#F1 Testing: Bahrain Day 2 – Mercedes hits a bump while Renault teams continue to struggle

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Nico RosbergDay Two saw the reliability bug finally bite the seemingly invulnerable Mercedes platform not once but twice today; first for a sensor failure and subsequently for a drop in water pressure. Good news for supporters of Renault based teams as they can finally reassure themselves by pointing at the latest blots on the Mercedes copybook and repeating the phrase “See, we’re not the only ones” in a wishful and optimistic tone of voice, while gazing longingly at today’s lap totals in which both Red Bull and Toro Rosso managed a respectable 59 and 58 laps respectively, just about race distance.

Of course such thinking brings to mind Adam Savage’s immortal line “I reject your reality and substitute my own” as upon closer inspection Red Bull’s mileage was roughly half that of Williams, and though Mercedes did encounter some gremlins of their own today, they notably still finished 85 laps and were in the process of running RACE SIMULATIONS.

This really shows how far ahead the Mercedes and Ferrari powered cars are compared to their Renault brethren. Not to mention there were still reports of a “burning smell” (to be taken with a hefty helping of salt) early in the morning when the Red Bull was being wheeled back into the garage and the woeful day Lotus had, completing only 18 laps as they sorted through issues.  They were willing to admit other teams had addressed these in Jerez but maintained they missed it on purpose because nothing would have been gained at the first test.

Foolish consistency is indeed the hobgoblin of small minds, but even Lotus realise there’s no way to justify both of those statements so instead we were treated to lots of pictures on Twitter, which nice as they were, still failed to impress as much as the 360 degree video of Silverstone that Mercedes released yesterday.

Of course, the whole point of testing is not to be perfect but to force into daylight all those problems one would like to avoid in competition. Any attempt to look beyond this will only result in disappointment come the season proper. In that regard, the only real meaningful numbers are laps completed and kilometres run.

So what really happened today?

Kevin MagnussenTwo of the Mercedes powered teams each strapped on Pirelli Super Softs today, and turned the fastest times of the second day (and the test) at Bahrain. The Danish rookie Kevin Magnussen was able to get his McLaren round in 1:34.910 while Nico Hulkenberg managed to get his Force India Mercedes round in 1:36.445 (+1.535).

To put this into context, last year’s Bahrain Grand Prix Friday afternoon practice session fast times were in the low 1:34’s, while Q1 was high 1:32’s. It is still early in the season and we can expect these times to continue to fall as teams will continue to extensively tune, test and develop aero, chassis set-ups and power units during the eight days of testing.

Having said that, the new McLaren Racing Director, Boullier praised the young Dane saying he “<em>is very quick over one lap and has been consistent and he is settling well into the team. Clearly he is one we need to watch for the future.</em>” 

Further down the timesheet Ferrari were having another quiet but steady day in the hands of Alonso completing 97 laps. However there is a storm brewing over their engine. Both Mercedes and Renault have indicated they will be protesting due to the Italian team not having a protective cover over their turbo, for safety of course.

Caterham was flying the flag for Renault again, completing the most laps of any Renault powered car. Apart from getting 66 laps, Kobayashi also managed to go faster than reigning world champions by .5s.

Lotus only completed a total of 26 laps and 140km, but having skipped the first test their number will not be directly comparable to the rest, though it does give a good indication of how much running they will need to catch the others up. And catch up they have to do as mentioned before, their day was filled with issues.

Max Chilton in the Marussia brought up the rear as he could  only complete 14 laps before a fuel system problem surfaced around midday. The work to identify and fix the issue took up much of the afternoon but the team were able to resolve it and return Chilton to the track for ‘three valuable laps’ before the end of the session.

Testing is the tabula rasa upon which all F1 followers project their innermost desires and fears, the Rorscharch test which provides no right or wrong answers, but provokes endless discussion with no hard answers to come until the first laps are turned in anger come Melbourne.

The big caveat is of course no amount of testing will ever properly simulate that stress of racing and even the runners with the most kilometres will still face unforeseen issues as the full potential of these cars are finally unleashed in the middle of March on the world’s most dangerous continent, a development we can all (except maybe RB et al) agree can’t come soon enough.

Testing in Numbers:

Pos Driver Team Time Gap Laps
1 Kevin Magnussen McLaren Mercedes 1m34.910s 46
2 Nico Hulkenberg Force India Mercedes 1m36.445s +1.535s 59
3 Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1m36.516s +1.606s 97
4 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1m36.965s +2.055s 85
5 Valtteri Bottas Williams Mercedes 1m37.328s +2.418s 116
6 Kamui Kobayashi Caterham Renault 1m39.855s +4.945s 66
7 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull Renault 1m40.340s +5.430s 59
8 Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso Renault 1m40.609s +5.699s 58
9 Esteban Gutierrez Sauber Ferrari 1m40.717s +5.807s 55
10 Romain Grosjean Lotus Renault 1m41.670s +6.760s 18
11 Max Chilton Marussia Ferrari 1m42.511s +7.601s 17

Cumulated test laps after two days:

Constructor Manufacturer # of Laps % Difference
Ferrari Ferrari 161 100%
Mercedes Mercedes 159 99% -2
Sauber Ferrari 137 85% -24
Force India Mercedes 137 85% -24
Caterham Renault 134 83% -27
McLaren Mercedes 127 79% -34
Williams Mercedes 121 75% -40
Red Bull Renault 73 45% -88
Toro Rosso Renault 63 39% -98
Lotus Renault 26 16% -135
Marussia Ferrari 20 12% -141

Caterham is interesting… by far the leading Renault powered team (by nearly double the laps), and in high contrast to Marussia’s performance here as well.

Manufacturer # of Laps % % w/o skew
Mercedes 559 100% 100%
Ferrari 296 53% 71%
Renault 296 53% 53%

Since Ferrari supplies 3 teams versus the 4 teams each for Mercedes and Renault, the “% w/o skew” compensates for that difference.

Two more days left… Note that the official PU freeze is February 28th, which is the 2nd day of the next Bahrain test session.


15 responses to “#F1 Testing: Bahrain Day 2 – Mercedes hits a bump while Renault teams continue to struggle

    • Agreed, Nico strikes me as being at the very peak of his game right now and after last years showing it must surely give him the confidence that he is no-one’s number 2.
      I would say JB is defo the next man in line after Rosberg, but if K-Mag can keep his head and show the racecraft he showed in WSR then I think he would be worth a punt down the bookies.

      Has a rookie ever won the title? If not, this year may be the best chance of it happening since ’07 with Hamilton.

  1. Does anyone have a clue if the protest over the lack of ‘safety shielding’ on the Ferrari PU is going to hold any water?
    I did read they had made the turbo casing more robust than that of their competitors so as not to need any type of shield. Is the only way they can prove thier case by deliberately blowing a turbo on an installed PU to show nothing can get out past the engine cover? That would be a very expensive option I guess, but I can’t think of any other way.
    With regard to Caterham, the way they have designed their nose section with the high bulkhead and angled panel may help to negate some of the drag caused by their conservative cooling solution. As we all know the cars are designed to a philosophy which looks at the total package rather than individual elements working separately. It would bring a small smerk to my face if Caterham were not only most reliable Renault package but able to run quick too due to them factoring the cooling requirements in from inception, rather than having to make compromises on your original design. This can only make RedBull’s head aches bigger due to the fact if you alter an aero part on the car it has o knock-on effect on the airflow elsewhere, so it’s not so easy to just add cooling and expect anything further back to work quite how it should as more cooling must mean less air flow over the car from the inlet backwards and therefore less air to use for producing downforce from. I don’t expect it to hold RedBull back for long as their aero development is second to none but it must surely be a hard job to take an agresive but optimised package and make it more conservative without messing with airflow over the whole car.

    • Ted Kravits mentioned the stronger turbo casing during the Jerez test.

      As for testing to destruction – I’m sure Ferrari would happily do that if the FIA require it.

      I don’t know how much they cost – but it’s peanuts compared to the overall budget.

      And I’ll bet it’s a hell of a lot cheaper than the mandatory crash tests.

      I think Ted said it was about 4-5 Kg lighter than the turbo cover equivalent. And with weight being so important – that’s a huge advantage.

      One thing however – are Sauber & Marussia also using this stronger casing – or are they using a cover like the other teams ?

      They’re not mentioned in the protest. So are Ferrari keeping this development to themselves ?

      • Thinking about destructive tests more …

        Ferrari have probably carried them out anyway to satisfy themselves that their solution is within the regulations.

        And probably to find how light they can make these casings.

        These sort of tests are regularly done in the design and development of jet aero engines.

        • Good point, I guess you need to know what signs if any the engine will give when it’s not happy so you can stop a blow up.

          Have seen them fire frozen poultry at the jet engines and using small charges to blow out a couple of fan blades to see what effect it has, so it makes sense that the engines will have been through a full destructive test.

    • Hi landroni!

      I really appreciate your comment. Why are the “w/o skew” figures insufficient?

      I’m not sure what exactly you would like, but here are the avg laps per team per day for Bahrain so far:
      Mercedes = 70
      Ferrari = 49
      Renault = 37

      Note it is a different way to see the same data, which was:
      Mercedes = 100%
      Ferrari = 71%
      Renault = 53%

      The difference between Mercedes powered test laps at Bahrain versus Ferrari powered test laps is 49/70 = 70%, (71% is more accurate, 70% is due to rounding errors).

      Let me know if this is what you were looking for… feedback welcomed!

      • “Note it is a different way to see the same data”

        Absolutely! But average lap counts seem more intuitive to me to process and understand, as I can relate that to how many laps did individual teams. In addition a display of percentages is useful, but the primary data that I’m looking for here is average laps per engine manufacturer.

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