Three-time Formula One world champion Lewis Hamilton led the way in the first day of pre-season testing at the Circuit de Catalunya in Barcelona.

The 32-year-old drove for 71 laps and recorded a leading time of 1:21.765 on the soft tyre compound.

This was ahead of Sebastian Vettel, though with the German opting for the medium tyre, it suggests that Ferrari could seriously compete in the 2017 season.

Hamilton, of course, should be rated as the favourite to retain the championship for Mercedes following the shock retirement of his team-mate Nico Rosberg after claiming his maiden title in Abu Dhabi last November.

There are seven remaining days of testing for all the teams – where potential for the season ahead will become more apparent – ahead of the Australian curtain-raiser grand prix on 26th March.