Quick analysis ahead of crucial Final pre-season F1 test
Posted By: James Allen  |  26 Feb 2014   |  12:55 pm GMT  |  171 comments

The final pre-season test begins tomorrow in Bahrain, giving teams just four more track days to prepare their cars for the new F1 season, which starts on March 14th with free practice in Melbourne.

It is already clear that, with the radical changes in technical regulations this year, and cars now running 1.6 litre hybrid turbo power units, some teams are in better shape than others.

For Red Bull and the other Renault powered teams, for example, it is a crucial test as they have done very limited running compared to their rivals.

With this in mind there was a limited amount to be learned so far in terms of performance, but ahead of this vital final test, we thought we would show some indicators from last week’s test session in Bahrain as pointers for what to look for this week.

Below is a chart showing the raw – i.e. not not fuel-corrected – lap-times from Day Four at last week’s first Bahrain test. The vertical axis is the lap time, the horizontal axis is the lap number. They are done in sequence, the laps run from left to right as the day goes on a shows the various runs they made. The shorter ones with peak laps are the low fuel runs, such as the one which gave Mercedes’ Nico Rosberg the fastest time of the test.

[Key: RIC= Ricciardo, Red Bull; MAL= Maldonado, Lotus; RAI= Raikkonen, Ferrari; ROS= Rosberg, Mercedes;BUT= Button, McLaren]

This is exactly the kind of lap graph that F1 teams and engineers study as it shows patterns of performance. Dots that sit low in the graph, indicate a faster lap time, whereas ones higher up indicate a slower lap.

In this case what you are looking for are groupings of laps together, particularly on longer runs if the dots stay relatively consistent and don’t rise up as you look to the right. This is an indicator of pace and that the car is looking after its tyres well and is not suffering particularly bad degradation. You can clearly see this with Rosberg’s penultimate run where the lap times are relatively flat, rather than sloping steeply upwards.

JA on F1 Technical adviser Mark Gillan, former chief operations engineer at Williams, prepared the graph and he comments: “Clearly we do not know what fuel levels were being used by all the teams, but Mercedes must be very happy with this test. Rosberg’s graph shows the clear pace of Mercedes over both the short and longer runs, with their tyre degradation being good, especially on the penultimate run.

Similarly McLaren and Ferrari have clearly done a good job with their new cars, but appear to have a bit to do to catch Merc’s general pace.

“Unfortunately with the lack of running it is hard to quantify Red Bull’s pace.” (Shown in the graphs as “RIC”, meaning Daniel Ricciardo)

With less than 3 weeks to the first race the final pre-season test starting tomorrow in Bahrain is crucial, especially for the Renault-powered cars and hopefully we’ll get a clear indication of the relative pace when the cars attempt their race rehearsals. We will also get a much clearer picture of relative pace as teams were at different stages of their preparation last week. Mercedes and its customer teams had started working on set-up and performance while some of their rivals were still evaluating cooling and doing reliability work. Everyone should be flat out looking for performance this week if they are to compete in the early races.

During this week’s test we should see plenty of new development parts coming onto the cars, aimed at performance. These will have been scheduled since the car launch, while other new developments arising from the first tests will be in production with the target of getting them onto the cars for evaluation during the practice sessions in Melbourne on March 14th.

There is still a lot to learn, but with Mercedes seemingly ahead, Ferrari and McLaren quietly looking strong and Red Bull playing catch up, this is shaping up to a season with plenty of sporting intrigues.

Meanwhile Pirelli has released details of the definitive tyre compounds which it will race this season and which teams will evaluate during this week’s test.

After a dramatic couple of seasons with heavy criticism hitting the Italian company for tyre failures and degradation having an excessive effect on the racing, Pirelli has understandably played it safe with durable tyres which can cope with the significant extra torque these hybrid turbo cars produce. Wheelspin out of slow corners and under acceleration generally is a huge factor and mastering this will be a huge part of the success of whichever driver comes out on top this year.

Here are Pirelli’s notes on the details of the four compounds:

P Zero Orange – Hard

The toughest tyre of the range is designed for circuits that are often characterised by high ambient temperatures, putting the highest energy loadings through the tyres with fast corners or abrasive surfaces. The compound takes longer to warm up, but offers maximum durability – which frequently means that it plays a key role in race strategy. This is a high working range compound. Like all the 2014 tyres, this is a brand new compound with a new construction to meet the requirements of the latest cars, with increased torque, extra energy recovery systems, but reduced aerodynamics.

P Zero White medium

Theoretically this is the most perfectly balanced of all the tyres, with an ideal compromise between performance and durability. As a result, it is very versatile, but often comes into its own on circuits that tend towards high speeds and energy loadings. This is a low working range compound. As is the case with all the 2014 tyres, there is a new profile at the front to take into account the altered vehicle dynamics and improve handling.

P Zero Yellow soft

This is one of the tyres most frequently used tyres in the range, striking a very good balance between performance and durability, with the accent on performance. It is still biased towards speed rather than long distances, but is nonetheless capable of providing a competitive advantage both at the beginning of the race on full fuel and when used as a ‘sprint’ tyre at the end. This is a high working range compound. All the compounds are generally slightly harder than their equivalents last year, in order to deliver the same performance despite the extra forces placed on the tyres.

P Zero Red supersoft

The softest compound in the range is ideal for slow and twisty circuits, especially in cold weather, when maximum mechanical grip is needed. The supersoft benefits from an extremely rapid warm-up time, which makes it ideal in qualifying as well, but the flip side to that important characteristic is of course increased degradation. This is a low working range compound. One of the key evolutions this year has been optimisation of the footprint pressure and temperature distribution. This presents a more even contact with the asphalt, improving grip and handling.

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I can't believe how close we are until the season starts again! Very excited.

Hoping that Ferrari bring some upgrades and start showing off their pace a bit more as they've been fairly quiet so far.


So if the merc turns out to be far superior to the rest of the field and Hamilton goes on to win the championship, I wonder if he'll be subjected to the same criticism that was levelled at Button in 2009 for only winning the championship because he had the best car?

Somehow I doubt it - no matter how badly Hamilton does or indeed if he ends up driving the best car, his fans and the general uneducated British F1 fan will still think he's the best.


coincidentally a large proportion of the F1 paddock also seem to think he's the best. Guess they're 'uneducated' too.


Yes, yes they are.

He's one of, like Button, but not "the" best.


On their website, Ferrari have given a general overview of the program they will be running for the four days. I was surprised to see that no low fuel runs were mentioned. Rather a continuation of systems checks and set up work in the mornings followed by longer runs in the afternoon. I'm sure that at some point Ferrari will take out the fuel and allow both Raikkonen and Alonso to get a feel of the car in low fuel, quali style configuration but it remains to be seen if they can get anywhere near that 1.33.2 from Rosberg last week. It doesn't appear that Ferrari are quite ready to make lap times a high priority just yet. It's certainly going to be an important few days though. Hugely excited.


Is it a given that Ferrari haven't tried some performance tests yet? I mean, hitting top speeds of 336 km/h would suggest low fuel and engine turned up, no?


Good point mate! You can't attain such speed on high fuel and low engine power since that's top of the range straight line speed for these cars. Unless Ferrari was only testing their straight line speed on that lap.


Maybe Ferrari feel confident, and hope to turn it on come melbourne against the Mercedes & Mclaren ?

As many people look forward here to know what Ferrari can offer in the final bahrain test. I feel intrigued to know as well whether Ferrari can compete with Mclaren & Mercedes in the Aussie GP.


Excellent analysis

Thank you for the insight james !

On a sidenote any chief personal or engineers in the paddock know how much of pace advantage Mercedes hold over their nearest rivals (Mclaren & Ferrari)? Little to premature and ambitious question i believe though ?


I too like to thank James Allen for the continuous coverage for f1. Great job!!

I get a feeling of déjà vu. Remember brawn 2009??


Certainly seems that way, but we will not find out for sure until Melbourne.


James, Your chart would look a lot more professional if you labelled the axes. That way readers can see what a chart is about without having to refer to the text. This is taught in pre-GSCE science classes!

Otherwise I enjoyed the analysis thanks.


This is what happens when charts are reduced in size for some other purpose than they were intended.


My 8 year old made a great comment on tyres. Why dont the colours go in a logical order?

i.e. Red - Hard, Orange - Med, Yellow - Soft, White - Super Soft.

The brighter the colour, the softer the tire.

Made perfect sense too me


Originally the hard tyres were silver, as seen here -


- but in certain lighting conditions they found that they were tricky to tell from the white mediums when both were used at the same GP, so they changed the hards to orange to make it easier to differentiate.


Sounds good to me!


If they were at circuit where the hard and medium tires are being used, it'd be hard to tell who is on which compound.


To make it easier to differentiate the tires. They're frequently one step apart at a race, so you don't want "Yellow" and "Orange" in the same race, or "Orange" and "Red" in the same race.

... at least, that's been my assumption.


Makes perfect sense to me! Your logic is spot on. 😀


I agree with your son/daughter?

I guess it was like that: red, yellow, white some time ago, but then they came up with an extra compound and made it orange


Thanks James for the awesome analysis. Have been waiting for this. Seems like Ferrari had to catch up Merc/Mclaren.


An idea - each team has 1 set of each tyre for Qualifying and the Race?


My idea or wish has always been that with tyres, engines, gearboxes and everything else they are only allowed a certain number of...to give all the kit to every team at start of the season and let them decide for themselves everything, no penalties for when you change things etc.You'd get a huge variety across the whole season on strategy etc. and towards the end of the season the best managed teams would have the best resources to win the final races. If you turn up to Brazil with an old engine, and only 2 sets of unsuitable hard tyres, that's your problem & possibly the result of pouring too many resources into say Monaco towards the start of they year. My two cents anyway.


A bit like 2005!


.... each car has 1 set...


I have very good eyes, but I struggle alot to read the chart, that is how small the writing on the side of it is. The only reason I understood it is because you mentioned the dots low in the graph indicate a faster lap time. Other than that, it was quite an intresting read.


Interesting times indeed for at last the gloves come off at the 3rd test session.

Nice graph up above and yes as suspected, Mercedes, Ferrari and Mclaren will be going to battle in 2014 and if Renault/Red Bull can sort out their issues, it will then be a 4 way fight for I read on the internet that the Red Bull people believe their car will be in the mix, it's just a question of making everything work together.

I also understand that Red Bull are planning to roll out a B spec car in May so it seems all isn't lost and if my championship prediction is correct then the season will be a Vettel/Lewis push to the finish.

Regards the Pirells, I have heard Sutil say that seeing as the tyres are more durable hence it's more difficult to get heat into the tyres especially at the cooler tracks.

I believe this fact will greatly affect the smoother drivers as they won't be able to get enough grip out of the rubber.

All in all, 2014 promises to be spectacular as the new 2014 cars promise to give back control of the cars back to the drivers.


It's hard to read anything from the test graphs but interesting to see that Kimi or Ferrari seem to have a pattern of fast lap followed by three or four laps each slower than the previous?

No idea why that may be. Surely not tyre deg?, Perhaps it's fuel consumption evaluation settings each lap?, Perhaps it points to a potential car or engine issue? Perhaps they just wanted a few easy laps to gather data?

Other drivers, particularly Button seems to have a more evenly spaced grouping of laptimes.

Roll on the next test.

p.s. If any team wants to complain about the legality of the McLaren rear suspension blockers, do they do it now or after the race in Oz?

There was chat about the fact it had a kink in its shape, to change the air pressure and encourage air to be sucked through the diffuser.


As I understand it as the FIA has given the go ahead to McLarens overture of the suspension flaring it will be legal - although the other teams can lodge an appeal to the scrutineers/stewards for entering the race with it. It's like the holes red bull had in their floor last year - everyone spotted them but couldn't lodge a protest until red bull entered the car into the Grand Prix.

Short version - if mclaren win/get a podium expect the protests to get lodged!


Yes certainly looks as though Mercedes have an advantage, but while we will see later iterations of the car in the final test, it will be Melbourne before they are truly in race spec. because more will be learnt at this final test about achieving the ideal.


haven't redbull been testing all week in spain at idiada?. (inbetween Bahrain) after crying to FIA last year. tut, tut.


No...it is just a truthful rumor 🙂


"haven’t redbull been testing all week in spain at idiada?"

Horner: Is it starting yet Vettel?

Vettel: Nope...

Newey: Try wiggling the keys a bit.

Vettel: 'kay...

Horner: Any luck now?

Vettel: Nope...

...and so on.


I was thinking exactly the same when I first read about that testing, but you put it in much better words than I could.


Cheers 🙂


Do you have more info on that ?


redbull have denied it, but they would. I saw it reported on gp24/7 a few days ago with an audio link.


James has any team from what u have heard or seen maybe not showing there true pace? Ferrari possibly?


I'd be somewhat suprprised if anyone showed their true pace.

What would be simply amazing is if RBR are fooling everyone with their drama to get ink/bits just to come out and spank away. I swear, if that is the case I'm going to finally drink a Red Bull. I hear the magical sugar mix in it gives you some type of aerodynamic appendages.



Let's hope Red Bull spank the opposition once again!


Looks like someone spilt some on the rear suspension of the Macca!


Wishful thinking mate! It's a big regulation change for any team to skip running properly (in 8 days test) in order to hide their pace. Red Bull might recover, but that won't mean they're sandbagging all along.


I will drink a red bull if they even score points at the first race based on what we have seen so far. They will still win this year I have no doubt - but probably too late for a title win.


Interesting stuff. Looking forward to seeing the long stint times. Also on the BBC Andrew Benson has written on the Ferrari engine:

"Insiders say the Italian team's engine is lagging behind Mercedes on usable power within the fuel restriction."

James have you heard any specifics on relative performance? And does the above mean the Ferrari is not as powerful in lower fuel flow mode?


Given the amount of safety cars we are likely too see due to cars breaking down, is the fuel restriction likely to be a factor at the first few races anyway?


The fuel restriction in the new regs limits the maximum fuel flow, so yes, it is.


But doesn't limit the minimum fuel flow? Presumably behind the safety car you set it to minimum and save fuel? Lots of safety cars therefore = lots of fuel saving opportunities?


I think it will be worrying for Mclaren if none of the other major teams, tries out Mclarens aerodynamic rear suspension design at the last BAH test.

It could suggest that the other teams have difficulties using it (making a protest at AUS probable), or that they deem the advantage using them is marginal (which seems unlikely). Or that they are certain it is illegal, again making a protest at AUS probable, if it gives Mclaren an advantage when the racing goes underway.

Back in 2006 the FIA banned the mass dampers perfected by Renault, claiming the system constituted a movable aerodynamic device (after being considered legal the year before). This ruling happened even though the device was INTERNAL and so did not have a direct aerodynamic effect. In contrast, the Mclaren invention/moveable device is fully exposed to and apparently uses the air flow to gain an aerodynamic advantage. AUS will be exciting on different levels.


One more option you missed: they want to try it, but they are not ready yet. So that means a protest is still possible and they will label as it "seeking clarity".


I believe that in order for teams to use the McLaren style rear suspension, you have to redo the geometry for the rear suspension, which means moving the mount points, which means re-homolagating the chassis.

I'm sure teams are testing it in R&D, and if they decide to come out with a "B-spec" chassis, they'll carefully consider it.


Oh, that sounds like a lot of work and redesign (and risk considering in-season testing is not allowed). In the mean time Mclaren will be able to capitalize on the advantages of it, further increasing the cost of choosing to NOT protest it at the first race. Remember also that a protest would actually force Mclaren themselves (and not the teams not having it) to (re)redo all that work with their package, with minimal opportunity to test it on track as in-season testing is not allowed. To me it sounds like a protest at AUS is a win-win situation for all other top teams.

Add to that the possibility of any of the not so rich teams, to protest it later in the season, potentially forcing all teams then using it to redesign... Maybe not that probable but stranger things have happened in this semi-sport.


Is it Illegal rear suspension design in first place ?

Do Mclaren have to change it come AUS if other teams lodge the protest ?

James Could you please provide us some insight on the Mclaren rear suspension design ?


Hi James, thanks for this analysis, it's mostly interesting. It would be fantastic if similar graphs could be produced for Kimi v Alonso, Lewis v Nico and Button v K-Mag. At the moment these 3 teams seem to be the leading contenders, so I'd like to know if there is also a pattern on the driver front too.


Or maybe when they go racing- when we know drivers are actually racing !


You left a notable one: Ric vs Vet. If that was intentional, then you either meant the competition will be one-sided and uninteresting OR RBR will have issues in this test too that there will be no significant mileage from them.


I personally think Daniel is probably a year or two behind Sebastian on a development level - the ever smiling Dan has only been in F1 since the summer of 2011.

And yet........if the Bulls are off the pace or unreliable - or both - in the fly away races then Dan has a great opportunity to show the world he can outqualify and outrace his four time world champion team-mate. Having said that, I think the best and fairest opportunity to judge Dan is during the European/Canadian months when the cars, teams and drivers have settled down to some semblance of normality.

Like I said, I feel Daniel is a couple of years behind Sebastian at the moment, but new regulations are always a great leveller. Can Dan rise to the challenge?


We will do that after the final test when the times mean a bit more


Will we be able to see something on Williams as well? Been a lot of speculation on their status (revival?) in the pecking order and would be good to have the data displayed.

Thanks for the insights - they ad much to our ability to understand the process and the results.



The engines have to be homologated by this Friday 28th February. This would imply that the Renault is going to be at a permanent disadvantage this season, unless they've managed to solve all their problems by then - which seems unlikely. Can you do us a piece on what changes are allowed after that date? What about software changes?

- Ron


an engine manufacture can have changes after the homologation date on reliability and cost saving grounds . But for tht FIA will float an enquiry to rival engine manufacturers( mercedes and ferrari) as well for the reason that the engine manufacturer ( renault in this case ) does not seek a performance advantage after the homologation date...

i guess the same immunity was availed by renault or mercedes (not sure)in 2006 as well when V8 2.4liters were introduced and one manufacture found themselves on backfoot compare to rivals


Its nice to see the Pirelli "fun" factor removed from F1.

I don't think fuel would be much of an issue this year too, which seems to be confirmed with McLarens choice to go with the drag inducing butterfly suspension.

Fingers crossed for a great season.


Agree. I think the scare stories of drivers tarting around to save fuel are misplaced. Remember 2005, when the drivers had to make do with one set of tyres a weekend? Again, scare stories that the drivers would all have a nice Sunday afternoon cruise, no racing would happen, it would be dull as ditchwater.

Didn't turn out like that!


I think this is still a factor that we have no idea how it will play out until the racing starts.

Could yet be a non issue - or if it spoils the racing we will soon be hearing so much noise that it will make the fragile tyres of the last couple of years look like a good idea.


I'm also glad that tyres seem to not to be a factor this year, but about the fuel consumption, Iook this interview with Nico in f1.com: http://www.formula1.com/news/interviews/2014/2/15495.html

He says that at this time looks difficult to cover the race distance wit the 100 litres. I hope this is valid just for a few races.


So someone help me out here. So say one car is faster than another both in qualifying trim and race pace, this car could still lose the race because of its fuel consumption? Is this what this year's championship is about?


In a word, yes, the rule change to larger ERS and smaller fuel allowance is focusing on fuel consumption (and alternative energy use)

Up to a point it has been that way since fuel stops were eliminated, the difference is that up to now all engines had similar consumption and power output, and the fuel limit was enough to come home

With new engines and until they are fine tuned there might be larger differences, and I guess, from Rosberg's comments all teams will have to manage fuel consumption (or power output) to make it to the finish

I assume that is where ERS will come into play in the long run, more as alternate power than added boost for passing


Another difference is that before I think the teams could calculate their fuel consumption and make their own decision on what fuel load they could and should use for the race.

Now they're limited to 100kg, like it or not.


Last year they were limited to 150 kg like it or not. The engines are only a 1/3 smaller and they have a bigger ERS and have turbos etc so overall they should be in a better position. Fuel will be no more of an issue than last year


I personally think the fuel limit won't be an issue. Something to do with technology improving all the time, something to do with drivers don't have to use full revs and can lean the engine setting, can take a corner in a higher gear etc.....

I might be wrong, but I think the circuits where fuel consumption will be the most issue will be the mega fast tracks like Silverstone, Spa, Monza and Suzuka as on those circuits drivers are on full throttle for a greater percentage of the lap.

Also, Melbourne is historically a safety car affected race, while at Malaysia and China you can never count out a sprinkling of rain - which means slower lap times, therefore better fuel consumption.

I could be completely wrong of course...................


If you can't go to the end of the race in your chosen "race pace", then your race pace was too fast. You will just have to choose an engine-mapping/software-setting that will allow you to finish the race.


How strange, racing too fast when motor RACING!!!


How is this different from last year? Do you remember last year when Hamilton had to limp home and Rosberg was ordered to stay behind him because he had used to much fuel at Malaysia!


I have to admit these tests mean very little to me. Its the first time I've followed it. Sadly the exclusive coverage on Sky tv consisted of dialog with few images of the cars in motion.

So no visual que to how these cars sit on the road, take a corner etc.

I look forward to the first race that I believe will be the real test. Hopefully all faults will be ironed out and a worthwhile battle can commence.

Ps - Renault engines have won more grandprix over the past 30 years or so than anyone else, write them off at your peril


Talking of testing, such a shame Silverstone is no longer use for pre season shakedowns. I know Northamptonshire in January/February is cold, grey and miserable (as is the whole of Britain) but despite this it used to be great to watch a brand new car try and attempt the likes of Copse, Becketts, Stowe and Abbey at full chat. If a car feels good through the mega fast sweepers of Silverstone, even in Jan/Feb, a driver knows the car is producing good downforce and has excellent aerodynamic aero balance/centre of gravity.

Another benefit of testing at Silverstone is it's just a short journey for the British kit car teams.

Ah well, at least the grand prix is secured there until 2017.


I'd like to see a Phillip Island test a week before the Oz GP. Imagine an F1 car around that track! And perfect time of year to get warm running on a fast track, much like summer in Silverstone etc.


Now we are talking. I think JB did a few laps of Mt Panorama in a Mclaren a few years ago. Not sure about that, but I'm sure I've heard him talk about it with fond memories.


Yes, Phil Island is a great track, but what about an F1 car at Bathurst? God, drivers would really earn their salary to doa 100% balls out lap around the 3.6 miles of Mount Panorama!


Testing is always so difficult to pinpoint. Clearly the Renault Teams are struggling, but we don't typically know for sure until the cars start pounding around at the first race weekend.

It sure feels like we could see a pretty dramatic and unpredictable season. Mercedes, McLaren, Ferrari, Williams and Force India could put up some surprises early on. Of course you can never count out the Renault boys and Vettel who will undoubtedly throw down some surprises.

I can't wait until the action starts!


I assume the "working range" is the temperature range where that tyre is designed to work.

I never knew the Soft required higher temperatures than the Medium - I would have assumed the opposite. Or is that a change for this year's tyres?


I was surprised to learn that the intermediate tyre was actually a harder compound than the normal dry weather slicks. I thought the inters and wets would be softer, but apparently the inters have a harder compound so the tread block doesn't tear on a drying track.

Tyres are indeed, literally, a black art.


What's the likelihood of the 107% rule being enforced after Melbourne qualifying? Are any of the Renault cars in danger of not being able to race?


recently the 107% has only been applied if the belief is that a really is that slow. When the quali time has been unusually slow due to weather, error or failure they have allowed it to race if practice times were not seriously adrift of the others.

Unless there are serious problems with the Renault engine they should be able to turn the wick up sufficiently for one lap. Making the car last a race distance is a somewhat more difficult task.

Tom Haythornthwaite

For fun I pretended that the graph shows a qualifying session. I didn't get out my ruler but I think Ricciardo's best time was about 99.9 seconds and Rosberg's was about 93.4 seconds, giving a percentage of .... 106.9!!


It happened to HRT a couple of years ago when they hadn't tested and obviously weren't ready. If one or more of the Renault teams are unable to put in a decent time in practice or qualifying (which could easily happen) then they'd have to apply the rule.


Marussia uses Ferrari engines, and they are clearly in the worst position of all...they are definitely in danger of not making the 107% cut...that would break my heart!!


I seem to recall the Friday session last week at Bahrain, Red Bull wouldn't have made the 107% rule.

I'm in favor of it being enforced, even if that means some of the top teams don't compete (will never happen).

Then again I'm also in favor of enforcing the 107% rule for Q2 and Q3 (but give the teams a qualifying tire to use as they choose during all three sessions).


Interested to see how Ferrari fare. Rumours are they have performance in hand, and haven't shown it to date. Is it enough to bring them up to or past what Mercedes have shown so far?


Well, they have performance in hand, that is a given. There is no way they are more than 3 seconds off Mercedes pace. However, that does not mean they have more than 3 seconds in hand. I don't believe it.


You know what would be really funny? If RBR wins in Oz.

If that should happen, I assure you I will be rolling on the floor laughing, and laughing and..


Could happen. And DNFs for Mercedes. Who knows? 😀


...waking up next to your bed 😉

I shouldn't make jokes though - I would love to see Ricciardo win his home GP 🙂


If Bulls finish 1-2 in Melbourne they can rename themselves Lazarus!


It's possible. It's possible Williams or Caterham will win too.



and... posting how you said so

Actually I think RBs (and VET) are fast enough to be in the battle, the question right now is whether they will make it to the finish line

On the other hand the Mercs can run away from the rest and have a bolt come loose on their seemingly reliable power units and fail to finish

That is why we will be watching to see who wins, as opposed to watching who comes second after VET


Red Bulls are not fast enough at the moment to be in the battle, simply because Renault is lacking power at the moment compared to Mercedes and Ferrari. The question is wether Renault are going to be able to unleash all the power of their PU for Melbourne, and if Red Bull are going to fix their reliability problems. I would say no to both, but we will see.


One must be careful to note-Some teams were showing their pace and others werent. Mercedes have shown their hand- and its a good one. But I suspect Ferrari havent yet and much more of their pace will come at the final test. It is clear Mercedes have relative reliability as shown by Mclaren: Williams. Ferrari are a little more cautious and seem to want ensure their cars are bullet proof before they go chasing outright performance.

As for Red Bull & Lotus - Im happy not to talk about them at all this year.. But reality is they will get better- maybe not the best by the first race- im sure they will be a little closer though.

The really big challenge will come this week when we see performance runs over long stints. Who will show consistent pace on the tyres whilst managing fuel. This is where the experienced guys will earn their stripes-Raikkonen & Alonso will dominate this week.

Fernando "150%" Alonso

I suspect Ferrari will show the true pace only at Oz qualis!


What if they do it then, then the PU breaks b/c of the stress?? I think it's imperative that all teams have a few lower fuel quali runs in their programmes this week. Race sim's are the most important, but quali runs, practice starts, etc., are important too.


You can argue that other teams haven't shown their hands, the same can be said of Mercedes too, who knows they might even go quicker still.


Mercedes always talk the talk. They were talking their engines up even before release. Further Rosberg admitted to the team taking fuel out for that fast run. Maybe they quickest but what Im saying is right now the teams are not on the same programs and the gaps are not representative


@Kingzito- "Your preaching to the converted"..Every year I tell the same thing to so many fans in testing. Im just telling everyone not to read too much into the times and the large variations in times atm.Ive been watching f1 long enough to know what goes down-- unfortunately many others dont


Exactly this.


When has any team or driver given away a clear indication of their true pace in testing? For the fact that Rosberg said that they took out much fuel from that run might even be misleading. Note that he stressed that point twice in the same interview. Teams are not saints so don't take their words to the bank. We will know the true pace of the cars come Melbourne.

If there is any top team that really needed to show their hands that early, that would be McLaren for a title sponsor and to please stake holders for the fact they were disappointing last season.

Don't raise your hopes and don't be downbeat either, just wait for Melbourne.


Soon, we will have answers.

But I stick by my theory. Mercedes needs to see ROI, and others on the grid realize it must be so. They cannot afford to have nothing to show for all the money invested. MB Dealers simply cannot have 2008 posters still handing on the walls with McLaren branding. They need Mercedes WDC posters. McLaren moved out of the way as the #1 Mercedes team, secret tests were "allowed", wins started coming in, and now a WDC for Mercedes is a forgone conclusion in my mind.

Here is how it goes.

5th Championship in a row for RBR and Vettel would be nice, but not if it causes grid resentment.

Ratings have apparently taken a hit with Vettel/RBR domination.

Ferrari doesn't want to be fighting Renault should Mercedes say adios.

And so, here is how it went. "Renault/RBR, you've had 4 years of glory. Time to let someone else take a turn. It's best for F1, viewing numbers, partners paying in. We have this manufacturer pumping heavy coin here and supplying what...4 teams? They need some ROI. Let's have a hiccup with this engine transition, you'll take some heat, but don't worry, year or two you're back on top. Simply this year you'll fall behind at the start to take you out of it for this season. For now, we need the next year with Mercedes taking the WDC."

This concludes my tin-foil hat comment. Strangely, it makes some sense.


the trend suggest merit to your argument.


If that was the case, Red Bull would just pull out and give t

heir money to somebody to jump over/off something.

Thr fact that they're still on the grid this year negates your conspiracy theory.


There's sandbagging, and there's not getting reliability runs in your totally new chassis that's never been real world tested before.

Sadly, this makes as much sense as team bosses sabotaging Hamilton in 2012 (note, "bosses"-- not individual mechanics with a grudge).

When testing is this limited, you have to test the car to near-destruction to find out what breaks and what doesn't. NOT breaking down in testing is worse than breaking down in testing.

Red Bull will bounce back, and probably finish ahead of the other Renault teams-- How far ahead depends on how fast Renault sorts out their problems, and how fast Adrian Newey sorts out his thermal issues.


"Strangely, it makes some sense."

Only to you!


If you were in charge of a 10 billion dollar business, would you leave things entirely to "chance"?


Other F1 teams to lay down and let another win, for the "good of the sport"?!?! This is F1 we're talkin' about, right?



I never suggested DM was silly - self made billionaires seldom are!

DM and BE are good mates which, in billionaire speak, means they see an opportunity to make money from each other. Your post suggested that the 'fix' was in for Mercedes this season and I was merely pointing out this was (assuming it's true) no different to the last several seasons, were Bernie has taken very good care of Red Bull. To be fair, you may have a point with your post - I was watching the downhill skiing from Kitzbuhel a few weeks back and guess who were stood together in the VIP enclosure? Niki and Bernie, very pally they looked too 🙂


If you owned the Red Bull empire, would you be silly enough to burn money at the altar of F1 without guaranteed ROI? Daniel may be a rookie, but trust me, Mateschitz is far from one.



Simply one or two well placed parties tipping the scales .......

Do you mean in the same way Bernie has acted as a ' minder' for Red Bull these last few seasons?


No. Simply one or two well placed parties tipping the scales over toward an engine maker perhaps. We all know that power is concentrated in certain individuals in this sport.


I dont disagree with you..I just think Ferrari arent too happy being beaten for 6 years either


I think Ferrari "win" as long as they are in it. And they have been, right?


Mr Allen,the picture above is worthy of the an art Gallery selection,if any of your staff has taken it he/she deserve a cash bonus.

Top stuff,and that is why JA site is Numero uno in the F1 world.


In order to disguise its true performance, is it possible for a team to accurately extrapolate a lap time on a low fuel load from a higher one or are there too many other factors which affect performance at the limit that makes this unreliable?

Also, for this test, I would have thought that making sure your aero correlation work is spot on must be vital so that when you bring new parts to the first race, you have a good idea if they are going to work.


They always go for low fuel runs in testing. They have to find out at what point the juice runs out and they also have to have a feel for the car at minimum weight.

They can extrapolate times but not how the car changes. Ideally the fore and aft centre of gravity should remain the same as fuel burns off but that is not always possible. It can change the cars handling significantly.


Thanks Jonathan. So we can make some reasonable comparisons as the lap times converge because all the teams will have to explore that low fuel configuration at some point in the test.


Will be interesting to watch

a) Ferrari in Race car / trim specs as they said and how would they compare to Merc.

b) Can Renault teams solve key issues and run a race trim during practice ?

b) How advanced Merc engine teams and Merc team is. They have a big chance to capitalize on the early lead that they seem to have.


Well, people were saying that the Renault engines would have the best fuel efficiency. So far, the Renault-powered cars have used very little fuel, compared to the other teams.

The first few races could be amusing to watch, for all the wrong reasons.


Very true 🙂


They used very little fuel because they were parked in the garage for most of the time..


There has been lots of smoke, they must have been burning something... 🙂


Well spotted. Who's the greenest now?


Can't believe how quick this season has come round, not that I'm complaining


I'm glad Pirelli have released details of their 2014 tyres. After the dogs dinner and PR disaster that was Silverstone last year, they will want to make sure that never happens again - although intransigence from the teams was partly the cause of those spectacular blow outs - but that's an essay for another time.

What will be interesting this year - and what will have a significant influence - will be the torque curve and torque pattern of the respective engines this year. If you watch footage from 2004/2005 the Renault V10 had a huge acceleration advantage out of low speed corners. Also, Fernando, Jarno and Fisi always made lightning starts. I know that was partly due to the rearward bias of the weight distribution of the Renault's, but it was also partly due to the engine's torque distribution as well. I think whatever engine manufacturer can produce an engine with an advantage out of slow speed corners will benefit its driver. I know theoretically turbo lag shouldn't be an issue, but you never know, for example a vapour lock, metering and injection problems something similar on a turbo unit would hinder acceleration.

I think I'm right in saying power is torque multiply by revs, and at the moment the Merc is producing the most power, so I can assume it has the fattest torque curve. Therefore, the Merc engineers have more leeway in order to program a torque curve for a specific circuit. Maybe wrong though.

On a separate level, I hope F1 doesn't get too nostalgic over the previous 80s turbo F1 era and bring back those ghastly "winglets" that blighted the cars in 1983 and particularly 1984. Ferrari pioneered them at the Long Beach GP in 83, and then by the end of the season everybody had them. In 1984 F1 cars didn't have rear wings, just huge carbon fibre parachutes that looked bulbous and bloated. If you think I'm being overly critical, check out the 1983 and 1984 Tolemans in particular - ugh, those hideous machines will make your eyes bleed! Thank goodness winglets were banned from the start of 1985, and we could enjoy the beauty and precision of a clean profile.


Can I add: how was that double wing Toleman of 1983/84 ever allowed from a technical regulation point of view? Surely double rear wings would have been illegal?

Also, why did Toleman mount the radiator on the front wing? Bit odd that, it would have roasted the drivers feet and created more frontal area too. Very curious car!


Great article.

James, could you please clearly label the x- and y-axis by increasing the font size? As a scientist I would like to be able to interpret the data.


"Similarly McLaren and Ferrari have clearly done a good job with their new cars, but appear to have a bit to do to catch Merc’s general pace."

Umm, how do you know? Ferrari wasn't chasing lap times, was McLaren?

You don't even know whos actually ahead. Teams might just have different approach to their development programs.


How do you know Ferrari wasn't chasing lap times? Don't believe anything any of the teams say...


Nice 😀


How can we say Merc has better pace when final aero bits are yet to be bolted onto the cars.

Reminds me of 2011 when mclaren were pretty much written off but stunned everyone on Saturday in Melbourne.


No team stands still. If Mercedes has advantage now, that means that they have advantage. If other teams are improving their cars, Mercedes will also be doing the same whereby maintaining their advantage.

Referring to Mclaren of 2011 season, McLaren gained huge performance after they abandoned their exhaust system and copied the exhaust blown diffuser of the Red Bull. Unfortunately this season there is no obvious innovation that can give a team such a massive jump in performance. If any team is in trouble after this coming last test, then the team is in really trouble because it might take the team up to European races to recover if at all the team will recover. Take last year McLaren for example.


And we all know how everyone got stunned later in the year by RBR.


Thanks James for this.

A question, what's the general opinion on which engine has the best fuel consumption?


If the fuel problem is as acute as some are projecting, I'm sure teams will have to start prioritising. For example, Kimi driving infront of Alonso while Alonso slipstreaming behind him for a few laps thereby saving fuel before a final assault on the other teams doing slower runs saving fuel. Is such a situation possible?

Or would a faster driver deliberately slipsteam behind a backmarker for a few laps to save fuel? This is assuming that slipstreaming saves fuel. Any comments from the posters here?


In theory I think if a car is slip-streaming another car then it is encountering less air resistance, therefore it requires less power to maintain the same speed, therefore it would be using less fuel.

It's a good question, and as you said it could introduce some interesting strategies.


That would carry the risk of overheating the engine and other components due to the car behind driving through all the hot gases coming out of the exhaust of the car in front.


Ok, it is dumb, but why they choose these colors to these types of tires? It would be more logic to me if it were:

red - hard

orange - medium

yellow - soft

white - supersoft

or the other way around.


Someone made the same question above and others reply that it would be possible in a race to have tyres orange and yellow or red and orange, it could be difficult to identified who has which tyre in those cases. I think that is the reason also, otherwise your logic is correct.


Answered in comment #4 🙂


Early days; still many variables.

Posting by many suggest that a lot of people think that because the first race is 'only' 17 days (and twelve hours) away, that we are on the eve of racing.

Think of how long a devlopment period that would be during a season, now take away most of the other inter-season distractions.

Two weeks is a long time in this circus; a lot can and most likely will, change.

Also, even predictions about which drivers will dominate on any given team, are weak.

Here's why, such a significant handling change, and drive characteristics are likely to advantage some drivers and disadvantage others, likely some amongst the current top four (Kimi, Alonso, Vettel, Hamilton); neither do we know if there is a wild, phemon, i.e. Kevin Magnussun, who could come into the sport and challenge a former world champion from the very first qualifying, thus propelling himself to the elite group almost at once, as did Lewis Hamilton, upon his entry to Formula One!

Red Bull: based on the very well established trend, those that count Red Bull down, will lose!

It's a long season with the new weighting of double at the last race; even if a given car wuff's at the first tranche of races, it doesn't mean that they can't pull closer, and right into the fray by mid-May; especially if that team is Red Bulll; their in-season development has surpassed that of the legendary McLaren and way above what Ferrari has ever done!

Renault: is one of, if not the most winning engine constructor in F1 history; their trend of achievement is very well established. How quickly it be forgotten the last homogulation, Renault clearly behind. Well, now they've won the past four championships, and should have won the preceding one, if not for the strange acceptance of the double diffuser as legal by the governing body!?!

Renault will almost certainly 'be there'. The only questions is, 'when?'

Mercedes: it's been a long time coming that people have been anticipating the rise of this Teutonic brand juggernault; so far they are not disappointing.

But this is a team that has NOT demonstrated the capability to keep up with the McLarens and Red Bulls of the world, over an entire season's distance.

Strategy and tactics in the current era of F1's Development Wars:

If I was one of the successful design strategists, I would bring the differentiators from a conceptual standpoint, those the most difficult to adapt by other teams, earlier on, then the bits and pieces that work by design with that concept, with moderate adaptive prospects, next. Lastly I bring the upgrades with the easiest adaptability to a wider range of car concepts, last.

Even in testing I would do this.

It's clear that Mercedes, as a engine supplier and in the extreme, as a team, have shown the highest performance and reliability so far.

There could be corporate reporting consideration behind this; as the corporations become more and more ingratiated into the sport at an operatinal level, so those teams must fall in line with corporate anal-retentive risk and reporting types, proliferating in the modern multi-national corporate entities.

I'm not convinced at the championship invulnerability of Mercedes, for many reasons.

That being said, as Ian Fleming wrote in one of his famous novels, 'It's never too early to start winning.' (I think it was during a game of golf with a fat man, with an obsession for gold.)


This rising technical star of F1 is at Ferrari.

Ferrari have upgraded their facilities and processes to once again compete with the best; we do not know if they have achieved the top capability, but we know they have come far from a sub-optimal system of the past.

In my mind there is no question that they have the strongest driver line up of the current era, and likely since Senna and Prost were on the same team.

If I was the clever technical director, I would follow the release strategy as indicated above.

Further, I would have first created a test bed, to test all of the novel solutions caused by the change to the formula, for at least the first two tests, cut down on the variables, identify areas and directions to maximize the entire season's development cycle, in terms of points.

What to expect:

1. I expect Ferrari and McLaren to be very close to Mercedes, perhaps Mercedes not the one on top.

2. I hope to start to get a glimpse of re-jigging of the pecking order, in terms of drivers who take advantage, at least initially, from the specifications changes, and those that are penalized.

I believe we will see some changes in comparative driver performances, during/at the conclusion of this test!

3. I believe that we will see more than one team, and more than one engine supplier, who cannot make a full race distance simulation!

4. I believe that we will start to get an appreciation of the delta between one lap qualifying pace, and race pace constrained by fuel consumption limitations.

Bring it on!

great article, BTW.


Do you have a one page summary of this? Many thanks. 😉


A very good analysis! Thanks for that!


What I found interesting was how slow Rosberg had to go in his race simulation to make the fuel last to the end. he must be 7-8 seconds slower than on a full out qualifying lap.

What this means, all out speed means nothing. Thermodynamic, aerodynamic and overall efficiency will be of far greater importance than all out speed.

IF it turns out the Ferrari or Renault power plants are more efficient- use less fuel for a given amount of torque, you might find the Mercedes powered units on pole at every race, but quickly fade as the race progresses, because of constraints on fuel consumption.

Who knows, the current dogs- Renault powers teams just might be more efficient and playing the long game once they sorted out their reliability problems and end up winning. There are just so many variables this season with the press focusing on speed and lap times rather than consumption and lap times..


I find it very hard to believe that the Renault PU can be more fuel efficient. With their unit needing vastly more cooling than the others it sounds wasteful. There is only 100 litres of fuel to burn - losing the energy as heat means it isn't being turned into motive force.


If you run a petrol turbo engine lean it will run hot and if you run it rich it will run cool. Food for thought 🙂


I'm just waiting for Bernie to suggest that the cars all carry amplifiers and huge loudspeakers to make up for the loss of noise.


Or how about the drivers make the noises? Each car would have an unique sound!


Vettel has his crazy frog sound, so that's one down at least 🙂


Yes, but won't the Artificial Rain Simulators (AKA sprinklers) on the track interfere with them?


Getting inside information on the progress of the teams is like pulling teeth. I appreciate the graph, but we need to make a lot of assumptions when analyzing this data. For me I would like to know more about the gear box.

The way I understand it we are dealing with eight (8) gear ratio’s that will be fixed though-out the year. This has to be the biggest decision the teams will make. The ratios must be in direct correlation with the power curve and in the case of Renault, I don’t even think they have established this curve with any kind of certainty.

In testing we have seen some very high top speeds. This could be a big advantage for teams with less down force. I can see how one car could blow the doors off another car down the long straight and then hold that car behind in the twisty sections.

This is going to be one of the best Formula 1 championships in a long time. Even if Red Bull struggle in the first four fly away races, they will be back in the mix come Spain.

The best part about testing is that you get to see things that you have never seen before. That photo of the Red Bull with a hole drilled in the body work with grind marks all around makes me laugh. I would feel sorry for them but when you consider there recent success it’s hard to shed a tear.


I read from some websites that Marussia suffered a computer virus attack and could not run a lot in the last test. This could be an interesting line of development in future. Now that the formula 1 cars are highly complex electronic systems, teams could covertly pay hackers to disable rivals. This could be a new low point in F1 ethics as they have already tried out intentional accidents and spying on other teams. No I just kidding !


sounds like a difficult to confirm, good excuse, to me


Intrigue, espionage, paranoia............all in day's work for an F1 team! Reminds me of that old cliche "Keep your friends close, and your enemies closer" or "If you think you can trust somebody, keep your eyes on them at all times."

My God, F1 has something of a spooks novel, doesn't it?


It was reported on the official F1 site also, so I tend to believe it.

I think you're thinking the same thing I was thinking at first - i.e. it was the systems on the actual car that had the virus - but I have a feeling it might have just been the computers in the back of the garage that were affected.

But I guess teams could engage in a bit of computer espionage.

1st McLaren Engineer: Oh man...

2nd McLaren Engineer: What is it?

1st McLaren Engineer: I just got hit by another Lotus Rabbit.

2nd McLaren Engineer: Damn you Lotus! That's it...no more mister nice guy.

1st McLaren Engineer: You don't mean...

2nd McLaren Engineer: Yes...send the Kiwi...


It's unlikely that I'm along when I say that I love the in-depth technical and strategic analyses that you post. That said, one aspect that I've always found to be lacking are the graphs. Screenshots are not sufficient anymore. I need dynamic graphs. It would be really nice to see graphs like those over at Lapalyzer.com or at qz.com (using Chartbuilder https://github.com/Quartz/Chartbuilder) used in these technical articles.


I also agree with data, this is easily my favourite website but sometimes I have to skip the graphs all together and place trust in the analysis. Although this one is better than some of the others. I understand that the graph would have been completely illegible if you had put all of the teams and drivers on there but it would have been nice to see where Williams actually are in comparison to the top teams, especially with all the hype around them being on the resurgence. From the outside it seems they have made some very good moves with respect to engines, engineers, sponsors and drivers but is this returning any results yet?


No-one has talked about driving these torque-heavy cars in wet conditions. I bet that'll be a beast!


I get goose bumps when the season is real close.

Hope Red Bull will solve as much issues they've been facing so Vettel will be up there for a good fight. To suddenly drop is not what I'm wishing for them at all.

As for Ferrari I just want their major upgrades to match Merc and Mc.

The negatives are all turning to positives overall especially the time sheets indicator and this year could be one of the best season. Can't wait to be at Sepang to feel the cars speed and also the new turbo sound.


Anyone else notice the resemblance between

F14T and FIAT?

I might have been the last person to get it or first, you never know with the interwebs!


I have a feeling you might be leaning more toward the last 😉

But I'm still not sure whether it was supposed to be subtle marketing or if it was just a happy accident for FIAT.


Anyone know what that appendage is on top of the Ferrari Airbox?? Obviously a test device of some sort just curious what it does!

best regards




If you're talking about the long, antenna looking thing, that's a pitot tube, I'd measures air speed


Another point to consider is we know RAI does not drive at 100% during testing [from past team comments]. Creating a graph with the day Alonso ran the car should give better picture!


Hi James,

Can you make the data itself available for download (for this graph, but also going forward in general)? i.e., as an Excel spreadsheet or a standard delimited file?

The visual representation here is quite poor. If you make available the data itself in a convenient format for us, I'm sure the community can create and send _much_ _much_ better visual representations...

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