Ricciardo third fastest in first F1 test

AP – Daniel Ricciardo feels Red Bull is already in a better position than this time last year after a trouble-free first day of Formula One pre-season testing in Spain.

The Australian was third quickest at the Circuit de Barcelona on Monday, with Ferrari driver and former teammate Sebastian Vettel topping the timesheets ahead of reigning champion Lewis Hamilton.

Ricciardo was more than a second behind Vettel but completed 87 laps, sampling its newly-branded Renault power unit for the first time.

“We had a few little bits and pieces but we still managed nearly 90 laps today so generally it was a good first day,” he told ESPN F1.

“I think that was important today to get some good 15-lap runs to make sure the car’s not overheating or doing anything silly.

“We can then find the pace quite easy, reliability is always the first thing you want to try and solve.”

Red Bull team principal Christian Horner said the progress so far was positive.

“Daniel reported nothing negative about the car. It seems to be addressing some of the shortcomings of last year’s car as well,” he said.

Although test times often can be misleading, especially this early, it was clearly a positive start for Vettel, who was third in the standings last year and the only driver to win races other than Hamilton and his Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg.

“The first impression is good, the new car is a step forward,” Vettel said.

“I felt confident enough, but we know there is still a lot of work in front of us.”

Seven other drivers tried out their cars on the first of four days of testing in Barcelona.

Rosberg will drive on Tuesday, as will two-time champion Fernando Alonso with McLaren, which last year endured dismal results under a renewed partnership with engine supplier Honda.

Alonso’s teammate, Jenson Button, had a promising first session for McLaren by running 84 laps and showing no apparent signs of the reliability issues that plagued the team last season.

He was sixth fastest at the end of the day.

Hamilton was by far the busiest driver with 156 laps completed, more than double than Vettel, who ran 69 laps. A race at the Circuit de Barcelona is 66 laps.

“It feels very much the same as last year’s car, to be honest,” Hamilton said.

Newcomer Haas, the first American-led team in F1 since 1986, faced a mechanical issue in its first run when the front wing of the car driven by Romain Grosjean fell off, but the Frenchman was able to return to the pits without further incidents.

Grosjean completed only 31 laps, the least among all drivers.

He was eighth fastest in the morning but only 10th in the afternoon.

The first day of tests started on a damp track and under overcast skies, with most teams spending time running installation laps to check for possible problems.

The final test sessions are scheduled for March 1-4, also in Barcelona.

The first of 21 races is on March 20 in Australia.

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