is nothing in life that you can achieve without working hard and this is what we have to do.
"I don’t really care about being on the podium. If you look at the situation that we had last year, now every race weekend we are on the podium. But what I care about is the gap.”
Arrivabene, who replaced Marco Mattiacci in November, refused to blame any specific area for the speed deficit and said the team at Maranello will work had to close up on the Silver Arrows.
“I said at the beginning of the year that I don’t want to point the finger on aerodynamics, engine and all of this,” he added.
“Otherwise we are creating the usual mess where everybody is freaking out left, right, up and down.
"We need to calm down, look at the numbers and to take a decision. We need to improve…the gap with Mercedes is there. Now we need to analyse all the data to understand why.”