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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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Ross Brawn Retires

Ross Brawn has today confirmed that he is to retire from Formula One, at a fishing event in Scotland.

The 59 year old was at a fishing competition at the River Dee near Aberdeen when he confirmed his intentions to stand down in Formula One to focus on fishing. Brawn has long been linked with a position at McLaren or Honda since his departure from the Mercedes team last year.
“I’m retiring – it’s not tongue in cheek,” Brawn said. “I’m going to take a year to enjoy the fishing and then see what life brings. I’m looking forward to it but I’ve got no other plans.”

Brawn has long been linked with a position at McLaren or Honda since his departure from the Mercedes team last year. “What they didn’t realise when I was invited here was they had a scoop because the world’s press was trying to find out if I was retiring or not,” Brawn said. “This is the busiest time of the year for Formula One and I said I would come along and open the River Dee.”

The Englishman who was also a candidate for a position at the F1 governing body body, the FIA said: “It’s a fantastic honour to do the ceremonial opening of the River Dee. It’s a river I’ve never had a chance to fish before because it is predominantly known as a spring river and in the spring I’m normally trying to sort out a Formula One car in Spain.

“So February, March and April are never good months for me to go fishing – but this year is different having stopped.”

It is not known whether Brawn is just taking a years sabbatical or whether he is serious about leaving permanently. He has won 16 titles in Formula One, eight drivers’ and eight constructors’.

Jerez: Day 3 Analysis

If yesterday was all about the engines, today was about Red Bull. The team called an end to the test early in the afternoon after Daniel Ricciardo only managed two complete laps of the Jerez circuit. Red Bull were hoping to get their RB10 onto the track in the early morning after struggling yesterday, but it took three hours for the Australian to make his first appearance. The car only made it past five corners before grinding to a halt with smoke billowing out of the back. Red Bull have been struggling with the integration of their Renault ERS system. Ricciardo was able to make it back out onto the circuit some hours later. He completed a full lap before pitting the Red Bull which had smoke and sparks coming from the rear of the car. The team had hoped to get the car up and running before the end of the day, but it wasn’t long before Christian Horner, Adrian Newey, Helmut Marko and Red Bull boss Dietrich Mateschitz left the circuit and the team confirmed they would not run again on Thursday.

Ricciardo waits by his RB10

Ricciardo waits by his stricken RB10

It has been a terrible test for Red Bull Racing, they have only managed 13 laps this week so far. The team are believed to be suffering with cooling issues attributed to the packaging of the two Renault ERS’ in the RB10. Members of the paddock heard the team drilling holes into the car for cooling purposes late last night and throughout the day today. The designers will now have to go back to the drawing board at the factory and incorporate a redesign of the rear chassis. They will not want these same issues developing at the warmer test in Bahrain in a few weeks time. Daniel Ricciardo will remain in the car for tomorrow and will be hoping for some more laps to get to grips with his new car.

It was McLaren’s Kevin Magnussen which led the time sheets on Day 3. The Dane took over from team mate Jenson Button at lunchtime and made a swift impact on proceedings. Magnussen took no time at all to start completing laps and slowly rose through the packing order with consistently quicker laps. It was on his third run with the medium tyres when he managed his quickest time, a 1m23.276 – the quickest of the test so far. McLaren completed the most amount of laps on Thursday, combined Button and Magnussen racked up 91 laps in total. Not as much as Nico Rosberg’s 97 laps yesterday in the Mercedes, but it is a positive that the McLaren car and the Mercedes power unit in particular is proving to be reliable. Out on track the McLaren does appear to good high speed corner pace, which is always a positive sign. The MP4-29 is perhaps not as good as the Mercedes when it comes to the change of direction in the slower speed corners. McLaren ran the majority of the morning with aerodynamic testing devices and pitot tubes on the car to measure the reaction of airflow around the car, particularly off the front wing. Magnussen will continue to drive the car throughout the whole of tomorrow’s session.

Pitot tubes on the MP4-29

Aero sensors on the MP4-29

Felipe Massa started life off at Williams on a positive note. The Brazilian accumulated 47 laps in the Mercedes Benz powered car and set a time of 1m23.700, which was fourth tenths off Magnussen’s pace setting time. The Brazilian spent the majority of the day getting to grips with the Williams and slowly managed to increase his pace and that of the cars. Williams will be happy with the speed the car appears to have, but will be hoping to add more laps to the 47 they did today on the FW36 on Friday.

Lewis Hamilton was back in the Mercedes after his shunt on Tuesday. The British driver completed 62 laps for the day and briefly managed to lead proceedings on the Jerez-spec harder tyre. His time of 1m23.952 on that harder tyre is very respectable and will make Mercedes very optimitic that they have a quick car straight out of the blocks. The team did have to change a gearbox over lunch which took two hours, so it limited the running for Lewis who has completed his test and hands the car back over to team mate Rosberg for the last day tomorrow.

Fernando Alonso managed to complete 58 laps in the Ferrari. It was the Spaniards first time at driving the F14 T, taking over driving duties from Kimi Raikkonen. The Ferrari did stop once in the morning out on track and brought out the red flags, but besides from that the car ran reliably throughout the rest of the day and it looks a strong and stable chassis. Although it does have a tendency to let the rear step out on acceleration, which could be down to hastiness from the driver or just a lack of rear grip. Alonso will stay in the car for Friday.

Force India’s VJM07 stopped out on track in the early afternoon bringing out the red flags. Hulkenberg had only completed 6 laps up to that point and managed a further 11 laps after the team managed to sort out his car. Force India will be hoping for better reliability and more running on the last day of the test. Hulkenberg finished the day in sixth place with a time of 1m26.096.

Vergne's Toro Rosso breaks down

Vergne’s Toro Rosso breaks down

Toro Rosso had at least managed to get their car out of the garage on Thursday and Jean-Eric Vergne did complete 30 laps for the day, however it was not without faults. The Toro Rosso brought out two red flags within the space of half an hour at the end of the day. On both occasions the car was travelling slowly before coming to a halt. It is not yet known what the problems were or whether they are attributed to Renault in any way. Daniil Kvyat will take control of the car tomorrow and will hope to get some laps under his belt, as he was unable to run on Wednesday.

Adrian Sutil ended the day bottom of the timing sheets. His time of 1m30.161 was almost seven seconds off the pace, Sauber have been running somewhat off the pace so far this week and whilst they have been running systems checks, it may become a worry that they are not yet in a position to drive a quicker lap time. Sutil crashed his car into the barrier at turn 7 with 50 minutes of the session to go, the driver said the problem was with tyre temperature, “I accelerated out of the corner, shifting up from third to fourth on a straight line, and suddenly the car snapped and I went off.” The team will rebuild the front suspension and nose before the last day tomorrow.

The new Marussia

The new Marussia

Caterham managed 10 laps with test driver Robin Frijns, but none of them were timed.

Marussia had finally managed to get their car launched out and onto the track. Max Chilton completed a successful shakedown session for the Banbury based team, although not setting a time they did manage to complete 5 laps – two laps more than the current world champions managed for today.

Hamilton’s adverse 2013

2013 was woeful for Lewis Hamilton. The 28-year-old only had five podium appearances during 2013, a feat matched by the beleaguered 2009 season in the McLaren MP4-24. In fact it was the first time in his career that he failed to score more than one victory in a season (he managed two in ’09). Here, we aim to establish issues the world champion suffered with over the course of the 2013 F1 season.

PASTURES NEW

In January Hamilton arrived at his new base in Brackley. It is a new and wholly different environment to the one he had long become accustomed to at Woking. A factory less eminent to that of McLaren’s metallic, clean mega structure set upon a pristine, gleaming lake. New surroundings, faces and names to memorise. The only man Lewis truly knew was his team mate Nico Rosberg. Throughout their youth the two traveled and raced against each other in several junior series’. They grew up with each other. Hamilton now lives just a stones-throw away from the German after he bought an apartment last year in Monaco.

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Its not just communicating with new faces, its adapting to a completely different F1 car. No one car is the same. Lewis would have had to get used to all the different buttons on the steering wheels, the different maps the car runs, the different terminology and codes that team engineers use.

BRAKES

Mercedes used a ‘FRIC’ (Front and Rear Interconnection) suspension this year, a system which helps stabalise the cars pitch under braking and roll through corners. By the time the F1 circus headed to Europe, it was the much talked about must-have device. And whilst this helped Lewis gain lap time over his rivals, it wasn’t long before Mercedes’ rivals caught up and other problems developed.

In June, Lewis conceded that he was struggling with the brakes, in comparison to Rosberg. At McLaren, Lewis had always used Carbone Industrie. A brake material he could always rely on to give him the power to stop as late as possible in the braking zones. Late-braking was Lewis’ forte. It had a different feel to the Brembo brakes he now uses on his Mercedes car. The Brembo is more adept to braking and turning at the same time, its a driving brake.

Back in Montreal, Hamilton told the press that he wants to evolve for the long term rather than look for the short term solution: “I can change them if I want or I can just get used to them, and I prefer to grab a hold of it, get used to them and do a good job.”

He had tried going back to the factory over the summer to alter his driving style, by braking in a different manner and allowing the car to slide into a corner and progressing on the throttle: “I’ve been working in the simulator, using different techniques. There are a lot you can use: for example, lift and coast in a race situation, so instead of braking at 100m, you lift at 120m and brake at 80m; or later downshifts.”

The Brembo’s are not Lewis’ friend and it shows on track. So often this season, Lewis has been unable to attack into a braking zone, or more worryingly, he has been unable to defend himself from an overtake. He has looked far out of his comfort zone. On more than one occasion this year the Brit has been overtaken around the outside, something he had proudly boasted about never happening to him. Braking has been the biggest thorn in Lewis’ side all year long. It is yet to be seen whether Mercedes will cave into placing his much favoured Carbone Industrie brakes on his 2014 machinery.

TYRES

Tyres were the biggest talking point for the first part of the season. Many teams and drivers couldn’t make them work .Mercedes problem was the tyre not lasting long enough to do a sensible stint in the race. It was not uncommon to see a silver Mercedes on Pole for Sundays race.

The chassis was very good at generating tyre temperature straight out of the pits, so the tyres always had good heat for the first qualifying runs. However, it was tyre degradation and heat management that was the issue. There were more than a few times when we heard the team over the radio telling drivers to preserve rear wear rates or that the rears were heating up too much. Lewis’ problem was actually trying to generate temperature from the brakes, which almost ‘osmosises’ through the rims and into tyre itself.  During qualifying Hamilton could take half a lap to generate enough tyre temperature to have confidence in the car, by then he would have already lost a significant amount of time.

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Then there was the British Grand Prix. A race which Hamilton was leading comfortably until the tyre cried no more and exploded. The fault was with the kevlar belt in the rim. Hamilton wasn’t the only one to suffer that race.

Towards the second half of 2013, Pirelli brought along last years compounds for the remaining races. The Mercedes cars did not suffer with massive degradation anymore, but they did not have the raw pace of the Red Bull, which was allowed to scamper away into the distance. Fortunately Pirelli look like they will be bringing a stronger, slightly more durable compound for the 2014 season, which means cars with higher downforce will be rewarded as drivers should be able to push to the absolute maximum.

PERSONAL

Hamilton is a lot ‘stockier’ today to that of the young boy who walked into the sport back in 2007. Back then he weighed a slight 66kgs. He is clearly more muscular in the upper body and arms, and whilst this may look athletic, it comes at a massive cost. Additional weight is a Formula One designers nightmare. An extra 5kg generally will cost around two tenths of a second per lap, a huge amount in Formula One terms. Lewis now weighs 71kgs, thats 5kg more than he did seven years ago. But it is a far cry off the 58kg that four-time world champion Sebastian Vettel weighs.

Lewis’ love life never seems to be out of the tabloids. It’s no secret it has affected him in the past, his emotionless celebration of Pole Position in Korea 2011 was due to his split with pop singer Nicole Scherzinger. Since then the relationship had been on and off. Lewis is an emotional driver, we hear it over the radio at races. He just needs to focus and channel his energy onto the race track.

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He has allowed personal issues to affect his racing before when he decided he no longer wanted his dad as a manager. Since then he has long craved for the family feel in his garage. Last year at McLaren he admitted that he was envious of Jenson Button’s entourage of family, friends and management. He may well require that to help him feel more relieved at the back of the silver garage.

Lewis attended a lot less sponsorship and partner events during 2013. This year was the first year where Lewis felt that the shackles were released. He was no longer required to be demure. Mercedes had no intention of holding him back or slowing him down. Less frequent sponsorship events were a driving factor in his transfer to the Silver Arrows. He had long become bored of having so many days of the year dedicated to sponsor events at McLaren.

Lewis will try and develop his driving style for next year, all the drivers will, the new engines will require it. He will have time to compare the data for braking styles between him and Rosberg over the course of 2013. He will have to go away and get leaner if he is to fight at the front. He will hope that this year is just a blip, after all  he could have had a nightmare year similar to that of former team mate Jenson Button.

Video: Ferrari help Santa pull his sled

The Ferrari F1 team have seemingly helped Santa pull his sled around…using their own F1 car.

The Ferrari team used the 2013 F138 to pull around a sled full of presents at the Fiorano Circuit. Driver Marc Gene comes with a fetchingly festive Christmas hat. Take a look for yourselves: