Vettel shows speed, Mercedes miles, in Barcelona testing

Vettel was also fastest in Monday's first day of testing as Ferrari look set to live up to expectations that it can challenge Mercedes' dominance of the sport for the past two years.

Lewis Hamilton of Britain (L) drives past Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel during the testing session ahead of the upcoming season at the Circuit Catalunya-Barcelona.   -  REUTERS

Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel took advantage of a new ultrasoft tyre to propel himself back to the top of the timesheets on a morning of fast times on the second day of pre-season testing in Barcelona.

Vettel was also fastest in Monday's first day of testing as Ferrari look set to live up to expectations that it can challenge Mercedes' dominance of the sport for the past two years.

Red Bull's Daniel Ricciardo also used tyre manufacturer Pirelli's fastest tyre to get second fastest, but was seven tenths down on Vettel's flying lap of 1min 22:810sec.

However, once again Mercedes was arguably the most impressive performers as Nico Rosberg completed 81 laps and went within 0.2 seconds of his qualifying lap to land pole position at the same circuit for last season's Spanish Grand Prix on slower medium tyres.

The German giant has prioritised miles over times early, but Rosberg also went nearly half a second quicker than teammate and defending world champion Lewis Hamilton on his marathon 156 lap run on Monday.

The McLaren-Honda partnership had another busy morning off the track with the news chief motorsport > officer Yasuisha Arai will be replaced by Yusuke Hasegawa before the first race of the season next month.

On the track, more progress was made as Fernando Alonso logged 71 laps before lunch.

However, the MP4-31 was still well short on speed as the two-time world champion was 10th fastest behind F1 newbies Haas and rookies Pacal Wehrlein in the Manor and Jolyon Palmer in the recently returned Renualt.