F1 testing kicks off at Jerez
Nine 2012 cars in action over next four days
Last Updated: February 7, 2012 9:34am
Preparations for the new Formula 1 season begin in earnest at Jerez this morning as teams roll out their 2012 challengers for their debut runs on the opening day of pre-season testing.
Eleven of the grid's 12 squads are in action over the course of the next four days at the perennial test venue in southern Spain, the first of three four-day sessions before the season opener in Australia on March 18.
Following a feverish week of car launches, nine of the teams in attendance will be getting to grips with their all-new machines and trying to put as many initial miles on them as possible.
World Champions Red Bull begin their quest for a hat-trick of world titles with Mark Webber at the wheel of the RB8 for the first two days, with Jenson Button and Felipe Massa kicking off the week for chief rivals McLaren and Ferrari respectively.
Day one of the test also marks the high-profile return of world champion Kimi Raikkonen to an official F1 session for the first time since November 2009, the Finn to put the first official miles on the Lotus E20 following a shakedown on Monday.
Elsewhere, Paul di Resta is in action for Force India in the VJM05 while Williams are reunited with Renault power for the first time since their last title-winning year of 1997, the Grove squad unveiling their car to the media in the pit lane before rolling straight into their day's programme.
Mercedes are also in action, but having decided to delay the first appearance of their 2012 car until the second test at Barcelona in a fortnight's time in order to maximise development time in the wind tunnel, will instead run with last year's W02 and focus on analysing the performance of the 2012-spec Pirelli tyres.
HRT are also running their old car, while rivals Marussia are sitting out the week completely as they take more time to hone their 2012 design.
In addition to getting a first feel for Pirelli's new range of compounds, the first week of testing will largely be about teams completing installation checks and initial reliability runs with their new challengers rather than chasing outright performance.
And in a welcome boost for the teams who have escaped the plunging temperatures of northern Europe, fine, sunny weather is currently forecast for all four days at Jerez.