Bahrain Test (1): Day 1

Following a dismal Jerez test for the Renault powered teams, the French manufacturer hoped that their dreadful winter fortunes would take a turn for the better today. However, the hangover from the first test was evident, with problems still unsolved. After spending the first five hours in the garage, Red Bull failed to make up for lost time, with Sebastian Vettel stopping out on track after just 14 laps. With the Mercedes and Ferrari powered cars enjoying yet more success as pre-season nears its half-way mark, Red Bull have fallen further behind their competitors.

Check out Sky Sports F1’s image gallery from day one at Bahrain

Delays, Delays, Delays…

The first day of the second pre-season test stuttered into life this morning, as a lack of track marshals meant that the green light was delayed by 30 minutes. When proceedings did eventually commence, it was Lotus who hit the track first as Romain Grosjean hit the track in the E22 for its first public run. However, Lotus’ absence from Jerez has led to teething problems in Bahrain, as software and battery issues restricted their running to just 8 laps. 
Renault engineers must have been pacing up and down the paddock, especially when questions were beginning to be asked in regards to Red Bull’s absence. The Milton Keynes squad were reportedly fitting upgrade packages throughout the morning. When the RB10 eventually emerged at 1:30pm, running was sporadic until after 14 laps, he ground to a halt. However, Red Bull insist that the issues faced today are unrelated to those faced in Jerez, suggesting that progress has been made in the two weeks between. The teams Race Engineer Co-ordinator, Andy Damerum acknowledged; “It’s been a very long two weeks for everyone back at the factory and I have to say that while it might not appear so on the surface there has been a big improvement since Jerez.” Despite the two issues supposedly being unrelated, the frequency of issues is concerning – At least on the face of it, Mercedes have only experienced one technical issue since testing began. Another issue means more time lost for Red Bull and more ground gained by competitors. Damerum played down the issues suggesting, “That’s the way of testing. All these problems have to be ironed out and only reveal themselves as you progress. We’ll look at solving that issue now and we’re itching to get out on track again tomorrow.”
Meanwhile, Red Bull were not the only ones facing delays today. Toro Rosso proved that Renault have work to do as Kvyat stopped on track on his way to just five laps today. However, problems were not exclusive to the Renault powered machinery, as Williams suffered fuel system problems. The teams mechanics worked remarkably hard to ensure Felipe Massa squeezed an install lap in just before the chequered flag to add to their four laps recorded in the first 30 minutes.

Mercedes-Power Forward

Mercedes have once again proved to have a bullet-proof package today as a trouble free session allowed Lewis Hamilton to record 74 laps. After posting the third fastest time, Hamilton was a relaxed and contented figure in the paddock as the sun began to set in Bahrain. “It’s been really impressive just to see everything coming together and to be able to come to the test and get the mileage, especially when everyone’s shown just how difficult it is with these new regulations,” Hamilton told Sky Sports F1.
Meanwhile, the Mercedes-powered Force India was taken to the top of the timesheet by Nico Hulkenberg, who recorded a 1:36.880 – a second clear of the competition, but more crucially, faster than last season’s fastest race lap time set by Sebastian Vettel. Amid fears that the FIA intention of making the cars slower would be extrapolated by teams taking time to understand the regulations, it seems that this is not the case. Hulkenberg’s impressive tally of 78 laps is another case to demonstrate the strength of the Mercedes powertrain.

Ferrari Clock Major Mileage

While Mercedes powered cars clocked 238 laps today, Ferrari powertrain’s were equally impressive. Despite his third major excursion in three days of testing this year, Adrain Sutil took today’s accolade of Mr.Mileage, with a grand total of 82 laps. Sutil seemingly needs the additional track time as he appears to be struggling to come to terms with the balance and handling of the new C33. In addition, Fernando Alonso enjoyed a productive, if not trouble free day in the F14 T, clocking 64 laps. The early issue, which saw concerning levels of smoke emanating from the back of the Ferrari was down to a fuel mix issue.

The main positive for Ferrari and Mercedes is that they have gained yet more ground on Red Bull. Mercedes now have a grand total of 383 laps this pre-season and they lead the way in the mileage statistics. Meanwhile, Red Bull are languishing with 35 laps completed. See the issue…      

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