The first of 8 pre-season testing days has kicked off at Circuit de Catalunya in Spain, enabling the teams to run their cars among the competition for the first time this season.
After Red Bull Racing showed their racing livery - returned to traditional blue-red-yellow, Haas and Alfa Romeo unveiled their cars in the paddock before if was time to get going.
And just like in previous years, Mercedes sent Bottas out to the end of the pitlane even before testing kicked off, sending a bold message to their rivals that they are no less ready than in previous seasons.
Renault's Nico Hulkenberg and McLaren's Carlos Sainz were quick to follow and complete an installation lap, but by the time Kimi Raikkonen beached his Alfa Romeo C38 after just 5 minutes, Bottas was already ahead on the lap counter, with 4 laps completed.
As running got going again, it was Vettel who shot to the top of the timesheets, edging ahead of everybody else quite comfortably. In fact, his times were soon more than a second faster than the best time set last year on day 1 at Barcelona.
Bottas and Mercedes didn't seem to care at that moment in time. They waited until half an hour before lunch to set a faster time, though still not enough to top Vettel's best. Max Verstappen by then had joined the party, slotting in between the other two top teams.
Meanwhile, Pirelli also had something to share, noting that by using chrome moulds, the tyres are more shiny than before.
You might have noticed that our tyres have a more shiny look to them this year. This is because we are using chrome moulds for the first time in #F1 (we’ve tried them before in #F2). There’s no effect on performance, but they look nice, don’t they?! #Fit4F1 @F1 pic.twitter.com/IjSWN5b4ef— Pirelli Motorsport (@pirellisport) February 18, 2019
When lunch time came, Sebastian Vettel continued to top the times. Sergio Perez had come closest in his Racing Point RP19.
Continued in Vettel tops first day of testing