The stunning Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya has long marked the dawn of a new Formula 1 season as the host of pre-season testing.

The 4.6 kilometre Montmelo track is just 30 minutes’ drive from Barcelona, and a far easier base for the teams than a flyaway venue like Abu Dhabi’s Yas Marina Circuit or Bahrain… 

… though the weather is generally less consistent, with no one wanting a repeat of the Winter Wonderland that ruined the first week of testing last year.

The track has an ideal range of corners to put F1 cars through their paces, and the drivers all know it intimately; having pounded out many thousands of laps through the years.

“Here we are at the start grid. As you can see here, first position. For me, actually it’s very nice of course to come back on this track, once you’ve won it. And then going to Turn 1, you know, that’s where all of the action starts…”

Pre-season testing in 2019 will again be compacted into just eight days in total, across two four-day stints with the teams put through an exhausting schedule; working around the clock in two shifts.

In the first four-day stint, which began this week on Monday, the focus is generally on systems checks and ensuring reliability.

It’s a nervous time for all 10 F1 teams, after a long European winter spent building the new cars, the first runs giving the drivers’ a taste of what may lay ahead in terms of their campaigns.

On Day 1, Sebastian Vettel got Ferrari’s campaign off to a “perfect start” with 169 laps completed. His best time almost four tenths of a second up on Carlos Sainz in the McLaren. Mercedes is yet to show its hand.

The times, though, are largely meaningless especially during the first four days with the teams generally ramping up performance in the second test starting on February 26.

But lots of laps is a good omen, with major issues costing track time and momentum that may affect the opening races.

Regardless, it’s a story that’s set to unfold all the way through to March 1, when the teams pack up in Barcelona in readiness for the opening race in Melbourne, Australia…