2014 F1 Test 3 – Bahrain

Day 1-2

So far, it hasn’t been plain sailing even for the most reliable front-running teams like McLaren and Mercedes. Even they had their share of problems. But they still got in plenty of running, which is more of what could be said for Red Bull (who admittedly did have a decent 2nd day).

The Williams and Force India look pretty handy, and while their times are off the pace of the Mercs, they have reliability by the spades. No such luck for the Renault-powered teams. Ferrari-powered teams are kind of hovering in between, with Ferrari having their own problems (particularly for Raikkonen, who can’t seem to get on top of the torque), and Marussia having a poor time (although, as the times indicate, they could be quite far ahead of Caterham). Sauber is also behind the Mercedes-powered teams, and they have been plodding along quietly.

There’s a view that McLaren and Mercedes are seeing more issues this test because they are testing performance, and pushing the cars to the limit far more than the other teams. That’s sounds quite plausible to me, and the problems do seem minor in comparison to Red Bull’s (and the Renault teams in general). It will be interesting to see Williams win at Melbourne though, just by lasting the race 😀

As for Red Bull, my goodness. Having to cut temporary vents to help cooling isn’t a solution. Packaging at the rear is as tight as ever, and coupled with Renault having only just solved the major battery issue (with many other issues yet to be discovered, let alone solved) and the engine specs to be frozen, things look pretty grim at the moment. At this point, I really wouldn’t be surprised if they do bring a B-spec car to Spain.

Day 3

What a horrid day for Red Bull. They were delayed by some issues in the morning, and when they finally got out, it took 4 corners for the car to break down. Not even on a timed lap, no; it was only the installation lap. Then they tried to fix it, and out came Vettel again. Not even out of the pitlane, bam! The car broke down. They are seriously behind at this point.

Mercedes also had their own problems, but once they did their precautionary engine change, Rosberg went on to do quite a lot of laps, which is good. McLaren and Ferrari, the other two big teams, had their own problems as well.

Then comes Williams. Boy, oh boy. Not only did they have race pace and reliability, Massa set the fastest lap time yet, which was faster than Mercedes’ qualifying sim time from the first Bahrain test. I’m sure Mercedes have been sandbagging a little, but that’s a great return to form from Williams. Force India too, have been impressing.

For the Ferrari teams, Marussia had a good day of running I believe. Whereas the Sauber caught fire. Which was unexpected, given how small the cooling requirements that Ferrari engine seems to have.

And of course, the Renaults. Only Caterham got in any decent running. Lotus was hamstrung by more problems yet again, leaving them with even less mileage run than Red Bull. Toro Rosso had some good running too, which can only mean that Red Bull’s breakdowns are down mostly to them now. Renault can easily point to those other cars and ask; we gave you these engines, other cars can do it, why can’t you?

Day 4

Well, well, well. Williams look like they have the pace, and then Mercedes pop up with the day’s fastest time. Then they go out again, Lewis sets the fastest 1st sector, and backs off. Sandbagging? Maybe. Ominous? Quite.

Red Bull had a better day of testing, but still ended up losing a lot of time due to some front-end mechanical problem. Mercedes have had their issues in the morning too, but recovered to throw a warning out to the rest of the paddock. McLaren had little running, while Williams seemed to be bulletproof at a very crucial time. And fast. Although they did end up with engine failure near the end of the day…

Force India too, have proved reliable and quick, and Ferrari seem to be at that sort of level now. An engine judged to be thirstier is no good for an era of fuel-saving, and the car still can’t put the power on the track stably. Sauber? My goodness. 177 laps in a day. That must be a record.

Lotus continue to have problems, and ended testing with the least number of laps. Toro Rosso, Caterham and Marussia I didn’t pay much attention to, but they haven’t been as unreliable and making as many headlines as Red Bull have, so that’s that.

Thoughts

Given that I support Hamilton and the Brit teams/drivers, I’m hoping for a Lewis win in Melbourne. Williams, with their troubles last season, would also be a fan favourite to pick up a podium. My guess will be a Merc 1-2 with Williams snatching a podium. But given the reliability gremlins everyone, yes, even Williams has, Melbourne is going to be a thriller.

Edit: Yikes. Apparently, from news released by Pirelli, Mercedes were using used soft tyres when they set the 2nd and 3rd fastest times from the two Bahrain tests. Williams was on new supersofts. That’s a good 1sec performance gap in the tyres. If the Mercedes has 1sec up on the fastest car besides them…new era of domination? Melbourne is going to be VERY interesting.

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