Hulkenberg ended more than 2.5s clear of the rest of the field, having set a 1m 23.110s in the late afternoon. Only Sebastian Vettel has gone faster so far in 2016, and the Ferrari driver set that benchmark on Pirelli’s new ultrasoft tyre.
“Today we tried a bit more [than the competition] to test where our package stands at the moment,” Hulkenberg explained. “There is no reason to get over excited.
“It looks okay so far, but there is still a lot of work to do. We are not at our best: there is still stuff to learn and look at.
“We’re on schedule, on target - we're learning more and more every day. Days like this are very encouraging, but I wouldn’t get too excited in these early stage to be honest.”
Chief race engineer Tom McCullough said the team had made several positive steps despite some minor glitches, adding: “Nico’s first day of winter testing saw a continuation of data gathering to help with our understanding of the VJM09, as well as further car sign-off tests.
“The afternoon allowed a chance for Nico and his engineers to carry on with set-up adjustments and we made some good progress as the day unfolded.
“We had a few small ‘new car’ problems that required attention in the garage and ultimately cost us some track, but we still ended the day just shy of 100 laps.”
Hulkenberg happy with first day back behind the wheel
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