Lap times do not tell the whole story, but the final Bahrain test ended on Sunday with Felipe Massa having set the fastest overall lap of the four-days, with a 1m33.258s, recorded on the Saturday. The Brazilian did 202 laps during the test in his Williams-Mercedes and with Valtteri Bottas fourth fastest in the second Williams (1m33.987s) the team ended up with an impressive total of 438 laps run, well clear of the nearest challenger.
In terms of lap times, Lewis Hamilton came closest to Massa in his Mercedes, with a 1m33.278s on the final day, but he completed only 159 laps, while Nico Rosberg was third fastest with a best of 1m33.484s. The two factory Mercedes drivers clocked a total of 351 laps over the four days. Overall, the Mercedes teams completed 4,916 miles of running in the second Bahrain test, taking the engine manufacturer’s total for the three winter tests to 11,181 miles.
This is significant when compared to rivals Ferrari and Renault. They totalled 6,244 and 5,437 miles respectively. This means that the Stuttgart company has almost twice as much data as its rivals. We may not be absolutely sure about who has the quickest car, but it is clear that Mercedes has a big advantage in terms of reliability and information to aid development of the cars.
Ferrari finished the test with the fifth fastest overall lap time, thanks to Fernando Alonso. He recorded a 1m34.280s, while Kimi Raikkonen was seventh with a 1m35.426s. The two men completed a total of 337 laps. In the overall lap times the two Ferraris were split by the Force India-Mercedes of Sergio Perez (1m35.290s) with his team-mate Nico Hulkenberg just behind Raikkonen, having lapped the track in 1m35.577s. The two Force India drivers completed 402 laps between them, the second highest mileage for a team behind Williams.
The fastest of the Renault-engined cars by the end of the test was Jean-Eric Vergne’s Toro Rosso with a best lap of 1m35.710s. His team-mate Daniil Kvyat was 12th overall with a fastest lap of 1m36.113s. The two managed to complete 271 laps in total.
Sister team Red Bull Racing had a poor test by Dan Ricciardo ended up 10th overall, just behind Vergne, with a 1m35.743s lap. He did a total of 105 laps while World Champion Sebastian Vettel had a troubled time and did only 78 laps in total, recording a best of 1m37.468s, the 18th fastest time of the test.
McLaren also had a difficult time with Kevin Magnussen only 11th fastest and Jenson Button down in 15th with best laps of 1m35.894s and 1m36.901s respectively. The two managed 271 laps between them.
Sauber’s Adrian Sutil and Esteban Gutierrez were 13th and 17th respectively with laps of 1m36.467s and 1m37.303s, but the pair completed 373 laps, the highest number for a Ferrari-powered team.
Marussia had reasons to be cheerful with Max Chilton setting a best of 1m36.835s, which put him 14th overall, while Jules Bianchi was 16th with a 1m37.087s. The two completed 258 laps.
Caterham’s Marcus Ericsson and Kamui Kobayashi were 19th and 20th with lap times of 1m38.083s and 1m38.391s, but the pair completed the most laps of the Renault teams.
At the bottom of the timesheets were the Lotus-Renault drivers, who completed only 127 laps between them. Romain Grosjean recorded a 1m39.302s laps with Pastor Maldonado clocking 1m40.599s. This means that the Venezuelan was the only driver not to be under the 107 percent limit.
It is not really clear from all this what to expect in qualifying in Melbourne because fuel loads can make a huge difference to the lap times, but it is clear that in racing conditions, the Mercedes-powered teams are looking very good indeed.