#F1 Testing: Bahrain Day 3 – Mercedes continues their onslaught

Brought to you by TheJudge13 contributors Vortex Motio and Mattp55

Although he’s fast on the track, off track is another matter for Jenson Button. He as finally pulled the trigger though and is officially engaged to his long time boo, Jessica Michibata. Congrats Jense, and good luck decorating that nursery when the time comes!

“It’s like déjà vu all over again”- Yogi Berra

Back to testing… Yesterday Lotus’ team boss Gerard Lopez said, “I can only hope we don’t end up with three championships based on Mercedes and Ferrari and Renault.

Caterham’s Kamui Kobayashi also sounded a little despondent saying that they, “…see the Mercedes cars are much quicker in the straights, 20-30km/h more… We have too aggressive power delivery, which is very difficult to handle under acceleration out of the corner… Slow corners are very difficult because we don’t know how much grip we can get.

We know that the Mercedes team in particular has focused on reliability first, then performance. What are the trends we are seeing so far at Bahrain after three days of testing?

HamiltonIn a move calculated to casually say “ Oh, by the way we can go fast, too” Mercedes delivered their first real ‘go-at-it’ fast lap snapped up the fastest lap for the week so far. It appears that instead of “dangling their balls in the pool”, Vettel’s rivals were actually dangling them underneath the design table for 2014 cars and instead of being lazy, they were just pointing their efforts in a different direction unbeknownst to Red Bull.

The latter were engaged in a development war, primarily with themselves, for the latter half of 2013 and if you listen carefully, you can still hear the sound of Ross Brawn chuckling quietly to himself in the paddock.

Although Mercedes did look fast today, it wasn’t all wine and roses as a hydraulic issue once again interrupted a race simulation for Hamilton, and limited him to just 67 laps today.  This ray of sunshine for their rivals was quickly extinguished as Lewis also mentioned in an interview that he felt the car suited his driving style and that he didn’t feel there was as much grip as last year.

Upon hearing this Nico Rosberg quietly wept into his cup of tea, his biggest advantage over Hamilton from last year has apparently evaporated with the advent of brake by wire (BBW).

Not to be outdone completely, and riding high on the success of his proposal, Button took the honours of going second fastest, albeit slower by almost .75 of a second. Never the less, the McLaren looks good and it appears the team from Woking has found their mojo again, the one they lost so badly last year,

MassaWilliams continued their impressive form taking third fastest lap today but continued to bang out the laps, more than anyone else – 115. They even rolled out their official pit stop crew to get down and dirty all afternoon practicing pit stops.

Red Bull had more problems. A “new” mechanical problem hit the team today, once again severely limiting their running and this is not helping Christian Horner and his team sleep any better tonight.  For the Red Bull conspiracy theory fans; at this rate there will be no need to actively sabotage Ricciardo as he will have barely had enough laps in the car to keep it in between the white lines let alone mount a serious challenge to the current World Champion.

For those who may be wondering why Sauber are languishing behind a bit, given that they have Ferrari engines, the answer may very well lie in their BBW. Reports from Autosport indicate that the C33 may be braking as much as 8o metres sooner than the Mercedes and Force India at the end of the Sakhir back straight and that they are struggling to get on top of the issue with frequent lock ups heading into corners.

Bhrain - ChiltonSpeaking of Ferrari engines, Marussia, who may very well eclipse Red Bull for the title of most miserable running of the week, today announced an “anomaly” with their Ferrari engine (it was pouring forth an impressive plume of smoke) which had them swapping it out and giving their drivers yet another day to wander about and take silly pictures.

Ferrari themselves ran into trouble with telemetry, leading to a major re-set and limiting Raikkonen to less than a race distance, but otherwise a solid day of work. Pat Fry said they knew that sooner or later they would have to deal with “some problems and that was what happened“. He continued saying these things happen with a new car; some things that seem difficult turn out to be easy and others that appear simple get more complicated.

The FIA also have some issues to address.  The explanation for the lengthy red flags about which we would all be complaining if we had access to a livestream have been down to only teams being allowed to touch the cars that stop on track due to ES (energy storage) concerns. The cars are supposed to carry a lighting system that indicates when it is safe to touch the car, but this being a test, either the systems are not operational or the FIA is being more concerned than usual about marshal safety.

The ES is supposed to switch off automatically after 2 seconds according to the regulations, but as with the Ferrari turbo shield we have to hope the FIA have done their homework properly. The image of watching medical personnel inadvertently electrocute themselves trying to extract drivers from cars is one they will no doubt wish to avoid.

Day 3 in numbers:

Let’s start with today’s lap quantities.

Pos Constructor Engine Manufacturer Laps
1 Williams Mercedes 115
2 McLaren Mercedes 103
3 Caterham Renault 98
4 Sauber Ferrari 96
5 Mercedes Mercedes 67
6 Force India Mercedes 57
7 Toro Rosso Renault 57
8 Ferrari Ferrari 44
9 Red Bull Renault 28
10 Lotus Renault 26
11 Marussia Ferrari 4

Note that four teams ran 96 or more laps. Sauber’s Ferrari power unit had a good workout, as did Caterham’s Renault unit.

If we look at the teams doing the fewest laps, it’s disconcerting to see Marussia, because they’ve run very few laps at this test so far. But also note which other two teams ran 28 or fewer laps… The reigning World Champions Red Bull, plus the ‘clever’ Lotus.

If we look at their pace fastest lap we see a similar pattern.

Pos Driver Team Time Gap Laps
1 Hamilton Mercedes 1m34.263s 67
2 Button McLaren-Mercedes 1m34.976s +0.713s 103
3 Massa Williams-Mercedes 1m37.066s +2.803s 60
4 Gutierrez Sauber-Ferrari 1m37.180s +2.917s 96
5 Perez Force India-Mercedes 1m37.367s +3.104s 57
6 Raikkonen Ferrari 1m37.476s +3.213s 44
7 Kvyat Toro Rosso-Renault 1m38.974s +4.711s 57
8 Maldonado Lotus-Renault 1m39.642s +5.379s 26
9 Ricciardo Red Bull-Renault 1m40.781s +6.518s 28
10 Ericsson Caterham-Renault 1m42.130s +7.867s 98
11 Chilton Marussia-Ferrari 1m46.672s +12.409s 4
12 Bottas Williams-Mercedes no time* 55

*pit stop practice

The top four fastest cars are the same cars that racked up the most laps today. The four slowest teams feature Red Bull and Lotus. Note, however the pace of the Renault teams… The fastest Renault today was the Toro Rosso. They did their fastest time on a set of new soft tires, but their time was 105% of the Mercedes, also on new soft tires.

As we all know so well, comparing times across teams during a proper team test, in general, is not meaningful due to the many unknown variables, such as fuel loads, engine maps, unknown vehicle weights, unknown driver and team goals at that particular lap, etc.. But if we step back, we do see a pattern that has emerged over the three days so far.

Here we see the fastest Renault powered team on each of the three days, and compare how far off they were from the fastest time turned on that same day:

 Test Day Constructor Engine Manufacturer Fast lap Driver Time diff Time %
1 Red Bull Renault 1m40.224 Vettel 3.344 103.45%
2 Caterham Renault 1m39.855 Kobayashi 4.945 105.21%
3 Toro Rosso Renault 1m38.974 Kvyat 4.711 105.00%

We have the Renault car’s fastest lap, its driver, and the differences to the overall fast time of the day.

MarcusOf course, given the reliability problems, we can safely say the Renault powered teams aren’t able to run hard. But Kobayashi’s comments indicate that this may be a good indicator of how far behind the Renault powered teams are in performance. If we look at Caterham’s lap totals (85% of the highest total), we know the Renault can be run reliably. So this indicator points to the performance deficit. Sleepless nights in Viry-Chatillon is an easy assumption…

Here are the reliability figures for Bahrain broken down by team.

Pos Constructor Engine Manufacturer Total BAH Laps % vs most diff of most
1 Williams Mercedes 236 100% 0
2 Sauber Ferrari 233 99% -3
3 McLaren Mercedes 230 97% -6
4 Mercedes Mercedes 226 96% -10
5 Ferrari Ferrari 205 87% -31
6 Caterham Renault 200 85% -36
7 Force India Mercedes 194 82% -42
8 Toro Rosso Renault 120 51% -116
9 Red Bull Renault 101 43% -135
10 Lotus Renault 52 22% -184
11 Marussia Ferrari 24 10% -212

…and by engine manufacturer:

Manufacturer  Total Laps % Avg laps /team /day
Mercedes 886 100% 74
Ferrari 462 70% 51
Renault 473 53% 39

The percentage of laps accounts for Ferrari powering 3 teams versus the 4 teams powered by Mercedes and Renault.

Tomorrow is the last days and perhaps we will see some of the more reliable teams turn up the power and put in a couple of blistering laps… we can hope.

36 responses to “#F1 Testing: Bahrain Day 3 – Mercedes continues their onslaught

    • Given that the combined ERS is supposed to give an additional 160 bhp for 33 sec/lap yes, IMO, quite likely.

      Two other questions that also arise are: 1 is partial ERS use possible till Renault mend their engine? 2 to what extent are certain engine maps (see the stoichiometry discussion in comments the other day) not usable for Renault engines at this point?

    • Yes, it appears to be related to the issue that the Judge reported from Jerez paddock…

      What’s interesting is that Renault and their teams have not yet compensated for that issue… Scarborough said Monday night that Jerez taught Renault that the power from the ERS was hitting too hard and too fast. Yesterday evening Kobayashi said that problem continues.

      We could have expected for Renault and their teams to have figured out how to smooth out that power delivery in the days since Jerez if the problem is just a simple controller programming issue.

      It’s very perplexing to try understand the exact nature of their problem, as there is not enough information out to know it.

  1. If it was me, I’d be married a long time ago with Jessica mitchibata. Definitely one of the prettiest driver wifes/girlfriends. Although the latest of alonso wasn’t bad at all 😜

    • Hi Will. Apparently Alonso got 336.4kph, 22.2kph faster than last year. Interesting that they are so much slower in laptimes, 1.9s off last year’s pole yet so fast on the straight. Maybe the tyres are slowing them down through the corners and they also struggle to get the power down (not just Renault then)

      Rosberg reckons they can get 360kph at Monza 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

      • I’ve only seen that one figure, also. Ironically, I was looking for that type of data last night, so was glad to see Tobias share that.

        Nico’s comment about Monza helps put in perspective Renault’s problems. At Bahrain these cars are not reaching their terminal velocity, they’re still accelerating through the speed trap.

        It means that the straights at Bahrain, (and most F1 tracks) are acceleration contests, not top speed (terminal velocity) contests.

        Given the power to weight ratio, not being able to get on the power as early as one’s competitors is a significant disadvantage.

        So we may be looking at two different reasons combined together for Renault’s lack of pace:
        1) Poor acceleration due to uneven torque causing loss of traction
        2) Less power – As the Judge’s source mentioned in Jerez, Renault will turn down the wick so the motors survive.

        That may be why the comparative performance is pretty ugly…

        • I found this link on F1 technical about topspeeds. http://goo.gl/0VY5vr

          Money paragraph (apologies for google translate funkiness)

          “Renault team lag 35 km / h after
          The top speed on the straights to tell yet another story. Compared to the Mercedes – and Ferrari team cars starve with Renault engines outright. Jean-Eric Vergne was with 308.5 km / h the fastest in the Renault camp. Sebastian Vettel and Kamui Kobayashi were missing 35 km / h on Alonso. The Red Bull driver came to 301.6 km / h Kobayashi turned in 301.5 km / h over the finish line. Renault allows its customers for security reasons only throttled speeds. Since Vettel, Vergne, Grosjean, Kobayashi and Co. so is still enough room for improvement.”

          There was also this
          “Alonso was well forward with its 336.4 km / h. Second fastest was Kevin Magnussen with 330.2 km / h, followed by Felipe Massa with 327.2 km / h One possible explanation: Alonso has taken a slipstream. But the Massa had last year during the race as well. So comparable conditions.”

          Mayhap we could get bruznic or verstappen to properly sort out the translation.

          • Great find!

            I’ll nominate Danilo to translate, as I admire his abilities.

            Besides the Renault speeds, it’s interesting thatt the McLaren was 2nd fastest through the trap… McLaren’s “mushroom” aero rear suspension has positives and negatives. The positive is that it should provide additional rear end downforce both in and out of corners. The negative was the extra drag. That negative should have shown up in that speed trap but that car was fast instead.

          • Yes, very fast indeed. Still, there is also a shot tweeted earlier of a timing screen by Lotus that is also very interesting: https://pbs.twimg.com/media/BhAMU1SCUAAlwbT.jpg

            I’m pretty sure it’s sector 1 times, with the best at the top (Hamilton’s).
            One of the great frustrations of all the testing is the utter paucity of data for us to pore over. Supposedly there will be some kind of refresh that might offer hope for the future but the official line right now is that the teams own the data. All TSL-Timing.com are putting out are fast lap and avg speed, which makes getting a handle on testing very difficult indeed. They claim the info is proprietary to the teams, because they are paying for the timing systems. I did find one stint from LH on F1 tech, but no link and no idea where the times came from. I have spent several nights looking and nowhere have I found the information I seek. Incredibly frustrating.

          • I just want to add that top speed isn’t important (at all) at how many circuits does one really need to go fastest on te main straight? Correct me if I’m wrong but red bull won the last 4 world championships and they where never ever the fastest in any of the grand prix as far as top speed goes. But most of the time vettel (yeah that’s right vettel, not webber 😂) did have the fastest lap or pole. Top speed is an beautiful illusion to me. It’s impressive for the World to see, but it doesn’t do more than that. It’s not like to old days when you could prove you’re fastest on the straight and than block the way until your on the next straight. The fia won’t really alow that kind of thing no more. Of course I’m not saying if one car is able to do 360 and the other only does 200. But in 2012 we also saw differences of 20 kph… and yet the still came out on top.

          • yes, topspeed qua topspeed will not win a race, but in comparison to last year and each other topspeed says a lot about the aero and team priorities. Consider last year when RB began running their smaller rear wing and suddenly they were near the top of the speed trap while still turning in fastest laps. Clearly they had found a new advancement that let them improve rear DF with a smaller wing hence less drag, most likely a floor/exhaust development or the clever Kers mapping overcharging capacitor (?) to improve corner exit traction.

            Of note this year is the fact that Merc have the fastest lap yet are not top three in the speed trap. Clearly they have the corner exit speed and ability to brake late compared to rivals, but what kind of aero are they running? Lewis has complained of reduced grip, but others are quickest on the long back straight. And as VM helpfully points out, much of the contest will be acceleration this year as torque is spread out over a higher band of RPM and clever gearing and tricksy shifting will be required for optimimum lap times.

      • Hi ‘caballero de la triste figura’! There’s more to add in that mixture, the lack of downforce brings a large amount of straight speed, I remember when Bruno Senna was running that HRT and he was the king of speed trap!

        • Yep, and also not being able to get the power down in the corners mean due to the lower downforce. So how long will it be before we see the teams find a way to recoup the lost downforce?

          And then, will they be faster on the straights and by how much will the lap times improve? If I recall right the gear ratios are fixed this year?

          • They may not be able to entirely, given the inability to run a Coanda exhaust and blow the floor. But they will probably look for time in different parts of the lap, and attempt to make up through mechanical grip, gearing, and clever ERS use what they lose in DF. Though we shall have to see what shows up the last 2 days of next weeks test.

  2. @ Vortex Motio and Mattpt55

    Please explain how –

    ” Lewis also mentioned in an interview that he felt the car suited his driving style and that he didn’t feel there was as much grip as last year. ”

    equates to –

    ” Upon hearing this Nico Rosberg quietly wept into his cup of tea, his biggest advantage over Hamilton from last year has apparently evaporated with the advent of brake by wire (BBW). ”

    Or are you – as they say in my country – just talking shite ?

    • TJ13 reported last year that one of Lewis biggest problems’ in adjusting to the Merc was braking feel, since he is a late braker it was hard for him to adjust to the car, frustrating him on more than one occasion. That quote indicates the issue has been resolved to his satisfaction, meaning the advantage Nico had re braking no longer exists. Also to get that kind of lap together while running lower DF is a good indication that the new regs will not be handicapping Lewis wrt to pole and quali.

      Though I like to imagine no teammate of Hamilton’s would be entirely happy to hear him say that the car feels great AND suits his driving style, in reality of course Nico and Lewis are friends so most likely Nico did not weep into his cup of tea, though he may have sworn softly under his breath. 😉

        • Manky, why are you getting so exercised over Mattpt55’s comment? Do you really believe that any team has pushed to the absolute limit on a lap? Do you really believe that Rosberg is a second quicker than Hamilton?!?!

          It’s all opinion; don’t get your nose out of joint whenever anyone else holds a different one to yours.

          • @ KRB

            there’s opinion and there’s bullshit.

            If the article and Matt’s response had said that Lewis was likely to be on competitive terms with Nico – I’d agree.

            But it didn’t …..

            However, saying that Nico would be ” crying ” or ” sworn softly under his breath ” – is bullshit.

            And my nose is perfectly in joint – your’s apparently is not 😛

            Oh and – ” Do you really believe that Rosberg is a second quicker than Hamilton?!?! ”

            Yes 😀

            Can’t you read ?

            It’s in black and white in the 10 fastest laps I posted …..

        • Hi Manky, I’d start by suggesting you reread the original story once the red mist clears, I didn’t say Nico’s *only* but rather his *biggest* advantage which is, or rather was, Lewis’ not being entirely comfortable in the car.

          Second, and I apologize if I didn’t make this clear in my original reply, the remark concerning Rosberg and his tea was meant to be a humorous statement of the fact that having Lewis comfortable in the car was not going to make the job of beating him any easier, which in fact Rosberg did not manage to achieve last year on points or qualifying.

          That said, no offense was intended to Rosberg. Though to be fair had you mentioned this as this source of your unhappiness, I would have addressed it in a more straight forward fashion.

          AS for the rest, I’ve been out all afternoon and it appears that any other points I would have made have been already made by others.

          Hope that clears it all up 🙂

      • I was glad to see this quote from Lewis in this report, btw.

        Anything in these reports that is well written, intelligent, etc., is very likely Mattpt55’s fine work, btw.

        There were two things about Lewis’ happiness in finding his car suits his style that may be significant going in to the first few races:

        1) As Matt points out in his comment here, Lewis was slightly off the pace during the first months due to different characteristics of the brakes in his Mercedes. If a team can tune their car to give their driver higher confidence during corner entry, the reward in lap times can be very high.

        It seems that some teams are able to get their brake by wire systems working more smoothly than others. Unfortunately, good track-side comments about how these cars look going in to corners have been rare to come by. But those few comments indicate that Mercedes (and more so McLaren) look smooth going in to corners, as opposed to Sauber and others struggling with lock-ups, etc. So a possible significant performance advantage there.

        2) The factor about suiting his driving style may be that Lewis is able to be fast while working at larger drift angles. With last year’s tires, that really hurt him, as he struggled to find ways to be fast while conserving his tires. This year’s tires are a bit harder, and the data that Lewis is seeing indicates that he is pretty fast on them.

        The open question about that factor is on race day, will more aggressive drift angles use up too much energy to be a net gain in lap time versus a competitor who is tidier and therefore able to use just a little more fuel (because he’s not leaving so much of his energy in his tires)?

        • BTW VM – it wasn’t a personal attack on either you or Matt – both of whom I respect and enjoy your writings.

          Which is the reason I took you ( collectively as the authors ) to task in putting what is baseless speculation and disparaging remarks about Nico.

          If anything I’d have thought that Nico would have been delighted at Lewis’s comments, as they both have a similar driving style.

          This is not the McLaren days of Lewis with Jenson and their divergent styles and car set ups.

          And at no time have I heard anyone reporting that Nico was ” afraid ” ( or similar analogies ) of Lewis – so these comments smack of ” fanboy ” bullshit. Not decent journalism.

          And todays timesheets show that Nico most certainly wasn’t intimidated by Lewis comments. Quite the reverse actually.

  3. Also this just in (not comedy this time) Twitter reporting that Lotus had gearbox problems and at best it will probably be mid-day before they resume running as parts are being flown in from Enstone.

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