#F1 Testing: 2nd Bahrain Day 4: Advantage Mercedes, but which one

Brought to you by TheJudge13 contributors Vortex Motio and Mattpt55

The mind is its own place, and in itself
Can make a heav’n of hell, a hell of heav’n.

Milton- Paradise Lost

“Beware the ides of March.”
Shakespeare- Julius Caesar, Act I, scene 2

Before embarking on today’s narrative, as a matter of simple reportage AMuS has noted that Turn 1 at Sakhir will be renamed in honour of Michael Schumacher, with the family’s blessing, in April prior to the Grand Prix.

And so our revels are indeed ended, and with the exception of Red Bull, by tonight this glorious pageant will all have faded, leaving us and the teams to grapple with the unknowable future. Red Bull, however, will spoil the extended metaphor by sticking around and filming, ostensibly for another 100 km of running, which will still not be nearly enough to get them up to the level of Mercedes or Ferrari.

Still, all in all it was a vast improvement for Vettel as he managed 77 laps today, and his early morning race stint saw him matching Rosberg’s pace from last week. Despite the early gains, it was not a trouble free day for Vettel, as a front brake disc exploded spinning him off the track shortly before lunch. The team was able to get him back on track for the afternoon, turning a relatively slow fastest lap of 1:37.468 and lots of piecemeal running, including a well spotted by AMuS monkey seat below the exhaust, contra all the other teams.

Bahrain 2nd Test - Day 4 - Hamilton 3And then it was into the penalty minutes as the organizers of Sakhir finally realized they had a wonderful opportunity to do a bit of their own testing and run the cars and drivers under the lights for the first time and get feedback prior to the Grand Prix. An extra hour was therefore tacked onto the session, which turned out to be a stroke of luck for Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes, who sat about the garage most of the morning as an “installation error” and subsequent oil leak saw him not hit the track until right before lunch.

As it was, he managed to shoehorn in not only 70 laps, but also snatch fast lap from Bottas, with a 1:33.278, faster than Rosberg last week. Sadly, we were denied a duel to the end with the Williams as just after turning a 1:33.987, Bottas’ engine gave up the ghost. But not before 108 trouble free laps today, and so Bottas tops the individual lap totals today. The engine that gave up, too, was essentially on the same mileage as the one Mercedes changed yesterday, making it 936 laps straight without stopping on track.

Bahrain 2nd Test - Day 4 - BottasSo no tears in the Williams garage, especially because the car was brought to a stop on the pit straight, meaning the mechanics were able to recover the car directly, without having to take the ride of shame on the back of the flatbed.

McLaren, in contrast, had a ghastly day, with Jenson parking the car shortly after lunch on just 22 laps and not being seen again the remainder of the day. The team, too, were being tight lipped about the cause, but having generally been judged to have been in the neighbourhood of the top 3, this will have done their confidence no favours as they prepare to head off to Australia, looking as if they have slipped behind Williams and Ferrari for the season opener.

Similarly to Williams, Force India suffered a session ending engine failure due to high mileage, with roughly 40 minutes to go. This denied us the spectacle of Hulkenberg going after fast laps, but again, not too many tears, as he still pulled 74 laps and managed a respectable 1:35:577 early on in the day.

Ferrari suffered several small incidents today, but at the end of the session Alonso confirmed that there is pace in the F14T by lapping in a 1:34.280, but not yet as much as the Williams and Mercedes have shown. It will be anxious times in Maranello the next 2 weeks, but if last season is any guide, Alonso was able to make fairly good race progress regardless of quali, and it may be that Ferrari have been focusing their efforts there instead.

Team Sauber takes the cake for most overall laps, with a combined 177 trips round the circuit.  Sutil ran 91 this morning to make up for yesterday’s impromptu Barbie and Gutierrez knocked off 86 this afternoon to keep him on track for Melbourne. Sutil was the faster of the two with a 1:36.835, and Gutierriez not too far off with a 1:37.303.

Suprising Max Chilton in the Marussia actually split the 2 Saubers with a 1:36.835, and that strange noise you hear in the background is the squee of brand new teenage girl F1 fans, as the sport appears to have finally found its answer to Harry Stiles. In between signing appendages, Max found time to run 61 laps and though it looks at the moment that of all the Renault runners Caterham is most likely to finish, it is also clear that on pace right now Marussia have them dead to rights. And if that wasn’t enough, for this brief moment, the Marussia was actually faster than the Red Bull, a fact Chilton will no doubt never let anyone forget for the rest of his life.

Bahrain 2nd Test - Day 4 - KobaKobayashi did turn in 106 laps with his Caterham, with a best of 1:38.391, but at the moment their best hope is attrition amongst the other teams and in particular that Ferrari’s new trick seamless shifting is not robust enough to make it to the end of the race. Still, a clutch issue did finish their running slightly early, but not before demonstrating clearly the proposition that it is *possible* to run a Renault PU for in a mostly reliable way (without catching your car on fire in other words) even if they are not yet at full power.

Running also a reasonable number of laps was JEV in the Toro Rosso, and as they might have hoped, staying almost entirely off the radar in a drama free day. JEV totaled  74 laps and a fastest for Renault 1:35.701, showing big brother the way to go. Stem the bleeding early on rather than go for broke to keep yourself in with a chance will no doubt be the strategy employed by all the Renault powered teams for the first few races.

About Lotus, honestly, the less said the better. After breaking an exhaust clamp early on, the E22, despondent over its “unique” looks, set itself ablaze in an attempt to end it’s suffering after just 22 laps. When questioned whether or not they would see the finish in Melbourne, Grosjean responded in the affirmative, while allowing it was very likely to be in street clothes and sipping a daiquiri, rather than behind the wheel of a racecar

It is hard to resist the temptation to say “I told you so” as the brave words by Genii or whoever might be in charge over at Lotus that took the decision to skip Jerez look remarkably foolish given the events of the last two weeks. What’s more, given the fact that performance is part of the value of the team, the decision to not come up with the scratch for Jerez looks positively psychotic. Of course, that assumes that decisions are even being made; such is the state of the team that one wonders what kind of mad chaos must be ruling behind the scenes, especially with the late departure of Boullier.

Still, the urge to troll for quotes to describe the situation shall be resisted, and instead, as a kind of present, a small feature prepared by the Society for Torrid Speculation is to  be presented in its stead, courtesy of Sky:

1. Felipe Massa, Williams, 1:33.258, Supersoft tyres, Test Two – Day Three.
2. Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, 1:33.278, Supersoft compound, Test Two – Day Four.
3. Nico Rosberg, Mercedes, 1:33.283, New Soft tyres, Test One – Day Four.
4. Valtteri Bottas, Williams, 1:33.987, Unknown tyre compound, Test Two – Day Four.
5. Fernando Alonso, Ferrari, 1:34.280, Unknown tyre compound, Test Two – Day Four.
6. Kevin Magnussen, McLaren, 1:34.910, New supersoft tyres, Test One – Day Two.
7. Jenson Button, McLaren, 1:34.957, New soft tyres, Test One – Day Four.
8. Sergio Perez, Force India, 1:35.290, Unknown tyre compound, Test Two – Day One.
9. Kimi Raikkonen, Ferrari, 1:35.426, Supersoft tyres, Test Two – Day Three.
10. Nico Hulkenberg, Force India, 1:35.577, Unknown tyre compound, Test Two – Day Four.
11. Jean-Eric Vergne, Toro Rosso, 1:35.701, Unknown tyre compound, Test Two – Day Four.
12. Daniel Ricciardo, Red Bull, 1:35.743, Unknown tyre compound, Test Two – Day Two.

Now the fun begins in earnest, because, after all, there is a very limited amount we can really deduce from the tests. Aside from the Mercs being the only manufacturers to hit their mileage limits, and Williams and Merc running faster than everyone else in quali sim, there’s not much else to say of a definitive nature. So as you have a look at this chart from Sky of fast laps, imagine Turn 1 with Lewis, Massa and Alonso (having made one of his quick starts) 3 wide, with plenty of “traction events” and the odd engine flambé. Of course, advantage Williams because Martini livery. Happy speculating!

Final Result:

1 L Hamilton Mercedes AMG Petronas 01:33.3 54 / 70
2 V Bottas Williams 01:34.0 104 / 108
3 F Alonso Scuderia Ferrari 01:34.3 53 / 74
4 N Hulkenberg Sahara Force India 01:35.6 22 / 74
5 J E Vergne Toro Rosso 01:35.7 26 / 74
6 A Sutil Sauber F1 Team 01:36.5 38 / 91
7 M Chilton Marussia 01:36.8 57 / 61
8 E Gutierrez Sauber F1 Team 01:37.3 21 / 86
9 S Vettel Infiniti Red Bull 01:37.5 76 / 77
10 J Button McLaren Mercedes 01:38.1 5 / 22
11 K Kobayashi Caterham F1 Team 01:38.4 103 / 106
12 R Grosjean Lotus 01:39.3 17 / 32

Bahrain Day 4 Analysis – What Have We Learned?

Today we’ll attempt to measure all four days of this final winter test.

OK team, let’s do some laps!

First, the basics, laps per team for all four days of Bahrain 2:

Pos Constructor P/U BAH2 Laps % vs Most Median/Day
1 Williams Mercedes 438 100% 105.5
2 Force India Mercedes 402 92% 106.5
3 Sauber Ferrari 373 85% 97.5
4 Mercedes Mercedes 351 80% 89
5 Ferrari Ferrari 337 77% 80.5
6 Caterham Renault 297 68% 80.5
7 Toro Rosso Renault 272 62% 67.5
8 McLaren Mercedes 271 62% 70
9 Marussia Ferrari 258 59% 68
10 Red Bull Renault 182 42% 52.5
11 Lotus Renault 127 29% 31.5

It’s interesting that the 3 teams to accumulate the most laps during this test are both customer teams (running Mercedes or Ferrari power units), and stalwart midfield performers of prior seasons.

Immediately following them are the factory teams of Mercedes and Ferrari. As was discussed in yesterday’s analysis article, particularly in the comments, it is perhaps a reflection of larger, and busier job lists by the two factory teams.

The two teams with the fewest laps of the test are the more aggressive Renault powered teams. This table helps illustrate how the challenges and problems of the Renault power units have hurt their development cycles.

The last column, “median/day”, is a variation of average laps per day. It removes the two days, the day with the highest lap count, and the day with the lowest lap count, and then averages the remaining two (middle count) days. This removes the skew of both the worst day, and an absurdly high lap count (best) day. I wanted to show a more true average test day for the team during this session. This column has highlighted Caterham’s strengths in this test, which is that when they were running, they were doing high lap count days, (two 100+ lap days) with their Renault power unit.

Drivers ready?

F1 is a sport of man and machine, and a quick look at the numbers for the drivers’ lap counts reveal only one significant inner-team disparity, which is over at McLaren. Mr. Button’s two test days featured significant garage time for his car. Consequently he turned only 38% of the laps of his young team-mate (74 versus 197). Given the talents of Mr. Button, and the resources of McLaren, one could assume it won’t have a significant detriment to his performances for the first race weekend.

Which cars are fast?

Since winter testing started, I’ve emphasized lap counts over fastest laps of the day, as a more accurate measurement of the team’s success in these winter tests.

However, what is special about this week is that it’s the last winter test. The engines are homologated, and reliability work makes way for more performance work.

The fastest times dropped, particularly as more teams did qualification simulations. What does the fastest times tell us about the first race in Australia? As always, very little. A mathematical comparison of the number of points earned on Saturday versus Sunday isn’t required here.

The good news is that race simulations were performed, and lap times were captured by enterprising journalists from the monitors on-site. One way to obtain a rough idea of the race performance of these cars is average the lap times of a race simulation. Here are four examples:

Test Day Team Driver Laptime avg # of Lap Times Tires
Bahrain 1 4 Mercedes Rosberg 1m41.5 50 Soft, Soft, Med
Bahrain 2 2 McLaren Magnussen 1m42.7 39 Med, Soft (2 stints only)
Bahrain 2 3 Force India Hulkenberg 1m42.9 47 Med, Soft, Soft
Bahrain 2 3 Ferrari Raikonnen 1m43.4 37 Soft, Med, Med

These are very fuzzy numbers to which we should apply caveats… The primary caveat is that we don’t know how the fuel was managed… did the team keep within the 100kg limit? In addition, we should note that whatever the performance level of the car was at the particular time when they ran their laps, the performance is very likely to change by Melbourne.

The “# of lap times” is because we’ve excluded laps where the car entered or exited the pits for a tire change or to sit out a red flag.

The race distances of McLaren, FI, and Ferrari are incomplete due to either laps not being captured by the journalists track-side, or me overlooking where the laptimes were hidden in their work.

In any case, the average lap time during long distance runs and race sims are a more relevant indicator of race performance than fastest lap of the day, or practice session.


Here are things that I think we can watch for over the first 3 or 4 races:

  • Faster repairs

Teams will be thinking about faster ways to implement repairs track-side. I’m not talking about during a race, but any failure on a Friday or a Saturday. These new cars are much more complex, and simple failures require more hours of work to repair them. If we look at LeMans, we’ve seen Audi and others think hard about designing their cars to be repaired more quickly. F1 will go this way, also.

  • Transmissions, reliability and gearing:

We saw some transmission failures during these tests. There is more torque, and more gears. They’re very expensive for teams to update, as well. Besides reliability, Peter Windsor was noting some differences between gear ratios between teams. The ratios are chosen for the season, (with one update permitted), so it will be interesting to see how these different choices work from circuit to circuit.

  • Performance!

The cars are primarily rear grip limited. So teams will be working on clever aerodynamics, suspension tuning, and software to develop better traction off corner apex all season long.

  • A software based Formula?

Renault’s challenges have helped to expose the new, more modern and relevant area of F1’s technology which is the software inside the car. There is now a software race in Formula 1, developing the brake by wire systems, harvesting energy, maximizing the ICU tune and fuel burn rates, etc.

  • The beauty of engineering and design

The big step up in complexity of the new power units, combined with the new rules, and overall poverty of many teams’ budgets has presented high challenges. What is amazing is that these organizations, the teams and the power unit manufactures are stepping up and meeting incredible challenges. There is a beauty when groups of creative, intelligent people combine to do the near impossible. It’s part of the beauty of F1.

  • A driver’s sport again?

These cars are rear limited in grip. The tires will still degrade. The fuel is limited. There are new controls in the cockpit. There were lots of black lines of rubber left at corner exits of Bahrain… Driver abilities have probably come back up in importance… This will become more visible during the races from the data that the teams have. Hopefully, the television broadcasters will help to make that apparent to their viewers as well.

Albert Park is less than two weeks away…

Bahrain 2nd Test - Day 4 - Hamilton 2

13 responses to “#F1 Testing: 2nd Bahrain Day 4: Advantage Mercedes, but which one

  1. So is this sort of unnoficial confirmation that Schumy won’t be the same after his accident as they’re naming a corner in his memory then?

    • Yeah, I wasn’t sure about the naming conventions in racing, but it did seem pretty weighted. I only saw it on AMuS so I didn’t want to read too much into it, but it’s kind of hard not to.

    • Thanks, there was a lengthy thread at F1 tech, and I saw it reported differently on different sites. There was no consensus when I submitted it, so I just pulled it from Sky and truthfully didn’t even check the compounds. It’s more for entertainment value, anyways, since in testing the difference in set up from day to day is so great a list like this has very limited value.

    • http://thejudge13.com/2014/02/06/f1-forensics-ferrari-f14-t-the-secret-is-in-the-power-unit/

      Well, you could read about it right here on TJ13, in Lorenzo’s fantastic, article. Though he call’s it quick shifting, I’ve also seen it referred to as seamless downshifting other places


      where you’re welcome to read about it for ages. Not confirmed, but definitely something going on.

      Or, you could realize that was meant to be humorous and not take it too seriously. Both are OK. 🙂

      • Cheers Matt

        Lorenzo’s article wasn’t very clear as he referred, as you said, to quickshifting which is upshifting, and has been around for decades.

        The f1tech article was a lot more helpful.

        The question is why would they do this ?

        Maybe they are using the MGU-K to slow the engine down on downshifts, before breaking, as another source of energy harvesting ?

        Or is it simply for car stability and drivability ?

        Any ideas ?

        • Damn – wish there was an EDIT function Judge 😉

          Ignore the – ” Maybe they are using the MGU-K to slow the engine down on downshifts, before breaking, as another source of energy harvesting ? – ” bit as it’s total bollocks !

          What I meant to ask was –

          Is it simply for car stability and drivability ?

          Or another reason ?

          Any ideas ?

          • Stability and fuel savings are the two things that come immediately to mind. Beyond that, maybe saving wear and tear on the transmission, which could also be quite important. Cheers. Maybe VM would have some ideas.

    • It’s been a pleasure.

      Thank you for the opportunity. Also, kudos to John who behind the scenes worked hard everyday to meld our stuff together into something that looks good!

      Also Matt’s work makes these pages worth reading… I love his quote from Paradise Lost on this work. It’s another example of his sharp wit, clever humor and thoughtful analysis!

    • Yes, Button is stating the common wisdom… nice broad torque curves, so ratios are not as critical versus a more peaky torque curve.

      Peter Windsor noticed on day 1 of these tests that the Force India has a taller 4th and 5th gear than the Williams, the Ferrari, and the Sauber. He was watching cars from trackside, as they accelerate out of the 2nd gear turn 10 when he noticed this.

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