Abu Dhabi Test: Day 1

McLaren Honda Are Back; But Only Briefly

It is symbolic of the speed at which the Formula 1 world operates – no sooner has the chequered flag fallen on the 2014 season, team’s are already focussed on the circuit once again as they establish a winter programme. The headline appearance of the day was the long-awaited return of McLaren-Honda, as the MP4-29H made its first public appearance. While the data gathered from today was significantly limited by technicalities, it certainly was an intriguing storyline to mark the official launch of winter. 

The Partner of Dreams

McLaren-Honda is a name which is synonymous with success and after the illustrious outfit have faced such a barren spell of late, Honda’s arrival is a much needed lifeline. As such, all eyes were trained on the emergence of the MP4-29H, yet the excitement was restricted by decidedly modest mileage
Perhaps not the best result for Stoffel Vandoorne, the Belgian youngster who has seemingly enthused the McLaren hierarchy after proving to be the best rookie in the Pirelli-era of GP2 – an era which has been dominated by those with tonnes of experience. Speculation that Vandoorne is on McLaren’s radar for a 2015 drive has been growing significantly in recent days, but if the team were hoping to use today as a barometer of his potential, they would have ended proceedings disappointed. However, Vandoorne will also be making an appearance tomorrow – still plenty of time to impress the bosses. 
Despite a modest three laps being all the team have to show for their day’s work, McLaren maintain that they have learnt significant amounts about their shiny new powertrain and this is understandable. They spent much of the morning working on electrical installations, giving them plenty of time to observe the intricacies of their unit. It is important to remember that this is a first generation powertrain and this is the first day it has publicly hit the track. While the competition have an entire year’s worth of experience and understanding of some of the most complex technologies in the world, Honda are taking their first steps. As Vandoorne highlighted; “The purpose of this test is to enable the engineers to deepen their knowledge of the McLaren and Honda collaboration. This is their first time working together at the track, and – operationally – it’s all a bit different.”
Now that McLaren have a profile of the Honda powertrain, tomorrow will see more laps completed and some valuable mileage placed on what Ron Dennis has described as “a piece of jewellery.” Images from Abu Dhabi suggest that the turbo and air compressor is split in a similar manner to the Mercedes unit – hence, Honda have at least the formula for success. 

Seeing If Red Suits Him

He may not have been granted the opportunity to take to the track behind the wheel of the scarlet red machine, but Sebastian Vettel began to familiarise himself with his future teammates, spending the day in the Ferrari garage as Kimi Raikkonen pounded around the circuit.
Despite making an application, Red Bull refused to release Sebastian from his contract in time for this test and why would they – regardless of their past success and congenial relations, they are now direct competitors and as the current financial crisis shows, competitors will not give an inch of an advantage to their rivals. It is the intensity of competition which makes F1 so fascinating.

Palmer Makes An Appearance

Winning the GP2 Series has become somewhat of a poison chalice in recent years and it seems as though the 2014 winner will fall short of securing a full-time Formula 1 seat. However, Jolyon Palmer looks likely to secure the role of reserve driver at Force India and enjoyed a positive day behind the wheel. “Despite some reliability problems I got some laps in and felt really comfortable pushing hard in the car. Fingers crossed for the future!” the Brit exclaimed on Twitter this evening.
His day was interrupted by “small engine issues,” but a late run saw him climb to an impressive P4 on the timesheet. Obviously times in testing are about as decisive as McLaren’s appointments department right now and as such, this is a fairly crude assessment of Palmer’s day. Nonetheless, he did manage to keep his car clear of the barriers, which is more than can be said for young Max Verstappen, who plunged into the wall for the first time since his ill-fated demonstration run in Moscow. However, after several impressive FP1 performances across the course of the past months, we will let the young Dutchman off…

Final Run

Today’s Mr.Mileage Award Goes To…
Nico Rosberg
While a triumphant Lewis Hamilton was appearing on breakfast television in the UK, Nico Rosberg was back in action at Abu Dhabi. He certainly enjoyed a busy day, clocking 114 laps as he begins the campaign to topple Hamilton from his lofty pedestal.

Timesheet
1 Valtteri Bottas Williams 80 laps
2 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari 80 laps
3 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 114 laps
4 Jolyon Palmer Force India 36 laps
5 Carlos Sainz Red Bull 99 laps
6 Will Stevens Caterham 101 laps
7 Charles Pic Lotus 88 laps
8 Marcus Ericsson Sauber 95 laps
9 Max Verstappen Toro Rosso 55 laps
10 Stoffel Vandoorne McLaren 3 laps  

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