Hamilton leads Mercedes one-two in opening preseason test

Mark Thompson/Getty Images

Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes started the opening day of preseason exactly where they finished the 2019 campaign -- comfortably top of the order.

The reigning world champion set a 1:16.976 early in his afternoon stint in Mercedes' car at Barcelona's Circuit de Catalunya. Hamilton had taken over from teammate Valtteri Bottas after lunch but the Finn still finished the day with the next quickest time, 0.337s slower than his teammate.

Although times are misleading at this stage of testing, it is an ominous start by the team which dominated the last six years of the previous decade and is looking to claim a record seventh consecutive constructors' championship. Although there has been minimal changes in the technical regulations, Mercedes won five of the last six races of 2020 and is clearly the team to beat once again this season.

There are two more days of testing this week, ahead of another three-day test next week commencing at the same circuit on Feb. 26.

A Mercedes powered car took the next slot in the order, too. Many have observed how similar this year's Racing Point car, with an engine supplied by Mercedes, looks to last year's title-winning car. Sergio Perez gave the Silverstone team an impressive start to 2020 by finishing third, outpacing Red Bull's Max Verstappen by 0.2s. Verstappen was the busiest driver of the day, completing 168 laps, which accounts for nearly three race distances of the circuit which regularly hosts the Spanish Grand Prix. It was the highest individual tally of the day, although the Mercedes drivers combined for 173 over the nine hours.

High mileage was a theme of the day, with all 10 teams arriving at testing having completed a 100km filming day in the days prior, a perfect opportunity to complete system checks and other small jobs that would otherwise eat into test time. There were no major stoppages in the day, which is unusual for the first day of a test.

Daniil Kvyat was fifth in the blue and white Alpha Tauri, while Carlos Sainz completed 161 laps for McLaren. Renault pair Daniel Ricciardo and Esteban Ocon were split by just 0.2s on their first day contesting in equal machinery as teammates, although such comparisons are fairly meaningless at this point.

The Renault got plenty of attention, rolling out of the garage in the morning with a very narrow nose, explaining why the French team had taken such a low-key approach to launching its car in a bid to keep its design a secret.

George Russell helped Williams on its way to an encouraging first day. The British team made a point of being first on track when the session started at 9am, having missed two and a half days of preseason last year. Russell immediately went quicker than Williams did at any point during the preseason days it did take part in next year. Russell's teammate, rookie Canadian driver Nicholas Latifi, took over in the afternoon.

The grid's other Canadian, Lance Stroll, finished 10th, ahead of Ferrari's Charles Leclerc. The Monaco native replaced unwell teammate Sebastian Vettel at short notice and seemed to be focused more on mileage, accumulating 132 laps across the day.

Robert Kubica is not racing this year but started the morning for new team Alfa Romeo -- he has a reserve driver role for the 2020 season. Haas driver Kevin Magnussen had a quiet but productive day, completing 106 laps. Antonio Giovinazzi rounded out the order for Alfa.

Final standings at end of first day:

1. Lewis Hamilton - Mercedes - 1:16.976 - 94 Laps
2. Valtteri Bottas - Mercedes - +0.337 - 79 Laps
3. Sergio Perez - Racing Point - +0.399 - 58 Laps
4. Max Verstappen - Red Bull - +0.540 - 168 Laps
5. Daniil Kvyat - Alpha Turi - +0.722 - 115 Laps
6. Carlos Sainz - McLaren - +0.886 - 161 Laps
7. Daniel Ricciardo - Renault - +0.897 - 54 Laps
8. Esteban Ocon - Renault - +1.028 - 62 Laps
9. George Russell - Williams - +1.192 - 73 Laps
10. Lance Stroll - Racing Point - +1.306 - 50 Laps
11. Charles Leclrec - Ferrari - +1.313 - 131 Laps
12. Nicholas Latfi - Williams - +1.406 - 63 Laps
13. Robert Kubica - Alfa Romeo - +1.410 - 59 Laps
14. Kevin Magnussen - Haas - +1.490 - 104 Laps
15. Antonio Giovinazzi - Alfa Romeo - +3.120 - 79 Laps