DANIEL Ricciardo made a promising start to Formula One’s pre-season by driving his Red Bull to the fastest time and the most laps on the track near Barcelona.
Ricciardo clocked 1 minute, 20.179 seconds before rain and cold track temperatures that dipped below seven degrees kept most cars off the tarmac.
The Aussie star bucked that trend and braved the poor conditions to be the only driver to reach the 100-lap mark.
Defending champion Lewis Hamilton managed to get in 25 laps before the weather turned unfavourable after teammate Valtteri Bottas had his turn behind the wheel for Mercedes.
Bottas put in the second fastest lap.
Kimi Raikkonen of Ferrari and Nico Hulkenberg of Renault were all also within 0.4 seconds of Ricciardo.
“We still got over a hundred laps, so we are happy with that,” Ricciardo said.
“The morning was all right when it was dry, but the afternoon was just so cold, it was hard to get anything working on the tires. We didn’t get any real productive running.”
Last year, Ricciardo proved to be the circuit’s next best driver after the dominant four of Mercedes and Ferrari. He finished fifth overall with one grand prix win in his fifth season with Red Bull.
Fernando Alonso, meanwhile, made an inauspicious start after his McLaren lost a wheel and went off the track while it was still dry.
Alonso was about to complete his seventh lap when the rear wheel on the right side came off, sending him into the gravel on the final turn at Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya.
The morning session was stopped for a few minutes while a crew hauled the McLaren onto a flatbed truck and drove it back to the pit lane. McLaren racing director Eric Boullier said the wheel popped off due to a problem with a wheel nut.
“Obviously it cost us track time, the only downside today,” Boullier said.
McLaren is hoping to rebound this year after changing to Renaut engines following three problem-plagued campaigns with Honda.
Testing in northeastern Spain runs until later this week. A second four-day session will be held from March 6-9.
The season-opening Australian GP is on March 25.