The third and final F1 testing session in Bahrain over the weekend looked much like the previous two, with the Mercedes star shining relatively brightly upfront, Ferrari’s Cavallino Rampante finding at least three of its shoes, and Renault continuing to hit more troubles at the same speed as old ones are solved. Given the free training for the season’s first F1 race in Australia starts in ten days, there is no doubt lights will be on late over the coming weeks, both in the Renault and Red Bull factories.
Little did they know at the end of last season, all the challenges they would face in 2014!
Lewis Hamilton led the time sheets after the last day of training in Bahrain and over the 12 official training days that have now taken place, the MB powered teams have accumulated a total of almost 18000 kms. In spite of this, not even MB and especially the Mercedes AMG Petronas team have managed to solve all issues, but they are clearly in what looks like pole position before the season start. Interesting to see is also that Mercedes-powered Williams has done very well in pre-season training and could emerge as something of a dark horse, especially with the very experienced Felipe Massa as one of the two drivers (the other one being Valtteri Bottas). Mercedes-powered Force India has also done very well both in Jerez and Bahrain.
For Ferrari it has been a mixed bag but ever so slowly, it looks like the team is getting there. Both Kimi Räikkönen and Fernando Alonso have struggled with reliability issues in all training sessions, but talk quite confidently about the potential still to be unlocked from the F14T. Whether that happens in time for Australia or later in the season remains to be seen.
Finally (an order that also corresponds to all the training sessions) all Renault-powered teams and especially Red Bull continue to struggle big time. RB managed a decent 77 laps on the final day in Bahrain but overall in the pre-season training sessions they only leave Marussia and Lotus behind them in terms of number of laps completed (and Lotus didn’t even participate in Jerez). The discussion is now on who is most to blame, Red Bull or Renault, but given that all Renault-powered teams have similar issues, clearly a lot of the blame is found with the French manufacturer. Red Bull say they have identified the issues and hope to have fixes in place for Australia, and other drivers speak respectfully about the “potential” of the RB10 (probably mostly to take the pressure off themselves…). Unlocking that potential in ten days time would seem completely unrealistic for any other team than the 4-time world champions, and must be doubted even for them. What seems certain is that it will be an exciting season start down under in the middle of March!