Formula 1 Pre-Season Testing: 6 Observations from Day 4 at Bahrain
Formula One’s pre-season schedule was brought to an end on Sunday at the Bahrain International Circuit, the scene of the third and final test.
Eight red flags were brought out after seven of the 11 teams encountered troubles on a day that presented the final opportunity for the new-for-2014 cars to be fine-tuned ahead of the season-opening Australian Grand Prix in exactly a fortnight’s time.
Here, we pick out six things that caught our eye on the final day of pre-season testing.
Red Bull Begin Recovery After Lowest Point
After the horror show that was Day 3, when Red Bull completed only half an instillation lap, any laps that Sebastian Vettel completed on the final day of pre-season would be valuable running.
The RB10 was almost straight out of the blocks as the green light signalled the beginning of the day, with Vettel performing aerodynamic evaluations and running 44 laps prior to bringing out the first red flag of the day after a spin—due to what appeared to be a brake failure—at the newly renamed Turn 1.
Despite the problem taking three hours to fix, Vettel returned to the track and ended the day with a total of 77 laps, although the fact that his fastest time was over four seconds slower than the day’s fastest lap suggests he was running at a conservative pace.
Lotus Achieve Consistency (of Sorts)
If Lotus were hoping for consistency in the final test, they certainly got it.
Their lap count for the week read: 31 (Thursday), 31 (Friday), 33 (Saturday) and 32 (Sunday).
The team packed up early for the fourth day in succession after Romain Grosjean brought out his second red flag of the day due to a fire, a problem that also affected Pastor Maldonado on Friday. The Frenchman had earlier brought the morning session to a premature end after his Lotus stopped on the back straight for the second day in succession.
Four early baths, two fires, multiple breakdowns and around 30 laps recorded per day? There’s plenty of consistency at Lotus—it’s just a shame that they’ve been consistently poor.
McLaren Lose Momentum
Jenson Button bemoaned McLaren’s lack of progress over the winter earlier this week, telling Autosport’s Ben Anderson that the MP4-29 is still running in "launch specification."
After generally impressing over the course of pre-season, McLaren have shown signs of a loss of momentum this week with both Button and Kevin Magnussen being frustrated by technical problems and a delay in upgrades.
The 2009 world champion completed 22 laps before his McLaren slowed to a halt within eight minutes of the restart after lunch with an engine failure, ending the team’s running for the winter.
Those updates can’t be fitted soon enough.
Mercedes Assert Superiority After Slow Start
After we wrote on Saturday that only a disaster could stop Mercedes being crowned the unofficial champions of pre-season, disaster tried its hardest to strike on the final day.
A gearbox problem meant Lewis Hamilton was unable to take to the track until almost four hours had passed after team-mate Nico Rosberg lost time due to engine-related issues on Saturday.
Hamilton’s completion of 69 laps, with the fastest time of the day—seven-tenths clear of Valtteri Bottas’ second-placed lap—was a brilliant recovery, proving that Mercedes are the team to beat in 2014 despite the occasional reliability concern.
Sauber Squeeze Sutil and Gutierrez into Promising Day
After Sauber’s running was nonexistent on Saturday due to an early fire which led to an engine change, the team amended their schedule to allow both Adrian Sutil and Esteban Gutierrez a chance to sample the C33 cockpit for the final time prior to the Australian Grand Prix.
Sutil recorded a very respectable 91 laps in the morning session, which included a qualifying simulation, before handing over to his Mexican team-mate to add a further 86 laps until causing the final red flag of the winter having decided to run a fuel system test.
And although the pace seemed typically Sauber—neither blisteringly fast nor embarrassingly slow—the sheer mileage covered by both drivers in one day is undoubtedly a promising sign as Melbourne approaches.
Force India Do Too Much Running
Force India’s running was ended around two hours early, according to technical director Andrew Green on the team’s official website, due to "a suspected component failure, which was a result of high mileage."
The VJM07 has been put through its paces this week, with Sergio Perez and Nico Hulkenberg completing over 400 laps of the course of the final four days in Bahrain, so it was no surprise that a component failed after doing too much work.
Although Hulkenberg failed to reach the top of the timesheets as his team-mate did earlier in the test, the solid long runs, setup work and tyre evaluations completed on the final day means Force India could be an outside bet for victory in Melbourne.
If you’re going to lose track time to anything in testing, losing it for spending too much time on the track is the surely best way for it to happen.