Bahrain In-Season Testing: Mercedes All The Way

F1 Gulf Air Bahrain Grand Prix

The first in-season testing in two years, since Mugello  2012, ran between April 8 and 9 at the Bahrain International Circuit and all the 11 teams participated for some track running, aero evaluation and testing parts and much more beyond it. Over the course of two days, Pirelli completed a total of 110 laps with the experimental tyres. Caterham ran on behalf of the official tyre supplier on Tuesday while Mercedes and Williams took the charge on Wednesday. Mercedes-Powered cars completed a total of 3,204km between them signifying their unmatched reliability. Let’s take a run down into how teams fare in the first of four in-season tests scheduled for this year:

Mercedes:

With three wins out of three races Mercedes were on a roll and it’s hard to keep them out of action apparently as the Australian GP winner Nico Rosberg made his appearance for the first day. With topping the timing sheets, Rosberg was pretty happy with the improvements made on brakes, the area which, he admitted, required some fine tuning. He ran through set-up evaluations and more learning on tyres while setting the fastest lap of 1:35.697 and ended the day with 121 laps on board – topping the mileage charts as well. The German was quoted as saying,
“There is always more to be found and we are constantly pushing to improve the car and also ourselves as drivers. Having said that, the team are doing a fantastic job with this car from every perspective. Reliability, car performance, Power Unit performance: it’s all there and it’s a pleasure to be a part of a team with such positive momentum.

The team conducted a range of tests on behalf of Pirelli with Lewis Hamilton taking the wheel of F1 W05. He emerged on top with the best time of 1:34.136 from 120 laps. The Briton said,
“They just gave me different sets and I told them how each felt. The plan was just to get in as many laps as we could. The times mean nothing as everyone had their own programmes to run. It’s been a fantastic few weeks for the team but also a long stint away, so I’m sure everyone is looking forward to heading back home for a well-deserved rest. Of course, it’s a short turnaround before China so I’ll be in the factory to work on ways we can improve.”

Red Bull:

After a delayed start to the day, Ricciardo put in a productive 91 laps with the best time of 1:38.326 on his way to complete three set-up runs and concentrated on longer run pace which had been a big setback in hot conditions for the Milton keynes based outfit. The Australian later admitted that,
“We’re still a little behind but we’re chipping away and I’m sure over the course of this test and in China we’ll get a little bit closer. For the moment, though, we’ll take every little bit we can get. We’re learning and we’re making progress.”

Daniel continued on the next day and had been hindered by electrical issues in the morning. Consequently the aerodynamic evaluations were postponed to the after-lunch session and he got through 67 laps of running with shorter stints.

Ferrari:

Fernando Alonso endured one of the toughest races of recent time after his Ferrari was no way near a match to the other competitors. He lost every wheel-to-wheel battle amidst having a car which was unacceptable in straight line. Putting that aside, he got back again to try and improve his performance with testing behind the wheel of his F14T. He concentrated on constant speed runs down the straights besides carrying out aero developments while completing 69 laps.

But he had to stand back after completing only 12 laps and watch the final day pass by as his testing was called to a halt when his car’s chassis was found to be damaged in an incident early in the day.

McLaren:

Kevin Magnussen managed to complete 102 laps in the opening day while trying out different set-ups on his McLaren MP4-29. However, he made a trip into gravel the next day, after completing aero correlation works, due to a car issue just before lunch. After lengthy repairs, he returned to the track and set his fastest lap in the final half-hour with the time of 1m36.203s.

Williams:

Valterri Bottas was pretty satisfied with the development tests underwent on day one and managed fifth fastest. Felipe Nasr relished his opportunity to test for Williams as he carried out evaluations for next year’s Pirelli tyres before meeting with control issues at the end of day two. With 64 laps in, the Brazilian said: “I also got to experience the differences between different compounds and how they affect the car and the balance. Running a Formula One tyre when it hasn’t been in a blanket was one of the most interesting things as it’s very difficult to get them up to temperature, even in the Bahrain heat, it will be even more of a challenge at tracks such as Silverstone or Spa.”

Force India:

A largely trouble-free day one saw Nico Hülkenberg set the second fastest time with a 1:36.064 and complete several short and longer stints with a total of 69 laps. Sergio Perez took over the following day and set the fourth best time with 1:36.586. While experimenting longer runs he also conducted a series of aero runs towards the end of the final session.

Lotus:

Lotus had to contend with dissatisfaction after two power unit related issues hampered Maldonado from track appearance after running for just 16 laps and finishing 10th overall. The squad’s frustrated Trackside Operations Director, Alan Permane, said:
“Unfortunately we weren’t able to carry out the programme we had set out to do today. Of course, this is frustrating for everyone involved, ”

Romain Grosjean struggled with power unit issues as well from the beginning just as his team-mate and did some aero works but fell well short of what they intended to achieve after the unit failed to work completely in the mid-afternoon period. With only 16 laps on track for the Frenchman, Lotus would be likely to have a tough time in China and the races follow.

Sauber:

For the first time ever, the Ferrari-powered C33 was driven by Sergey Sirotkin to get his super licence. The Russian coped rather well as along with driving to the necessary 300km he helped his team in working through the scheduled testing programme despite having issues with his shoes. He improved in times after changing it to end up with 76 laps of running. He summed up his day as, “It was a good start to the session. In the afternoon we had some difficulties with my shoes. They were too small, so it was pretty painful when I was braking. When we changed the shoes, it was still not the best and difficult to drive. It was not easy, but I am glad we completed the 300 kms.”

On day 2 Giedo van der Garde took over the driving duties and had to sit out for two hours due to issues with his power unit. Despite that he used afternoon running to full-effect and carried on aero evaluations alongside feeding back inputs on different set-ups in long and short runs while completing 77 laps totally.

Toro Rosso:

Daniil Kvyat was at the helm focussing on chassis work and development of his Renault-powered car in race trim while also carrying out tyre duties. The impressive Russian finished a respectable 67 laps and was quoted as saying, “We also learned something about why our pace was not as strong as we had expected in Sunday’s race. I think this in-season testing is a very useful thing, not just for the teams, but also for guys like me who have to catch up in terms of experience.”
On the next day, Vergne worked mainly on chassis in the shorter runs with the major commitment laid on the changes to suspension over the lunchtime. Alongside doing tyre evaluation runs, the team tested its new components on the valuable two testing days .

Caterham:

Robin Frijns and Marcus Ericsson were scheduled to run on each day of the test respectively. Shame for the former FR3.5 champion, debuted for Caterham in Bahrain FP1, to call the session off as early after lunch with hydraulic system leak to prepare for the next day. The Dutchman said,
“There’s not much I can say about the tyres we were running today as they’re obviously development sets and because it was a Pirelli test today we weren’t aware of what compounds we were running.”

With completing 66 laps, Ericsson concentrated on aero evaluation with fitting front and rear wake rake but his afternoon was impeded by ERS electrical issue much to the disappointment of his team. Nonetheless they packed up with useful data in hand.

Marussia:
On day one, Max Chilton took to the wheel of MR03 and ended up 6th out of 11 cars continuing the momentum from Sunday’s race after finishing 13th and even felt there was still some pace left in his car. Chief Engineer Dave Greenwood said, “We have a comprehensive programme for this test, which began today with aerodynamic measurements and moved into set-up programmes exploring mechanical and aero changes. In the background we continued with mapping work and an evaluation of some revised parts for electronic reliability,”

Jules Bianchi completed an encouraging 93 laps in total which was valuable in terms of reliability and finished 6th. He worked on the brake development programme along with garnering vital data from the hot final day in Bahrain.

Testing times:

Day 1:

Rosberg Mercedes 1m35.697s Soft
Hulkenberg Force India 1m36.064s Soft
Alonso Ferrari 1m36.626s Medium
Magnussen McLaren 1m36.634s Soft
Bottas Williams 1m37.305s Soft
Chilton Marussia 1m37.678s Supersoft
Ricciardo Red Bull 1m38.326s Soft
Sirotkin Sauber 1m39.023s Soft
Frijns Caterham 1m40.027s Experimental
Maldonado Lotus 1m40.183s Soft
Kvyat Toro Rosso 1m40.452s Soft

Day 2:

Hamilton Mercedes 1m34.136s Experimental
Vergne Toro Rosso 1m35.557s Supersoft
Magnussen McLaren 1m36.203s Soft
Perez Force India 1m36.586s Soft
Ricciardo Red Bull 1m37.310s Soft
Bianchi Marussia 1m37.316s Supersoft
Van der Garde Sauber 1m37.623s Soft
Alonso Ferrari 1m37.912s Medium
Ericsson Caterham 1m39.263s Soft
Nasr Williams 1m39.879s Experimental
Grosjean Lotus 1m43.732s Soft
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