#F1 Testing: Bahrain Day 4 – Mercedes continues to impress, Red Bull still struggling

Brought to you by TheJudge13 contributors Vortex Motio and Mattp55

Now is the winter of our discontent” – William Shakespeare, Richard III

Bahrain 2nd test 2014 - RosbergThe final day of the second last pre-season test draw to a close today and as yesterday, it was led by the Mercedes powered cars and the Mercedes works team with Nico Rosberg obliterating the field and becoming the first driver to dip under the 1m33 mark, within a second of last year’s pole time. Jenson Button continued McLaren’s strong form ending the day second fastest but more than 1.6s back. New Ferrari driver Raikkonen ended the day third fastest, 0.2 seconds of Fernando Alonso’s best time but significantly 3.4s behind Rosberg. Williams’ new test driver Felipe Nasr managed 87 laps and ended his day 4th fastest, not bad for a rookie!

There were chinks in the Mercedes armour as two reliability issues arose today, ominously described by the team as not insurmountable.

It is still early and we can expect a lot of changes to come before the first race but bearing in mind the engines are homologated on the 28th February it looks like the Mercedes teams are the ones to beat. Having said that, Ferrari have yet to show their true qualifying hand so the Prancing Horse may be more competitive than they are giving out to be.

Renault powered team… when TJ13 reported from Jerez Renault are facing serious problems many thought The Judge have been spending too many late nights with a bottle (or 6) of Rioja. The truth is the only non Renault powered cars in the bottom of the timesheets are Marussia and Sauber, both powered by Ferrari, and both having their fair share of reliability problems.

This highlights how difficult it is to build a car without working closely with the manufacturer of the powertrain. The works Mercedes and Ferrari teams have had very few problems but it must be said that it appears the Mercedes powered teams, although not works, have been able to utilise all the expertise that came with their partnership with Mercedes and are capitalising on it.

Renault, not much to add. All their teams are struggling and while Caterham is probably the most reliable Renault team it is safe to assume we will not see many French powered teams at the sharp end of the grid for a while… quite a while.

Bahrain 2nd test 2014 - MadonadoHope springs eternal, as Lotus finally managed some semblance of a normal lap count, 59 laps, while still managing to thoroughly interrupt Rosberg’s race simulation by breaking down right in the middle of it. A fine two-fer which will no doubt explain Maldonado’s joining of the Flat Earth Society as he proclaimed yesterday that as far as he was concerned Renault might very well have the best engine on the grid, “I think at some point they will be competitive or even better than Mercedes. I think they have good power in the engine – it is just a case of making it work all together. I am not very worried about the situation.

Perhaps someone should explain to him that the Renault engines are currently running 30-35 kph less on the straights than the Mercedes’, and that is not a good thing with the engine freeze looming in the near distance and no immediate fix in sight.

And just to prove the contrast of opinion, the Toro Rosso in the hands of Jean-Eric Vergne only managed 19 laps before a serious engine problem put them out of action.

Speaking to reporters Vergne said they had “a major problem today” on the engine side but it is nothing new. He continues saying there is no point in talking negatively about it and although he says he is positive and he knows it will take time to resolve the issues. That Toro Rosso have built a good car is clear according to Vergne, but the lawnmower engine in the back, it’s holding back the STR9’s potential.

Misery loves company and Red Bull today had plenty of that with Marussia, Force India, Sauber (and Toro Rosso) all failing to crack the 20 lap barrier. Caterham did little better with 21 laps total between Ericsson and Kamui.

Boxes of parts were seen being delivered to Red Bull mid-day and though there were plenty of sounds of construction from the garage, not much action on track resulted from all the frantic work. Any port in a storm, and indeed there are now rumours of a B spec car circulating on the internet, such is the misery of Red Bull fans at the moment, though little evidence with which to back them up. Also rumoured (but without any evidence) is that Vettel’s name for his ride this year is thoroughly unprintable in respectable publications 😉

Still, the tragedy of the week might have to go to plucky Marussia who, having snuck one over on Caterham last season and then switched to Ferrari power at just the right moment, have taken all their momentum and completely blown it. Today compounded their disaster as they officially gave up post engine change on testing and instead decided to start shaking down parts for next week’s test.

Just as they emerged for the last ten minutes of testing, the circuit was red flagged and ultimately ended without them being able to test anything. In poker, there is such a thing as a bad beat, a hand you would always expect to win with, that doesn’t. Often, at the end of the night, players will vote and a consolation prize will be awarded to the person who suffered the worst indignity. If anyone truly deserves it for the week they’ve had, it’s Marussia no doubt.

The reason for the red flag, of course was courtesy of Ferrari, who had a fairly uneventful day for the most part, until 10 minutes to go in the session when Kimi Raikkonen decided to take Lewis Hamilton’s quote quite literally and spun his F14T hard into the Armco on the exit of turn 4 thus properly breaking the car and ending the session early.

And this is how the day ended.

Pos Driver Team Time Gap Laps
1 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1m33.283s 89
2 Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes 1m34.957s +1.674s 66
3 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari 1m36.718s +3.435s 82
4 Felipe Nasr Williams-Mercedes 1m37.569s +4.286s 87
5 Pastor Maldonado Lotus-Renault 1m38.707s +5.424s 59
6 Sergio Perez Force India-Mercedes 1m39.258s +5.975s 19
7 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull-Renault 1m39.837s +6.554s 15
8 Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso-Renault 1m40.472s +7.189s 19
9 Kamui Kobayashi Caterham-Renault 1m43.027s +9.744s 17
10 Marcus Ericsson Caterham-Renault 1m45.094s +11.811s 4
11 Jules Bianchi Marussia-Ferrari No Time 5
12 Adrian Sutil Sauber-Ferrari No Time 5

In summary, this is what we learned during the 1st test in Bahrain.

We have to remember these days. I love you guys. We have an incredible team spirit. I’m so proud of you. I love you.” Sebastian Vettel’s radio to Red Bull on cool down lap of 2013 U.S. GP.

The concept of happiness in macro economics is attractive, but is unfortunately hard to measure. In Formula 1, measuring happiness is easier. If you’re winning, you’re happy.

Measuring happiness during a testing session is difficult, because it’s not a race, nor a qualifying session, it’s only a test session.vBut we know that each constructor, driver, and power unit manufacturer will have some overall simple goals. The teams and manufacturers want reliability, then speed. Drivers want seat time (getting acquainted time), then speed.

Today we review some indicators of happiness for each manufacturer, constructor, and driver after four fun filled days of testing in Bahrain.

Yesterday, we noted that Renault supplies one of the more reliable teams of this test, Caterham. So we focused on the performance deficit instead by highlighting the difference between the fastest Renault powered team of each day versus the fastest car of that day.

After four days, we see this:

Test Day Constructor Manufacturer – Fast Driver Time Diff %
1 Red Bull 1m40.224 Vettel 3.344 103.45%
2 Caterham 1m39.855 Kobayashi 4.945 105.21%
3 Toro Rosso 1m38.974 Kvyat 4.711 105.00%
4 Lotus 1m38.707 Maldonado 5.424 105.81%

We can call this a sadness index, and it measures in the 4% to 5% range consistently. In F1 terms, it’s a very high level of sadness. Even Ricciardo’s 100 kW smile has seemed… strained.

For power unit reliability, today we have added a more accurate measurement that partially eliminates the skew from an outlier team:

Engine Manufacturer Total Laps % of Mercedes Avg laps / team / day Median laps / team / day
Mercedes 1147 100% 72 76
Ferrari 556 65% 46 60
Renault 587 51% 37 32

Note the last column, “Median laps per team, per day”. Median identifies the middle number and minimizes the outlier which skew an average. That is certainly the case here, as the Median reduces the skews of :

  • Force India being less reliable than their Mercedes brethern
  • Caterham being far more reliable than their Renault brethern
  • And Marussia having no reliability whatsoever

Speaking of happiness and Marussia, let us review team reliability by counting 4 days of laps:

Pos  Constructor Engine Manufacturer Total BAH laps % vs Williams Diff in laps
1 Williams Mercedes 323 100% 0
2 Mercedes Mercedes 315 98% -8
3 McLaren Mercedes 296 92% -27
4 Ferrari Ferrari 287 89% -36
5 Sauber Ferrari 240 74% -83
6 Caterham Renault 221 68% -102
7 Force India Mercedes 213 66% -110
8 Toro Rosso Renault 139 43% -184
9 Red Bull Renault 116 36% -207
10 Lotus Renault 111 34% -212
11 Marussia Ferrari 29 9% -294

The top 4 teams, Williams, Mercedes, McLaren, and Ferrari had a median of 306 laps, or 76 laps per day…. Happiness!That is a lot of numbers, so let us group these to make it simpler:

The middle 3 teams, Sauber, Caterham, and Force India had a median of 221 total laps, or 55 laps per day. Not bad…

If we let Marussia sit in the metaphorical garage for a moment, the remaining 3 at the bottom feature Renault’s top two teams, along with Toro Rosso. They ran a median of 116 total laps for the test, or 29 laps per day. Sadness!

Marussia… the team that ran an underpowered Cosworth and beat a Renault team in championship last year, has some high challenges at the moment.

Moving on to the driver’s perspective. Looking at these four days, a driver will want two things:

  1. Seat time to acquainted with the new machine
  2. Speed

Because only one other driver is driving the same car, one way to measure driver happiness is to see if there is much difference in seat time between mates. It’s early days, as next week this will be more important. But if we look at a spread of 40 points, (or 40%) in number of laps between team mates, there are only three teams in that situation:

  • Williams = Bottas ran 171 laps vs Massa’s 65 laps (44% difference)
  • Lotus = Maldonado ran 85 laps vs Grosjean’s 26 laps (54% difference)
  • Marussia = 21 laps vs 8 laps is too few to be relevant

At the end of the second week of testing it’s obvious to all that Mercedes and McLaren, followed by Ferrari and Williams are far ahead of the rest when it comes to their testing programs. It is also clear that Mercedes looks the frontrunner at the moment, though no doubt there is much to be revealed next week as the teams begin to get anxious to properly stress the cars and engines in order to be as ready for Melbourne as possible.

But Mercedes have ended the last 2 days with reliability problems, and we have likely not seen the best from Ferrari or Mclaren just yet, as well as having no idea as to what any of the Renault powered teams might be capable of should the engines finally come good. Roll on next week!

24 responses to “#F1 Testing: Bahrain Day 4 – Mercedes continues to impress, Red Bull still struggling

  1. Just want to say that I’ve enjoyed these write ups on testing and really appreciate the effort that people are making individually and with others to step up and continue this site’s excellent coverage and analysis of the daily happenings in F1, while also presenting snippets of F1 history and other features.

    I genuinely feel very lucky to have been able to come here almost every day for the past year and find such consistently good content, which I eventually learned was produced by volunteers who – like me – are great fans of F1!

    Truly a great moment…

  2. Thanks so much for your informative, analytic and not least literary analysis of testing! Counting down the days until I will get to see and hear the cars in Melbourne:)

  3. I love the Shakespeare quote at the beginning… ““Now is the winter of our discontent”.

    Everything that is intelligent, plus well written, literate, thoughtful, and funny is most likely Mattp55’s handiwork. I’m a fan. He’s had me laughing out loud. The first day was some particularly lovely brilliance, I thought.

    • And everything worth actually reading is courtesy of VM, of course. Thanks for the kind words and I must say from the moment you showed up in the comments I was thoroughly impressed with the depth of your knowledge and your trenchant analysis. It’s been an utterly unexpected delight to have my words paired with yours, and I can’t wait for next week’s testing to begin. 🙂

  4. Cracking write up lads, you’ve improved as you’ve covered each day of each test and I hope you’re proud of the quality of your articles – you should be 🙂

  5. I’m still perplexed how a driver that –

    ” quietly wept into his cup of tea … ” – according to yesterday’s report


    ” obliterate the field and become the first driver to dip under the 1m33 mark ” – today ?

    Hmmm 😕

    • I can’t believe how much (digital) ink has been generated from what was clearly a light-hearted throwaway comment. It’s embarrassing.

    • Quoted from Autosport+:
      “[..] there is no doubt whatsoever that Renault is still battling hard to get its energy recovery systems to work [..]

      Lotus is the only Renault-powered team that does not run Red Bull gearbox technology. Obviously, Red Bull runs its own box, which it also sells to Caterham. And while Toro Rosso designs and manufacturers its own gearbox casing, it uses Red Bull’s internals.

      Over the winter, there were some interesting rumours doing the rounds about the Red Bull gearbox not being able to deal with the savage torque delivery of the unrefined Renault engine. While Lotus did have its own gearbox problem on Friday in Bahrain, there was no repeat today.

      So what does all of this tell us? The Renault is currently the weakest engine and there is a hell of a lot left to do. There isn’t even the scope for Renault’s teams to attempt practice starts, so even starting the Australian GP next month might prove a battle, let alone finishing.”

      This pretty much confirms what TJ13 has predicted all along. (With hindsight, the 20-week prediction doesn’t sound “idiotic” at all.) Even if the Renault PU somehow manages to pull a full race distance, it’s way behind in terms of performance and overall polish of their system.

      • From an interview with Rob White, Renault deputy managing director, on F1technical.net

        “We are some weeks behind where we wanted to be, and we acknowledge it will take time to unlock the full performance of the PU. We are working hard to get there and we are determined to succeed. We remain confident in the PU and its sub systems, we are just not at the level of operation and performance we want to be. The immaturity of the PU combined with the time lost to incidents, means the chassis work to prepare for the season is also behind schedule. From this point on we must pursue and accelerate an upward curve.”

        It’s not just the PU, but also chassis aero and everything else that has fallen behind for all the Renault teams. Caterham have had the closest to a normal test, but even still they are running 30+kph down on top speed, leaving more to the imagination than one would like.

  6. Great write up guys! Any comments/analysis on the current handling of the cars? Glen Freeman mentioned that the Ferrari seems like a handful in the corners. Interested to see how the other cars compare.

    • Video footage is hard to come by, but in yesterday’s Ask Crofty show he was interviewing Paul Hembery outside of T2 and they filmed Kimi having a tank slapper approaching the apex of turn 2 while on a set of super softs. So, yes, I think Glenn and the others are correct.

      Next week will be more indicative of Melbourne than what we saw this week.

      • Here’s a little amusee bouche.


        There’s also some footage on the Sky daily reports (Day 2 has the most) but it’s lot’s of talking and a disturbing amount of pitlane footage relative to very brief running on track.

        From what I’ve seen Ferrari looks squirrelly on corner exits and the Merc seems to have more DF/mechanical grip through corners as they seem to be more stable, but there’s not really enough footage to have a great idea, just to get a general impression. What’s really interesting is the different sounds of the engines through the corner, can’t wait to see a good audio analysis.

        • the merc sounds like a motogp bike,its interesting that all 3 engine manufacturers seem to have gone completely different ways.

          the ferrari sounds great.as with the 1980’s turbos its going to be a race to make usable power,its not how much u got its how much u can use.

        • Very cool! Thanks for digging that video up. Based on the footage it does seem like the Merc is smoother than the Ferrari. (But the Ferrari is better sounding for sure.)

  7. I can only marvel at the quality of these daily analyses – so fascinating but to do it to such a sharp deadline is incredible. I know the number of hours that go into such articles but I don’t have to burn the midnight oil as you guys are obviously doing.
    Apart from the Judge’s occasional, philosophical musings this is currently my best reason to check this site.
    Dare we look forward to something similar after the races as well…?
    I doff my cap to MattMotio – or should that be Vortex55…?

  8. One aspect that’s coming across as teams gain confidence is that these things sound bloody superb when they get honking.

  9. Could it be that we are seeing two different race strategy’s here?
    Mercedes is looking for 1 lap speed, to secure pole position, in the race they do the same pace as the rest of the field, to control the race from there on. (Red Bull style)
    Ferrari’s goal is to consume as little fuel as possible to maintain a higher race pace for a longer time.
    It looks like most of Ferrari’s (alleged) solutions are aimed at saving fuel with a minimum loss of power.

  10. In spite of his comments on last years Williams being the best car he ever drove, I believe Maldonado could be right. If Renault really fixes their problems we might see their real power. And if do it a little faster than 20 weeks (16?), we might be in for a mega season!

  11. I made a crazy exercise using the tyres (SS – S – M – H / 0 – 0,7 – 1,2 – 1,3 s), the sandbagging factor (historical – Ferrari and Williams always heavy and based on Rosberg interview – Mercedes was light), the day of the best lap (green track in the first day).

    Means nothing, but I found:

    – Mercedes / McLaren +0,8s / Ferrari +0,7s / Williams +0,7s;

    It’s a plausible? Maybe a good start to analyse the last test week?

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