As the first pre-season test of 2014 drew to a close at a gloomy Jerez and the teams began to pack up and contemplate the warmer climes of Bahrain at the next test on February 19, it was Felipe Massa who topped of the timesheet, the Williams driver finishing ahead of Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso and Force India’s Daniel Juncadella.
And for Red Bull Racing there will be much to contemplate, as the team again ended running early. After completing seven laps in the morning, with Daniel Ricciardo again at the wheel, the team encountered mechanical trouble. Deeming the issue unresolvable before the end of running they ceased track activities.
“It’s been a very difficult test,” said Team Principal Christian Horner. “We have had numerous Renault issues as well as chassis cooling issues, which have affected our progress. However, despite the lack of mileage, what we have managed to learn shows that the problems should be solvable for the next test in Bahrain. Part of the purpose of this early test was to learn about any issues ahead of the start of the season and there will now be a lot of focus on the dyno over the next few weeks.”
With the first half of the day run in wet conditions, teams had a second chance to evaluate Pirelli’s intermediate tyres for this year, following on from Wednesday’s damp morning session.
At the lunch break it was the Ferrari of Alonso at the top of the timesheet, the Spaniard opting to use the extreme wet tyre early in the session before switching to intermediates for his fastest time as the track dried.
With conditions improving in the afternoon, slicks became the order of the day and the Mercedes and Ferrari-powered cars continued their steady progress. By the close of play Alonso had completed the most laps with a tally of 115, with McLaren’s Kevin Magnussen logging 110 . For Mercedes, Nico Rosberg comfortably powered through 91 morning laps, before handing over to Lewis Hamilton who posted a further 41 tours.
Mercedes will leave Jerez greatly encouraged by their performance this week, as Executive Director Paddy Lowe confirmed.
“Overall, it was a very solid day which brought a very successful week to a close,” he said. “It feels like we have hit the ground running, although we still have many aspects of both the car and the power unit to improve before the next track test in Bahrain.”
Pointing to the 132 laps the team managed today, Lowe added: “Today’s programme was designed around completing race simulation work. In damp conditions this morning, Nico conducted a baseline run before running a 74-lap race simulation on intermediate tyres, including two pit-stops. This was completed faultlessly before we stopped for lunch. At that point, in view of the large discrepancy between our drivers’ mileage this week, we decided to put Lewis in the car for the afternoon.”
It was Massa who went quickest, though, recording a best time of 1:28.229 during his 86 laps of the Jerez track. Williams have been consistent throughout the test, and although lap times are academic at this point – particularly today, with the Brazilian’s lap six seconds slower than Magnussen’s best from yesterday – it bodes well for the Grove outfit following a largely anonymous 2013.
Massa’s time pipped Alonso’s by almost second, with rookie Juncadella a further three tenths adrift. It was a productive day for the Force India reserve driver and the 22-year-old completed 81 laps.
Magnussen headed Hamilton in fourth place for McLaren, although he did suffer two spins late in the day. Nevertheless, the Dane completed 110 laps at the end of an impressive opening week with the team.
The first of Magnussen’s incidents was harmless, the rookie seemingly losing traction as he powered out of the chicane. His second, however, pitched him into the barriers, resulting in front-wing and suspension damage.
At Caterham, Kamui Kobayashi made his return to F1, though it was far from an ideal comeback for the popular Japanese driver. Problems with the CT05’s Renault power unit again stopped the team’s running, though Kobayashi did manage 54 laps, considerably more than the total achieved by their Renault stablemates today.
“My first day in the car may have ended earlier than we’d planned after another problem with the Renault engine, but from where we’ve been earlier this week it’s very good to have completed 54 laps,” said Kobayashi. “It was also good to be back in an F1 car and to be working with a team that I’m already feeling very happy with.”
Elsewhere, Jules Bianchi took control of Marussia’s MR03 for the first time today, taking sixth place and clocking up 25 laps in the process. The Frenchman said afterwards that he had been impressed by the team’s 2014 challenger.
“I was really excited to get my first taste of the new MR03 and I like it a lot! The car feels great to drive and I’m pleased that I was able to achieve some good mileage,” he said. “You always want more, of course, but there is a lot to work through and understand, so we have to be patient and go through the programme in the right way, especially as we have had damp conditions to contend with also. At the end, once we were happy with the systems work, it was nice to put the slicks on and start putting some laps together. It is early days but we were quite happy with the pace in the conditions and for our programme. Not a bad start.”
Jerez Test, Day Four times
1. Felipe Massa Williams 1:28.229, 86 laps
2. Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1:29.145, 115 laps
3. Daniel Juncadella Force India 1:29.457, 81 laps
4. Kevin Magnussen McLaren 1:30.806, 110 laps
5. Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:30.822, 41 laps
6. Jules Bianchi Marussia 1:32.222, 25 laps
7. Adrian Sutil Sauber 1:36.571, 69 laps
8. Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1:36.951, 91 laps
9. Kamui Kobayashi Caterham 1:43.193, 54 laps
10. Danii Kvyat Toro Rosso 1:44.016, 9 laps
11. Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull 1:45.374, 7 laps