Tag Archives: Bahrain Test

2014 Formula One Test Review: Bahrain (Second Test)


As I am sure you are all aware, this week has seen the return of the third and final pre-season of Formula One in 2014. And this is what every Formula One fan has been looking forward to since the end of the last test in Bahrain last week. At the last test, we have seen that Mercedes acquiring the most track mileage, McLaren and Williams showing very early signs of progress and Red Bull struggling with problems with cooling on their car alongside problems with the Renault engines.

Throughout four days at the final pre-season test at Bahrain, we have seen the teams and drivers pushing the limit and getting to grips with the new technical regulations and also seeing how their 2014 cars are in their second competitive outing of this season.

There have been unexpected issues, reasons for concern and signs of promise for everyone down the field this week. Question is: who came out on top before the start of the Formula One season in Melbourne?

Day 1

Sergio Perez is fastest on Day 1 of the test in the VJM007

Sergio Perez is fastest on Day 1 of the test in the VJM007

Day 1 of the second pre-season test at Bahrain saw Force India being the unexpected pacesetters and once again saw Mercedes-powered teams pick where they left off at last week and lead the way once more over their struggling Renault and Ferrari rivals.  On a hugely encouraging day for all four of the Mercedes-powered quartet, Sergio Perez topped the timesheets with the fastest lap set in mid-morning of 1:35.290 in the VJM07.

While the Mexican’s lap was two seconds slower than the benchmark time set by Nico Rosberg’s W05 at last week’s Bahrain meet, Force India may have enjoyed the additional and significant boost of completing a race simulation at the test along with fellow Mercedes-powered teams McLaren and Williams.

Williams have been tipped as the “dark horses” for the 2014 already and today has been once again a successful day for the team. Valtteri Bottas racked up 128 laps which is almost as many as Renault runners Red Bull, Toro Rosso, Lotus and Caterham combined. While racking up the miles in his Williams FW36, Bottas set the second-best time of the day.

The Mercedes works team once again completed another 100 laps with the team now focusing on race procedure work for Melbourne which included practice pit stops and starts during the afternoon session. As a contrast, Red Bull have had once again experienced problems yet again with the RB10 and there was speculation that they was in an “apparent crisis”.

Red Bull has not had the best of start to the 2014 season nor to the pre-season testing so far. The RB10 was limited to less than 40 laps on Thursday as Red Bull’s new car once again suffered from acute overheating. Red Bull have yet to lap within five seconds of Mercedes’ Bahrain-best time and with only three days of winter testing remaining, the team’s ambitions for the season-opening Australian GP appear to be diminishing fast.

When asked his thoughts about the situation at Red Bull, Sky Sports F1 presenter Ted Kravitz said the following:-

‘If the remaining three days of this test continue the way day one has, I think Red Bull might struggle to get out of Q1 when we get rid of the slowest teams in Melbourne! It is that serious and even if they get towards the middle or front part of the grid, it looks like they will only complete half the race, then break down. It is very, very serious for Red Bull.’

Over the past few weeks, Red Bull has publically stated to the media that issues with their ultra-tight packaging at the rear of the RB10 have been deemed culpable for the bulk of Red Bull’s problems. But the fact that all of the Renault runners were once again down on mileage compared to their Mercedes counterparts told an equally worrying tale for the team as they try to get back on track before Melbourne.

Although Toro Rosso managed 56 laps which was two fewer than their single-day winter best, Lotus packed up for Day One when an exhaust issue struck after just 31 while the Caterham broke down after less than an hour. At the end of the first day, the Renault teams in total completed an insubstantial 145 laps which is a third of the combined Mercedes tally from today.

As it has been the case in pre-season testing so far, Ferrari were the best of the rest as Kimi Raikkonen enjoyed a productive run in the F14 T and managed to set the third-quickest time of the day as the team trialled a series of new nose designs. Even though they managed to achieve this, once again the Ferrari brought an early end to the first day of testing with mechanical issues.

Even though Red Bull had to spend five hours being in the garage looking at fixing their current issues, Red Bull was the only car on circuit when the session was Red Flagged after the Ferrari had its mechanical issues. What else can go wrong for Red Bull this week?

Day One Timesheet:-
1. Perez, Force India, 1:35.290, 105 laps
2. Bottas, Williams, 1:36.184, 128 laps
3. Raikkonen, Ferrari, 1:36.432, 54 laps
4. Rosberg, Mercedes, 1:36.624, 89 laps
5. Sutil, Sauber, 1:37.700, 14 laps
6. Magnussen, McLaren, 1:37.825, 109 laps
7. Ricciardo, Red Bull, 1:37.908, 39 laps
8. Chilton, Marussia, 1:38.610, 44 laps
9. Kvyat, Toro Rosso, 1:39.242, 55 laps
10. Maldonado, Lotus, 1:40.599, 31 laps
11. Kobayashi, Caterham, 1:42.285, 19 laps

Day 2

Perez once again tops the timesheets on the second day at the test

Perez once again tops the timesheets on the second day at the test

Day 2 of the test saw once again Perez top the timesheets for the second day in a row as the Mercedes-powered teams experienced mixed fortunes at Bahrain and Red Bull had a small spot of good news.

As was the case on Thursday, the Force India driver took to the track late in the morning and his lap time of 1:35.570 remained the benchmark for the rest of the session. Fernando Alonso was second behind Perez and was only 0.064s behind on what was Ferrari’s most productive day of running so far. After Kimi Raikkonen’s Day One track time was limited by an electrical problem and bodywork changes, his new team-mate managed to complete more than a century of laps.

When asked his thoughts on achieving this, Alonso stated the following:-

‘Six hundred kilometres are always welcome, but it’s still too early to say we are a hundred percent ready for Melbourne. We still have a lot to learn, but I am happy with the way the day went.

‘In the morning, we did some set-up work which taught us what was the best direction to go in, while in the afternoon, we managed to complete a race simulation and every lap we did can be added to the learning phase, which is the normal situation to be in during winter testing.’

It would seem from Alonso’s long runs during the afternoon demostrates that it’s not just Mercedes-powered teams that can perform reliably within the pre-season test. The rest of the Ferrari-engined teams proved Ferrari’s point further proved by Sauber’s Esteban Gutierrez and also Marussia’s Jules Bianchi.

If Ferrari had a good day, then there was no doubt that the Marussia team appeared to make a step forward with Bianchi completing 75 laps and also setting the sixth-fastest time. Meanwhile, problems with Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button also underlined that all of the Mercedes runners are still more than capable of developing gremlins of their own.

Button spent most of the day stranded on just 20 laps before returning in the final hour. As for Hamilton, his day was also bookended by two stoppages with him spinning into the gravel within the first hour. In an interview with Sky Sports News, Hamilton said the following ‘I just had a bit of a spin. Just testing out the gravel trap!’ Even though he then ended up missing the final 60 minutes altogether due to a gearbox failure affecting his W05.

Ahead of Button and Hamilton sat Daniel Ricciardo, whose last day in Red Bull’s troublesome RB10 yielded a more impressive P3 on the timesheets. Today, ‘emergency’ vents sprouting from either side of the RB10, the car was able to complete its longest on-track stint of the winter. However, it may not have been a coincidence that Ricciardo’s 20-lap run was attempted in the final half-hour of the session when conditions were at their coolest.

There has been widespread suspicion that overheating remains a critical issue for the Renault-powered teams ahead of the new season. This then seemed to be fuelled even more when both the Caterham and the Lotus caught fire.  It would seem at this stage of the season that from, Lotus have only racked up an insubstantial 173 laps so far this winter. Maldonado when asked stated the following:-

‘It was a tough day for us with the fire. We need to keep working and for sure it’s not an ideal situation for the team, or for me but we need to keep focus, work together and I hope for the future we can be better.’

Lotus has shown signs of improvement and progress since missing the first pre-season test at Jerez last month despite encountering problems along the way. But this is what testing is for and I have no doubts that the Lotus will be working very hard to ensure that they get as much track time as possible before the pre-season test ends on Sunday in preparation for Melbourne.

The Renault-powered Toro Rosso of Jean-Eric Vergne did at least record 61 laps which is the most the team have managed in a single session this winter. And it appears to be a good sign on the very day that Renault submitted its power unit to the FIA for homologation. This is the process which effectively freezes its development for the season.

There is two more days of testing remains until we bring our attentions to the first Grand Prix of the season; can the Renault –powered teams gain anymore running out on the track?

Day Two Timesheet:-
1. Perez, Force India, 1:35.570, 108 laps
2. Alonso, Ferrari, 1:35.634, 122 laps
3. Ricciardo, Red Bull, 1:35.743, 66 laps
4. Massa, Williams, 1:36.692, 103 laps
5. Button, McLaren, 1:36.901, 52 laps
6. Bianchi, Marussia, 1:38.092, 75 laps
7. Hamilton, Mercedes, 1:39.041, 89 laps
8. Vergne, Toro Rosso, 1:39.636, 61 laps
9. Guiterrez, Sauber, 1:39.976, 106 laps
10. Maldonado, Lotus, 1:41.613, 31 laps
11. Ericsson, Caterham, 1:42.516, 55 laps

Day 3

Felipe Massa tops the timesheets in his FW36 on Day 3 of the test

Felipe Massa tops the timesheets in his FW36 on Day 3 of the test

Day 3 saw Williams’ driver Felipe Massa finish the fastest lap time in Bahrain so far even though Red Bull once again was the focus of attention at the pre-season test once again with their unreliability issues.

Red Bull only officially recorded just one lap on the timing screens even if but all bar four corners of it were on the back of a recovery lorry after Sebastian Vettel’s RB10 rolled to a stop out on the circuit. When the car was recovered and the team spending 45 minutes working on the car, Vettel was sent back out onto the circuit once again. However, this time he only made it as far as the pit exit.

In an interview with Sky Sports News, Red Bull’s Team Principal Christian Horner stated that they are “are about ten days behind” after ten days of  pre-season running and the team certainly didn’t gain any valuable mileage on the 11th and penultimate day of pre-season running.

This is no doubt extremely worryingly for a team that had appeared to turn a corner when Daniel Ricciardo managed 66 laps on Friday. And it appeared that Red Bull was finally making small but significant steps to deal with their issues with the RB10.

However, it does seem that their problems appear to be of their own making rather than being caused by Renault. As on Day 3 of the test, Caterham managed to rack up over 100 laps using the French manufacturer’s power unit while junior team Toro Rosso managed 81 laps with rookie driver Daniil Kvyat.

But for Massa and Williams, it would seem that they are once again building on a solid foundation and momentum gathered from the previous pre-season tests. Massa set the quickest time any driver has set thus far in either of the Bahrain tests with a lap time of 1:33.258.  The Williams team so far have impressed throughout pre-season testing with their reliability so far and managed to rack up 99 laps with Massa on Saturday which brought their total mileage this year to over 4000km.

Mercedes also continue to look strong and build on their performance in testing as well. Nico Rosberg completed 103 laps without any major problems, albeit with a fastest time on super soft tyres that was over two tenths slower than Massa’s best. However, Rosberg did admit after the test was over that he was a qualifying simulation.

Kimi Raikkonen was third quickest for Ferrari and managed to complete 87 laps in total after a quiet morning on what was his final day in the car before Practice One in Melbourne. Raikkonen’s best time which he posted on the super soft tyres was over two seconds slower than the man he replaced at the Ferrari team for this year.

Raikkonen was then followed by the rookies at McLaren and Toro Rosso as both Magnussen and Kvyat clocked up nearly 90 laps for their respective teams. But with Perez being fastest on the opening two days of the final test, Hulkenberg was sixth fastest for Force India and was three seconds slower than Massa. However, he did manage to run for 115 laps for his team.

Marussia finished seventh with their driver Jules Bianchi a second clear of Marcus Ericsson in the Caterham who was the busiest man of the day and managed to achieve 117 laps in his car. Romain Grosjean was ninth fastest for Lotus having managed 33 laps before the team were forced to end their day 90 minutes early after encountering reliability problems.

However, that was significantly more than both Sauber (Adrian Sutil’s C33 catching fire after his installation lap) and Red Bull who completed the failed to set a time on timesheet. What will the final day of pre-season testing for Formula One bring?

Day Three Timesheet:-
1. Massa, Williams, 1:33.258, 99 laps
2. Rosberg, Mercedes, 1:33.484, 103 laps
3. Raikkonen, Ferrari, 1:35.426, 87 laps
4. Magnussen, McLaren, 1:35.894, 88 laps
5. Kvyat, Toro Rosso, 1:36.113, 81 laps
6. Hulkenberg, Force India, 1:36.205, 115 laps
7. Bianchi, Marussia, 1:37.087, 78 laps
8. Ericsson, Caterham, 1:38.083, 117 laps
9. Grosjean, Lotus, 1:42.166, 33 laps
10. Sutil, Sauber, No Time, 1 lap
11. Vettel, Red Bull, No Time, 1 lap

Day 4 

Mercedes' driver Lewis Hamilton tops the final day of testing in the W05

Mercedes’ driver Lewis Hamilton tops the final day of testing in the W05

The final day of pre-season testing for this year and also at the second test at Bahrain saw Hamilton ending Mercedes’ impressive run of form over the winter tests as they once again topped the timesheets after a problem-filled day of running out on the race track.

The Mercedes team have already been the pundits’ tips for being the “title favourites” for 2014 even before the first pre-season test of the season took place at Jerez in January, but they have experienced problems with the W05 along the way throughout pre-season testing.  Many pundits now believe that little is now likely to change in the two weeks before the Australian GP after Hamilton signed off from the winter in style by all-but matching the fastest time seen in Bahrain across the back-to-back tests.

Hamilton’s fastest lap time in the final test session of 1:33.278 lap was still two hundredths of a second slower than Felipe Massa’s Day Three benchmark with Williams FW36. This is despite both the Williams and Mercedes’ cars setting these lap times on the super soft tyres and their fuel loads remaining unknown to us.

Hamilton’s fastest lap of the session came at the end of an otherwise incident-filled final day for the 11-team field as eight red-flag stoppages meant the winter programme ended in much the same fashion as it started. And with all of the grid’s heavyweights running into reliability trouble and this did include the Mercedes team as well.

In keeping with the previous seven days of action at Bahrain, principal Renault-powered runners Red Bull and Lotus particularly suffered with a front brake failure on the World Champions’ RB10 pitching Sebastian Vettel into a spin and a fire stopping Romain Grosjean’s E22 in its tracks a little later.

For Lotus, their mid-afternoon stoppage was particularly frustrating as it forced them out of the session with just 32 laps on the board. Having already been dogged by a litany of problems across their self-imposed two-test winter schedule, the early exit from the session today meant Lotus finished bottom of the pre-season mileage chart.

Lotus in their two days of pre-season testing under their belts only managed to achieve 1219km which is probably less than what they have planned from the test sessions. Therefore, Grosjean will be the only driver to line up on the Melbourne grid with fewer than 100 laps under his belt this winter.

Four times World Champion Vettel will begin his title defence with little more than that with only 162 laps that he managed to achieve from pre-season testing. But Vettel and the Red Bull team at least head to the first race on the back of their most productive day with their problematic 2014 car yet.

After seeing their already heavily troubled winter hit a new low on Day Three when the RB10 failed to even complete a full lap, Vettel returned to the track early on Sunday and swiftly reached 20 laps in the opening couple of hours. However, just after midday Vettel spun off the circuit at Turn One courtesy of a front-brake failure on his RB10.

Unlike Lotus, Red Bull were able to repair the fault on Vettel’s car and he returned to the track several hours later and therefore enjoyed a successful and promising run and managed to rack up with 77 laps on the board heading into Melbourne.

On the final day of the test as well as Mercedes, Ferrari and McLaren experienced final-day glitches of their own. For McLaren, whose progress with the MP4-29 appeared to lose some of its early-winter momentum in the second week of Sakhir running, Button only managed to achieve just 22 laps after hours of unspecified delays in their garage.

Meanwhile, Mercedes had already lost the majority of the first four hours of running after a gearbox glitch had to be rectified even before Hamilton completed an installation lap. Throughout the session, even the “dark horses” of pre-season testing Williams and the FW36 stopped out on the circuit for the first time with the team stating that a high-mileage failure of their internal combustion engine.

The issues that Williams faced today have not impacted on what has been a very successful and encouraging winter test for the apparently revitalised Williams team.  Bottas once again topped a century of laps and finished with the second-fastest time on the Day Four timesheet, a 1:33.987.

Once again, Williams’ fastest overall time in Bahrain (on Day 3 of the test with Massa) means they have emerged as more than “dark horses” for the season opener at Melbourne in two weeks time. Over the course of the pre-season tests, the FW36 has been displaying both impressive pace and, crucially reliability when other teams have been struggling to do so.

Ferrari broke the Mercedes-powered hegemony at the head of the timesheet with Alonso taking third place with a lap time of 1:34.280. This was in despite of an afternoon stoppage of his own out on the track and he managed to achieve Ferrari’s fastest time of the test session this week.

That late improvement from Alonso placed him ahead of Hulkenberg and Vergne. There was promising news for the Sauber team who achieved a mileage record for this winter by clocking an astonishing single-day total of 177 laps. This is 40 laps more than the previous benchmark as they split their final-day schedule between Sutil and Gutierrez.

Sutil and Guiterrez were split on the timesheet by Chilton, whose lap time of 1:36.835 was their best test time for the Marussia team and was over one second quicker than perennial rivals Caterham managed all week.

Day Four Timesheet:-

  1. Hamilton, Mercedes, 1:33.278, 70 laps
  2. Bottas, Williams 1:33.987, 108 laps
  3. Alonso, Ferrari, 1:34.280, 74 laps
  4. Hulkenberg, Force India, 1:35.577, 74 laps
  5. Vergne, Toro Rosso, 1:35.701, 74 laps
  6. Sutil, Sauber, 1:36.467, 91 laps
  7. Chilton, Marussia, 1:36.835, 61 laps
  8. Guiterrez, Sauber, 1:37.303, 86 laps
  9. Vettel, Red Bull, 1:37.468, 77 laps
  10. Button, McLaren, 1:38.111, 22 laps
  11. Kobayashi, Caterham, 1:38.391, 106 laps
  12. Grosjean, Lotus, 1:39.302, 32 laps

Approximate overall total Pre-Season KM in 2014

  1. Mercedes- 4732km
  2. Williams- 4645km
  3. Ferrari- 4269km
  4. McLaren- 3952km
  5. Sauber- 3836km
  6. Force India- 3774km
  7. Caterham- 3141km
  8. Toro Rosso- 2230km
  9. Red Bull- 1621km
  10. Marussia- 1598km
  11. Lotus- 1219km

The second and final winter test at Bahrain has produced some interesting results. Many Formula One fans were looking forward to seeing how the teams and the drivers would get on with the challenges that the new regulations will be bring. And in my view, it is a mixed bag overall.

We have seen Mercedes showing that they are the team to beat in terms of mileage and reliability from the all of the pre-season tests. And yes, it will bring them a crucial advantage in terms of how to improve the W05 before the start of the new season in two weeks time.

There is no question about it, even though Rosberg and Hamilton have stated to the media that they are both unsure about their actual pace despite being labelled “favourites” for 2014, the signs are looking ever stronger for them. But this has been a successful winter for the team who have produced one of the most consistent and packages so far and will be looking to improve their track performance once they get to the first Grand Prix in Melbourne.

Lotus has stated over the previous weeks that they have seen signs of progress in the direction they have taken with the E22 for this year. However, it would seem currently that missing the Jerez test in January may have put them at a slight disadvantage and they have ended with the least mileage of any other team.  But Lotus have managed despite this to gain critical track data and mileage that will no doubt be useful to them as they try and prepare for Melbourne as much as they possibly can.

Sauber, Force India and Toro Rosso will once again use the mileage that they have gained from the test this week in order to improve their cars before start of the season. Force India especially have made the most improvement out of the three teams and by managing to top the timesheets on Day One and Two of the test will only show that they are heading at least in the right direction with their 2014 car.

All three teams have managed to secure some much needed data and track mileage that will push them on with developing their cars ready for Melbourne. And Caterham and Marussia despite their problems have also gained some much needed data that will allow them to try and improve their cars.

McLaren, Williams and Ferrari all have been consistently topping the first five positions in the timesheets at some stage of the week. And I believe that it is too early within the season to make any significant claims about their performances. But their performances have at least indicated that they are on the right track with their cars and have managed to gain invaluable track time that will no doubt push all three teams to improve their cars further and get back to competitive ways for the season ahead.

But this week once again, the spotlight is firmly on the Red Bull team. Many expected the Red Bulls to make some improvements over the week and have a better second test than their first at Bahrain the week before. But they did manage to achieve more laps and even doing a succession of laps without having any significant problems (apart from Vettel suffering from a brake failure) than they did previously at Jerez or at Bahrain.

This will no doubt push the team further into looking into the problems they currently have with their RB10 at the moment. Even with the rumour that is going around the paddock that Red Bull could introduce a ‘b-spec’ car for May’s Spanish GP, Red Bull might be able to fix the problems going on currently. If anyone can fix the problems, it is Red Bull and their Technical Director Adrian Newey.

The questions on everyone’s lips going into the first Grand Prix of the season in two weeks time, is that will the data acquired from the pre-season test give Red Bull enough to fix their problems with the RB10 and the Renault engines? I believe that it will not be enough time, but just like everyone else, 2014 is already going to be challenging and a fast learning curve for all.

But the final question that everyone will be asking once again is will Mercedes once again show the rest of the field even more pace with their W05 and carry on their remarkable early performance from pre-season testing in Melbourne?  We will find out in two weeks time, Melbourne cannot come quickly enough!

Vettel: No expectations of taking fifth straight title in 2014


In an interview yesterday evening with the media, Red Bull driver Sebastian Vettel has stated that it is “impossible” for him to have high expectations of a fifth consecutive title in 2014 given the problems that Red Bull are experiencing through pre-season testing.

Yesterday, the sum total of running for Red Bull and Vettel was just four corners of the Bahrain International Circuit before his car broke down. A little while later, the RB10 stopped again at the end of the pit lane and Vettel helped push the car back to the garage and did not take further part in the session.

With team boss Christian Horner in a recent interview with Sky Sports News has stated that the team are “ten days behind” due to a litany of problems and are working hard behind the garage and back at their headquarters in Milton Keynes to sort out their current issues.

Even though Red Bull will be trying to salvage from the final day’s running today, expectations have necessarily been dampened after 11 days of pre-season testing. Throughout the 11 days, the RB10 might have brought the occasional flash of speed and performance, but have far more regularly found Vettel and his team in the pits wondering what it happening with their 2014 car.

When asked his thoughts in an interview with the media yesterday evening, Vettel stated the following:-

‘Reliability is not where we want it to be. Too many things are breaking down, we’re not running enough. But in two weeks’ time we are in Melbourne, so we are looking forward to that and looking forward to getting more running there once we get new parts etcetera. But it’s impossible to predict at this stage.’

At the moment, the signs are not very encouraging for the Red Bull team, Vettel and his team-mate Ricciardo. Since the start of the pre-season testing, they have suffered massively with the reliability of their Renault PU’s and also with cooling issues on the RB10 which are still the process of being fixed.

It would be hard not to worry behind closed doors when as a team facing new technical regulations, trying to gain as much valuable data and track mileage as you possibly can and then to experience problems with your engine manufacturer and also reliability issues, it is not the best start to a season at all and certainly not what they had planned.

It has been suggested that Red Bull’s problems centre on cooling of the car’s Renault power unit. Vettel has stated publically that blaming Renault for their current problems is not how it should be viewed. He said the following:-

‘I think it’s not fair to split the two anyway. We work with Renault, Renault works with us all year. Surely there’s things that happen on the Renault side and other things that happen on our side, and we are a team. We’ve had a lot of success together; right now we have a difficult time together.’

Despite all the problems that are currently ongoing with the RB10 and its cooling alongside the issues with the Renault engine and recovery systems, it is more than possible that these issues can be sorted out and quickly. Let us not forget that Red Bull for the past few seasons have completely dominated Formula One, have been the package to beat and have been the best on the grid and they will bounce back from this as quickly as they can.

There have been rumours flying around the paddock and the media over the past few weeks that Red Bull might be looking into switching their engines from Renault starting from next year. These rumours have not at this stage been confirmed by either party.

On Friday, McLaren driver Jenson Button in an interview with the media believes that despite their issues, the RB10 looked particularly good in high-speed corners. Further on in his interview with the media, Vettel appeared to agree with what Button said on Friday and he has accepted that the opening races will likely prove trying. Vettel said the following:-

‘The car felt good, I felt very happy with the car. Obviously it’s a step back from last year in terms of overall grip but it wasn’t too bad. So there’s a lot of hope on that front. But we are aware that right now we have a lot of problems, we are not able to find a rhythm yet. But I am confident we will have a lot of time this year to make sure we find that rhythm and get up to speed.’

But this is what testing is for; which is to find out where the problems lie, find a solution and then test it once more. Red Bull have had their fair share of problems so far but I do believe that when Red Bull finally do figure out how to make the RB10 last the distance then Vettel will be in familiar surroundings and will be competitive once more.

Vettel also admitted within this interview with the media that a successful World Championship defence currently seems a long way off at the moment for him. But Vettel believes that he will find out more when he gets to Melbourne for the opening race. He said the following:-

‘Right now, it’s impossible to have any expectations. Of course, our reliability’s bad at this stage, otherwise I’d be doing a lot more mileage. But also it’s impossible to judge the speed. I think the couple of laps we had it felt okay, but we’ll have to wait until the first race to see what the stopwatch says.’

Even though Red Bull and Vettel are not where they would like to be at this early stage of the season, I do believe that Vettel makes a valid point. With all the technical changes taking place in the sport this year, it is extremely hard to tell which team has interpreted the challenge correctly so far.

Even though Mercedes throughout pre-season testing have been labelled the “title favourites” even by Red Bull themselves, it is far too early to say which team will be competitive and consistently challenging for the title this year. I agree with Vettel that we will find out more after the first Grand Prix in Australia.

Vettel then added the following:-

‘The goal is similar to the last few years. In the beginning, you always start off with limited expectations because we don’t know how competitive we are. And once you realise you are competitive, you want to win. That’s the target for this year.

‘But obviously, we have to look at things step-by-step. There’s no point saying that we want to win the Championship. First of all, we want to make sure we can do the best job we can, trying to finish the first race and then going from there.’

At this stage of the season, no one knows who will be the most competitive in Australia despite teams such as Mercedes, Williams and McLaren consistently being able to gain much needed track time throughout pre-season testing so far. Vettel makes a valid point.  They need to ensure that they can do the best job that they can in the early stages of the seasons as quickly as they possibly can and also reliably as they possibly can.

And this is all Red Bull can do at the moment and they are taking small steps to deal with their current situation. Red Bull will be working as hard as they possibly can to work through their existing issues with the RB10. And they will get there I believe. It might take them some time which is understandable, but if anyone can fix their problems with the car currently, it is Red Bull without a shadow of a doubt.

Throughout the course of this year, the Red Bull team alongside the rest of the grid will be continuously learning more and more as they try to get to grips with the technical changes for this season.

The Red Bull and Renault partnership has been knocked without a doubt at this early stage of the season. Renault has been in Formula One for a long time and has a proven track record of success within the sport. Renault I believe will use all the technology they have available , they will get on top of the problems they are having and will provide the rest of the grid and its customers a strong and reliable engine sooner rather than later.

But it will be sooner rather than later that the partnership will get back on track and will no doubt be challenging for their fifth Consecutive drivers and Constructors championship. I do truly believe that sooner rather than later Red Bull will be fighting at the front of the field once more in 2014.

Rosberg is prepared for Australian Grand Prix


In an interview yesterday with the media, Mercedes driver Nico Rosberg has stated that he is fully prepared for the Australian Grand Prix after completing 103 laps on his final day testing the W05 even if he admits that the “car is not 100% ready yet.”

Throughout pre-season testing, Mercedes have looked like the team to beat throughout pre-season testing, with both car and engine showing good reliability. However, despite managing to clock up 554 laps over the winter, Rosberg says there are doubts still persist about the W05. Rosberg stated the following:-

‘We are optimistic, but to say exactly where we are would not make sense and I don’t want to guess also because everyone is on different fuel levels and we know from the past that you have to be careful with testing results. I hope we can have a good start to the season – it is possible – but reliability is still an issue for everybody, including us, and we need to keep working on that, it is going to be tough.’

Rosberg makes a valid point. At this stage of the season, it is far too early to tell if Mercedes will be the team to beat for this season. But the signs for them are looking extremely positive. The team with Rosberg and his team mate Hamilton have managed throughout pre-season testing have managed to consistently gain track mileage even despite some reliability issues that have affected them. This will only spur on the team and both of their drivers to develop the car and prepare for Melbourne in two weeks time.

Further on in his interview, Rosberg has admitted that the W05 is not fully ready as they would like but believes that they are in a good position so far. Rosberg stated the following:-

‘For sure I am [ready]. My car is not 100% ready yet, but we still have a few days as reliability is not 100% sorted yet. I think we might be in a better position than some other teams, but we still have to get to the end of the race and that is a big challenge.’

It would be hard to disagree with Rosberg. There is no question that the signs for him and Mercedes team are looking extremely positive. This has led to many fans and also pundits within the sport tipping the Mercedes team to be “title favourites” for 2014 already despite it being very early on in the season and no one knowing who has the best package.

Rosberg makes a fair point however. With the new technical challenges that have been introduced in the sport for this year, Rosberg is correct in his assumption that even though they are in a better position than teams such as Red Bull, anything can happen and they will have to be prepared for this just in case.

Perhaps causing those doubts regarding reliability for Rosberg was that he was forced to miss the start of the day’s running when the team changed his engine as a precaution. Rosberg stated the following when asked his thoughts:-

‘We had to do an engine change at around 5am when they noticed there was a bad sound. We have two sets of mechanics here – one working through the night, with the other taking over at 7am – and at the end of the night shift they switched on the engine to make sure everything was okay and they heard a sound and they had to change the engine and that took some time and I didn’t get going until about 11:30am.

‘But from then on it was a really good day, lots of laps and we learnt lots of things. Conditions were tough out there with sandstorms and really strong winds, so that made it difficult.’

As I have stated in previous blog posts, all the teams and drivers will be constantly learning throughout this season about the new challenge presented to them for this year. Throughout the course of pre-season testing, we have seen the Mercedes team showing that the W05 is looking one of the most competitive yet consistently reliable packages on the grid so far.

However, what happened yesterday to Rosberg will act as a reminder for him and his team that they still have a lot of work to do in order to get on top of the new technical regulations. They need to also make sure that their car will be as reliable as it can be during Melbourne and the early stages of this season where I believe this could be a crucial factor and the Mercedes team could have the upper hand.

Rosberg finished the test yesterday with a qualifying simulation, but he refused to reveal how much of the cars potential he used as he battled with the Williams of Felipe Massa for fastest time. Rosberg said:-

‘100% of the driver potential, but the car I am not going to say,” he said. “But you know it was qualifying practice in the end and it was important to do that before Melbourne. It was important, it is testing and that is about getting the best practice for Melbourne and it is always good to practice with low fuel because qualifying is an important part of the race weekend.’

Once again Mercedes have taken another step forward during the pre-season testing. From gaining Qualifying practice yesterday, this will only push the team further within the final day of testing and to make the most of the final opportunity they have to make sure they will be in the most possible shape for Melbourne.

But let us not forget that Mercedes in 2013 managed to achieve some blistering Qualifying performances with Rosberg (his Pole Position at Monaco was one of his best) and also with Hamilton (his Pole Position at Silverstone was a cracking lap) and it would seem that they could continue this form throughout 2014.

Over the course of this week, most of the teams have been getting themselves and their 2014 cars ready for the opening Grand Prix of the season in Melbourne in just two weeks time. At the moment, all the signs do seem to be looking towards Mercedes having more of an advantage. There is no question that they have been the most consistent, competitive and reliable package throughout pre-season testing currently.

However, all Mercedes and the rest of the field can do on the final day of pre-season testing in Bahrain is to ensure that they can get out onto the circuit as much as possible to prepare for the Australian Grand Prix in two weeks time. Can Mercedes use the strong foundations from pre-season testing and start their 2014 season competitively? We shall see.


Button: We need to improve MP4-29’s performance


In an interview yesterday with the media, McLaren driver Jenson Button is expecting his team to be competitive when the season starts in Melbourne in just under two weeks time even though he admits that their car still lacks some performance compared to their rivals.

Button endured a largely frustrating day on Friday, with his running limited to just 52 laps after a gearbox problem caused him to stop on track during the morning. Button rejoined with about an hour of the session remaining and wound up fifth fastest overall.

In his interview with the media, Button said that in contrast to last year’s car, McLaren had a good understanding of the MP4-29, particularly in terms of its likely race performance. However, he has stated that he is confident that upgrades introduced ahead of the Australian GP would stand them in good stead. Button said the following:-

‘The basic car is good but we’re still waiting for upgrades. It definitely has potential, this car, it has a good feel about it. We have a very good understanding of the power unit and how to use the ERS under braking but also throughout a race, with fuel usage and what have you. Outright pace is something we need to work on. We haven’t really done much set-up work because it’s been more putting mileage on everything.’

It is extremely encouraging signs for McLaren at the moment. Throughout pre-season testing, the team have managed to top the timesheets with Button and also new rookie Magnussen which is a great step for the team. Alongside this, they have been able with their Mercedes engines have been able to consistently and reliably been able to top the timesheets in the top five and also been able to put laps on the board.

As with any team currently on the grid, the new technical regulations introduced for this season are testing and pushing their cars to the limit in order to try and understand the challenge presented to them this year. When asked his thoughts on the subject, Button stated the following:-

‘I think this car is a good car. But at launch we went in a direction that was for more driveability with the car and it’s not just bolt-on downforce that we’ve got on it, it’s usable downforce. We always knew we were probably lacking in that area, but we feel that by the first race we’ll be good. I don’t know where we’ll stand but we’ll be a lot more competitive.

‘I’m not worried about where we are. I’m quite happy with the basic car that we have, but I know we need more downforce. But that’s coming.’

After their performance last year with the MP4-28 where McLaren had their worst season in the sport since 1980, this is only positive news for McLaren fans (like me).  It would seem that in my opinion that McLaren have opted for a more “conservative” design but this might pay dividends for them this season. The signs at the moment are very promising so far and this will no doubt push the team to build on this during the season ahead.

Further on in his interview with the media, Button stated that the last few days of the test will see him and the McLaren working hard on the MP4-29’s set up in preparation for Melbourne. Button said the following:-

“Our last two days is going to be set-up work, so we’ll know much more after the last two days.”

Over the course of this week, many teams and driver such Ferrari and Kimi Raikkonen have stated that this will be the main aims of the final pre-season test in Bahrain this week. There will be problems along the way for some teams but this is their last chance to get on top of these issues and also ensure that they can try and be prepared for the opening Grand Prix in the best way they possibly can.

When asked his thoughts about McLaren’s rivals in the pecking order, Button believes that testing will highlight how competitive the field actually is. He said:-

‘At the last test, I would have said that the Mercedes is very strong on one-lap pace but the Williams was quicker over a race distance; this test, obviously the Mercedes is still as quick as it was and I think the Williams is also.  But you have the Force India now, which looks competitive and you also have the Red Bull, which looks competitive. You also have the Ferrari, which looks competitive as well.

‘There’s a lot of cars that are going to be competitive and [the gap between them] is not going to be one-and-a-half seconds. I think the grid’s going to be a little bit tighter than we expected.’

You cannot argue with Button. There is no question over the past few weeks that the Mercedes team and their engine customers (McLaren included) have been the most competitive and consistently reliable performers through pre-season testing. But as we have seen many times within Formula One, things can change quite quickly and we see that the other teams have made significant steps forward with their packages.

But I do believe that 2014 is shaping up to be one of the most open, exciting and challenging seasons that we have had in recent years. We cannot predict who has under the technical regulations made the most competitive package on the grid as I believe this season will be a continuous development year for all the teams and their 2014 cars.

And this might lead to us getting the racing that we have been craving for the past few years, where once again we will be watching the drivers and the teams racing each other competitively with everything they have got to give. Bring on Melbourne, it cannot come quick enough.

Over the course of this week, many teams and driver such Ferrari and Kimi Raikkonen have stated that this will be the main aims of the final pre-season test in Bahrain this week. There will be problems along the way for some teams but this is their last chance to get on top of these issues and also ensure that they can try and be prepared for the opening Grand Prix in the best way they possibly can.

When asked his thoughts about McLaren’s rivals in the pecking order, Button believes that testing will highlight how competitive the field actually is. He said:-

‘At the last test, I would have said that the Mercedes is very strong on one-lap pace but the Williams was quicker over a race distance; this test, obviously the Mercedes is still as quick as it was and I think the Williams is also.  But you have the Force India now, which looks competitive and you also have the Red Bull, which looks competitive. You also have the Ferrari, which looks competitive as well.

‘There’s a lot of cars that are going to be competitive and [the gap between them] is not going to be one-and-a-half seconds. I think the grid’s going to be a little bit tighter than we expected.’

You cannot argue with Button. There is no question over the past few weeks that the Mercedes team and their engine customers (McLaren included) have been the most competitive and consistently reliable performers through pre-season testing. But as we have seen many times within Formula One, things can change quite quickly and we see that the other teams have made significant steps forward with their packages.

But I do believe that 2014 is shaping up to be one of the most open, exciting and challenging seasons that we have had in recent years. We cannot predict who has under the technical regulations made the most competitive package on the grid as I believe this season will be a continuous development year for all the teams and their 2014 cars.

And this might lead to us getting the racing that we have been craving for the past few years, where once again we will be watching the drivers and the teams racing each other competitively with everything they have got to give.

I really do hope that McLaren this year will be back at the front where they belong, they do truly deserve to be back and back with a bang. Bring on Melbourne, it cannot come quick enough.


Riccardo: We still need more time


In an interview with the media, Red Bull driver Daniel Ricciardo has admitted despite their disappointing test in Bahrain last week, he and his team are in a battle against time to have a competitive car before the start of the 2014 season in Australia.  The reigning Constructors’ Champions had a disappointing time at the Bahrain test last week, where both Sebastian Vettel and Ricciardo struggled with reliability.

Vettel did not leave his garage at all on the first morning of testing and only made an appearance on track 45 minutes before the session was called off. On the second day of the test, Vettel had a much better time of it and completed 59 laps in his RB10. Ricciardo’s time in the new Red Bull car were cut short by technical issues on days three and four, during which he only completed 28 and 15 laps respectively.

Following on from the test in Bahrain last week, the Red Bull rookie admitted that the team needed more time on track to work on ongoing technical problems if they are to challenge for a podium position in Melbourne in less than three weeks time. In his interview, Ricciardo stated the following:-

“I guess we still need more time. We have four more days coming up and hopefully we can maximise those. I have to say that on the run we did today the car did feel better. But unfortunately another problem arose and we couldn’t exploit that potential. I hope we can do more running next week.’

Over the past few weeks, Red Bull has surprised everyone generally with their poor start to the 2014 season. The team have experienced problems with their cooling on the RB10 alongside problems with the Renault Power Units and Energy Recovery Systems that have been well documented within the paddock and also through the media.

Ricciardo has a valid point though. Red Bull just need some more time just like the rest of the field to get to grips with the new challenge presented by the new technical regulations for this season. There is no doubt that the signs showed by Red Bull last week have taken a slight step in the right direction for them despite still struggling to gain sufficient track mileage that they would like.

Ricciardo further on in his interview stated that despite the problems they are trying to fix at the moment, the signs of progress with the RB10 are showing slowly. He stated:-

‘Obviously, I would have liked to do more this afternoon but we still have tomorrow ahead of us and it’s important to be ready for that. The car is definitely making progress though. It’s coming together bit by bit. We’d love a big chunk all at once but that’s not the way it works, so we have to be patient. But it is coming and we’re heading in the right direction.’

Despite everything, it is still pleasant to hear that Ricciardo is remaining positive about things at Red Bull at the moment. Of course it would be understandable for the team and also him to be worrying and have concern about their current lack of performance throughout pre-season testing. Ricciardo just like every other driver on the field understands that this year will be a continuous and steep learning curve and that patience and hard work will be rewarded sooner rather than later throughout the 2014 season.

The final pre-season test at Bahrain this week is Red Bull’s final opportunity to test the car’s reliability and Ricciardo is pleased that he gets a first crack at the Bahrain track when the third and final test starts on Thursday. Ricciardo said the following:-

‘I’m happy I’m doing the first two days. At this stage we just need laps and I’m just looking forward to get back in the car.”

Ricciardo will no doubt grab the opportunity in the final pre-season test to see if they can try and get to get a further understanding of their issues with the RB10 before the start of the season in Melbourne in a few weeks time. At this current stage, Ricciardo has managed to gain maybe not enough track mileage that he would have wanted but I believe he will try his best to try and build on the foundation and data he has already given the Red Bull team.

Alongside Ricciardo stating that Red Bull need more time to get on top of their issues, Red Bull race engineer Andy Damerum has also revealed that the team will have an updated car at the third pre-season test. Damerum stated the following:-

“We’ve made some very good progress, particular on day two, but we’ve also had a number of problems that have again held us back.  The engineering team will head back to Milton Keynes now to plan the next moves and we can only look forward and try to get everything in place for the next test.’

I do believe that as a result of last week’s test at Bahrain that Red Bull have taken some slight steps in order to try and work out through the issues that they have with their car. Of course Red Bull will be worried about the performance of the Mercedes team and the rest of the Mercedes-powered teams on the grid, but at this early stage of the season, it is far too early to tell if they will be competitive in a few weeks time in Melbourne.

But as I have stated in previous blog posts on Jones on F1, I believe if any team can fix these issues, it is Red Bull. Red Bull in my view has one of the best Technical Directors in Formula One in Adrian Newey who has all the experience needed to turn this around into a positive. The fact that they will be using an updated car this week in Bahrain shows the hard work, commitment and dedication from the Red Bull team in order to try and get their 2014 season off to the best start that they can possibly can.

Will Red Bull be able to put everything they have learnt from the first two pre-season tests and have a strong and consistent showing in the final pre-season test this week?  We can only wait and see.

Marussia suffers a computer virus at Bahrain test


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


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.