Bahrain: Day 1 Analysis

The first day of testing in two weeks commenced and many questions posed in Jerez were to be answered in the hot desert of Bahrain. Would the new Lotus work? Would the Mercedes powered teams continue their excellent mileage record? And crucially, have Red Bull and Renault’s problems been resolved?

For Red Bull the answer seemingly is no. They spent the majority of the morning in the garage, with Sebastian Vettel waiting and chatting to team members in the team hospitality units in the paddock. When the RB10 finally made its way on to the track, it was only to complete some installation runs to make sure that the car was to run smoothly. It was in the middle of the afternoon that the car brought out the red flag. Sebastian Vettel jumped out from the cockpit and took a fire extinguisher to hand to the rear of the over heating Red Bull. The German even escorted the car back to the garage on the back of the tow truck it was placed on. There was a distinct smell of scorching in the pit lane when the car returned to the garage.  Vettel managed to complete just 14 laps for the day with a lap time of 1m40.224, over three seconds off pacesetter Hulkenburg’s time. Prior to the breakdown Vettel was setting personal best times and slowly making his way up the time sheet, albeit over 3 seconds off the pace. The worry now is whether the problem is still with the overheating at the tightly packaged rear end of the RB10 or whether it is a Renault fault. It is more than likely that both factors will still be an issue. The Renault on the Red Bull does not spool up during the engine start up quite like that of the Ferrari’s or the Mercedes’. It is likely to be a long night for the Red Bull mechanics as they seek to improve the car before Vettel takes the reins again tomorrow.

Hulkenberg sets the pace

Hulkenberg sets the pace

Nico Hulkenberg finished the day top of the time sheets with a time which was quicker than the fastest race lap at last years Bahrain Grand Prix. The time puts to bed the argument from many members of the paddock who believe that this years cars are too slow. The time was set on the harder Pirelli rubber as well as the smaller 1.6 V6 power units. Hulkenberg’s time was 1m36.880 and he completed 78 laps for the day. The German took over the top of the times mid way through the afternoon from Lewis Hamilton. The pace will give hope to Force India, who do look to have a solid base for a car and a reliable power unit.

Ferrari had Fernando Alonso in the car for this first day of testing. The morning did not start so well when the Spaniard brought the first of the red flags out after a couple of minutes. The back of the F14T was smoking even on the way out of the pit lane. Alonso did manage to finish the day in second place to Nico Hulkenburg with a time set late in the afternoon which was 0.999 tenths off the Force India’s pace. Ferrari had managed to run reliably throughout the rest of the day and their car does appear to be genuinely quick. The Ferrari has yet to set long run lap times like its Mercedes-powered rivals, so it is unclear to see where they stand in the pecking order at the moment.

Alonso's Ferrari smoking

Alonso’s Ferrari smoking

Adrian Sutil managed to complete the most amount of laps for the day with 82. The German only managed to set the sixth fastest time of the day and was some 3.5 seconds off the pace. The problems Sutil faced in Jerez, with the new brake-by-wire systems the teams run for 2014, have apparently cropped up once more. Sutil brought out a red flag earlier in the day for spinning off the circuit and it would appear he is still having trouble adapting to the new rear braking feel in his Sauber.

Lewis Hamilton’s day came to an end with over an hour of the session remaining. The British driver was out of the car and talking to his team mate and other members of the team before the end of the day. Hamilton had also suffered with some rear braking issues. The brake by wire electronics in the Mercedes were not working correctly and will be changed overnight ready for tomorrows session. The Mercedes was on top of the time sheets for the early morning and again in the early afternoon, before Hulkenberg bettered Lewis’ time of 1m37.908. The car once again as in Jerez looks very quick, reliable and consistent.

Kevin Magnussen was running in the McLaren today and set the pace for the morning session. The Danish driver has been impressing members of the paddock with his raw pace straight out of the box. The McLaren was still running with its rear wishbone blockers. Magnussen was doing shorter aero runs in the morning and focused on longer consistent runs in the afternoon. The MP4-29 ran reliably throughout the day with no issues and completed one less lap than Sutil with 81 laps. Out on the circuit the McLaren still does appear to be a very stiff chassis, it noticeably oscillates more than most other cars on track.

Robin Frijns was running in the Caterham today and managed to complete the most amount of laps by a Renault-powered car, with a mammoth 68. The Caterham team will be impressed by their reliability and will hope to complete more running for the rest of the test without the issues suffered by their Renault-powered counterparts. The time of 1m42.534 by Frijns was still some way off the pace, a whole 5.6 seconds to be precise, and they will be looking to find some more performance in order to close that gap by the end of the testing at the weekend.

It was another lowly day for the Toro Rosso team, Daniil Kvyat has barely had any running in the 2014-spec car so far, having run into various issues back in Jerez and today the Russian only managed a total of 5 laps. His lap time of a 1m44.346 put him slightly quicker than Grosjean’s Lotus in 8th place. The Italian squad, much like their sister team Red Bull, need to get more running under their belt soon if they are to get any useful information and set-up work complete on their car.

Lotus E22

Lotus E22

The Lotus E22 made its public debut at the hands of Romain Grosjean. The French driver completed just 8 laps and set the slowest lap time of the day with a 1m44.832, almost 8 seconds off the pace. The Enstone-based team are going through their installation runs for the first time since their shakedown as they did not complete any running at the Jerez test. The team will be hoping for maximum reliability from the Renault power unit and more laps for tomorrow.

Williams’ Felipe Massa and Marussia’s Jules Bianchi did not manage to get a lap time on the board at the close of the day. The Williams had a fuel system issue for the majority of the day and Massa only just manged to get onto the track at the close of play, setting just 5 laps. Jules Bianchi completed one installation lap early on before a problem revealed itself and then only managed a couple more laps right at the end of the days running.

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