Sebastian Vettel showed Red Bull Racing's optimism about their new car was well justified as he proved quickest of the 2009 machines on the first day of official testing at Jerez in Spain on Tuesday.
Although Sebastien Buemi maintained his winter testing tradition of topping the times thanks to his Scuderia Toro Rosso team continuing to run their 2008 car, all eyes were on the form of the new machinery as it offered the first glimpse of what is to come this season.
In the end it was Vettel who outpaced the opposition, running comfortably in front of Williams and McLaren throughout a day marred by a midday rain shower, despite stopping late after a problem with a sensor.
"We had a failure of one of the sensors in the gearbox and we stopped the car to avoid any damage," said Vettel.
Nico Hulkenberg ended the day less than three tenths of a second behind Vettel, running with an inactive KERS unit in his car, after setting his best lap of 1:22.443 in the closing stages.
Heikki Kovalainen was fourth fastest for McLaren as he continued evaluation of the MP4-24, while Renault's Nelson Piquet managed to close down the margin to his rivals to just seven tenths of a second after spending almost the entire day at the bottom of the timesheets.
"It's a shame that we lost some track time today because at this stage of the season we need to get as many miles on the car as possible," said Piquet.
"As the car is so new, we learn something with every lap and we have some useful data to go through this evening. The forecast looks better for tomorrow so hopefully we can continue the work we started today."
Pos Driver Team Time Laps 1. Buemi Toro Rosso-Ferrari (B) 1:19.660 104 2. Vettel Red Bull-Renault (B) 1:22.177 61 3. Hulkenberg Williams-Toyota (B) 1:22.443 82 4. Kovalainen McLaren-Mercedes (B) 1:22.643 58 5. Piquet Renault (B) 1:23.313 35 All Timing Unofficial