F1 2014 Second Test
With the first test purely a debugging process for most team, we may start to see the true competitive order when things get underway in Bahrain
February 19th to 22nd
TV: Sky Sports F1 (UK), NBC (USA)
The new age of Formula 1 is well underway and the second test in Bahrain will prove to be an important building block for teams looking to make 2014 a year to remember.
Whenever new regulations are legislated and a new era of F1 ushered in, the first test can never be taken as anything more than a pinch of salt.
Jerez was merely a de-bugging process for the teams. These cars are prototypes, never ever really finished 100%, although some come close. It’s a painful process to ensure reliability prevails on a year by year basis when slight regulation changes make a F1 team’s technical staff suffer a miserable winter, let alone when the entire book is thrown out and a new law set down.
Walking away from Jerez, only three teams can be truly happy. The amount of laps laid down on the Mercedes engines by both the works team and McLaren have proved what many always predicted. By pure engine comparison Mercedes will win outright. McLaren looked to have set their nightmarish 2013 behind them, but this excellence has to be sustained until the end of Melbourne for anyone to really think they’ve turned the corner.
Ferrari too can be happy that their car and engine alike appear to have passed the toughest test of mileage with flying colours. Both Alonso and Raikkonen were able to burn the rubber and ensure that, as it stands, Ferrari look the third best car out on the track.
No other teams really appeared to shine. The likes of Sauber, Force India, Williams and Torro Rosso can be happy with their work, but know that in all likelihood their midfield classification isn’t going to change.
Obviously the biggest story coming out of Jerez was the showing put on by Red Bull, or no show rather. Their deplorable test where the car simply couldn’t run for any period of time has left them well behind the eight ball, especially considering the running their main rivals Mercedes and Ferrari were able to put in.
Perhaps due to no fault of their own as the Renault engines appear to have some substantial cooling problems, Red Bull will be playing catchup in the first few days of the Bahrain test and hoping they can fit a few days’ worth of reliability and mechanical testing into half a day.
That being said, if there was ever a time to have such a substantial running problem as this, it is probably the first test when no team is really putting up their best package for any worthwhile data collection.
In a way Red Bull might have dodged a bullet, with the engine problems coming at a time when it is still comfortably able to be fixed, much better timing then 10 laps into the Australian Grand Prix.
The team we haven’t seen is Lotus, with their new driving line up of Romain Grosjean and Pastor Maldonado. This is a team that is perceived to be slipping away from their renewed from of 2012 and 2013 very quickly. They’ve lost their best driver, they’ve lost their team principal and quite clearly the team is losing money like no one’s business.
The signs have to be promising when the E22 is properly run in Bahrain, any sign of weakness could be a hammer blow to Lotus, not only from performance point of view, but more importantly from team perception point of view.
Whereas looking into the timesheets at Jerez was a fool’s errand, Bahrain promises to give us a clearer insight into the pecking order, especially as we near the test’s end. Teams will aim to have their Melbourne race packages up and running by the first day of the third test, so the end of the second test is their last opportunity to experiment. Often it is in moments of utter creativity when ingenuity and revelations of brilliance most occur.
Nevertheless, this second test is potentially the most important few days in shaping up the season. The defending champions could be leaving Bahrain happy with the knowledge that their RB10 is once again top of the pile, else they could be calling emergency meetings about the inability to get their car running more than five laps straight.
This is exciting, what we’ve been waiting for, this is the return of Formula 1 for 2014.