Bottas fastest on opening morning of pre-season testing ahead of Perez and Verstappen
The first morning of 2020 pre-season testing was graced by the Spanish sun and chilly temperatures – and it was Valtteri Bottas who braved the cold to set the fastest time of the opening session ahead of Sergio Perez and Max Verstappen.
After Alfa Romeo and Haas launched their 2020 challengers, the Mercedes driver clocked a fastest time of 1m17.313s, just 0.062s faster than Racing Point’s Perez while Verstappen completed the top three for Red Bull around half a second off the pace. It was a productive morning for the Dutchman however – he led the lap charts with 91 under his belt – completing more than a full race distance.
In fourth was Carlos Sainz, who led early on for McLaren while Renault’s new signing Esteban Ocon finished narrowly behind him in P5. The Frenchman took the wheel of the R.S.20 that was donned in a black testing livery, disguising a number of aerodynamic additions for the 2020 season. Every driver bar Sainz and Verstappen, who used the harder C2 compounds, set their fastest times on C3 tyres.
Williams' George Russell improved late on to finish sixth fastest in the morning and a tenth ahead of Charles Leclerc. Sebastian Vettel was due to drive on the opening day but left the track feeling under the weather, leaving Leclerc to take the wheel.
Alfa Romeo's reserve driver Robert Kubica ended the session a second off the pace and in front of Haas's Kevin Magnussen, while Daniil Kvyat rounded out the standings. He improved late on but the Russian's AlphaTauri AT01 encountered a couple of issues 90 minutes into the morning, stopping in the pit lane to be rolled back into the garage in a brief hiccup.
An intriguing morning of running but far from a definitive one: Mercedes may be the ones to catch after 2019’s triumph but Red Bull and Ferrari have much more to offer.
F1.com's live coverage will continue in the afternoon when Lewis Hamilton takes over from Bottas while Daniel Ricciardo, Antonio Giovinazzi, Lance Stroll and Nicholas Latifi step into their respective teams.
Jolyon Palmer's verdict
"Red Bull have had the best morning, Verstappen has clocked the most laps – 91 is huge. that's almost non-stop and on the medium tyre too which accounts for the pace differential.
"McLaren also look good for similar reasons, albeit with a slightly lower lap count.
"As for Mercedes, tough to read, they look under control but no one is showing true pace as of yet. They are quick in Sector Three, which is always important here."