Following twelve days of pre-season testing are we any clearer as to the position of the teams prior to the first race? Well on the final day of testing there were three engine failures which brought the cars to a premature halt (McLaren, Force India and Lotus). While hearing of a Renault failure isn’t that surprising given the troubles they have had this winter, having two Mercedes power units fail may give some hope to other non-Mercedes powered teams. However it may be that these two teams were able to run some components past their expected life to see how long they would last.
The total distance completed by all the teams over the twelve days of testing is as follows:
|Team||Engine||Jerez km||Bahrain 1 km||Bahrain 2 km||total km|
As discussed previously for 2014 each power unit will have to last for approximately 3000km, which means that only Caterham of the Renault teams have managed to run this far to even know what problems they will have once the mileage gets this high.
When it comes to absolute performance then it is far harder to judge, as all teams are running different programmes through the tests, with all four slick compounds available and variations in the fuel load used. Given the massive change in regulations it is reasonable to expect that at some point during the testing all the teams would have attempted a flat out run. The following table is a list of the fastest laps from the eight days of testing at Bahrain completed by each of the drivers that ran there:
|Sergio Perez||Force India-Mercedes|
|Nico Hulkenberg||Force India-Mercedes|
|Jean-Eric Vergne||Toro Rosso-Renault|
|Daniel Ricciardo||Red Bull-Renault|
|Daniil Kvyat||Toro Rosso-Renault|
|Sebastian Vettel||Red Bull-Renault|
While it is no real surprise to see the Mercedes powered teams at the top of the timesheets, Williams resurgence is encouraging as is a seemingly competitive car for Nico Hulkenberg. At the other end of the field Marussia seem to have made real progress over their rivals Caterham, and may now be able to race some of the Renault powered teams in the early part of the season at least. Also, having Lotus right at the back is a fall from grace even more spectacular than Williams’ rise.
The times from test drivers (Nasr and Frijns) are not really representative as they will have had far less time in the car than the race drivers, but they are included for completeness. Similarly, the comparison between team mates is not necessarily indicative of their relative performance as it is highly likely that the teams were conducting different programmes for the two drivers and it is unlikely that they had the same tyres and fuel loads when setting their individual fastest times.
As noted yesterday it is encouraging that all teams are able to get within 107% of the fastest time, so we should see a full grid qualify in two weeks. Of far greater doubt is how many cars will finish, while the fuel flow measurement is far more accurate now than the end of the last turbo era (the last time the fuel capacity was limited by the regulations), so we shouldn’t see drivers running out of fuel at the end of the race. The reliability of the new cars is in doubt, and this probably gives Marussia and Caterham their best chance to score points if other better funded teams are struggling with reliability. Against this background, the slow speed and high mileage of the Caterham team begins to make some sort of sense.
Only eleven days until the cars leave the pitlane in Melbourne for free practice one, and we start to get some answers as to who has made the right design decisions for this set of regulations. The wait is nearly over.