Power Ranking the Formula 1 Teams After Bahrain Preseason Test
The second Formula One 2014 preseason test at Bahrain is now behind us.
Mercedes-powered cars followed up their good form from Jerez, Spain. Mercedes, McLaren and Williams led the way, doing more laps than anyone and backing up their reliability with promising displays of speed.
Renault also carried over their form, which was bad news for the teams using their engine. Red Bull, Toro Rosso and Lotus all struggled to put laps on the board. Though Caterham found a way to clock up the miles, they were somewhat slow.
And, again overshadowed by the exploits of their rivals, Ferrari continued their quiet progress.
Looking at apparent speed, reliability and how confident they will be going forward, here's how the teams rank at this stage.
Post-Jerez rank: Seventh.
Marussia appear to be in serious trouble.
They turned up late at Jerez, but still managed 30 laps. Across a full four days in Bahrain, they only did 21.
Their total is the lowest of any team, and even more worrying when you consider they have a seemingly reliable Ferrari powertrain in the back of the MR03.
Via Planet-F1, the team says they were down to "a continuation of some component reliability issues." Put simply, the various parts of the car just don't work together as they should.
Replacements were fitted, but Marussia had no time to try them out. They should work, but there are no guarantees.
It's a bad-enough situation for any team. For one with such a limited budget, it could be a disaster.
10. Red Bull
Post-Jerez rank: 10th.
A slightly better test for Red Bull saw the team do 116 laps, but the car remains highly unreliable and is yet to do more than 12 laps in a stint.
It's partly their fault, and partly Renault's. More the latter than the former, but if Red Bull had gone a little bit more conservative on their packaging from the start, the problems may not be as severe.
The issue is thought to be mostly down to the energy recovery systems. Red Bull team principal Christian Horner told Autosport:
We have been supporting them with our experience on the whole energy recovery side of the package.
That's where we can contribute the most and that's where the biggest issues are at the moment. We have had a limited involvement, and are getting more and more involved.
Renault are apparently struggling because, while Mercedes and Ferrari built their own KERS (the father of ERS) units in the past, the French company left it up to the teams.
We have to assume the car will be quick if it ever gets everything working, but at the moment the defending world champions are in a very bad place.
9. Toro Rosso
Post-Jerez rank: Eighth.
Toro Rosso's preseason troubles continued.
Each driver had a bad day. Daniil Kvyat managed just five laps on Day 1, and Jean-Eric Vergne's running was curtailed after just 19 laps on Day 4.
In between, the team had some slightly more encouraging running. They posted a total of 139 laps, second best among the Renault teams.
But that's still way behind the likes of Sauber and Force India, the teams they'll have expected (before testing started, anyway) to be their midfield rivals in 2014.
Searching for a positive, the Italian outfit seem to be in a slightly better place than their sister team Red Bull.
Post-Jerez rank: 11th.
Lotus missed the entire first test and didn't have a fantastic time in Bahrain. As with their stablemates, most of the issues centred around their Renault powertrain.
After four days, the team only managed 111 laps. This was the second-lowest total of anyone, with only Marussia doing fewer.
But consider that this was the car's first outing. 111 laps is 35 more than any Renault team managed (on a shorter track) at Jerez.
Adding to the positive vibe, Pastor Maldonado set the 13th-fastest time. It was way down on the front-runners and every Mercedes driver beat it with ease, but quickest among the Renaults.
Sadly, quickest Renault is nothing to be proud of at the moment.
The potential is there for Lotus to jump up the order, but to finish first, first you have to finish.
For now at least, they don't seem capable of doing a race distance.
Post-Jerez rank: Ninth.
Caterham seem able to pump out the laps almost as well as the Mercedes- and Ferrari-powered teams. They did 253 laps in Bahrain.
What's helping is the openness of the car. Their sidepods are much bulkier than those on any other car, and it looks like a huge piece of bodywork is missing from the rear of the engine cover.
Even the cooling-hungry Renault powertrain is happy under there. Compare it to this image of the back of the Red Bull.
The CT05 is evidently a little bit on the slow side, but both cars would stand a reasonable chance of finishing a race if it were held tomorrow.
Sure, they'd be five or six laps down, but that might be enough for a point.
Post-Jerez rank: Sixth.
The Ferrari engine seems to be working well, and the Swiss team managed 240 laps in Bahrain.
They're having some issues with the new brake-by-wire system, which Adrian Sutil in particular is struggling with.
But their best time, set by Esteban Gutierrez, was only six-tenths behind the best by a Ferrari-engined car (set by Fernando Alonso).
In keeping with apparent tradition, Sauber sit right in the middle of pack.
Not great, not awful, just good old average.
5. Force India
Post-Jerez rank: Fifth.
Force India completed the fewest laps of any Mercedes team, a total of 213. They were also the lowest-lapping Mercedes team at Jerez.
Everything started well. Nico Hulkenberg set the fifth-fastest time of the test, a 1:36.445 on the second day. He managed a total of 137 laps.
Then Sergio Perez took over, and things started to go wrong. The biggest problem was a drivetrain issue on the final day, which led to the team doing just 19 laps.
As it stands, the other three teams using the same engine are ahead, perhaps by some distance.
But last of the Mercedes runners is still good enough for fifth.
Post-Jerez rank: Third.
Ferrari have been there or thereabouts since the very start of testing.
Bahrain saw the Italian team do 285 laps over the four days, with Fernando Alonso and Kimi Raikkonen setting the sixth- and seventh-best times, respectively.
Like every team, Ferrari have caused their fair share of red flags. On top of the occasional reliability-related stoppages, a driver error by Raikkonen late on Day 4 saw him spin off and damage the car.
He said he wasn't even pushing, and trackside observers, as reported by Sky F1, say the car doesn't look as stable as some others.
The potential is definitely there for improvements, but they seem to be behind the front-runners at the moment.
Post-Jerez rank: Fourth.
After a strong test in Jerez, Williams continued their good form in Bahrain with a total of 323 laps—the most of any team.
What was most interesting was the ease with which new reserve driver Felipe Nasr settled in to the car. Incredibly (given the people who do get a go sometimes), it was the first time the young Brazilian had ever driven an F1 car.
He took over on the fourth day and finished with 87 laps and a best time of 1:37.569.
That suggests the car is quite user-friendly, and a user-friendly car is usually a fast car. Added to the reliability, Williams have a formidable package.
They jump one slot into third, but it remains to be seen whether they can stay there.
Post-Jerez rank: Second.
The two McLaren drivers did a total of 296 laps at the second test.
In terms of both pace and reliability, the MP4-29 has looked good. The Mercedes powertrain appears to be the best at this stage, and the chubby sidepods of the McLaren are providing it with more than enough cooling.
Kevin Magnussen has taken to F1 like a duck to water, while veteran teammate Jenson Button has quickly learnt the new skill set required to drive 2014's cars.
After the third day, Button told Sky F1 that he feels at least one team has a substantial advantage:
We're still lacking a lot of downforce, I think every team is, but compared to the car that was quicker than us today I think it's an area where we are weak at the moment.
Footage of the interview was shown on the Sky Sports F1 daily round-up, and he came across as surprisingly disappointed for a man who sat in the second-best car.
Post-Jerez rank: First.
Mercedes did 315 laps in Bahrain, showing that their package has relatively good reliability.
They also produced the fastest lap of the test. Nico Rosberg's 1:33.283 was 1.627 seconds quicker than the best time set by Kevin Magnussen's McLaren, the best of their rivals.
And that was on the softs, while Magnussen used the quicker supersofts.
Not everything is perfect—Mercedes found numerous reliability problems over the course of the test, including a few which only surfaced when the car was pushed closer to its limit.
But their rivals, whose cars (hopefully for them) haven't been pushed as hard yet, have such discoveries still to come.
It's early days, but the German team are certainly living up to their favourites tag.