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Bahrain Test 2 day 3

While the first couple of tests were all about sorting new car issues, with only the works Mercedes team able to complete a qualifying and/or race simulation.  This final test should in an ideal world be about honing the cars performance ready for the first race in Australia in two weeks time.  With only one day of testing left, what is apparent is how much the teams still have to do to prove their reliability in advance of the forthcoming season.

Renault are still having problems, with their power units having completed the lowest mileage in this final test despite powering one more car than Ferrari.  The total laps covered in the first three days of this final test look like this:

Power UnitNumber of TeamsTotal Laps
Mercedes41188
Ferrari3656
Renault4588

 

Breaking that down among the Renault teams we have:

TeamTotal Laps
Toro Rosso197
Caterham191
Red Bull105
Lotus95

 

While Toro Rosso and Caterham have been steadily increasing the number of laps they have managed to run each day this test, Lotus have been stuck in the low 30’s each day and Red Bull failed to complete a single lap today.  The only encouraging note is that today Caterham finally managed a lap within 107% of the fastest lap, meaning that all the cars should be capable of qualifying in Australia.

For the Ferrari powered teams it seems a mixed bag.  While the works tem looks to be reliable enough, reports from the track indicate it is perhaps not the best sorted car out there, and it is described as being a handful to drive.  Given the driving talent at the teams disposal this is worrying for their championship challenge.   Perhaps they have been concentrating so much on getting the car reliable they have yet to start on sorting the handling?

Sauber have so far not shown any particular speed, having braking issues during the first Bahrain test, and only managed a single lap today before an engine problem caused the team to miss the rest of the day while they changed the power unit.  The time taken to work on the new generation of cars could have a significant impact on the ability of the teams to develop during the early part of the season.  Components are taking so much longer to change that teams may be reluctant to try too many different changes for fear of not being able to get back to a known good set up for qualifying.

At least Marussia seem to be reliable (with well over 70 laps completed yesterday and today) and appear to have pulled ahead of Caterham in speed terms.  Not really surprising given the struggles of other Renault powered teams.

Which brings us on to the Mercedes powered teams.  With the exception of the very first day in Jerez (when Raikkonen was fastest), a Mercedes powered car has been fastest every day of testing.  The customer teams agreement to work together to solve the Power Unit installation issues seems to have given all four of them an advantage over the rest of the field, and it would appear that only the works Ferrari squad can hope to join them in Q3.  No-one else looks close to being fast enough.  While not immune to problems with the Mercedes Power Unit (McLaren lost most of yesterday after a problem necessitating a change), they are perhaps finding issues that won’t strike their rivals until the season has started.  Don’t forget that with only five Power Units available to each driver for the season, they will have to last about 3000km each to cover all the free practices, qualifying and the races.  So far through the whole of testing all of the Mercedes teams have comfortably exceeded this figure along with only Ferrari and Sauber of the non-Mercedes powered teams.

In terms of absolute performance, today Felipe Massa bettered Nico Rosberg’s testing time from last week and recorded a 1m 33.258s lap (0.928s away from Rosberg’s pole at Bahrain last year).  The closest non-Mercedes powered time is Kimi Raikkonen’s 1m 35.426s from today (over 2.1s slower).  The real race winning performance will come from who can use their 100kg of fuel most effectively, not from who starts on pole position.  Unfortunately, not being in Bahrain, I am unable to report what the overall times were for the teams’ race simulations.  For that to become clear we will have to wait for another two weeks.

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