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Late Lando Norris lap puts McLaren on top in first F1 test

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Experience McLaren's MCL36 from inside the cockpit (1:06)

Lando Norris drives the new McLaren MCL36 at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya ahead of the new F1 season. (1:06)

BARCELONA, Spain -- A late quick lap from Lando Norris ensured McLaren finished fastest on a fascinating opening day of Formula One's 2022 preseason test at the Circuit de Catalunya.

Norris, driving the striking papaya orange and blue McLaren, set a lap of 1:19.568 in the closing half-hour to move ahead of Ferrari's Charles Leclerc, who had spent most of the day atop the order.

Although it is unwise to read much into headline times on the opening day of preseason, McLaren and Ferrari, two famous teams hoping to break out of the F1 midfield and return to their glory days, also had productive days in terms of mileage, which at this stage of preseason is arguably the more important measuring stick of which teams are in a good position and which are not.

Norris completed 103 laps in the day, while Leclerc and Carlos Sainz split duties on either side of the lunch break to finish 153 laps for Ferrari.

Proving why it is difficult to make too much from headline times, Norris set his quickest lap on the C4 compound of test tyre, while the Ferrari drivers both set theirs on the harder C3 compound, which should be slower over one lap but more durable. The times were also set at different times of day when track temperatures and conditions, which all have a big impact on outright lap times, were not comparable.

Regardless of the caveats, fans of both teams will be encouraged by the strong starts, which should raise excitement that they are on course to be closer to the front of the pack at least.

After the session, Norris said: "I think we did want to do a few more laps than what we did today but we still learned a lot of things. Still a very important day.

"With the new regulations these days are more important than ever, they're crucial for the development over the next one, two, three, four months, maybe more. It's important just to understand everything."

Unusually for the first day of a preseason test with brand new cars, there was not a single red-flag stoppage for a breakdown or crash. That suggests F1 teams have already reached an impressive level of reliability with their new cars.

In eight years of dominance of F1, Mercedes has often made a point of racking up impressive mileage from the first day, and between George Russell and Lewis Hamilton they managed 127 laps. Russell and Hamilton finished fourth and fifth in the final order behind Norris, Leclerc and Sainz's times.

Hamilton, who has rebuffed suggestions he considered quitting after controversially losing the title to Max Verstappen at last year's Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, goes into this season looking for a record eighth championship.

Sebastian Vettel finished sixth for Aston Martin with a time he set in the morning.

Reigning world champion Verstappen was eighth in the final order for Red Bull but completed a mammoth 147 laps, which is well over two full race distances of the Spanish Grand Prix held at the same venue.

Red Bull's RB18 caught a lot of attention in the morning when it officially made its track debut, especially with its largely undercut sidepod inlet impressing a lot of observers.

AlphaTauri's Yuki Tsunoda (121 laps) and Alpine's Fernando Alonso (127 laps) had productive times for their respective teams.

Williams drivers Alexander Albon and Nicholas Latifi finished 132 laps between them.

Alfa Romeo and Haas finished last season ninth and 10th in the standings and both seemed to be struggling on the opening day. Haas' running on either side of lunch was hampered with lingering issues around the floor of its car, while Alfa Romeo only managed 29 laps across the day.

Valtteri Bottas made his first appearance for Alfa Romeo in the afternoon, having moved to the Swiss team from Mercedes for this season.

Times at close:

1. Lando Norris - McLaren - 1:190.568 - 103 laps
2. Charles Leclerc - Ferrari - 1:20.165 - 80 laps
3. Carlos Sainz - Ferrari - 1:20.416 - 73 laps
4. George Russell - Mercedes - 1:20.784 - 77 laps
5. Lewis Hamilton - Mercedes - 1:20.929 - 50 laps
6. Sebastian Vettel - Aston Martin -1:21.276 - 52 laps
7. Yuki Tsunoda - AlphaTauri - 1:21.638 - 121 laps
8. Fernando Alonso - Alpine - 1:21.746 - 127 laps
9. Max Verstappen - Red Bull - 1:22.246 -147 laps
10. Valtteri Bottas - Mercedes - 1:22.572 - 23 laps
11. Alex Albon - Williams - 1:22.760 - 66 laps
12. Mick Schumacher - Haas - 1:22.962 - 23 laps
13. Lance Stroll - Aston Martin - 1:23.327 - 67 laps
14. Nicholas Latifi - Williams - 1:23.379 - 66 laps
15. Nikita Mazepin - Haas - 1:24.505 - 20 laps
16. Robert Kubica - Alfa Romeo - 1:25.909 - 9 laps

There are two more days of preseason testing in Barcelona this week, before three more at Bahrain's Sakhir International Circuit during March 10-12.

That venue will then host the opening race of the season, the Bahrain Grand Prix, on March 20.