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.
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.
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.
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.
Red Bull Racing are in trouble. Australian driver Daniel Ricciardo managed just four more laps than he did yesterday. The Australian completed 7 laps in the morning and brought Red Bull’s total laps for the week to 21, a desperately poor number – and one that will justify Lotus’ absence at Jerez. By lunchtime the team confirmed once again that the car would not run, and they would instead pack up early to return back to Milton Keynes. The factory will have to work hard over the next couple of weeks to rectify the RB10’s overheating and cooling issues. It will require a redesign of the whole rear end ‘coke-bottle’ area of the car and Adrian Newey is already back at base re-drawing and re-designing.
“It’s been a very difficult test,” said Team Principal Christian Horner. “We have had numerous Renault issues as well as chassis-cooling issues, which have affected our progress.”
Horner also confirmed that the problems they have can be fixed before the next test in Bahrain in the middle of February, “Despite the lack of mileage, what we have managed to learn shows that the problems should be solvable for the next test in Bahrain. Part of the purpose of this early test was to learn about any issues ahead of the start of the season and there will now be a lot of focus on the dyno over the next few weeks.”
Felipe Massa went quickest of the day on the damp Jerez circuit. The Brazilian was only in his second day of running for the team and he managed to set a benchmark time of 1m28.229, which was almost a second faster than nearest competitor and former team mate Fernando Alonso. The Williams managed to complete 86 laps in the process. Massa said: “I’m pleased with what I have seen in the team this week. For sure it is important to be competitive.”
The Ferrari of Fernando Alonso rounded the track the most times out of anyone with 115 laps without failure. The Spaniard finished the session in second place and the Ferrari is now capable of running seemingly without reliability issues and Alonso was able to conduct longer runs whilst practicing pit stops and launches from the end of the pitlane. The Italian team will be wanting to maintain this performance for the warmer Bahrain test.
Force India’s test driver Daniel Juncadella finished the day in third place after a fault-free day. The Silverstone-based team were hoping to gain more mileage after suffering problems with the car on all three of the previous days running and Juncadella racked up 81 laps setting a time of 1m29.457.
Day 3 pacesetter Kevin Magnussen completed the day in fourth place with a time of 1m30.806. The Dane managed to complete the most laps McLaren have had all test, with 110. Magnussen had a bad end to the day however. With less than an hour of the session remaining he spun the MP4-29 at the Ayrton Senna chicane and stalled the car, bringing out the red flags. Because of the lack of damage to the car, he was able to get out again before the end of the session, but crashed his McLaren into the barriers on the exit of turn 10. The test has proven to be a success for McLaren, who missed day one after failing to set up their car in time. They have the added bonus of a rear wishbone appendage that a lot of teams up and down the paddock will be trying hard to replicate over the next few weeks before the two tests in Bahrain.
Mercedes changed their testing plan in the morning and decided to split driving duties at the lunchtime break in order to allow Lewis Hamilton some more time in the car. Nico Rosberg started off in the morning and completed a massive 91 laps of the Jerez circuit in a little under 3 hours of running. The Mercedes looked extremely drive-able, even in the wet conditions. Rosberg was able to complete something akin to a race stint, he was able to roll around over 40 laps entering the pits three times for scheduled pitstops before leaving and continuing his race stint. Given that the track temperature barely made it into double figures all morning, it will not be representative of any real running as the cars and tyres will not experience these conditions again throughout the rest of the season. But Mercedes will be impressed by its mileage without reliability issues, a major plus before going to Bahrain.
Lewis Hamilton took over in the afternoon and completed 41 laps and set a laptime of 1m30.822. The Mercedes ran without fault all day and managed to complete the most mileage out of all the teams, with a combined total of 132 laps for the day.
Jules Bianchi surprised in his new Marussia. It was the first time the Frenchman had tried the new car and despite only completing 25 laps for the day, he ended up less than four seconds off Massa’s pace with a time of 1m32.222. Marussia had only managed to get their car up and running on Thursday after being unable to piece their car together back at the factory. The team are using Ferrari engines this year, and that could have a say in how well they perform when the season gets underway. The Ferrari and the Mercedes already appear to have the upper hand on the Renault engines.
Adrian Sutil was once again back in the Sauber. The German driver ended up in the barrier on Thursday and with just an hour and a half left of today’s session he spun his Sauber into the gravel just before the last hairpin. The Sauber did manage to get back out again for some more laps before the end of the day. Sutil managed to set a laptime of 1m39.941 and he completed 69 laps. Sauber have confirmed that they are struggling with braking issues this week, attributable to the new brake-by-wire system the teams are using. It explains why the Sauber car has been unable to set representative lap times all week. The Swiss team will hope to resolve their issues to get some proper running underway in Bahrain in February.
Caterham had to call their test to an end with a couple of hours remaining when they discovered a power unit component issue, which is another Renault problem. Kamui Kobayashi was running in the car for Friday and managed 54 laps. The Caterham team have had their issues this week but have come away from Jerez completing 74 laps, 34 more than Red Bull managed across all four days. Not as high as the team would have hoped, but given the Renault issues up and down the pitlane this week, they have made the best out of the bad situation, a point confirmed by Kobayashi, “My first day in the car may have ended earlier than we’d planned after another problem with the Renault engine, but, from where we’ve been earlier this week, it’s very good to have completed 54 laps.”
Daniil Kvyat has had a terrible week. He was unable to get any running in on Wednesday as the car never left the garage for reliability reasons and today the Russian only managed 9 laps setting a time of 1m44.016. Kvyat ended the day bringing out the red flags after stopping out on the track with Kevin Magnussen. It is very probable that Toro Rosso are having the same issues this week as the Red Bull team, on account for their similar chassis and engine partner.
What we have learnt?
- Mercedes have the edge. Their power units have completed a combined 875 laps in four days at the Jerez test. Ferrari power units have managed 444 laps and Renault just 151. All the teams have completed a total of 1470 laps over the four days.
- Mercedes have had great reliability for the laps they have done, they have completed six times the amount of laps the Renault has achieved. The Ferrari too had managed good reliability but did have to stop a few times on circuit with small problems. The Renault powered teams have had a torrid time. Completing 151 laps is not what they would expect and they will need to go away and fix the problems they have had in Jerez in time for Bahrain.
- Red Bull are in trouble. Just 21 laps for the week is not what the champions were hoping for. Cooling problems with their Renault Energy Recovery Systems will require a chassis redesign.
- Formula One got quieter. The new 1.6 V6 turbos still generate an impressive sound, but the noise is nowhere near to that of the V8 or V10 era.
- Pirelli may well have sorted their problems. Despite the cars not running at full pace and track temperatures being so long, the Pirelli’s held up and have not had any issues or complaints from any drivers. The hotter climate of Bahrain will prove to be a larger test for the tyre company though.
- McLaren have a trick up their sleeve. The team didn’t run on Tuesday so we never got a glimpse of the rear suspension fairing they are running in order to generate more downforce. Teams up and down the paddock will now look to copy the idea.
- Mercedes have a good base on which to build their car. Good high and low speed cornering and a solid engine is a great first step.
- Lotus haven’t missed a thing. With Renault suffering so many problems and plenty of their rivals not getting much mileage in, the Enstone based team have not really missed too much. They will have to hope for a quick car straight out the garage in Bahrain though to ensure they don’t lose out too much to their competitors.
- And of course, it all means nothing. We can’t read anything into the times, we don’t know who is running what program, with what fuel or how hard they are pushing on the track. Maybe we will begin a glimpse of the real pace in Bahrain on the 19th of February…
Felipe Massa was top of the time sheets at the end of the four day test in Jerez. The Williams driver was in the car for the second day in a row and managed to set a time of 1m28.229 on a damp circuit. Fernando Alonso finished in second place nine tenths down on former team mate Massa. Force India test driver Daniel Juncadella finished the day in an impressive third place with a time of 1m29.457. Kevin Magnussen was in fourth place with a time of 1m30.806 in the McLaren. Lewis Hamilton ran in the afternoon after taking over from team mate Rosberg. The Brit finished the day in fifth with a time of 1m30.822. Jules Bianchi impressed in the Marussia claiming sixth place with a time of 1m32.222. Adrian Sutil’s time of 1m36.571 was some way off the pace and over 8 seconds slower than leader Massa. The other Mercedes of Nico Rosberg completed his running in the morning with a time of 1m36.951. Kamui Kobayashi’s Caterham managed more laps on Friday and set a time of 1m43.193. Russian driver Daniil Kvyat finally got some running under his belt and set a time of 1m44.016. Red Bull’s woes continued as Daniel Ricciardo stayed in the car for the day although got limited running after the team announced they were quitting the test at lunchtime. The Australian managed a time of 1m45.374
McLaren rookie Kevin Magnussen finished day 3 of the Jerez F1 test on top of the timesheets. The Danish driver took over from team mate Jenson Button at lunctime. His time of 1m23.276 was the quickest of the week so far. It was four tenths quicker than second placed driver Felipe Massa in the Williams. Lewis Hamilton came third with a time of 1m23.952 in his Mercedes. Former team mate and morning runner Jenson Button did a time of 1m25.030 which was the quickest time of the morning session before he handed over to Magnussen. Fernando Alonso was in fifth in his Ferrari with a time of 1m25.495. Nico Hulkenberg set a time of 1m.26.096 in his Force India. The times then dropped off significantly toward the back of the field. Jean-Eric Vergne had an unreliable day and ended some 6.6 seconds off the pace with a time of 1m29.915 which was marginally quicker than Adrian Sutil’s Sauber which managed a 1m30.161. Caterham’s test driver Robin Frijns completed 10 laps but did not set a laptime. Marussia managed to take to the track for the first time in their new chassis with Max Chilton behind the wheel, the Brit only completed 5 untimed laps though. Red Bull called an end to their day in the early afternoon with gremlins striking Daniel Ricciardo throughout the day. The Australian only managed to lap the circuit twice, with the RB10 breaking down 5 corners into its first run of the day. Testing resumes tomorrow.
Swiss newspapers have suggested that Mexican driver Esteban Gutierrez could be off to the Caterham team after being seen at the factory near Witney in Oxfordshire.
‘Blick’ and ‘Neue Zercher Zeitung’ have both reported that the 22 year old was seen at the Caterham base on Wednesday. It comes a few days after German driver Nico Hulkenburg left the Swiss team to join Force India.
Gutierrez was widely expected to remain with Sauber for the next season, however their recent financial issues may force them to opt for 18 year old Russian Sergey Sirotkin, who is favoured by Sauber’s Russian investors. It is thought that Force India driver Adrian Sutil could well end up with a seat at the Hinwil based team, forcing Gutierrez out the exit door.
Caterham team boss Cyril Abiteboul told Autosport that the aim would be to have a balanced driver pairing for next season: “A combination of experience and younger blood is something that will make sense. At Caterham, we are committed to young people, to young talent. So I think that will stay.”
At last months Brazilian Grand Prix Gutierrez confirmed he was unsure about keeping his seat at Sauber, he said: “We’ll see what’s going to happen.”
“Obviously we have been looking to different options, even if my idea is to continue with Sauber, because we have been working on a good relationship for a long time.”
Gutierrez, like compatriot Sergio Perez, is supported by the Mexican telecommunications company Telmex. This financial backing may play a part in deciding whether this years rookie could end up at Caterham for the 2014 season.