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Majestic Mercedes & Red Bull on the rocks - A recap of the 2nd test

Bahrain circuit
Bahrain circuit
Bahrain circuit

Bahrain circuit

Three weeks and counting. That’s how long it is until the world’s grandest circus act clicks into gear once again. For some, the start of the new Formula One season can’t come quick enough. For others the thought fills them with dread.

Pre-season testing has certainly provided some major talking points so far. The second pre-season test in Bahrain has helped the lift the lid on how each team is shaping up ahead of the new campaign.

Red Bull are in trouble, Mercedes are flying, McLaren are impressing and we think Ferrari are good despite not having a clue. They are Ferrari after all.

Here is how each team faired in the second test in Bahrain:

Red Bull

Disastrous. Embarrassing. Confusing. Slow

Sebastian Vettel testing the Red Bull RB10 in Bahrain

Sebastian Vettel testing the Red Bull RB10 in Bahrain

Where does Red Bull go from here? There are just four days of testing left for Red Bull to sort their, so far, dreadful car out. The team is, without doubt, in a crisis and their hopes of a fifth straight championship are looking slim even before a throttle has been squeezed in anger.

In the first test in Jerez it was the Renault engine, or power unit as it is now called, that caused the problem. Of the three suppliers Renault’s is by some margin the most unreliable. However, all the problems that Red Bull suffered in Bahrain were unrelated to the ones they had in southern Spain and they have hardly cranked the RB10 up to full power. If they did they may find the car is quick, but they would also find more problems such is the trend of their testing so far. The longest stint they completed is a lacklustre 12 laps

In total they completed 116 laps which was a vast improvement on the first test so at least some improvement has been made. However, they are now so far behind their main rivals, Mercedes, Ferrari and McLaren, it is unlikely that they can bridge that gap in four short days.

But should we be surprised that Red Bull will start the year on the back foot? Formula One is undertaking its biggest ever rule change and Red Bull were the last team to switch their attention to building this year’s car last season. Plus, under the new regulations a complex Energy Recovery System (ERS) plays a significant part.

ERS converts waste heat energy into a power boost of 161 Break Horse Power every thirty seconds, making it crucial. Red Bull is three years behind their rivals, Mercedes and Ferrari, in developing this package. Despite how good your design team is, and Red Bulls is the best, it’s impossible to catch up three years of work in three months.

It has been suggested that they may ditch this car altogether and build a brand new one in time for the Spanish grands prix in May. That would be a risky strategy but it’s one they may feel they have to make if they are to have any chance of winning another world crown this year.

Their rating for the week: 1 star



Lewis Hamilton brakes hard with his Mercedes W05

Lewis Hamilton brakes hard with his Mercedes W05

While Adrian Newey and Red Bull are scratching their heads, they will be casting envious glances towards Mercedes. The Silver Arrows had a fantastic week that has proved their car is both fast and consistent. The drivers, Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton, set a series of eye-catching times that has left no one in doubt over who has the best car. Testing is renowned for giving indefinite answers but it is clear Mercedes are out in front.

While also producing headline times, Nico Rosberg became the first driver to complete a full race simulation at maximum power. He looked impressive as he showed consistent speed. The car seems comfortable to drive which will certainly suit Rosberg’s smooth style more than Lewis Hamilton’s ragged approach.

However, Mercedes aren’t without problems. Their reliability is suspect and they caused a number of red flags during the test but worryingly they haven’t been able to iron out these problems in the garage. It is their only blemish on an otherwise flawless week, and they will be focused on eliminating these problems next week.

Rating for the week: Four stars



2014 Bahrain wintertesting - F1-Fansite_00006

Magnussen 2014 Bahrain testing McLaren MP4-29

Only whisper it, but things are looking rather positive at McLaren. After an embarrassing 2013, which saw the team fail to even finish on the podium, heads have rolled and new personnel recruited. So far, it’s worked.

They may not have the speed of Mercedes but the team have found bullet proof reliability, which is a fine achievement. If the opening rounds of the season are to go as expected, then it could well be reliability that wins the race rather than outright speed. In which case, McLaren are looking like a good bet.

Drivers Jenson Button and rookie Kevin Magnussen completed 296 laps between them over the four days and were regularly near the top of the time sheets. Magnussen, who has impressed the team so far, was fastest on day two.

Speed has to be the main aim now as they will look to build upon their solid start, but McLaren will have podiums in their sights as Australia approaches.

Rating for the week: Four stars



Fernando Alonso Ferrar F14 T

Fernando Alonso Ferrar F14 T

The process of deciphering Ferrari’s pre-season results is near impossible. The sport’s most illustrious name is known for mastering their poker face during pre-season, but the signs are positive. So far they have yet to show any real speed but a full race simulation during the week was comparable with the Mercedes as they completed an impressive 286 laps in Bahrain.

Unlike the Mercedes however, the car is proving to be a real handful to drive. This was demonstrated by Kimi Räikkönen’s crash on the final day. Although not necessarily a bad thing, it makes it more sensitive to drive.

Despite these grievances, it is foolish to suggest that Ferrari won’t be competitive in Australia. Their Ferrari engine isn’t on the same level of the Mercedes but they have made a smooth and largely trouble free progress through testing so far. This week can be described as a success.

Rating for the week: Three stars.



Valtteri Bottas, Williams FW36 Mercedes

Valtteri Bottas, Williams FW36 Mercedes

Williams haven’t been competing for championships in over a decade but this test showed that has the potential to change. They completed the most laps of anyone in Bahrain and remain the only team not to cause a red flag. This water tight reliability, mixed with their steady pace, new designers and race winning driver Felipe Massa, have generated a wave of positivity that hasn’t been felt for a long time.

This confidence stems from 323 laps of running. Their decision to run Mercedes power units over Renault looks to be a stroke of genius and, although several seconds off the pace of the Mercedes works team, they are matching Ferrari and McLaren. The car looks easy to handle which will suit Massa, who struggles with anything outside of his comfort zone.

On current evidence, Williams are dark horses.

Rating for the week: Four stars



Pastor Maldonado, Lotus E22 Renault

Pastor Maldonado, Lotus E22 Renault

To rub further salt into the wounds of Red Bull, Lotus matched them for the number of laps completed in Bahrain, and they didn’t even attend the first test in Jerez. Lotus seems to have a better grip on the Renault engine then there illustrious rivals and enjoyed an “encouraging” debut in the desert.

There were plenty of stoppages and only 111 laps in four days but the initial signs are that their predicted struggles may be unfounded. The major difference between the Red Bull and Lotus is the cooling systems. While Red Bull designer Adrian Newey has, very stylishly, packed everything tightly together, Lotus has gone with a basic system that shouldn’t cause too many reliability issues.

Despite this, they will need to accelerate their testing plan in the final test this week. The speed of the car is still unknown and there is a lot of mileage to be added before a real assessment can be made. By not appearing in Jerez they have fallen a long way behind most of the front runners and have a lot of catching up to do in the final test.

Rating for the week: Three stars


Force India

Sergio Perez, Force India F1 VJM07.

Sergio Perez, Force India F1 VJM07.

213 Laps. Quickest on day one. Two young and hungry drivers. And, most importantly, a Mercedes engine. It’s all looking rather rosy for Force India. After a dismal end to last season they needed a quick turn around this time and there is some genuine hope after the first two tests that they could finally crack the top.

Like Red Bull, the team’s reliability has been their Achilles heel but that shouldn’t detract from the positive steps they have taken this winter.  Nico Hülkenberg even topped the timing sheet on day one. It was smooth progress for the rest of the week as new driver Sergio Pérez bedded in well. Both drivers are producing solid and consistent times and have been regularly setting competitive times in all sessions so far. Optimistic signs for Force India after last year’s stale end.

Rating for the week: Three stars



Adrian Sutil, Sauber C33

Adrian Sutil, Sauber C33

Sauber, like Williams, are the grids Mr.Consistent. However, speed is another issue.  Despite the team running the car in qualifying mode it still seems sluggish and slow. A steady 240 laps and three days of faultless running showed that their car may not be fast, but at least it works which is a silver lining, especially considering some of their rival’s struggles.

These issues can’t be expected to continue which mean that Sauber need to find some added pace from somewhere. Worryingly, the upgrades they brought to this test showed no improvement and with only one set of major updates expected before May there is a cause for concern.

But, at least the car works…Unlike some teams.

Rating for the week: Three stars


Toro Rosso

Jean-Eric Vergne, Toro Rosso STR9

Jean-Eric Vergne, Toro Rosso STR9

Like their big brother Red Bull, Toro Rosso are in deep trouble. Reliability has hampered them to just 193 laps so far and with an inexperienced line-up, that includes 19-year-old Daniel Kvyat, there were a lot of worried faces in Bahrain.

Like Red Bull, it is believed to be the design of the cooling system and the Renault engines that are causing the issues. The team have all but admitted in press releases that they are “in the mire” and are hoping to work closely with technical partners to solve the issues and try and get some running done in the last test. It’s a tough period for Red Bull and their partners. Toro Rosso won’t thank them for the position they find themselves in.

Rating for the week: One star



Kamui Kobayashi, Caterham CT05

Kamui Kobayashi, Caterham CT05

It is highly unusual that backmarkers Caterham receive positive press but this week has been one of their best since entering the sport. There is even enough evidence to suggest that they may not be grid fillers for the first time and could compete for points in the early rounds.

Despite having the ugliest car ever seen in the sport, Caterham seem to have taught Red Bull, Lotus and Toro Rosso a trick or two with their design. The three bigger teams all have egg on their faces after realising that lowly Caterham have found a reliable way to manage the Renault engine in a successful way, and they, so far, haven’t. Points are possible on the evidence of this week and they will be hoping to add speed at the final test.

Young Swedish driver Marcus Ericsson is the biggest benefactor from the cars reliability as he was able to complete enough laps to earn his super licence, which will allow him to compete in the sport. All in all, a great week for the, former, back markers

Rating for the week: Four stars



Max Chilton, Marussia F1 Team MR03

Max Chilton, Marussia F1 Team MR03

After eight days of testing F1 minnows Marussia have compiled a measly 55 laps. IT failures, engine blow ups and fuel irregularities have all prevented regular running. Marussia are the most undercooked of all the teams at present. They began flying new parts to Bahrain at the end of the test in a desperate measure to get something valuable from the four days. Speed can be forgotten about for now. The focus has to be on completing as many laps as possible.

Rating for the week: Zero stars

The final test starts on Thursday 27th February.

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