Now that the pre-season testing is over, we can start drawing conclusions about the performance of the teams. Most teams have shown one of two very different scenarios: reliability issues with less than 20 laps completed during a day, or very good reliability with over 60 laps completed on the day. Let’s take a look at each team individually.
Following last year's standings, the championship winning team Red Bull Racing comes first. It seems like testing couldn't go worse for the Austrian squad. In Jerez, it was said that the tow truck completed more laps than the RB10. They had many problems with the Renault power unit, thus completing just 21 laps during the four days, making them the last team in terms of mileage in Jerez. Some drivers, including Jenson Button, believe that Red Bull has the pace and could be a serious rival, if they get to the finish.
In Bahrain, the drinks manufacturer had problems "unrelated to those from Jerez", as stated by Sebastian Vettel. "Sometimes you fix one problem and another pops up. That's testing." added the quadruple world champion. Dr Helmut Marko admitted that “it was getting too hot under the cover” which means the problem was probably related to the design process of the car: components around aerodynamics. This is said to be the way Red Bull Racing cars are designed, so that they can get maximum aero performance. Near the end of testing, the team managed some laps, but this was probably with a downgraded setup of the power unit.
Next comes Mercedes. Probably one of the best looking car this season, and it’s fast as well, or so it seems up to this point. Mercedes had a small problem with the front wing mounting points in the first day of testing. Lewis Hamilton was behind the wheel of the W05 when the front wing collapsed before a corner, causing him to crash out. The German team quickly solved this problem by reinforcing that part of the mountings. Nico Rosberg took over for the second day and the team was positive after completing 97 laps although arrival of the W05 on the track was delayed by a new front wing being delivered from Brackley. During the third day, Lewis Hamilton completed 62 laps and clocked a 1:23.952 which was enough to give him 3rd position, just after the McLaren drivers. A small gearbox problem limited their running in the afternoon. During the final day, both drivers ran the car with Nico completing over a race distance, 91 laps on intermediate tyres. Lewis then took the car over for the afternoon, adding 41 laps to the mileage of the car.
In Bahrain, Mercedes started looking at the hard tyres in temperatures similar to race conditions. Lewis completed 74 laps during the first day and a small brake problem ended his session slightly early. In the second day, Rosberg completed 85 laps with two stoppages on the track, for different reasons, but he still managed fourth on the time sheets. On the third day, Hamilton took to the cockpit again, this time for short stints on the softer tyres. He then attempted a race distance but another issue stopped him, the mechanics quickly fixed this and thus allowing the 2008 World Champion to add 22 laps to the mileage for the day. During day four, Nico’s time of 1:33.283 got him on top of the time sheets. Another two small issues appeared on the car, but they were quickly fixed allowing 89 laps to be completed.
During the second test in Bahrain, Mercedes focused on race procedures (including starts and pitstops), setup work, qualifying runs and longer race runs. They had some small issues with the gearbox and performed an engine change on the third day.
Overall the team showed good reliability with some minor problems. Pace is quite good, with Nico and Lewis topping the time sheets on several occasions. In Melbourne, Mercedes seems like one of the favourites to top the qualifying and possibly win the race.
Ferrari have been criticised for their vacuum cleaner nose by some sections of the media, and the fans. In Jerez, the F14T didn’t make the best debut, as the Italians could bet on. Kimi Raikkonen was in the car, which quickly stopped, bringing out the red flags. During the second day, Iceman was in the car again and he completed 47 laps without any issues. Alonso took to the cockpit for the remaining two days setting fast lap times immediately. He had to park the car on the third day, but the issue was quickly fixed and the F14T was back out on track.
In Bahrain, the team tested the new elements of the car including the clutch, brake-by-wire system and the ERS. In all, this is one team that could have been sandbagging as predicted by the experts, and the prancing horses desperately need a championship winning car more than ever.
Next up is Lotus, with their strange take at the regulations, another highly criticised solution, this time involving two noses. The Enstone based squad missed the first test in Jerez, which is quite ironic as a while back, they posted a picture with their suggestions for 2014 rules. One of those was that any team absent from the first test should take part in a non-points scoring Korean GP amongst the other teams that didn’t take part. Maybe they just wanted an extra GP?
It seems like Lotus will be the top Renault powered team this year, if Red Bull don’t pick themselves up. During the first day in Bahrain, Romain Grosjean completed just 8 laps in the E22. Mechanics had to replace the energy store unit of the ERS already on the first day. Not the best debut. Over four days of the second pre-season test, they managed to put in some useful laps, but often had problems. They did however run a full power car, and not a downgraded version which suggests that their issues aren’t as big as they seem. If Renault can sort out their problems, Lotus could be a strong competitor for some podiums during the season.
Next in the order is McLaren, who have fallen down the standings last year. This year, they seem to have built a decent car which may be quite competitive at times in the season. Jenson Button will remain with the team and this year, he will be joined by rookie Kevin Magnussen, who could surprise everyone this year. The nose of the car is quite interesting, with very wide front wing mountings allowing plenty of air into the diffuser.
In Jerez, the team faced electrical system problems which meant they were unable to run in the first day. After those teething problems were fixed, Jenson Button took the wheel of the MP4-29 on the second day, which was partly wet, and completed 43 laps. Kevin Magnussen made his debut in an F1 car on the third day, but had to make space for Jenson Button in the morning as the Team decided to expand the Briton’s running time. 92 laps were completed all together. On the last day, Magnussen extended the mileage of the MP4-29 by a further 110 laps and gained experience on a damp track.
In Bahrain, Kevin was in the car for the first two days, racking up 81 laps on the first day and 46 on the second. An IT problem appeared on the second day, which limited running however Kevin Magnussen still managed the fastest lap of the day. The team started looking at aerodynamics and evaluating updates from Jerez. On the third day, Jenson logged 103 laps, which included a race simulation. Another 66 laps were added to the mileage the following day, as Jenson performed some setup work.
During the final test in Bahrain, the first two days were focused on reliability. Day 2 was limited by a gearbox issue, but Jenson still managed 52 laps in the last 75 minutes of the day. New parts were fitted to the car for the final days which meant the focus was on them. Both drivers tried the new components, however, a small problem limited Magnussen’s time behind the wheel on Day 3. Day 4 also wasn’t very positive start due to an engine change taking place in the garage. Jenson managed just 22 laps during the day.
Overall, reliability seems very good for the Woking squad, with decent pace at times. McLaren could get some podiums if their development goes well. Magnussen seems like a very confident and skilled driver and should be closely followed throughout the season.
Written By: Jakub Kot