Business as usual for Mercedes and Hamilton

A lowdown of day one of the first pre-season test from Barcelona.

Lewis Hamilton driving the Mercedes F1 WO8 on track during day one of Formula One winter testing at Circuit de Catalunya in Montmelo, Spain.   -  Getty Images

Back to school: It was the first day of school for the F1 circus after a nearly three-month break. This year too will see just the two four-day tests before the first race in Australia on March 26. With new rule changes ranging from wider cars to fatter tyres and whole load of aerodynamic rule changes, teams can ill-afford to lose valuable time on these eight days.

Lose they did: McLaren has been in a state of upheaval over the past years, both on and off-track from personnel changes, boardroom politics to disappointing on track results. And on Monday, once the McLaren was up on the jacks for most part of the day after a oil system issue with its Honda power unit.

Honda has been struggling with its power unit for the last two years and this year provided the opportunity to close the gap to Mercedes and Ferrari. Local boy Fernando Alonso’s frustrations continued after losing most of the morning session before Honda decided to bolt in a new power unit. The Spaniard managed 29 laps setting the 10th fastest time out of 11 drivers.

Mercedes and Ferrari rack up the mileage: Defending champion Mercedes once again topped the timing sheets and the mileage chart with Lewis Hamilton going a tenth faster than Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel. New recruit Valtteri Bottas started things for the German marque in the morning session before Hamilton took over in the post lunch session. Mercedes managed 152 laps while Vettel did 128 laps with Felipe Massa clocking 103 laps in his Williams.

Red Bull, which is considered one of the contenders to challenge the Mercs, had a subdued day with sensor and battery issue keeping Daniel Ricciardo in the garage for significant amount of time and managed only 50 laps.

Making F1 fast again: One of the main reasons for the drastic rule changes that have been introduced this year is to make F1 cars fast again. Over the last three years, the new engine regulations coupled with reduced downforce and high degradation tyres meant, the cars were slower, especially through corners. This meant drivers were not pushed to their limits as it was a few years ago.

Already on day one of testing, the new rules have managed to set that straight, with the fastest time on Monday 3.174 seconds faster than what was achieved on first day of testing last year.