Vettel leads, Hamilton banks 150-plus laps on Barcelona day one

Getty Images

Reliability and long runs were arguably the biggest story of the first day of official testing ahead of the 2016 Formula 1 season, with Ferrari ending quickest ahead of Mercedes at the Circuit de Catalunya in Barcelona.

In total, more than 700 laps were completed on the first of the four-day test.

While Sebastian Vettel’s morning time of 1:24.939 in the Scuderia Ferrari SF16-H stood as the day’s fastest time, as teams focused primarily on longer runs, it was the 156 laps turned in by Lewis Hamilton in the new Mercedes W07 that turned heads.

Hamilton already had a full Spanish Grand Prix race distance of 66 laps under his belt in the morning, and only served to increase that in the afternoon running.

The 156-lap total was staggering, simply because on the first day of testing when the new hybrid power units premiered at Jerez in late January 2014, there were only 93 laps completed combined on the first day.

It was nearly double the next-best in the field, 88 laps from Marcus Ericsson in the 2015 Sauber C34 and 87 laps from Daniel Ricciardo in the new Red Bull RB12.

Of course, you can’t read anything into lap times yet, but the fact Hamilton’s number of laps were completed – as well of those throughout all 11 teams – spoke highly of the collective efforts of the teams over the winter.

Hamilton was second on times, Ricciardo third, with Williams’ Valtteri Bottas and Force India reserve driver Alfonso Celis Jr. completing the top five.

Celis, the young Mexican who is the lone reserve driver testing this week, banked 58 laps in his first of two days. He’ll return to the car on Thursday.

It was a productive day of running for McLaren’s Jenson Button, who completed 84 laps in the MP4-31 Honda, which put their trying 2015 test times to bed at least for one day.

A gearbox oil system issue limited Toro Rosso’s Carlos Sainz to his car number, 55 laps, in the new STR11.

Haas F1 Team returned in the afternoon after front wing failure cut the morning short for Romain Grosjean in the VF-16 Ferrari. Grosjean completed 31 laps, which was fewest on the day but still a very good number for Gene Haas and Guenther Steiner in their first official day on track.

Renault rookie Jolyon Palmer completed a handful number of laps than did his predecessor at what was then Lotus, with 37 laps banked.

Manor’s Pascal Wehrlein completed 54 laps, and that was a good number for the German rookie and very good for the team as a whole. Manor’s preseason race last year was simply to make the grid at Melbourne, let alone to bank testing time.

Some insights from NBC Sports Group F1 producer Jason Swales are below:

Times are below:

Jack Miller wins the MotoGP Japanese Grand Prix as Fabio Quartararo stops his downward points’ slide


Jack Miller ran away with the MotoGP Japanese Grand Prix at Motegi as Fabio Quartararo stopped his downward slide in the championship when a last-lap accident from his closest rival in the standings caused Francesco Bagnaia to score zero points.

Starting seventh, Miller quickly made his way forward. He was second at the end of two laps. One lap later, he grabbed the lead from Jorge Martin. Once in the lead, Miller posted three consecutive fastest laps and was never seriously challenged. It was Australian native Miller’s first race win of the season and his sixth podium finish.

The proximity to his home turf was not lost.

“I can ride a motorcycle sometimes,” Miller said in NBC Sports’ post-race coverage. “I felt amazing all weekend since I rolled out on the first practice. It feels so awesome to be racing on this side of the world.

“What an amazing day. It’s awesome; we have the home Grand Prix coming up shortly. Wedding coming up in a couple of weeks. I’m over the moon; can’t thank everyone enough.”

Miller beat Brad Binder to the line by 3.4 seconds with third-place Jorge Martin finishing about one second behind.

But the center of the storm was located just inside the top 10 as both Quartararo and Bagnaia started deep in the field.

Quartararo was on the outside of row three in ninth with Bagnaia one row behind in 12th. Neither rider moved up significantly, but the championship continued to be of primary importance as Bagnaia put in a patented late-race charge to settle onto Quartararo’s back tire, which would have allowed the championship leader to gain only a single point.

On the final lap, Bagnaia charged just a little too hard and crashed under heavy braking, throwing away the seven points he would have earned for a ninth-place finish.

The day was even more dramatic for the rider who entered the MotoGP Japanese Grand Prix third in the standings. On the sighting lap, Aleix Espargaro had an alarm sound, so he peeled off into the pits, dropped his primary bike and jumped aboard the backup. Starting from pit lane, he trailed the field and was never able to climb into the points. An undisclosed electronic problem was the culprit.

For Quartararo, gaining eight points on the competition was more than a moral victory. This was a track on which he expected to run moderately, and he did, but the problems for his rivals gives him renewed focus with four rounds remaining.

Next week, the series heads to Thailand and then Miller’s home track of Phillip Island in Australia. They will close out the Pacific Rim portion of the schedule before heading to Spain for the finale in early November.

It would appear team orders are not in play among the Ducati riders. Last week’s winner Enea Bastianini made an aggressive early move on Bagnaia for position before the championship contender wrestled the spot back.

In his second race back following arm surgery, Marc Marquez won the pole. His last pole was more than 1,000 days ago on this same track in 2019, the last time the series competed at Motegi. Marquez slipped to fifth in the middle stages of the race, before regaining a position to finish just off the podium.

In Moto2 competition, Ai Ogura beat Augusto Fernandez to close the gap in that championship to two points. Fernandez holds the scant lead. Alonso Lopez rounded out the podium.

Both American riders, Cameron Beaubier and Joe Roberts finished just outside the top 10 in 11th and 12th respectively.