Red Bull Junior pairing Carlos Sainz Jr and Daniil Kvyat fired an early warning shot to the opposition as GP3 pre-season testing got underway with the second generation car at Estoril today.

The two 18-year-olds, who will race in the category for the first time this year with the MW Arden team, finished the day at the head of the timesheets. Sainz posted the day’s best time of 1m26.815s in the final 15 minutes, with Kvyat relegated to second, exactly eight tenths of a second behind his teammate.

“I am really happy today, this was my first time driving Circuito Estoril and I am P1,” said Sainz. “So many people had said how difficult the GP3/13 car would be to drive and they were right!

“I was so surprised with the amount of power and speed, in particular through the corners. It’s very challenging for us and it’s a very good feeling driving a car with 400hp, we had a great base to start with so we will see what we can achieve.”

Tio Ellinas was close behind Kvyat in third place with Marussia Manor Racing as he looks to continue in the category for a second year after winning the 2012 season finale at Monza. The Cypriot had earlier topped the morning session with a 1m29.396s, enough to break the previous GP3 lap record at Estoril despite being the best part of three seconds slower than Sainz’s final time.

Only 13 drivers covered more than 10 laps in the morning as teams focussed on installation laps and overcoming some early teething troubles, but only two of the 27 cars clocked less than 19 laps during the afternoon.

David Fumanelli showed that being forced to switch from Arden to Trident Racing for his sophomore campaign would cause him no problem as he continued his strong testing pace from the end of 2012 with the day’s fourth best time.

Kevin Korjus was a promising fifth quickest on the Koiranen GP team’s first day of GP3 running ahead of the third Arden machine of Robert Visoiu. Giovanni Venturini, sporting new sponsorship from Indonesia on his Trident car, was seventh with Jenzer’s Patric Niederhauser in eighth.

Facu Regalia finished up fastest of the three ART Grand Prix cars immediately ahead of teammates Conor Daly and Jack Harvey. Then came the other two Koiranen drivers Patrick Kujala and Aaro Vainio, Jenzer’s Alex Fontana and returning Carlin driver Nick Yelloly. Adderly Fong was 16th for Status Grand Prix ahead of Emanuele Zonzini of Trident.

Dino Zamparelli was 18th on his first run in a GP3 car after Marussia Manor confirmed him for the coming season yesterday, just edging out former Formula Renault BARC rival Josh Webster (Status). Female racers Samin Gomez (Jenzer) and Vicky Piria (Marussia Manor) were next ahead of Carlin’s Eric Lichtenstein and Ethan Ringel with newcomers Bamboo. The timesheets were rounded out by the remaining Carlin and Status cars of Luis Sa Silva and Jimmy Eriksson respectively and the final two Bamboo machines of Lewis Williamson and Roberto La Rocca.

Series technical director Didier Perrin was pleased with the first day of running for the upgraded car.

“Today has been a big success,” he said. “The car looks beautiful, it sounds fantastic and as anticipated it’s much quicker than the GP3/10. We have achieved over 650 laps on day one of testing. With more power, the car will be much more demanding for drivers’ therefore I am very confident that when we arrive in Barcelona for the first round, we will produce an even better show and a high level of exciting competition.”