Day two in Bahrain was all about politics. With FOTA disbanding and the Strategy Working Group meeting a discussing a number of issues, including today’s homologation of the 2014 power units, the on track action was somewhat lost. However, the on track developments were intriguing, as Force India remained at the top of the pile, Red Bull began to show progress and the Ferrari powered outfits enjoyed a very positive day’s running, with Fernando Alonso topping the mileage charts.
Mercedes and McLaren Concerns
Pre-season testing has been a relatively pleasing affair for all of the Mercedes-powered teams, but Mercedes and McLaren in particular have enjoyed receiving praise and the suggestions that they are the two teams at the top of the pile. However, today was not such a trouble-free affair, as both ran into trouble early on. Lewis Hamilton suffered an excursion at turn three this morning, which he suggested was a case of “testing out the gravel trap.” While this incident cost the team just under an hour of running, the W05 ran into another technical gremlin later on in the afternoon, when with an hour remaining, a gearbox failure curtailed their progress. Mercedes are the undisputed fastest team, with their qualifying simulation recorded last week proving to be a remarkable show of strength. However, reliability has not been the strongest attribute for the W05. Obviously they have not suffered the well-documented issues seen by the likes of Red Bull and Lotus, but even on Mercedes’ race simulation recorded in the last test, Rosberg suffered a breakdown just two laps later. Far from ideal. Today’s issue is an addition to an ever growing list, yet Mercedes will not be too concerned yet – they are suffering the technical predicaments at the right time.
Meanwhile, the seemingly bullet-proof MP4-29 ran into its first highly documented problems today, as Jenson Button amassed just 52 laps, following the team’s first red flag stoppage of testing, (aside from Kevin Magnussen’s crash in the closing stages in Jerez. However, Button will not be overly concerned – He still has another day of testing remaining prior to Melbourne and following their impressive reliability and mileage so far, McLaren are still in excellent shape ahead of the curtain raiser.
The Emergence of a Force
It was a challenging first week in Bahrain for Force India, but this week has certainly got off to an excellent start, as Sergio Perez topped the timesheet once again today. The Mexican also posted an excellent 108 laps, as the team appear to be within the top tier of the field. Bob Fernley suggested the teams credentials last week, yet after their technical issues, it was a contended statement. The battle seems to be between Williams and Force India for the ‘best of the rest’ status, yet on the basis of the previous two days of running, its a battle which Force India are winning. Both are currently recording similar mileage and it will be interesting to see how this duel progresses.
Fernando is Mr.Mileage For Day Two
Ferrari-powered teams in general enjoyed a productive day, with Ferrari and Marussia impressing in particular. Fernando Alonso posted an unbeaten 122 laps in the F14 T which ran impeccably throughout the day. Ferrari seem to be gaining ground on the Mercedes runners, despite suffering major technical issues as recently as yesterday. Fernando has had the better fortunes this winter, with most of the predicaments coming on days where Kimi was in the car. The Ferrari engine is excellently designed, seemingly providing performance, (with good straight line speed) alongside reliability and is widely regarded as the coolest powertrain of the three.
Marussia were perhaps the best performers of the day, despite running in relative obscurity all day. Jules Bianchi amassed the team’s best total for pre-season so far, with 75 laps recorded. It was a highly productive day and also a fast one, as the team hit the heights of P6 on the timesheet, demonstrating the excellent upgrade package which the team have brought to this test. Caterham may still own superior mileage but Marussia still appear to be a view steps ahead.
Red Bull’s Glimmer of Hope
For Red Bull, today offered a glimmer of hope in what has been a horrible pre-season for the four time champions. Daniel Ricciardo managed to post 20 consecutive laps – the longest stint put in by the RB10 this winter. Moreover, the team’s 66 lap total featured an excellent 1:35.743 to place P3 on the timesheet and considering the lack of data gathered so far by the Milton Keynes based squad, it appears that the RB10 is a fast package. If the team can ensure reliability, the performance looks as though it could seamlessly follow.
However, Renault’s worries will not have been totally eased today, as both Lotus and Caterham suffered fires caused by overheating, which halted their progress and dramatically restricted their running. Pastor Maldonado in particular will now have to head to Melbourne having not even covered the majority of his pre-season programme. This Renault powertrain is now ‘locked in’ for the season, with only minor modifications permitted, meaning that it could be a long season for Lotus and Caterham. Red Bull on the other hand, appear to be using gaffer tape to good effect.