Ten Things We Learned From Bahrain
Saturday 22-February-2014 17:31
Mercedes on top, Red Bull still struggling, Williams have two Felipes and everything's taking a lot more time...
When Marussia decided they needed to change the engine on Max Chilton's car after four laps on Friday, it wasn't the work of a couple of hours. That was it for the rest of the day. Although repairs and engine fixes are going to come down as teams learn to shortcut the time, such is the complexity of the new engine systems that everything is taking around double the time it took before. So if teams get engine problems in final practice (FP3) on a Saturday morning, it may be impossible to get the car ready in the time left before Qualifying. Thus on Friday when Ferrari had some telemetry issues, what would have been a routine fix for the team in 2013 with telemetry equipment that hasn't changed from 2013 to 2014, became a much longer process, sidelining Kimi Raikkonen for a lot of Friday. An engineer from a rival team also revealed that both Sauber and Ferrari were suffering misfires, as fuel was getting into the exhaust, something that hadn't happened in Jerez.
Williams have now got two Felipes in their car with Brazilian Felipe Nasr signing up as their reserve and test team driver. He put in a lot of mileage on Saturday. Having a namesake in the team will make it a lot easier to swap drivers in and out if they put the name 'Felipe' next to a Brazilian flag on the side of the car. However should Valtteri Bottas fall ill and need to be replaced then it could be fun having two Felipes racing and could lead to the team radio message "Felipe, Felipe is faster than you."
The new quieter engines make it easier for drivers to hear messages on team radio - but on the downside, there is so much electrical activity going on in the engine compartment that the signals are getting a lot of interference.
For those doubters who thought that F1 cars would be a lot slower in 2014, Nico Rosberg's 1:33.283 on Saturday morning was less that a second off his 2013 pole of 1:32.330. Lewis Hamilton confirmed that the new cars are losing out in the fast corners, thanks to the removal of downforce and exhaust blowing, but gaining on the straights.
The best news from Saturday was that Lotus bounced back with some last-minute parts flown in and a haul of 59 laps making them by far the strongest Renault runner at the end of the test. The four Renault teams managed just 114 laps between them on the final day, against 92 for the three Ferrari teams and 261 for the Mercedes engined teams.
After eight days of pre-season testing gone, with four left, only Mercedes and McLaren have run race simulations. In race mode, and adhering to the restriction of 100kgs of fuel, both the W05 and the MP4-29 were lapping eight seconds off their ultimate one-lap pace.
Red Bull were only the fastest Renault-engined car on Day One. On Day Two it was the Caterham-Renault. On Day Three it was the Toro Rosso-Renault, and on Day Four the Lotus-Renault. Day Two will hurt the most. The lack of reliability for the teams may spill out into marshalling problems in the early races or at least safety worries for marshals. In Bahrain, when a car stops, the teams' engineers are coming out to collect their own cars because of the potential safety issues with electricity. When the season starts, the systems are supposedly going to be all sorted. But if the teams cannot get their cars working reliably by Melbourne, can the electricity safety systems in place be trusted? Having had a marshal killed in Melbourne not too many years ago by a flying wheel, the race organisers will want to be assured that the cars are safe to be touched.
Had the 107% rule been applied to Saturday's best testing times, as though it were the grid, Red Bull would have been ruled out. Daniel Ricciardo's 1:39.837 was more than 107% of Nico Rosberg's blistering 1:33.283