Formula 1 Preseason Testing: 6 Observations from Day 1 at Bahrain
The third and final Formula One preseason test got underway today at the Bahrain International Circuit.
This is the last chance for the teams and drivers to get their machines as close to perfection as possible before the season-opening Australian Grand Prix in a little over two weeks.
Mercedes were looking to hammer home their advantage, Ferrari had a small gap to close, and the Renault-powered Red Bull were hoping for a miracle.
Here's what stood out on the first day.
Force India Lead the Way
Sergio Perez set the early pace at one minute and 35.290 seconds. The time was never beaten.
That isn't exactly a blistering lap compared to Nico Rosberg's 1:33.283 from the first Bahrain test, but only two cars (Mercedes and McLaren) have gone faster so far.
Every Mercedes team has now gone quicker than Ferrari (and the Renault teams, of course).
Per Eurosport, Perez told the assembled press afterward that he felt it was his first real day of testing:
We've made a great step today. It has been a fantastic day in terms of work, in terms of learning.
We really needed that. I'm very happy, the team did a great job because we moved forward big time. There are many things you have to learn on these cars and before today I couldn't do much.
Force India also completed a full race simulation on their way to clocking up 105 laps.
Quiet Day for Mercedes
After posting very quick times at the end of the second test, Mercedes made a quiet start to the third.
They concentrated on longer runs until a problem with the car brought Nico Rosberg's day to an early end. By the standards they have set so far, today's performance should give hope to their rivals.
Rosberg told Autosport:
Unfortunately a problem stopped me running before the end of the day, but we're still going in the right direction.
We're in a decent position starting off now, but I don't feel we're that far ahead. Everyone has problems and we do too.
They're still favourites, though.
Williams and McLaren Reliability Continues
Only one car hasn't caused a red flag so far in testing—the Williams FW36.
Today, it pounded around the circuit with ease, with Valtteri Bottas putting in an impressive 128 laps. He was also the second-fastest man on the track, posting a 1:36.184.
McLaren had a slightly slower day. Kevin Magnussen's best was over a second shy of the time set by Bottas.
He did, however, do 109 laps of his own. Mercedes might be quicker, but are the two customer teams edging ahead on reliability?
Small Recovery for Marussia
Max Chilton was behind the wheel for Marussia today, and he managed a respectable 44 laps.
That's more than they did at either Jerez (30) or the previous Bahrain test (21).
His best time was a very reasonable 1:38.610. It's not quick, but it's over a second faster than anything main rivals Caterham have done so far.
The green team had problems, too. Marussia will feel much better about their chances tonight.
Red Bull Still in the Mire
Red Bull made an early start, with Daniel Ricciardo going out on track within five minutes of session starting.
By the session midpoint, he had completed 32 laps. Not exceptional, but that put him on course to set the team's new daily laps record (to date, that's 59 laps, set by Sebastian Vettel).
After that, everything kind of...stopped.
With a little over an hour to go, Autosport's live testing blog reported the team were battling overheating issues and weren't sure if they'd be back out on track.
They made it, but added only seven laps to their morning total.
On the bright side, Ricciardo's 1:37.908 was the best Renault-powered time of the week—so maybe steps are being made.
Along with the Other Renault Teams
It's not just Red Bull having problems.
Toro Rosso led the way but only did 55 laps. Red Bull, as we've already mentioned, did 39 laps. Lotus managed 31, while Caterham brought up the rear on 19.
A total of 144 between them. Compare that to the 128 laps achieved by Williams alone.
They don't all have the same problem (Lotus struggled with a new exhaust today, for example), but it's not looking good.
Three days to go.
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