Monthly Archives: February 2014

Marussia suffers a computer virus at Bahrain test

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In an interview today with Autosport, Marussia’s Team Principal John Booth has confirmed that a computer virus that hit on the first day of the Bahrain test put Marussia on the back foot for the rest of its running at the Sakhir circuit.

The team only completed only 29 laps during the four-day test at Bahrain last week. This was fewer than any other team at the test but with the virus that they suffered on Wednesday effectively wiped out their test day.

In his interview with Autosport, Booth said the following:-

“It started off with the first disaster, which was a computer Trojan-type virus in the racks, which cost us the best part of the day. So that set the tone for the week. On the second day, we did 17 laps and it was OK, working through problems but then on Friday we lost most of the day with an engine issue and it took all day to change.’

This setback for Marussia will not have been what the team would have wanted at Bahrain last week. Despite all the problems that the team encountered along the way, Marussia were able to get some much needed track time and mileage that will help them develop their car ready for the final test at Bahrain this week.

Booth then went on further in his interview to explain the rest of the Bahrain test for the Marussia team:-

‘The final day was a series of little problems and little problems with these cars take so long to fix. In the morning, we had an ERS [warning] light came on but it turned out to be a false signal, so that was two hours lost. Then there was a fuel system problem, which is not a Ferrari problem, it’s ours.

‘Things like that keep bogging us down, but I don’t think we had the same problem twice, which is odd because usually you get recurring problems.’

But this is what testing is for. Marussia have now been able to spot and recognise any slight or significant problems with their 2014 car and will now I am sure take steps and changes in order to make sure that they do not resurface this week at the Bahrain test. But they should be happy with gaining some much needed track time last week when other teams such as Red Bull and Toro Rosso appeared to be struggling.

With Marussia having completed only 59 laps with its MR03 last week, Booth has admitted that he is concerned about being ready for the season-opening Australian GP. Booth has expressed his hopes that during the final four days of the test in Bahrain (which starts on Thursday) that Marussia can get into a reasonable position for the first race of the 2014 season.

Booth said the following in his interview to Autosport:-

‘I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t worried in the slightest. It’s OK thinking you can sort the problems but you have to prove it. But I am very hopeful. We have done nothing on set-up whatsoever, but having said that the drivers report that what they have done they feel pretty confident with.

‘The brakes are fine and we improved that over the week, it has come on in leaps and bounds. We have only got four days before the next test then four days of testing and we just have to maximise what we have left.’

I think that Booth is one of many Team Principals this year who are not worried about what will 2014 will bring to their teams for this year. There will be problems that the teams will face with their cars throughout this season and it will take time for the teams to get to grips with the new challenge that they have been presented with this year.

With the new rule changes, consistency and reliability will be crucial factors for the early part of the season. Booth has every reason to be worried about the problems currently facing the Marussia team ahead of the Bahrain test on Thursday, but I am sure that the team will be working hard to make sure that they iron out the current problems and keep on improving the car ready for Melbourne.

The new rule changes in the sport this year  might provide the team with the chance to achieve their aim of trying to make Q2 regularly for this year, if other teams have reliability issues. It will be challenging for the Marussia team to achieve their aim of regularly getting into Q2 throughout 2014. But I have no doubt they will give it their best shot with the equipment and resources they have at their disposal.

But I do feel once the teams get on top of the new regulation changes and start developing their cars, the Marussia team through no fault of their own may struggle to keep up to date with the rest of the field. Marussia it would seem are putting all the steps in place in order to try and significantly improve and build on their 2013 season where they secured tenth place in the Constructors Championship.

But will there be enough time for the Marussia team to fix their current problems with the MR04? There will never be enough time. All they can do is make the most of the final pre-season test and then prepare for Melbourne in a few weeks time.

Lotus ‘twin-tusk’ nose has an advantage from Bahrain test last week

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In an interview today with Autosport, Lotus’s Technical Director Nick Chester has proven to be an advantage on track. The new Lotus E22 ran in public for the first time during last week’s four-day test at Bahrain and on-track aerodynamic data gained from the test suggests it is working well for the team so far.

In his interview with Autosport, Chester stated the following when asked about the ‘twin-tusk’ design on the E22:-

‘From the aero numbers we are getting back from the car, it does seem to be performing. I’m not going to give you a number on how much better we think it is than a standard low nose, but we did see what we thought was a significant benefit, which is why we chased it.’

Ever since picture of Lotus’s 2014 car last month, the E22 has also produced plenty of immediate wonder to fans who viewed the picture via Twitter. The car features a front nose design that is different to the other teams on the grid this season. Two protruding pillars are present on the car. This is essentially a double front nose- a slope down over the front wing.  However, on the McLaren MP4-29 and the Williams FW36 they only have single sections at the tip of their front noses.

A closer look at the 'twin-tusk' nose on the E22. All rights reserved to Autosport

A closer look at the ‘twin-tusk’ nose on the E22. All rights reserved to Autosport

My first thought on the Lotus E22 was amazement at the direction that they have taken with the nose. (see picture above). I was very surprised that Lotus has taken this interpretation. As over the last two seasons in the sport, Lotus with their previous cars have taken an ‘evolutionary’ process when developing their new car. However, every single team will have interpreted the challenge that the regulations have presented them with for this season very differently.

When pressed further on in his interview with Autosport, Chester admitted he is surprised no-one else opted to pursue the concept, especially as staff departures meant that other teams were aware of the idea. Scuderia Toro Rosso Technical Director James Key has confirmed the Italian squad has admitted that he considered the direction that Lotus has taken. Also, Ferrari’s Technical Director James Allison has publically stated that he was aware of the concept.

When asked his thought Chester showed his surprise that other teams did not take the direction Lotus have and said the following to Autosport:-

‘Yes, in a way. I know some teams had the luck to have visibility [of the idea] quite early and I thought there might have been one or two teams maybe that would have tried it and developed it. The one thing that is difficult with the nose is that it is quite hard to structurally develop and crash test it.

“Obviously, it is a different structure to a standard nose and it did take quite a lot of iterations to get it to a point where we were happy and it went through the crash test.’

2014 already has been heavily debated by everyone within the paddock and the fans regarding the new technical regulations and how the teams have implemented. It was highly anticipated before the start of the season that ‘anteater’ noses will become the norm on the cars thanks to the new technical regulations in place for this year.

But Chester does have a valid point though. All the teams and their Technical Directors will no doubt have had a few technical solutions and paths to meet the challenge that has been presented to them for this season. For example, Toro Rosso have taken a radical step with their front nose on the STR9 that is uniquely (shall I say) shaped as part of their interpretations of the new technical regulations.

But at this early stage of the season, it is too far too early to say which team and their technical approach for their cars this year has been the most successful. It would seem to me that Lotus have taken and developed the twin-tusk concept to meet the new regulations seems at this early stage to show early signs of promise and improvement.  Only time will tell if the approach taken by Lotus and Chester is successful in 2014 sooner rather than later.

 

Wolff will take part in two Free Practice Sessions in 2014

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This morning it was announced by the Williams team that their Development Driver Susie Wolff will take part in two Free Practice sessions at two Grand Prix weekends in 2014. Although Wolff’s P1 appearances will stop her short of a full race debut in the sport, she will nevertheless become only the second British woman to take part in a grand prix weekend.

It is believed that the two practice sessions Wolff will be driving at this year will be at the British and German Grand Prix. When asked her thoughts about the announcement made by the Williams test initially, she stated the following:-

‘I’m not too worried about being in the spotlight or the attention it brings – I just focus on the job. I always said that the minute I’d joined Williams F1 and was able to make the step-up to Formula 1 that it’s about doing a good job – it’s about proving yourself each step of the way.”

And that is exactly what she has done throughout her career in motorsport so far. From Oban, Wolff started out in karting and raced Formula Renault and F3 before switching to Germany’s DTM touring car series. She was then signed by Williams in 2012 as a development driver.

Wolff who is married to Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff tested for them at Silverstone in July last year and follows in the footsteps of Divina Galica, who tried unsuccessfully to qualify for races during both the 1976 and 1978 Formula 1 seasons. But testing for the Williams at Silverstone in 2013, Wolff was the first female driver since Italian Giovanna Amati who lasted competed in a grand prix weekend in 1992 with the Brabham and failed to qualify for three events.

A closer look at the history of women drivers in Formula One reveals that Maria Teresa de Filippis of Portugal and Italy’s Lella Lombardi remain the only women to contest races, with Lombardi claiming half a World Championship point after finishing sixth in the shortened 1975 Spanish GP. Also, South Africa’s Desire Wilson also took part in her home race in 1981, although it was not part of the World Championship that year.

It was announced two weeks ago that Sauber named Simona De Silvestro as their “affiliated” driver for the coming season, with the Swiss aiming for a race seat in 2015 which was great news for Formula One. When asked her thoughts about this announcement from Sauber and women getting a fair chance to compete in Formula One, Wolff said the following:-

‘If my chance comes then brilliant – I’m going to take it with both hands. But if it doesn’t then I’m going to at least hope I’ve paved the way for more women to try and for more women to realise that Formula 1 isn’t just for men. This is a natural progression after my young drivers’ test, so for me, I’ve just got to focus on doing a good job and not really worry about the rest.

‘I don’t really analyse it too much – I’m incredibly lucky to be part of a brilliant Formula 1 team with an incredible heritage – Williams F1 – I feel very lucky to be in that team.’

For me, this is considered as progress for all female motorsport drivers. Over the past few years, we have seen that female motorsport drivers are now starting to be given equal opportunities to try and progress further into the world of motorsport.

For example, Maria De Villota managed to achieve her aim of becoming a top class racing driver and was a reserve driver for the Marussia F1 team before her tragic death last year during the Japanese Grand Prix weekend. And there is no doubt that Maria’s legacy within the sport has only fuelled the fire for more women to achieve their aim on getting into the sport that they love.

And this is now reflecting with Wolff. The fact that yet another female driver has been given a great opportunity to progress further into the world of motorsport is absolutely fantastic. I am very pleased that she has been picked up for showing that they have the potential and the talent to step up into the world of motorsport, even if it will be difficult for her to get onto the grid for 2015.

Wolff will take the wheel of an FW36 during opening practice, for which cars can use an extra set of tyres this season to try and ensure more action. When asked her thoughts generally about being given this amazing opportunity by Williams she said the following:-

‘I’m grateful for the support and belief Williams continue to show in me and 2014 promises to be a very important milestone in my career. My responsibilities within the team have steadily increased as I have proved myself, culminating in the opportunity to test the car at Silverstone and conduct straight line aero tests last season.

‘Competing in two FP1 sessions, alongside an additional full test day this season will be a big step and I am looking forward to the opportunity to get behind the wheel of the FW36 on a grand prix weekend. It’s a challenge that I will relish and it will be a great chance for me to continue assisting the team.’

Wolff makes a valid point. This is will be a very important milestone for her career in Formula One. Taking part in these Practice sessions is a massive step for any driver wishing to get into Formula One in the near future. I have no doubts that Wolff will succeed within these Practice sessions at the British and German Grand Prix this year. It is hard enough for talented and promising racing drivers to reach the pinnacle of motorsport as it is and the fact that Wolff has managed to achieve this is absolutely remarkable.

It is so refreshing to see this in Formula One. Wolff has more than proved herself worthy of this opportunity that has been presented to her by the Williams team. There is no question that she deserves this opportunity as a result of her hard work, determination and passion for Formula One, which is there for all to see. This is will no doubt inspire many other female drivers currently within motorsport looking to achieve their dream of competing at this level.

Williams’s Chief Technical Officer Pat Symonds had nothing but high praise for  Wolff’s contribution to the team. Symonds stated the following:-

‘Susie has become a valued member of our driver line up and 2014 will see her take on more responsibilities as we seek to make a strong step forward in performance. Susie has demonstrated a natural talent for developing a car and providing strong feedback and these sort of characteristics will be key this season as teams seek to quickly understand and refine the radically overhauled 2014 cars.’

And the experience that Wolff has gained with the Williams team since joining the team in 2012 will only beneficial for the Williams team this year. Both parties seem to be happy with the way things are progressing at the moment and I believe that this will make them more successful now and in the future.

As a woman who has followed Formula One religiously since the age of seven, I was extremely happy that women like De Villota, De Silvestro and now Wolff have pushed for women who would like to achieve their dream of driving for the sport. And their dreams came true, which I am absolutely thrilled about.

Drivers such as Wolff are now role models for fellow female racing drivers currently and also within the future too. From Wolff showing that success can achieved, the dreams of women wanting to race competitively and fairly within Formula One is very much achievable and very much still within reach.

Despite everything that she has gone throughout their racing career, she has continued to support and dedicate their life to the sport that they dreamed about driving for, love so much and wanted to race and compete in. Wolff, De Villota and now De Silvestro have achieved their dreams and rightly so.

What is to stop Wolff from competing in Formula One in the near future? Through her hard work, grit and determination so far, she has been rewarded with an opportunity at the Williams team that many drivers could only dream of. I have no doubt that she will take this opportunity with both hands and will strive and fight to achieve and keep her dream alive in order to drive in the pinnacle of motorsport.

With now three talented female racing drivers this decade achieving their aims of driving within Formula One will no doubt provide her with all the motivation that she needs to keep going and I am certain that she will never give up until she reaches her goal. But will it be in 2015? I really hope so.

 

Hembrey: 2014 Pirelli tyres more durable and less marbles

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In an interview with the media early this morning, Pirelli Motorsport Director Paul Hembrey has revealed that the 2014 tyres will be more durable and will cause less marbles. All the Formula One teams spent four days putting in the laps at the Sakhir circuit in much warmer conditions than the previous outing in Jerez.

With most of the teams having ironed out some of their reliability gremlins, there was more run and therefore more data coming through for Pirelli and their tyres. From the runs the data showed is that the new tyres for this year are more durable which will lead to less marbles and Pirelli must be hoping fewer complaints.

Hembrey said the following:-

‘The teams were able to learn more about tyres over the four days in Bahrain than they could in Jerez two weeks ago, thanks to increased running time and optimal weather conditions.  Although the teams are still at a comparatively early point on the development curve with their new cars, testing data so far indicates that the 2014 tyres are more consistent and durable than their predecessors. As a result, we are also seeing fewer ‘marbles’ on the circuit: one of our objectives at the start of this season.’

Despite all the problems with the Pirelli tyres last season, I do believe that the tyre manufacturer has learnt its lessons from last year within the sport (where they suffered four significant tyre blowouts throughout the British Grand Prix). The signs so far are looking promising for the tyre manufacturer despite the teams and the drivers currently getting to grips with the new technical regulations that have been introduced in the sport for this year.

In the same interview, Hembery also expects the massive time difference between compounds to decrease later this week and continue to do so as the teams adjust to the new rubber. Hembrey said the following to the media:-

‘Teams are likely to improve their performance and understanding of the car-tyre package still further in the test to come, which means that the lap time differences we have been seeing between the compounds are likely to come down: especially when the teams discover more downforce as the season goes on.

‘We’ve collected plenty of useful data from this test, but of course we are still ready and able to change the specification of the tyres for the start of the season if this is shown to be necessary.’

Hembrey has a valid point. Throughout the 2014 season, all the teams and their drivers will be making sure that they take every opportunity available to them in order to get the best out of their packages. At this current time, the 2014 Pirelli tyres seem to be sounding and performing in the right direction.

As I have stated in previous Jones on F1 posts regarding Pirelli, I do  feel that this year alongside the new regulation changes that the tyres will also play an important factor. This season will no doubt be more demanding, challenging and more open to possibilities than in previous seasons.

This year Pirelli need to make sure that old issues do not resurface and they have produced tyres that will provide us with the racing that we crave but also peace of mind and providing teams and drivers with the element of safety. And at the moment, the signs are looking very promising for the tyre manufacturer.

Pirelli already stating that they are more than willing to change the tyres in order to reflect the needs of the teams and drivers is an encouraging sign. However, they would need to make sure if any changes are made to the 2014 tyres during the season take every team into consideration in order to stop a repeat of the previous season.

But the data that Pirelli have collected so far will l only give the tyre manufacturer the data that they need in order to keep progressing with the 2014 tyres and their compound structures. Do I think it is a good idea that Pirelli have had a successful running so far this year? Yes, I really do as it shows that they have learnt their lessons from the previous season.

Do I feel that Pirelli will get the data at Bahrain this week that they need to keep on developing for the most exciting and uncertain season opening Grand Prix in recent years? I absolutely believe they will. The sooner Pirelli get to Bahrain for the final test, the better for them.

Raikkonen: Form for 2014 is unclear

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In an interview with the media, Ferrari driver Kimi Raikkonen believes that fans will have to wait until the season opening Grand Prix at Melbourne in order to see a true inclination of form throughout the field for 2014.  

After two pre-season tests, Mercedes have at least on the time sheets emerged as the team to beat and title “favourites” already for 2014. The Mercedes team was not only second on the list for most laps covered (eight behind Williams team), but Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton also set the two fastest times in Bahrain.

Despite the good form showed by the Mercedes team at last week’s test in Bahrain, Raikkonen believes that it is unclear still who has the form for the season ahead:-

‘I still can’t say how quick we are as it’s just the second test of the season and it’s hard to have an idea of what the order is among the teams. One thing’s certain, the more we get to know the car, the quicker we will be. I think that even after the next test in Bahrain we won’t have the answers and we will have to wait until we are in Australia to understand more.’

Raikkonen has a fair point. Despite Mercedes showing once again just how competitive and reliable they have been once again last week, it is still early days ahead for the 2014 season. The new technical regulations are testing every single team on the grid as they try to get to grips with the new changes. 

I believe just like Raikkonen the teams will have a better understanding after the Australian Grand Prix and a better platform to adjust their developmental programmes with this year’s cars with some much needed data behind them. 

Raikkonen added to this by stating that the Ferrari car still has a lot of work to do before they are hundred per cent ready to be competitive in 2014. Raikkonen said:-

‘The car is still a laboratory and there are various things we have to finish learning about and to test. I have to say there is still a lot of work to do before we can say we are a hundred percent ready.’ 

Raikkonen for me sums up the 2014 season so far. At this stage of the season, it is far too early to predict who has the current form, even though you cannot dispute that Mercedes is showing really good signs so far. Throughout 2014, the teams and the drivers will be constantly learning about the impact of the new regulations during Free Practice Sessions, Qualifying and also at Grand Prix. 

But there is no question that no team at this stage is a hundred percent ready and is fully competitive straight from the start of the season. Raikkonen who has returned to the Ferrari team since having last raced for the team back in 2009 has stated to the media that he is not worried about what his rivals are up to. Raikkonen stated the following:-

‘Certainly the Mercedes powered teams have gone well here, but we had our programme and there’s nothing to say that those who were quickest were on the same one as us. As I’ve said, this is a test and in testing you try things out and it won’t get serious until Melbourne onwards. We are not interested at the moment in chasing performance, rather we are looking for reliability to ensure we finish the opening races without any problems.’ 

Raikkonen has even admitted to the media that Mercedes have gone well last week at the test in Bahrain, even though things are still unclear in terms of the rest of the field and their form so far. But this is the whole purpose of pre-season testing and Raikkonen is correct. This is where the teams and the drivers push the cars to the extreme to find the limit, find out where the problems lie and work on viable solutions to improve their package. 

Mercedes’s performance might be worrying teams throughout the teams throughout the grid at the moment. But at the end of the day, Raikkonen makes a fair point about reliability. For me, reliability is going to be a crucial factor for the teams throughout 2014 and especially throughout the early part of the season. And I have no doubts that every team on the grid including Ferrari are striving to achieve this currently in order to get their seasons off to the best possible start. 

Raikkonen then finally added that Ferrari will be focusing at this week final pre-season test at Bahrain on car set-up and long pace runs:-

‘Even the laps we did on the softer tyres were not aimed at performance, but at evaluating what set-up to use for this type of tyre. I’m not concerned about the long runs the others did, as we are working on our own programme and we plan to do long runs next week.’

Earlier this morning, Ferrari’s Technical Director James Allison confirmed what Raikkonen said in his interview with the media and that the team are concentrating on race pace this week at Bahrain. I do believe that most of the teams on the grid this week will switch their attentions more closely to preparing for Melbourne next month and to focus on completing race distances during the four day test. 

I agree with Raikkonen. At this current time, you cannot predict who is in the best shape for the 2014 season. All signs point towards the Mercedes team who once again have shown how competitive, reliable and strong their package is currently. But anything can happen within Formula One and things can change very quickly indeed from one week to the next. 

The 2014 season is shaping up to be one of uncertainty and anticipation for all the teams, drivers and also the fans. All eyes will be on the final test at Bahrain this week and wondering if Mercedes can keep up their strong performance before the Australian Grand Prix in a few weeks time. 

But all eyes will also be on the rest of the teams such as Ferrari to see if they can take the challenge to them. Who knows what will happen?

Ferrari focusing on race pace in Bahrain this week

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In an interview with their official team website, Ferrari’s Technical Director James Allison has stated that the team will be focusing on race simulations during the final four day test at Bahrain this week. Last week, the Ferrari team were in action at the Sakhir circuit, putting in the laps in the second of three pre-season outings.

The team covered 287 laps (1553kms) over the four days of last week’s test at Bahrain – and finished sixth and seventh on the overall timesheets with Fernando Alonso just ahead of Kimi Raikkonen. In his interview with the team’s official website, Allison stated that the following:-

‘We came to Sakhir aiming to work steadily through the huge list of actions that we must complete. We wanted to maximise track time, working methodically in order to be ready for Melbourne. I have to say that, with the exception of the morning of the third day, we did just that.’

Allison has made a fair point. Ferrari it would seem despite the problems that they occurred along the way during last week’s test at Bahrain seems to be showing signs of improvement slowly. For Alonso and Raikkonen to be within the top six consistently on the timesheets is a good sign of progress for the Ferrari team who over the past few seasons have failed to start the season well.

Allison then added in his interview that last week’s test at Bahrain has helped them even more to get to grips and learning their 2014 car the F14 T. Allison added the following:-

‘We worked on learning how to get the best from the 2014 clutch and on tuning the new brake by wire system. We looked in detail at balancing the temperature of all the cooling fluids, a key part of this year’s rules, and we began gradually expanding the operating window of the new Energy Recovery System.

‘We have been able to start to open up our understanding of the handling characteristics of the car and to begin to learn what sort of set-up parameters the tyres respond to. Continuing with this work will be an important part of the programme over the last four days here in Bahrain.’

Just like every other team currently on the grid, the new technical regulations that are in place for this year are continuously pushing them to the limit. All the teams on the grid for sure will be using the final test at Bahrain this week to make sure that they take the last opportunity to test the cars and iron out any problems in order to prepare for the season opening Grand Prix in Melbourne in a few weeks time.

Allison also revealed in his interview that during those last four days that Ferrari will also concentrate on race simulations and performance in order to best prepare for the season-opening Australian GP. Allison said:-

‘For the last four days, our programme will see us attempt to operate the car ever more closely to the way that it will run in a race, providing invaluable practice for the drivers and subjecting the car and all its systems to the full rigor that it will need to withstand throughout the season.’

I believe that Allison has hit the nail on the head. Just like the Ferrari team under Allison, I think that the final test at Bahrain for the rest of the grid will now strive towards race preparation for the start of the season in Melbourne next month. We have seen over the past two testing sessions all the teams running their 2014 cars, trying to get on top of the new technical regulations and also get some much needed track mileage and laps behind them.

In my view, Bahrain this week will see all the teams switching their attentions to Melbourne and preparing for the Grand Prix. We have already seen that the Mercedes team during the Jerez test last month complete a full race distance with their car the W05 and currently it would seem have the advantage from doing so over the rest of the field.

And this might be worrying the rest of the field who have not yet managed to complete a race distance so far. But the final test at Bahrain this week is not only the final chance to iron out existing or any new problems that may arise over the four day period. But this final test will also be the team’s final opportunity to complete and achieve a full race distance that will give the teams the much needed data before the start of the new season in Melbourne.

Have Ferrari made the right decision to focus on race pace in the final test at Bahrain this week? We shall see.

Lotus could be “lead” Renault team for 2014

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In an interview with Autosport, Lotus’s Technical Director Nick Chester has stated that he can see no reason why they can’t be the leading Renault-powered team at the start of the season after an encouraging debut for the E22 in Bahrain this week

Having missed the first test at Jerez last month, Lotus are playing catch-up with the rest of the field but ended the week on a positive note as driver Pastor Maldonado completed 59 laps on his way to setting the fifth fastest time overall.

With Red Bull still struggling with the reliability of their car, Chester believes that the Lotus team can be ahead of the World Champions, Toro Rosso and Caterham in Melbourne, assuming they continue to make progress when the teams reconvene at the Bahrain International Circuit next week.

In his interview with the media, Chester stated the following:-

‘I think we could be the lead Renault team. We certainly haven’t gone badly this week compared to the other Renault teams and I know they’re having a few problems.  All we can do really at the moment is just focus on ourselves and do the best job we can. Because even if we’re the best Renault-engined team, we’ve still got to push on and catch the other guys.’

I do feel that Chester has a point to a degree. Despite missing the first pre-season test last month. Lotus has had a positive week at Bahrain this week since running their E22 car in anger on the first day of the test.  However, let us not forget that Lotus encountered problems with Romain Grosjean on the first day of the test this week with software and battery problems and Grosjean ended up ninth fastest overall.

But despite problems with Grosjean on the first day of the test, with Maldonado gaining fifth fastest in the final day of the test yesterday, the signs for Lotus look promising and seem to be showing signs of progress despite their late start to the 2014 season. Lotus will no doubt use what they have gained from both drivers throughout the test this week to make the necessary changes and improvements to the E22 in preparation for Melbourne in a few weeks time.

With four days of testing to come this week in Bahrain for the final pre-season test, Mercedes-powered cars are clearly ahead in terms of reliability, with the works team also showing convincing pace after performing qualifying runs.

At this stage of the season, Lotus cannot do this but even though Maldonado was more than five second slower than Nico Rosberg on Saturday, Chester is also confident Lotus can close the gap to the Mercedes team sooner rather than later. Chester said the following to the media:-

‘We weren’t running qualy sims for a start. He was on softer tyres with lower fuel, and we also know we haven’t really done any set-up work yet with the car. It is going to be tough by Melbourne, but they’ve effectively had a couple of very good tests now; they’ve got themselves to a good level. We’ve still got a lot of progression. I don’t imagine they’re going to make so much more improvement before Melbourne; we’ve got a lot to make.’

With all eyes on Mercedes and their performance this week from Bahrain once again highlighting how reliable and competitive they are, there is no denying that Renault’s power unit might be lagging behind those of both Mercedes and Ferrari. Renault have publically stated after the test ended in Bahrain yesterday that they have made slight improvements, they are behind their own schedule of development but are pushing with everything that they have to get back on track.

But ahead of the FIA’s homologation deadline next week, Chester has denied to the media there were particular concerns for Lotus because their problems have been limited to areas such as the V6 turbo hybrid’s software and its operation which he believes can be fixed.

Chester added the following:-

“I don’t think so, because mechanically they’re pretty close. I think where we have more work to do is on the mapping and software side. A lot of it is still operational software. We only really ran the engine at full power for the first time today, so there’s a lot in how we operate it and how we look after the energy management. That’ll get better quite quickly.

“[It’s] encouraging, because I feel we’ve made a step forward. It’s the first time really we’ve run it at full power – that was a step forward for us.’

Despite all eyes being on the Mercedes-powered teams and their engines, it will be interesting to see how Lotus with their engine supplier Renault will take the fight and challenge this season. There is no question that Lotus over this test session in Bahrain this week has made some steps forward with their car despite suffering a few problems along the way.

I think most people expected Lotus to encounter some problems this week. As Lotus did not turn up for the Jerez test and were at a slight disadvantage compared to the rest of the field. But the most important thing is that Lotus have managed to run their E22 car at Bahrain this week and gain crucial track mileage and data that will help them prepare for the final pre-season test in Bahrain this week and also to prepare for the season opening Grand Prix in Melbourne in a few week’s time.

Do I feel that Lotus could be the “lead” Renault team for 2014?At this current time, they have a slight advantage over other Renault-powered teams such as Caterham, Toro Rosso and even Red Bull who are also struggling with problems with the Renault engines.

However, you could argue that Caterham have led the way with gaining the mileage that Reanult have achieved at this early stage in the season after the team racked up 249 laps after the end of testing at Bahrain yesterday. Lotus have managed to put laps on the board when Red Bull and even Toro Rosso are struggling to do at the moment and signs for the team look more encouraging than they did at the end of last month.

But do I feel by the end of the season that they will become the “lead” team for Renault? Not without a fight from Red Bull who sooner rather than later will bounce back from their issues and problems with the RB10. How much can Lotus improve their E22 car in the final test session this week before the start of the season in Melbourne? Only time will tell.