Ricciardo shatters 2017 mark in F1 testing
RED Bull's Daniel Ricciardo set the pace on a fast but difficult day for the F1 teams as pre-season testing began in Barcelona.
Ricciardo, the only driver to complete a century of laps, edged ahead of Valtteri Bottas' Mercedes and the Ferrari of Kimi Raikkonen with a lap of 1:20.179 just before the lunch break at the Circuit de Catalunya.
Ricciardo's time was set on the medium tyres, as was Bottas', while Raikkonen recorded his best time on soft tyres.
Ricciardo's quickest lap was 1.6 seconds than Lewis Hamilton's fastest lap on the first day of testing last year and 1.5 seconds quicker than the best time recorded on medium compound tyres across the entire eight days of testing in Barcelona 12 months ago.
"It's nice to see yourself at the top of the time sheets but in two-degree temperatures you really can't learn anything," said Ricciardo.
"It was still a good day and we got over 100 laps done and, I think, one run of 35 laps. So reliability was solid and hats off to everyone for that."
World champion Lewis Hamilton replaced Bottas in the Mercedes for the afternoon session but completed just 25 laps as plummeting temperatures and persistent rain restricted the opportunity for the meaningful running.
"It's hard for me to say a whole lot about the car because I did not drive it for a long time, but the initial feeling is good," said Hamilton.
Nico Hulkenberg was fourth in the charts with all of the four quickest runners setting their times in the morning when the conditions were at their best.
Fernando Alonso and McLaren had an up and down first day in partnership with Renault. The Spaniard span out in the opening hour with his crash attributed to a broken wheel nut and then completed some decent mileage on his return to the track following a three-hour delay.
But Alonso's fastest time, which had put him as high as fifth in the time sheets, was later disqualified for cutting the chicane.
Had Alonso's time stood, it would have been a quicker lap than the Woking outfit managed during the entirety of winter testing a year ago when their partnership with Honda began to unravel.
Honda, meanwhile, enjoyed a positive first day of their own with new partners Toro Rosso as Brendon Hartley completed 93 trouble-free laps.
"The driveability of the engine is one of the best I've driven in a Formula 1 car, so it was really positive in all aspects," said Hartley.
BIG WINNERS AND LOSERS FROM FIRST DAY OF TESTING
Red Bull boss Christian Horner said his team had made a "good start" while Mercedes counterpart Toto Wolff said the world champions had enjoyed a "solid" first outing.
"It's interesting to see there are a couple of cars that have been able to post quick times this morning so we are up for an interesting season," added the Mercedes chief.
However, the cold and wet conditions offered little scope for meaningful evaluation.
"My first impressions with the new car were OK, but it's still too early to make any judgment, especially given today's conditions," said Raikkonen. "These tyres aren't designed to work at 8 degrees and it was difficult for everyone."
Alonso's spin into the gravel with barely an hour on the clock immediately sparked memories of McLaren's Barcelona disaster 12 months ago but there were no further alarms for the team as they bedded in their new Renault power unit.
"Everything's going very well," said team chief Zak Brown. "We're enjoying working with them and they're enjoying working with us. So far everything is very good."
Alonso added: "There is huge potential in the McLaren-Renault team."
Renault themselves also impressed with Nico Hulkenberg fourth quickest before Carlos Sainz, in for the afternoon session, took the RS18 to 99 laps for the day.
Hulkenberg and Sainz finished the day in close proximity to Alonso in the time sheets - an early pointer, perhaps, to a close fight between customers and suppliers when the season begins on March 25 in Australia.
TESTING SUGGESTS LIGHTNING PACE IN 2018
On first evidence, the sport could be at least two seconds up on 2017 when the teams start to test the full capabilities of their new cars.
Daniel Ricciardo's pre-lunchtime burst on the medium tyres of 1:20.179 was 1.6 seconds faster than the best time - set on the soft tyre by Hamilton - on the opening day of testing a year ago and 1.5 seconds faster than the best time registered on the mediums over the eight days of pre-season action 12 months ago.