Nico Rosberg today brought the first Bahrain test to a close with a flourish, the Mercedes driver setting the week’s fastest time with a lap of 1:33.283.
The only driver to break the 1min 34s barrier, Rosberg’s time was set on soft tyres in the midst of a sequence of fast short runs. The German also racked up the most laps on day four of the test with 89 tours of the Sakhir circuit.
“We can be very pleased with the first test in Bahrain this week,” said Rosberg. “We completed a lot of mileage and learnt more about the car with every lap we achieved. This morning we were able to try some qualifying practice runs, which felt good, meaning I could attack the lap a bit as I found a good balance.
“Later in the day we did a race simulation, which was crucial to learn all the new things in the car,” he added. “There was a lot of feedback from the engineers, so my head was full of information! We suffered with an issue at the end of the day, which ended our programme slightly early. There is still some way to go for us to manage the reliability before Melbourne as this will play a huge factor in the early races, but we’re hopeful that we can make another step towards achieving this next week.”
As yesterday, Jenson Button was second quickest, with a lap of 1:34.957, during a 66-lap outing in the McLaren MP4-29, the Briton again underlining the Woking outfit’s solid start to the season.
Kimi Raikkonen was third for Ferrari, recording a lap of 1:36.718 on the soft tyre, just two tenths shy of team-mate Fernando Alonso’s best time of the week. Raikkonen also put in a healthy 82 laps before crashing out at turn four in the final minutes of the afternoon running.
Williams, meanwhile, gave a full day’s running to new recruit Felipe Nasr following the overnight news that the 21-year-old Brazilian has been appointed as Williams’ test driver. Nasr enjoyed a good outing, too, logging 87 trouble-free laps on his way to fourth on the timesheet with a time of 1:37.569.
Behind the top four, it was a tricky day for many others, with Red Bull Racing again suffering more than most.
Daniel Ricciardo only managed to complete his installation lap before a software issue saw the Australian restricted to the garage for most of the morning. He eventually emerged at the wheel of the RB10 shortly before lunchtime but with just 15 laps on the board was brought back to pit lane as yet another ‘mechanical issue’ caused damage to the rear of the car. The damage was such that Ricciardo failed to take to the track again, a miserable end to a frustrating week for the Australian who, following team-mate Sebastian Vettel’s 59-lap outing on day two, might have felt that the worst was behind the team.
Race Engineering Co-ordinator Andy Damerum later admitted the team has much to do ahead of next week’s final test in Bahrain. “It’s been a difficult week: we’ve made some very good progress, particular on day two, but we’ve also had a number of problems that have again held us back. The engineering team will head back to Milton Keynes now to plan the next moves and we can only look forward and try to get everything in place for T-03 here next week.”Jean-Eric Vergne of sister team Toro Rosso managed just four more laps than Ricciardo, his day being disrupted by what he called “a major problem on the engine side”.
At Caterham, Marcus Ericsson’s morning in the CT05 was cut to just four laps by an electrical problem. The team managed to fix the car in time to give Kamui Kobayashi 17 laps in the afternoon, though he finished almost 10 seconds off the pace set by Rosberg.
Of the Renault-powered team it was Lotus who enjoyed the best day. The E22 has been plagued by problems this week, but aside from minor issues which caused short delays to the team’s run plans, Pastor Maldonado was able to put in good mileage, completing 59 laps for fifth spot on the timesheet.
“Today was much better for us and we’ve been able to go through a lot of different aero assessments as well as mapping and settings work with the new drivetrain,” said Trackside Operations Director Alan Permane. “We did have a few glitches which stopped us but these were quickly rectified. We’re still very early on in our understanding of this car and we clearly have a lot of work to do, but today has been our most productive day so far.”
Force India encountered trouble as well, with Sergio Perez managing just 19 laps due to what Chief Operating Officer Otmar Szafnauer described as a “drivetrain issue”.
“Although we didn’t cover a large number of laps today, we were able to complete some aero work this morning and evaluate some more set-up items,” he said. “The programme was cut short by a drivetrain issue just before lunch, which confined us to the garage for the rest of the afternoon. With the amount of work involved in resolving the problem and the lack of time available, we decided it was better to regroup and put our efforts into achieving our objectives next week.”
As the second pre-season test closed it was abundantly clear that the Mercedes-powered teams are currently sitting pretty. Until late this week the hallmark of the company’s new power unit had been its impressive reliability. However, that has now been allied to impressive potency, with the five fastest times of the first four days in Bahrain going to Mercedes-powered cars.
Rosberg tops the list with his searing lap of 1:33.283 and he is followed by team-mate Lewis Hamilton, the McLarens of Kevin Magnussen and Jenson Button respectively – with those three in the 1min 23s bracket – and Nico Hulkenberg fifth for Force India.
Bahrain Test 1 – Day Four Times
1. Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1:33.283s 89 laps
2. Jenson Button McLaren 1:34.957s +1.674s 66 laps
3. Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari 1:36.718s +3.435s 82 laps
4. Felipe Nasr Williams 1:37.569s +4.286s 87 laps
5. Pastor Maldonado Lotus 1:38.707s +5.424s 59 laps
6. Sergio Perez Force India 1:39.258s +5.975s 19 laps
7. Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull Racing 1:39.837s +6.554s 15 laps
8. Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso 1:40.472s +7.189s 19 laps
9. Kamui Kobayashi Caterham 1:43.027s +9.744s 17 laps
10. Marcus Ericsson Caterham 1:45.094s +11.811s 4 laps
11. Jules Bianchi Marussia no time 5 laps
12. Adrian Sutil Sauber no time 5 laps