It was, Ferrari summarised perfectly, the day on which the 2012 Formula One season got under way in "indecipherable fashion". The start had been eagerly awaited after three weeks of inconclusive testing, with six world champions ready to do battle and a raft of new cars built to revised regulations. But as proceedings were twice affected by heavy rain, few emerged any the wiser about the true pecking order.
Perhaps one might have anticipated that Michael Schumacher would be fastest in his new Mercedes in the second session, after Jenson Button had set the fastest time of the day in the first, but a Force India second, Saubers third and fifth, a Caterham eighth, a Marussia 12th, the two Red Bulls 10th and 11th and the McLarens 15th and 16th? This was assuredly a difficult one to read.
"It's always nice to start the season with the quickest time of the day," Button said after lapping in 1m 27.560s in that first session once the circuit had dried out. "Our car feels very different compared with the last test – this circuit is different and the average corner speed is a lot lower, but the car is still working well for me.
Lewis Hamilton added: "It feels there or thereabouts," but perhaps Fernando Alonso came closest to the reality when he said: "There's no point looking at today's times, but I do expect to see a mixed-up grid for the race."