Jerez: Day 1 Analysis

Day 1 of the first ‘new era’ F1 test in Jerez was a day of unreliability, new sounds and minimal running. Minimal running indeed, on day one the combined lap total for the field was an astoundingly underwhelming 91 laps, the standard amount for just one car in one day last year. In fact on the first day of testing in 2013, all the cars managed 657 laps and in 2012 they managed 711.

Mercedes were the first on track with Lewis Hamilton and the Englishman managed to keep plugging the laps in all morning, he was the only consistent runner to talk about. The Mercedes gave us the first glimpse of what the 1.6 turbo charged V6 hybrid power unit sounded like, and it is actually impressive. Over the past year many have worried about the sound the new engines will generate, fearing it will sound too weak or too quiet. But it is in fact still loud and very ‘throaty’. It has a deeper resonance, much akin to the 1980’s turbo F1 era. There was even a brief moment where Hamilton was readying himself for a run but instead of leaving his garage he managed to stall his car. The stall allowed us to hear the turbo unit whirring away, something which very much resembled a jet engine or perhaps just a vacuum cleaner, have a look and listen here:

The Mercedes had looked reliable too, until Hamilton put it in the barrier at Turn 1 after his front wing suffered a failure, dislodged itself and placed the number 44 car into the armco. The damage to the suspension and the front wing was irreparable. Mercedes had only built and brought one wing to Jerez and decided to call their day to halt in the early afternoon. They are to fly a reinforced front wing out to the test in time for tomorrows running. Hamilton completed the day in second place. A video of his crash can be found here:

Kimi Raikkonen got Ferrari’s session off to a poor start when the Finn stopped on track on his very first run. After returning to the garage and spending a couple of hours rectifying the issue, the F14T was back on track and lapping consistently quicker with each effort. Raikkonen slowly seemed to get to grips with the new ‘torque-ier’ feel of the car and managed to end the day up the top of the time sheets in P1. Although Raikkonen’s best time was over 9 seconds slower than last years pace around the Jerez circuit. Kimi said: “We had a lot of new things to learn today. Even if we would have liked to do more laps, I think that for a first day it was alright. Now we have a lot of work ahead of us, but all in all, we are pleased with our first day.”

Kimi Raikkonen

Kimi Raikkonen

Valtteri Bottas managed to give the Williams its first run with just an hour of the session to go, the team had been putting the car together in the garage for most of the day. Despite only completing a few installation laps and only 7 laps altogether he still managed to get to grips quick enough with his car to go P3. It is of course not known how much fuel cars run with, but at this stage and with the complexities surrounding the new rules for this year every running is highly irrelevant. Teams are just aiming to get through this test reliably.

Bottas in the Williams

Bottas in the Williams

Sergio Perez gave Force India their first run out after unveiling their new car to the press earlier in the morning and finished out in fourth place. The Mexican tallied the fourth largest amount of laps completed, with just 11. He completed a number of laps late on in the afternoon after stopping out on track just an hour into running on his first install lap.

Jean Eric Vergne was at one stage in the morning the only serious competitor to Lewis Hamilton. The two drivers were the only ones pacing around the circuit early on. The Toro Rosso brought out a red flag in the afternoon after stopping on track between turns 4 and 5. With just an hour and a half of the session to go, the car wasn’t repaired in time and never made it back onto the track.

Toro Rosso returns to the pits

Toro Rosso returns to the pits

Sauber ended the day bottom of the timed laps. Esteban Gutierrez managed 7 laps with a best time of 1m42.257 some 15 seconds off Raikkonen’s pace.

Red Bull had been having problems with their rear suspension all day long but Sebastian Vettel managed to drag the RB10 out for its first run with just 15 minutes of the day left to go. He only completed just 3 installation laps without a time.

Sebastian Vettel in the RB10

Sebastian Vettel in the RB10

Caterham had hoped to unveil their car before the session got underway in the morning, but a suspected engine mounting issue meant they had to delay their launch until mid-afternoon when the problem was sorted and Marcus Ericsson could complete a lap. The Swede only managed one installation lap before coming into the pits and calling it a day. Caterham will be hoping for more running tomorrow.

The Marussia will be expected to take to the circuit late on in tomorrow’s session after a problem was sorted out back in the factory and the car was sent on its journey down to the circuit this morning. Lotus were the other team not present in the pit lane and they will not be testing their new car until the Bahrain tests next month.

The McLaren MP4-29 didn’t even leave the garage, team members working all night and all day on sorting out its issues. McLaren said: “The car was predominantly affected by electrical issues during the day. The subsequent dismantling, inspection and re-installation of several major components ultimately meant we were unable to conduct any running today.” Mechanics will be working overnight once more as they will be looking to start their running in earnest on Wednesday. Although it does look like the day is to begin with some mild precipitation, not ideal for any information gathering.

Gutierrez's Sauber

Gutierrez’s Sauber

World Champion Sebastian Vettel said: “There’s no impression of the new car. I could not even get full throttle yet!” Seemingly nobody was able to plant their foot to the floor all day long, in a day where data running and making sure all the new bits work is king. Indeed in the early afternoon Mercedes’ Toto Wolff said that the sound of the cars do not quite yet sound as good as they should. He said that the engines are currently running around 9,000-10,000rpm, some way below the 15,000rpm limit. The Austrian said we should expect to hear a better noise from the engine when the turbo kicks in a lot more after 10,000rpm.

But of course it is completely senseless to jump to any conclusions about any times from this test. Many teams are mooting Jerez as a large shakedown test with the serious running to happen in Bahrain next month.

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