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Published: 19:51 | 22/2/16

Vettel hails 'very positive' showing

Ferrari driver fastest on first day

Sebastian Vettel was quickest on the opening day of pre-season testing at the Circuit de Catalunya, saying that Ferrari were feeling highly encouraged by their new machine.

Vettel's fastest time was a little under half a second better than that managed by world champion Lewis Hamilton, although the Briton's Mercedes team focused on long-run performance rather than single-lap speed.

However, Vettel believes that Monday's timesheets provide a further indication that Ferrari have made significant inroads into the advantage that Mercedes have enjoyed over the past two seasons.

“I think the car is a definite step forward,” said the German of the SF16-H.

“It was our first proper day, and it was good to get some laps and a first feel for the car.

"Our first impression was very positive.

“We are fairly happy with the car but would have liked to have done a few more laps.

“I wouldn’t say we had problems but naturally, when everything is new, you have issues. You stop and have a look. These things take time.”

Amongst the areas that pleased Vettel was his new car’s engine performance, but he was cautious not to read too greatly into Ferrari’s top spot on Monday.

“It’s better to be first in one month’s time (at the Australian Grand Prix),” he added. “It’s better than being last but it’s not really important.”

McLaren’s Jenson Button, meanwhile, was sixth fastest of the 11 drivers on track.

With the British squad having endured a dreadful season in 2015, Button was happy with the progress manifested in the team’s machine for the coming campaign.

"There are no negative points to the car,” the Englishman was quoted as saying by Autosport.

"The standout is that the deployment has been very good - very consistent throughout the day, no issues, and quite a big chunk better on the long runs compared to last year.

"Obviously, (there are) other weaknesses with the car (that) we still need to improve, but it was a good day, and I'm reasonably happy."

Button’s best time was 2.8 seconds slower than Vettel’s, with the top four finishers having done their fastest laps on medium-compound tyres, while the former Brawn man completed his on the soft compound.

"On outright pace … if you look at the times, you would say we are miles away, but we're not going out there to set a lap time - we're going out there to do different checks,” continued Button.

"We're obviously not going to be the quickest car at this test, and probably won't be for most of the year, but as long as we can see improvements (and) the feeling of the car is good, there's something to build on."

Much of McLaren’s pain in 2015 came courtesy of their woefully under-strength Honda engine, and Button admits that much is yet to be done on that area of the car.

"(On) deployment we've made a good step forward, but with the power unit, we've a lot of work still," he added.

"They (Honda) have done a good job on working on the reliability and pushing the deployment very hard over the winter.

"But I don't think any of us will be happy going to Melbourne with the power unit. There is definitely more to come for the first race. We need that."

Testing continues in Barcelona on Tuesday.

Pre-season Formula 1 testing, Day 1, Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya
Pos. Driver, Team, Time, Gap, Laps
1. Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari, 1:24.939, -, 69
2. Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, 1:25.409, +0.470, 156
3. Daniel Ricciardo, Red Bull, 1:26.044, +1.105, 87
4. Valtteri Bottas, Williams, 1:26.091, +1.152, 80
5. Alfonso Celis, Force India, 1:26.298, +1.359, 58
6. Jenson Button, McLaren, 1:26.735, +1.796, 84
7. Carlos Sainz, Toro Rosso, 1:27.180, +2.241, 55
8. Marcus Ericsson, Sauber, 1:27.555, +2.616, 88
9. Pascal Wehrlein, Manor, 1:28.292, +3.353, 54
10. Romain Grosjean, Haas, 1:28.399, +3.460, 31
11. Jolyon Palmer, Renault, 1:29.356, +4.417, 37

By David Maher

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