Sebastian Vettel returns to top Jerez F1 test as Mercedes demonstrate their reliability; WTR lose Daytona podium; IndyCar opener scrapped

The Chequered Flag: F1 pre-season testing got underway on Sunday with the unusual sight of a car other than a Mercedes at the top of the timesheet

VETTEL TOPS JEREZ TESTING AS RELIABLE ROSBERG SETS THE TONE

It feels like just yesterday Lewis Hamilton was celebrating his second Formula One World Championship, but the first test of the new season got underway on Sunday at Jerez in Spain. Despite all signs pointing to the fact that pre-season testing rarely reflects the events of the first race of the season, two names at the top of the timesheet come the end of the seassion certainly caused a stir – Sebastian Vettel, and Ferrari.

For both, 2014 was a year to forget. Last season saw Vettel’s trophy-laden career with Red Bull come to an end, and an almighty upheaval at Ferrari that saw two team principals come and go, president Luca Di Montezemolo sacked along with a number of high-profile staff while star driver Fernando Alonso walked out the door in a stunning return to McLaren.

Yet there will have been quiet optimism that Ferrari can challenge the mighty Mercedes this year, even if the season is just a day old. Vettel finished the day fastest nearly half-a-second ahead of Rosberg, with the Sauber of Marcus Ericsson getting closest to the four-time world champion. 24 hours later, Vettel would again find himself fastest of the day as he finished nearly a second quicker than any of his rivals on Monday afternoon.

What wasn’t so surprising was the reliability of the new Mercedes challenger, the W06, with Rosberg completing 157 laps on the opening day of the four-day test. How he will have hoped to have had such reliability in Abu Dhabi last season.

Lewis Hamilton took the wheel on Monday but saw his session halted early by a water leak, although by that time he had already completed 91 laps - more than any Grand Prix distance this season.

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Hamilton completed 91 laps on his first day of pre-season testing

The major worry must come in the McLaren-Honda garage, where a total of just six laps were completed by Fernando Alonso on the first day to add to the four laps at the end of season test in Abu Dhabi at the end of November. The Woking-based outfit are having obvious struggles at getting their car to run with the new engine, yet they still harbour ambitions of challenging for the top providing they can unlock the full potential of the returning Japanese manufacturer’s power unit.

WTR LOSE DAYTONA PODIUM FINISH

The Wayne Taylor Racing team of Jordan Taylor, Ricky Taylor and Max Angelelli have been stripped of their rostrum finish at last weekend’s Daytona 24 Hours after officials decided they had exceeded a time limit on the length of time a driver can spend at the wheel during a stint.

As the gruelling race came towards a thrilling finish, Jordan Taylor was forced to pit to hand over to his brother Ricky to avoid exceeding the four-hour drive limit allowed in a six-hour period. Ricky would go on to bring the No 10 Dallara-Chevrolet Corvette DP home in third, but it has since been determined that Jordan did exceed the limit by “more than a couple of minutes.

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WTR were penalised after Jordan Taylor breached the maximum stint time

IMSA race director Beaux Barfield said: "IMSA conducted a thorough review of drive times post-race, which revealed that Jordan Taylor exceeded four hours over a six-hour period late in the race," Barfield explained.

"Drive-time maximums are in place to ensure that drivers do not get fatigued and create safety concerns, as well as to prevent any one driver from making too large a contribution to a team's result."

The decision dropped the team down to 16th and last in the prototype category, and lifted the No 90 Spirit of Daytona Coyote-Chevrolet Corvette DP of Briton Richard Westbrook, Michael Valiante and Mike Rockenfeller up to third.

INDYCAR SERIES OPENER CANCELLED BY BRAZILIAN GOVERNMENT

The first race of the new IndyCar season was cancelled after the government feared the running costs of staging the race at the Brasilia circuit were not worth the outlay, it has been revealed.

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Will Power celebrates winning last season's IndyCar championship

According to a report by the Associated Press, public prosecutors decided the race was "not in the best interests of society" and there was a "clear inversion in the priorities for public spending". Due to be held on the 8 March, it was also reported that the Autodromo Internacional Nelson Piquet would need over $100m worth of upgrades to stage the event, some of which had already begun.

The decision comes nearly a year after Moto GP dropped the return of the Brazilian Grand Prix due to financial concerns, while the government faced a fierce backlash from the Brazilian public over their staging of the Fifa World Cup last summer.

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