Formula 1 Preseason Testing: 6 Observations from Day 1 at Jerez
With more hype surrounding the 2014 Formula One season than any other in recent memory, cars hit the circuit for the first of a four-day test in Jerez, Spain on Tuesday.
The radical engine and aerodynamic regulation changes in place for the forthcoming seasons means that there were more questions than answers ahead of the opening test.
So were any of those questions answered on the opening day? We’re about to find out.
Not All of the New Cars Are Ugly
I wrote an article on the morning before testing about why the new aerodynamic regulation changes for the 2014 season have forced designers into making radical and often ugly alterations to the nose cones.
In many cases, notably with the Force India VJM07, Williams FW36, Toro Rosso STR9 and Ferrari F14 T, the results have not been aesthetically pleasing and have been met with much negative criticism.
Thankfully, the Mercedes W05 and Red Bull RB10 that took to the Jerez circuit on Tuesday are two of the more attractive cats on the grid. Red Bull has opted to paint its dropped nose tip black so it isn’t quite as noticeable, whereas Mercedes has gone for a progressively sloping front-nose section that doesn’t look like too much of a departure from last year.
Lewis Hamilton was one who was impressed by the look of his new steed after the wraps came off in Jerez.
"The car looks just fantastic, so aggressive but full of really nice details as well,” he told BBC Sport.
The Expected Early Teething Troubles Materialised
The radical new engine regulation changes were bound to take some time for teams to get used to, which is what these early testing sessions are all about.
Red Bull boss Christian said in a recent interview with Bloomberg TV (via Autosport) that as many as half of the field could retire in the season opener.
And it didn’t take long for the reliability concerns to be realised, as Kimi Raikkonen stopped out on the track only 45 minutes into the session after only a few corners of his first run in the Ferrari F14 T.
Sergio Perez followed suit in his first run for Force India, he too grinding to a halt after also managing only a handful of corners.
Then came the first big crash of preseason testing—Lewis Hamilton clattering into the barriers at Turn 1, ripping off the whole front end of his Mercedes after an apparent dramatic front-wing failure, as reported by Autosport technical expert Gary Anderson.
From what we have seen, it seems the Mercedes front wing problem was caused by a front wing pillar failure. Normally, one side would fail first and that would lead to the other side breaking, or peel it from its fixings. From the debris, it appears that one pillar in the remains of the wing is longer than the other, suggesting that is what happened.
Next to stop was Jean-Eric Vergne in his Toro Rosso, and McLaren did not manage a single lap in anger with Jenson Button sitting out the day with an electrical problem, also reported by Autosport.
Despite firing up successfully at the MTC last week, the car was predominantly affected by electrical issues during the day. The subsequent dismantling, inspection and re-installation of several major components ultimately meant we were unable to conduct any running today. We’re re-installing key systems on the car overnight, with the expectation that Jenson [Button] will begin the car’s installation programme tomorrow.
No Earplugs Required
Both Mercedes and Caterham ran brief snippets of what the 2014 cars will sound like last week, but Day 1 in Jerez was the first time that onlookers got to hear what the new 1.6-litre V6 turbo engines sounded like.
With the rev limits now down by 3000 rpm, larger tailpipes and an adjusted fuel flow limit, the days of the shrill, high-pitched whine are now all but gone, and it’s now a rather flatter, duller sound.
On the plus side, it does mean that spectators may now have the luxury of doing away with those pesky ear defenders!
It Was a Fairly Quiet Day of Running
As may have been expected on the first of four days of running at Jerez, the opening day was one in which teams did not want to push too hard, too soon and were tentatively finding their feet.
Data evaluation and feedback was the aim of the game, seeing how the new engine configurations held up, testing new wing configurations and analysing tyre compounds.
As such, relatively few laps were completed on the opening day, with Ferrari and Mercedes racking up the most with 49 between them.
Jean-Eric Vergne was the next most productive driver with 15 laps, and Sebastian Vettel and Marcus Ericsson managed just four laps between them.
Kimi Raikkonen Was Fastest but Way off Last Year's Pace
Despite their early teething troubles, it was no great surprise to see Ferrari and Mercedes on top of the timesheets, with the two big hitters managing the most laps allied with McLaren and Red Bull’s woes.
Raikkonen clocked a best time of 1m27.104s, a full 0.716 seconds faster than Lewis Hamilton.
As a gauge of how much slower the cars could be this year, Jenson Button set last year’s pace with a quickest effort of 1m18.816s.
Michael Schumacher Is Still on Everyone’s Minds
Wednesday marks one month since Michael Schumacher was seriously injured in a skiing accident in France, and it’s clear that he is still very much in the minds of the F1 community.
Both of his former teams running in Jerez displayed their messages of support for the seven-time world champion, with Ferrari stencilling the message #ForzaMichael on their cars and Mercedes putting #KeepFightingMichael on theirs.
Close friend and compatriot Sebastian Vettel is quoted on BBC Sport as saying his prayers are with him.
"We still don't know what shape he will be in when he wakes up. I pray and hope he will come back and the miracle will happen and he will be the person he was before."