Bahrain Test (1): Day 4

The end of the second test in Bahrain and the day which marked two thirds of pre-season completed, was a perfect snapshot of the week’s events. Mercedes were yet again impressive, as Nico Rosberg bettered even Lewis Hamilton’s best effort from yesterday and managed to squeeze in a race simulation run for good measure. Williams and Ferrari also had productive day’s, despite Kimi Raikkonen suffering a trip to the barriers in the final minutes of running. Meanwhile, Red Bull ended the second test with yet more disappointment and yet another set-back. Desperate times for the Red Bull juggernaut…

Check out Sky Sports F1’s image gallery depicting the day’s events.

Rosberg Rampant

Nico Rosberg picked up from where Hamilton left off today, as the German experienced an incident packed day. Rosberg’s 89 laps featured the fastest time of the week, topping even that of his teammate’s awe-inspiring benchmark from yesterday. Nico’s 1:33.283 was set on the medium compound tyres and while times are admittedly relative at this stage, Mercedes’ pace is certainly concerning for their rivals. Jenson Button acknowledged even after yesterday’s running, that the rear downforce called upon by the W05 eclipses the capabilities of his particular car at the current moment – a car which is widely regarded as the next best. As well as the short run performance analysis, Rosberg completed his second race simulation this winter, which accounted for 52 of his laps. Times were consistent and the run was completed free of issues, (despite a red flag for a stranded Lotus causing an unwanted disruption.) While two more technical issues meant that the W05 stopped twice on track, these were solved swiftly, in similar fashion to the other ‘niggling’ problems so far this week. While Mercedes will certainly not want to make a habit of grounding to a halt, they will surly not loose sleep over what appears to be small and isolated issues.
While the gap which Mercedes have demonstrated over their rivals this week is vast, this has been extrapolated by rivals running different programmes. This inconsistency between the teams is the reason why times have to be treated with a pinch of salt. That is not to understate the strength of the Mercedes one lap pace. Rosberg’s personal best attempt would have put him P3 on the grid for the 2013 Bahrain Grand Prix.

Ferrari’s Mixed Bag

Until around 4:50pm, Ferrari mechanics would be smiling broadly after a good days work. While they will still display smiles this evening, they were weakened when Kimi Raikkonen suffered a sizeable shunt in the closing moments of the test. It mirrored Kevin Magnussen’s incident which saw the Jerez test end under red flags. The accident tore the front wing off of the F14 T, as Kimi lost control on the exit kerb of turn four. Fortunately for Ferrari, the test was almost at an end, meaning that the time lost was minimal. What the accident did do was remind us of Kimi’s recent back operation, as journalists were quick to ask how he was feeling. “It has been okay since I had the operation and hopefully it stays like that,” Raikkonen said. “With these things you never know, it has been there for a long time and some days it is good and the next day it might not be. It is one of those things, but it has been much, much better.”
Until the accident, Ferrari had enjoyed a very impressive day, clocking a total of 82 laps to make up for the telemetry issues which derailed their progress yesterday. Good mileage from the team, who are currently third in the total pre-season laps chart behind Mercedes and McLaren.
However, fellow Ferrari powered teams, Sauber and Marussia, failed to complete their programmes today. Adrian Sutil only ventured out briefly and recorded just 7 laps, while Marussia’s dismal week continued as Jules Bianchi amassed just 5 laps, taking the teams pre-season total to just 59 laps. Marussia are relying upon a hefty upgrade package which arrived at the circuit this morning, to alter their fortunes.

Another Day Of Pain For Red Bull

We started the test talking about them and we are ending the test talking about them. The question on everyone’s lips at the moment is whether or not Red Bull can find a quick fix to their issues. While this week has been an improvement on Jerez, the 58 laps completed by Sebastian Vettel on Thursday proved to be the most productive session of the week. Daniel Ricciardo’s running was restricted to just 15 laps after another powertrain related issue left Red Bull scratching their heads. Just four more days remain of testing time prior to Melbourne and their 137 lap total for the entire pre-season is cause for concern. So much so, that the team have suggested the possibility of using a ‘B-specification’ car from the Spanish Grand Prix onwards.    

The fact is, we still have no information to suggest that the RB10 is a bad car – it could be the fastest machine on display at the moment, but the lack of mileage has crippled the team. It is now essential that the final four days yields more running.

Nasr Records 87

GP2 star Felipe Nasr certainly had a busy day. He was announced as Williams reserve driver overnight and enjoyed an action packed first day of running as a full programme allowed him to gain vital experience. His 87 lap haul provided crucial data for the team, who have enjoyed an excellent week. Magnificent mileage has seen them complete a race distance yesterday and start to evaluate performance. It is great to see Williams back on form and I hope that they can continue this into next week. 
However, this test has been all about two teams – both with opposite fortunes. Mercedes have thrown down the gauntlet, while Red Bull have been left in dire straights. It is still early, but the Red Bull juggernaut is reaching the tipping point.  
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