The first and most revealing test was completed last week at the Jerez circuit in Spain. We saw many of the challengers for the first time, heard the new V6 turbo engines in action, the first ideas about each teams chances in 2014. Here is the overview of the 4 days for each team.
Red Bull Racing - RB10 - Renault
Given Red Bull Racing's recent dominance of Formula 1, you could never rule them out of contention after the first days of pre-season testing. However this test really could not have gone any worse for them, and more specifically Renault. An issue with the rebuild of the car limited day 1 to just 3 installation laps, an achievement given the obvious intricacies of these modern day engines and electrical systems. After that initial success however they finished each of the remaining 3 days running early with technical failures, and completed only 21 laps across the 4 days as a result. There were swift remedies tried by the team (see below) but to no real success. The times from pre-season testing don't normally mean much, but it highlights the teams frustrations as they recorded the slowest laps of the week. Focus is instead aimed at Bahrain, as Adrian Newey flew back to his drawing board Thursday evening, and Renault hope that an engine update will bring with it reliability.
Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team - W05
Mission accomplished for Mercedes was much the message of the week. Despite a front wing failure limiting running on day 1 to 18 laps, they completed 309 laps over the week and that included a full race simulation on the Friday as well. No fastest times to shout about yet, but performance cannot be judged at this stage of testing and reliability will be key initially. If that wasn't enough for the team, the fan base will have increased due to it arguably being the best looking car on the 2014 grid as well.
Scuderia Ferrari - F14 T
A quietly impressive week for the Scuderia as they clocked up the second highest amount of laps relatively trouble free. The F14 T was returned to the paddock on the back of a low-loader twice but both were believed to be precautionary by the team rather than as a result of the failure having actually occurred. Gary Anderson believes that the design is conservative, so we may yet see more performance pieces added to it before testing concludes ahead of the Australian Grand Prix.
Lotus Renault - E22
Didn't show up in Jerez even with the E21, but may have been glad given the very little running completed by Renault powered cars. The team will use a filming day on Friday 7th February to conduct the shakedown of the car ahead of Bahrain. A wise choice for Lotus, as they cannot afford to lose the first day in Bahrain to installation and simple systems checks.
McLaren Mercedes - MP4-29
After stuttering out of the blocks, McLaren stunned the pitlane when it rolled out sporting large rear suspension "blockers". The FIA have deemed them legal as some teams believed that they may be classed as aerodynamic components. Whilst they certainly are shaped to energise the diffuser and regain some of the beam wing losses, they are in fact very carefully shaped within the suspension regulations and it will be a large task for the other teams to fit similar solutions retrospectively to their own designs. McLaren themselves racked up 245 laps (6 less than Ferrari) despite not running at all on Monday, and 2 spins for Magnussen at the close of the test on Friday. Again not reading too much into performance yet, but they also set the fastest times on days 2 and 3, and the Jerez test overall. Kevin Magnussen impressed on his debut despite those spins, as his timesheet topping run on Thursday ws nearly half a second clear of the rest at the end of the week, and he completed a nice flow of consistent runs amongst the fast times as well.
Sahara Force India Mercedes - VJM07
Being the first team to release an image of their 2014 contender, Sahara Force India took a lot of grief over the look of the car from outside the sport. When the car was unveiled Monday morning and completed its first installation laps, much of the "ugly nose design" talk that had spread to all the teams was focused back at them again. It isn't a good looking machine, but the team had other issues after stopping out on the circuit on each of the first 3 days. They did however enjoy a decent day on Friday, with the young Daniel Juncadella (once associated with the Williams team) completing 81 much needed laps. It is always good to see teams running these younger hopefuls during test days / Friday practice to allow them the experience of Formula 1, especially when they impress as much as Juncadella did.
Sauber Ferrari - C33
Sauber had a very good week quietly as they were able to run on all 4 days without technical failure. Given this achievement, they may look back on the 163 laps that they completed and wonder whether they fully capitalised on the good reliability in Jerez. Esteban Gutierrez spun on day 2, whilst Sutil spun on both days 3 and 4. This will have skewed the data gathering exercise whilst giving the drivers a better understanding of the engine torque levels, providing they learnt from the spins. With hotter temperatures in Bahrain pushing the cooling to its limits, another strong performance in terms of the cars reliability would go down very well with the Sauber team.
Scuderia Toro Rosso Renault - STR9
With the troubles at the Red Bull team, it could be hoped that their sister and fellow Renault engined team would take some of the heat away with good reliability of their own. That wasn't to be the case though as they suffered similar gremlins in the new STR9. They will be grateful for the 54 laps they did complete, but they won't have gained much confidence in the engines as they had to severely reduce the power output to complete a string of laps. The issue seems to be electrical in the Toro Rosso, something expected initially given the intricate installation of the new ERS systems around the new V6 turbo engines.
Williams Mercedes - FW36
After Mercedes, I believe that Williams had the most accomplished week in Jerez. It may take into account the laptimes, but they were both on the pace and reliable across the entire week. A sensor failure in the engine reduced much of their running time on day 1, but they managed 168 trouble free laps on the other 3 days. Massa finished the 4th day fastest for his new team, and second overall across the test. He has stated how comfortable he feels already in his new surroundings (including a twitter lead applause to the cooking in the Williams motorhome!), which will be a good challenge to Valtteri Bottas who ended up 6th overall. The signs are in place that Williams are set to improve on a miserable 2013, and could challenge at the very front of the field again thanks to Mercedes power.
Marussia Ferrari - MR03
Marussia suffered a troublesome start to the weeks testing when they found a technical issue on the MR03 which needed resolving before leaving the factory. It was a slow and steady progression from there as the car made it to the circuit on Thursday, and completed a handful of installation laps in the afternoon with Max Chilton at the wheel. Jules Bianchi got more running in on Friday as he took the total for the MR03 up to 30 - 9 laps more than the RB10 with 2 more days running. The aesthetics of the car gained positive comments after its delayed unveiling, and I suspect this may largely be due to it looking very similar to the 2013 incarnation that the fans are still used to and missing after the shock of the 2014 noses. Whilst it looks similar though, there is hidden detail in the MR03 yet to be unlocked when the team go chasing performance closer to the first race of the year.
Caterham Renault - CT05
The unveiling of the CT05 on Tuesday certainly gathered the most attention, taking top honours from Lotus in the radical nose department, and similarly from Force India for the worst looking car. Its appearance may grow on the viewer over time, but immediately the 2014 challenger lives up to the statement of intent from Tony Fernandes at the driver unveiling. The concept shows the team are not leaving anything to chance in order to not finish 11th in the constructors championship again, a scenario that Fernandes claims would leave him quitting the team at the end of 2014. The test itself went as well as possible given the troubled Renault powertrain under the engine cover, and Caterham completed the most amount of laps of any Renault powered car. They took the test slowly but surely as Marcus Ericsson acclimatised to his new workspace and they allowed Robin Frijns a day of pre season testing in his new reserve driver role. Around the engine issues, Kamui Kobayashi set about completing 54 laps in his 1 day behind the wheel which could prove pivotal mileage ahead of the Bahrain tests. It is difficult to tell how much of the poor reliability is the engine unit itself and how much is being caused by constrictive bodywork and tight packaging.
The second pre-season test at Bahrain begins on Wednesday 19th of February, Renault will be looking for their troubles to end whilst the remaining teams play catch up to Mercedes early advantage. Sauber have already stated that they will be bringing an extension update package for the C33, and I doubt they will be the only team. Focus for those past initial gremlins will be first race simulations, further setup comparisons and hopefully some performance chasing also.