How hath the mighty fallen? Before the first pre-season test of the 2014 season, Red Bull Racing were full of optimism about their chances of defending their drivers’ and constructors’ titles despite the new regulation changes.
But after a nightmare four days in Jerez that saw the team rack up only 21 laps, Mercedes has now taken over the favourites mantle for the new season.
So where did it all go wrong? As highlighted by Red Bull's Daniel Ricciardo, per Autosport, it is a complex issue that is "a combination of more or less everything."
Let’s analyse each of these problems in isolation over the four days.
Battery problems hampered Vettel on Day 1.
Sebastian Vettel was forced to sit and twiddle his thumbs in the garage for almost the entire day, the defending champion managing only three exploratory laps at the end of the day.
According to Autosport, the problem was due to the team fitting a part incorrectly.
Laps managed: three
Problem: Unspecified part fit incorrectly
Vettel endured another testing day.
Red Bull’s tough start to the test continued on the second day as Vettel ended his session at the circuit with only eight further laps under his belt.
Autosport identified the problem as a battery issue related to the car’s ERS unit and as such abandoned the day’s running early in order to find a fix for the problem.
"I honestly expected there to be more laps on the board right now, but without real up close knowledge of what has been going on in the garage I don't know what has been happening," said Renault's engine chief Rob White.
"It is kind of a no brainer, but the pace has to ramp up substantially over the coming days and week."
Laps managed: eight
Problem: Battery and ERS related
Ricciardo fared little better on Day 3.
Daniel Ricciardo took over duties from Vettel on Day 3 and although the team worked overnight to attempt to rectify the problems of the opening two days, they were forced to abandon running after completing only three laps.
The problems began on Ricciardo’s opening lap when he stopped out on track on his opening run. He completed another two exploratory laps before the team halted running again without setting a time.
Both Christian Horner and Adrian Newey left the circuit without talking to the media, but the team issued a statement from race engineering co-ordinator Andy Damerum, as quoted on Autosport:
We worked hard yesterday to make the changes it was felt were necessary to overcome the problems we identified and we were hopeful of a more successful day today. Unfortunately, the measures we took only partially solved the issue and, as with yesterday, it's more sensible to stop and dig deeper into finding a solution.
It's obviously not where we want to be and naturally the whole team is frustrated by these issues. However, we're pretty good at bouncing back from this type of thing. This is where the whole team pulls together and I'm sure we will get these problems fixed.
Laps managed: three
Problem: The same underlying ERS overheating issues
Daniel Ricciardo continued in the Red Bull hot seat on the final day of testing, but he spent little time actually in the seat, managing only seven more laps before the team packed up.
Autosport released a picture of how the team attempted to rectify the car's overheating problems by opening extra vents on the sidepods. But even that failed to rectify the chassis cooling issues, as confirmed by Christian Horner in the same article:
We have had numerous Renault issues as well as chassis cooling issues, which have affected our progress. However, despite the lack of mileage, what we have managed to learn shows that the problems should be solvable for the next test in Bahrain.
Part of the purpose of this early test was to learn about any issues ahead of the start of the season and there will now be a lot of focus on the dyno over the next few weeks.
Laps managed: seven
Problem: Overheating issues