An in-depth look at pre-season testing

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.

87 thoughts on “An in-depth look at pre-season testing

  1. Reading the first race results from looking at testing is a science best left to those with a deeper knowledge of teabags than race cars. What testing does tell us is that it’s going to be a very interesting weekend 🙂

      1. Will admit to a certain amount of Schadenfreude when I saw the trouble Lotus are in, and the apparent pace of this years Williams. It looks like flouncing out of team Willy was a bad move for Pastor, and maybe a great stroke of luck for Nico Hulkenberg.

        1. Still don’t understand Lotus as his choice of destination.

          I’m assuming when the issues are sorted that the 2014 Lotus will be a reasonably competitive car as most of it was designed before half of the tech team left. 2015’s though could be a bit of a mess…

          On the + side his departure ‘fee’ will probably have funded all of the tech recruitment, Massa, Bottas and probably this year’s Mercedes engines too. If I was Williams I’d almost be tempted to have ‘Powered by Pastor’ on the engine cover.

          1. On the + side his departure ‘fee’ will probably have funded all of the tech recruitment, Massa, Bottas and probably this year’s Mercedes engines too. If I was Williams I’d almost be tempted to have ‘Powered by Pastor’ on the engine cover.
            >> In the recent weeks, Williams announced PetroBras, Banco Di Brazil as new partners. Not to forget Susie Wolff getting some FP sessions, means more discount on the Mercedes Engines (thank you Toto Wolff).

            And the pending Martini sponsorship announcement is the worst kept secret of this winter.

            Considering those factors, its not the alimony from Maldanado helped Williams with the recruitment. Felipe Massa, and Felipe Nasr seem to have created enough interest among the Brazilian sponsors.

            1. The pending Martini sponsorship could also very easily be another story added to the list of eagerly awaited sponsorship deals which didn’t happen.

            2. Pastor had a watertight contract for 2015, as did his backers, there would have been no room for Felipe had he stayed – I don’t think Massa would want to be alongside Maldonado. I think the attraction for Massa is being clear top dog (until Bottas start beating him)…

              Also, with Maldonado’s sponsors on the car there would be no deal with Martini – they went with Williams over others as they could use their livery on the car rather than being a footnote on another team’s cars.

              1. Looking forward to Martini colours again, I hope they go for white car and stripes as with Brabham, although the red Brabham-Alfa colour scheme looked good too….anyone care to bring back Gulf colours nice Mac Orange, or Yardley or, Black & Gold ( probably not correct to say who was the sponsor….), and maybe, just maybe, the real Scuderia colours please!!

                1. Funny isn’t it that despite years of dominance, I suspect no-one will remember the Red Bull livery a year or 2 after RB inevitably get bored / sell up and the livery departs too.

  2. Is it wrong to wonder if Melbourne fans should really be paying Formula1 ticket prices when it’s likely the Renault powered teams will only deliver perfunctory performances? (Nice question, I know)

    1. consider how much show will be there, at least 6 to 10 cars not making it to the finish, many triggering safety car, at least 30% of the race with SC, triggering further cooling problems for the cars, oh yes 😛

    2. Well, we have double-points to increase “value”, so why not half-price when the “value” is not there?

    3. ‘Perfunctory performances’? There’s no way Renault would accept the teams trying any less that their utmost to get a racing performance out of the engines… think of the reputational damage to the Renault brand if all the Renault-powered teams just threw in the towel for Melbourne and trolled along at the back hoping to finish in the points.

  3. Very good showing from Williams and they just might have the right combination to make this their year. Because of their recent performances it is too easy to forget how much depth and skill there is in the team. A fired up Williams together with a fired up Felipe Massa could be the big surprise this year. I doubt that Bottas has the experience to worry Felipe just yet. I would love to see a Williams/Massa WDC/WCC this season, they both deserve it IMHO. Is it a real possibility? I think so but it certainly wont be easy. But the dormant Williams knowhow/spirit combined with a rejuvenated Felipe and being pushed by Pat Symonds who also has someting to prove might just be the right mixture in a very unpredictable year. I can and will dream. 🙂

    1. Dreaming right there with you mate. I’d settle for ‘best of the rest’ with solid points from Bottas and some stand-outs from Massa. Just wish I could be more confident in writing off the Renault powertrain teams.

    2. I think Pat Symonds showed his good with Marussia. He surely has a role in Marussia performance, they outperformed Caterham last season, with seriously less budget… As well as he was there with Alonso at his 2 titles.He certainly has what it takes to make a team winning ways. I think restructuring at tech department is factor in it, too. Just can’t wait to kick off this season.

      1. Don’t forget he was with Benneton in the Schumacher days too. Pat and Williams know how to win and I think this could be their best chance yet before the manufacturers get up to speed. I am a Ferrari fan but I would still like to see Felipe and Williams take the title this season. I think a confident Massa is as good as any driver on the grid, remember he made Kimi look ordinary and would have walked the title in ’08 if it wasn’t for some very bad luck. He is owed a WDC in my book. 🙂

        1. One of the great “ifs” in racing. If only Renault hadn’t cheated in Singapore Massa would probably won the WDC in 2008.

          1. But also the pitstop and the engine failure contributed. Put them all together and you have a very unlucky mix.

      1. I think going from a number 2 driver to team leader will have such a positive effect on Felipe that Bottas will do well to keep up. Felipe has always been up against top drivers and that has maybe clouded peoples image of him but he’s one of the fastest drivers on the grid and his weaknesses are confidence based and not skill based IMHO. He only needs a little bit of luck to be added to his current position and he will be up there.

    3. its my dream too. A Williams revival is something i have wished for a very long time. the BMW saga seems such a long time ago but it left a lasting legacy

    4. Let me start by saying that I truly hope Williams have managed to build a competitive car with an engine advantage. However have we not seen Williams taking out fuel before in pre season testing over the last 5 years or so?

        1. Good point Martin, thanks. Getting excited about Massa and Bottas at each other in a Martini branded Williams, with a mirror full of Red!

  4. There has been talk that Ferrari is down 75 BHP compared to the Mercedes PU’s, yet at the same time they posted a top speed of 340km/h.

    Not sure how that works out?

    1. I read yesterday that people watching at the track said that the Ferrari was noticeably unstable in some of the corners. It’s quite possible that they don’t have the downforce and therefore have less drag. A bit like how the HRTs often used to be among the fastest cars in a straight line.

    2. “Not sure how that works out?”
      Less drag.
      Probably less downforce, hence probably slow in the corners.

  5. Williams certainly look the best of the rest and will be nipping at the heels of merc and mac. Ferrari look strong and have more up their sleeve.

    At the other end could this be the last we see of Tiony F if the car continues to perform as promised and he remains true to his word ?

    still, After all the moaning this could be the best season for many a year.

  6. Most of the moaning has centered around the look of the noses and the sound of the “power-trains”. But I think much of it has been exacerbated by the modern internet social networking factor.

    The noses we can get used to for one year and then the regs will make them look more conventional again. The “Power-trains” sound awesome if a little on the quiet side, but I’m sure some of that impression isn’t helped by the commentary sound feed being far stronger than the ambient sound feed on the video clips seen so far. If you turn the volume up on a ‘ambient sounds only’ clip then it sounds far more exciting. Furthermore the Audi in the WEC is whisper quiet but still damned cool all the same.

    I’ve actually been looking forward to this season for a few years now, ever since the new engine formula was announced. I know some people have scoffed the concept and compare the 1.6 v6 to their own road cars… but a hybrid Turbo 1.6 V6 in an F1 really is not the same thing at all as in your “hot hatch” or sports-car.

    For one thing these power-trains are still producing F1 type power levels and unless you have an über super car you still won’t even have a fraction of that power in your own car.

    This new formula has created both competition between the manufacturers and a far more relevant development direction for the motoring industry in general. The fuel efficiency advances will soon filter down in the cars we drive on the road and that’s a good thing right?

    On an end note, straight line speeds are up, grip levels are down (temporarily I’m sure), wheel-spin and sideways moments have increased and cars are locking up more. It sounds like these cars are a challenge to drive again which is surely a good for for the racing?

  7. Here’s my guess .. for which only time will tell . I’m gonna place odds that either A) Red Bull was seriously ‘ sandbagging ‘ and faking it .. or B ) and more likely that Red Bull and all the Renault teams were running their engines to ‘ critical mass ‘ in order to determine just how far they can push the new turbos once the season is up and running .

    Either way … Williams – All show .. but come race time .. no go / Mercedes – Showing off but did they learn anything and will they perform come race time ? [ I doubt it ] Force India – a lot of wishful thinking and pretense .. with nigh on zero funds and a raft of problems about to befall them / McLaren – spending far too much time and money on zero profit supercars for the road .. and not nearly enough on their F1 program … all while getting trounced [ Koenigsegg on the road cars program ] on all fronts in the process . Everyone else .. an also ran and veying for a top ten best

    Which is to say … I’ll prognosticate that … once again .. Red Bull and Vettel to dominate … despite double points travesties / pre-season testing and a ton of wishful thinking speculation . We’ll see 😉

    1. Sandbagging is running with a heavy fuel load or turning the engine down, it’s not sitting in the garage with the car in pieces, scratching your head.

    2. “Red Bull and Vettel to dominate … despite double points travesties / pre-season testing and a ton of wishful thinking speculation”

      “Wishful thinking speculation”? The hard facts are that Mercedes have proved much more reliable and have got thousands more testing miles under their belts and therefore significantly more data. That gives them on paper at least a huge advantage. Are you trying to tell me that RB were deliberatly maxing their cars to make them break down – thus leaving them with thousands less testing miles and data under their belts? In an effort to hoodwink the opposition? If so, pull the other one – it’s got bells on it.

      1. Exactly – whilst there is an element of pushing a car until something fails, there is a difference between doing that in a controlled manner and setting the car on fire in a manner that risks causing considerable and uncontrollable damage.
        There is no logic for sandbagging in the way that is described above – as Brent says, there are far easier methods for disguising your pace (with high fuel loads, conservative engine maps, using scrubbed tyres etc) than intentionally faking severe engine and electrical problems.

  8. I can’t remember being this excited about the new F1 season for many a year. I love all the uncertainty and the potential for a shake up of the existing order!
    In fact I’m so excited that this year I’ve decided to subscribe to your magazine Joe, I really come here and devour the news far too often that I can’t excuse not subscribing any more!
    Can’t wait for Melbourne!

    1. Sandbagging with a totally new power/transmission line is in nobody’s interest, it tells teams nothing. At some point, usually on the last day, teams have to run flat out in order to see where they stand, and the Renault powered teams are standing at the back of the queue…

  9. I’m doubting Williams can keep up their early promise but would be glad indeed if that were the case. In any case the season proper will begin at the circuit de Catalunya and not Melbourne.

    I’m looking forward to Joe’s assessment after the first four races are done.

    My guess is that Merc, Ferrari, and RB will develop fastest through these and once again be the leading contenders by the time Spain comes along.

    Apparently, RB are staying on in Bahrain to do a 100k private ‘filming’ event/test/promo ….

    1. i gather the McLaren wasn’t upgraded much, if at all, from tests 2 to 3. what i do know is that the track conditions were worse for test 3. the wind was up and blustery which apart from affecting cars as they drive around also blew a lot of sand onto the track. those factors alone would explain the drop in performance

  10. I’m putting my money on the safety car to be the only one to go the distance in Melbourne…

    1. They all sound like they have traction control running. This may well be intentional as the mixing of electrical power with the engine affects the torque demand on the engine, hence backs the throttle off and on again rapidly.

      It used to be thought that smooth throttle control was the way to the fastest lap, but I remember seeing a graph of Schumacher’s throttle action against Rubens’, Schumi’s was just on and off sometimes very rapidly indeed, basically giving himself traction control manually as he came out of corners, while Rubens was what one might expect today from Jenson. Schumi’s lap was considerably quicker in ostensibly the same car.

    2. I like them – it’s a nice V6 noise plus ERS/Turbo randomness. I miss the V10 era but the V8’s were loud and boring. Bring it on, I say.

      1. Apparently not just me then, I like the bassy gutteral snarl, they sound great while downchanging as well. The sound is different to before, but in my opinion not worse. I think a lot of the doomsayers with their talk of hairdriers and washing machines hadn’t actually heard the cars on track.

    3. No, I like them too. They are raw and purposeful. Nothing like the sound of a machine doing what it was designed to do. The spool-down noises coming from the Ferrari are fantastic!

    4. No, my friend, it is not. I love the new sound of the engines. And the turbo sounds downright impressive.

  11. I`m going to Melbourne this year as I will be in town. I expect a repeat of 1998 except the winning cars will still be silver, but not have McLaren badges on them…and I`m still really looking forward to it! The last F1 turbo`s I heard at the track was 1985 in Adelaide and some of those were downright painful to listen to! (from memory, and I was only a boy, the Renaults felt like someone drilling into your skull).. these new motors sound pretty good.

  12. I think the engines sound better than the V8s… but the V10s? No, they were something special.

  13. Does anyone else still use miles over kilometres? I thought (and prefer that) F1 is all metric.

      1. Yes, I noticed that you do, Joe. I wondered if anyone else does. My feeling is that you could be the only one! F1 is a metric sport, unlike Nascar or Indycar which have races named after the number of miles to be completed.

            1. That way leads to utter madness. You’ll be talking about lb.ft of torque next and I’ll have to stop you before you start measuring all areas in “Wales” and volumes in “Wembleys”.

              As a handy guide, a sheet of A4 is pretty close to 3 picoWales and a pint is about 0.5 nanoWembleys (based on stadium bowl size, using the full volume of the building would just be silly).

  14. Is the 100kgs of fuel for the race and qualifying or just for the race.

    Interesting idea (for the future) would be to make it for quali as well as race so to give an advantage to people knocked out in first round of quali as they could use more fuel during race.

    1. It is 100kg from the moment the race starts through to the flag (so most drivers will leave the pit lane with a little more than 100kg, because the fuel used when leaving the pit lane to get to the grid and the fuel used during the formation lap is not included within the 100kg limit).

  15. One writer has picked Red Bull to finish 9th… place behind Toro Rosso!

    While I think they are in trouble sorting out their systems and cooling issues, I expect them to be in the hunt by mid season at the latest. And with the double points fiasco, who knows, Seb just may bag his 5th.

    Gotta hope Williams step it up, finally. Been saying that forever it seems, and every year suffer disappointment.

  16. I think we have to be warey of writing any team off at all. Red Bull may have had mare of a pre season but they’re still joe of the best teams in the business who have Adrian and one of the strongest development teams seen in recent years. They have the capacity to bounce back. Whilst their run of championships may well finally come to an end this year, under estimate them at your peril.

    Williams are definitely a dark horse for some excellent results, the whole package is looking extremely encouraging. Pat Symonds will be co-ordinatimg the team develop the car effectively and it’s proving to be a far better base than the FW35 did, so whilst the likes of Red Bull, Mercedes, Ferrari and McLaren may eventually outstrip them technically, Williams still have some very strong and promising ingredients. If the FW36 is as good as it has looked in testing then Massa is a driver strong enough to bring home the results. It shouldn’t be forgotten that he put together a convincing championship challenge in 2008 and many of his races alongside Alonso were compromised in interests of the Ferrari strategy. At any rate he is less likely to waste a competitive car in the way that Maldonaldo generally did in 2012.

  17. The Williams does look quite good, although I think it’s correct to say that Massa’s fastest time was on the supersoft tyre and Hamilton’s almost the same time was on the soft. Still, from the look of it Williams could be ahead of Ferrari, Force India and possibly McLaren at this stage (McLaren’s drop in pace at the third test is puzzling).

    As the Torro Rosso is looking slightly faster and certainly more reliable than the Red Bull, would it be against the rules for Vettel to race the STR in the opening races if the teams decided that was the best way for him to at least finish a race? ‘To finish in the points, first you must finish.’

    1. Hamilton’s time was actually set on the supersofts like Massa, although I don’t know how many laps he’d already completed on them, presumably very few if it were a qualifying sim. However it’s true that Rosberg’s laptime from earlier in the week which was only very narrowly slower than Massa’s was set on the soft compound.

      I think overall the Mercedes has the edge on pace, although last day ICE expiration aside the Williams seems to have the strongest reliability.

      If the trends which emerged in testing run true to Melbourne then the four Mercedes powerd teams are probably favourite to monlopise the higher points paying positions. There’s a very real prospect that either a Wiiliams or Force India could push the Mercedes hard enough to break one and take a podium, we shouldn’t rule out McLaren either.

      Ferrari will probably be in damage limitation mode because the Mercedes power-train appears to be stronger than the Ferrari.

      I imagine super aerodynamics will ensure that the Red Bull will at some point in the weekend show some rapid pace, but it’s unlikely they’ll fully solve their other issues to allow them to run at ten tenths or even finish.

    2. Mercedes confirmed Monday afternoon that Hamiltons time was set on the Supersoft tyre, Pirelli made a mistake.

    1. As long as they do finish, in a race with high attrition and both Marussias retired, they could still nick 10th in the CWC. It’s the madness of the backmarker medals.

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