Analysis: The pecking order after the most unpredictable F1 winter tests for years
Analysis: The pecking order after the most unpredictable F1 winter tests for years
Posted By: James Allen  |  03 Mar 2014   |  12:18 am GMT  |  414 comments

The winter testing is over and now the teams have just over a week to prepare for the new F1 season which kicks off in Melbourne.

It’s been clear throughout the three tests in Jerez and Bahrain with the radical new hybrid turbo power units that we are seeing a different competition in F1 from recent years with Mercedes looking strong and Red Bull struggling, but what is the pecking order going into the first race and what trends are there to consider?

As ever, with the help and input of JA on F1 Technical adviser Mark Gillan, formerly chief operations engineer of Williams and Toyota, we have detailed analysis backed up with graphs based on lap times from the final test, to share with F1 fans, eager to know who’s hot and who’s not.

Frank Williams in Bahrain this week

A clear picture at the front

Mercedes are clearly out front as the new season starts, there is no doubt about that. It’s hard to say by exactly how much, but in both low fuel and high fuel running (race preparation) they have the edge in pace and the reliability is generally good, although they have suffered problems. Gearbox issues restricted running this week in Bahrain, for example.

Behind them it’s close between Williams and Ferrari with Williams probably having the edge. Considering how bad Williams was last season, they have reason to be the happiest of any team after the tests, as Frank Williams’ smile in our top image shows. It’s close with Ferrari, but Williams look as though they shade it, although Ferrari didn’t really do low fuel headline laps. The high fuel running is comparable between the two teams. That said there will be new development parts coming for Melbourne, so it may swing back to Ferrari, but that is the top three at the moment.

Behind them, with a gap, it’s the two other Mercedes powered teams, McLaren and Force India. It’s hard to tell in which order; McLaren was certainly more competitive in the early testing, but hasn’t showed as much recently, while Force India did only high fuel running at the end of the week with Hulkenberg after Perez had topped the time sheets on the first two days.

Behind them it’s very hard to draw any conclusions, beyond the obvious point that Renault engined teams are struggling to do mileage and appear to be running the engine below full power in order to get some mileage done to learn about the chassis.

[Click on graph to view enlarged version – Vertical axis is the lap time in seconds, horizontal axis is the number of laps in chronological order]

The Mercedes engined cars

Consider the graph above of Mercedes powered cars on Day 3. Mercedes runs and groupings show consistency and pace and the tyre degradation is pretty low. “Mercedes engineers looking at this graph will be pleased with where they are so far,” says Gillan. “Day 4 wasn’t so great as they had some problems, but Day 3 with Rosberg was very consistent. They are the team to beat in Melbourne.”

This is no surprise, the picture has been this way for some time during testing.

Williams is perhaps the surprise package. The car looks quick in both low fuel and high fuel specification. They didn’t do much high fuel running in the last two days of the test, but Massa set the fastest time of the test with a lap which caught the eye.

This little grouping of laps with Alonso in red and Bottas in blue, shows a comparable trend in high fuel running between the Williams and the Ferrari. They look quite evenly matched for race pace.

The team has not however been showboating this week; the lap times have come and the car has been very reliable, but it has been doing a lot of detailed correlation work, as the image below shows, measuring the vortices coming off the inside shoulder of the front tyres and off the front suspension to compare to wind tunnel data. This indicates that they have done a lot of meaningful work and haven’t just been headline grabbing with an eye on sponsors.

[Click on graph to view enlarged version – Vertical axis is the lap time in seconds, horizontal axis is the number of laps in chronological order]

Renault teams unlikely to score points in Australia
“There is nothing there, even in the short runs to get excited about,” says Gillan of the Renault engined teams graph (above). “It looks like they have wound the engine back to be able to get some laps on the board. It is dangerous for us to read much into the speed trap times, but the teams have sound analysis equipment at the track so they will know exactly how many revs the Renault engined teams were using. It looks to me as though the engines were turned down, though.”

Toro Rosso was doing some laps with not disastrous lap times but it’s hard to draw conclusions without a consistent showing from Red Bull as a reference.

Lotus and Red Bull have done very limited mileage and seem to have a number of problems to deal with. Lotus engineers don’t sound too hopeful of finishing in Australia.

“With the first four races all long hauls and the equipment on a plane, it is very hard to get to the bottom of the problems over these first weeks of the season,” says Gillan. “If I was in their situation I would be very concerned. You would want to have done a race distance or, failing that, at least blocks of long runs.”

Red Bull managed a 17 lap run towards the end of Day 4.

In contrast Mercedes and Williams have hit the target of 5,000km of testing, which is what engineers aim for from three four-day single car tests.

Pirelli tyres look more durable

One thing we can say with reasonable certainty is that tyres will not be the main talking point this year. The Pirellis used in the test appear to be more durable and there is no sign from our graphs of the severe tyre degradation we saw at this stage last year. This is Pirelli’s fourth year in F1 and they have learned a lot. The situation appears to have normalised and although the difference between compounds will add strategic interest to the races and the drivers will still need to take care not to ruin them with wheelspin from these high torque engines, they shouldn’t be the focus of attention.

The talking point will be reliability at the outset of the season.

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Minor typo:

they will *no* exactly how many revs


Another minor typo 😉

"there will be new development parts coming for Melbourne, so it may swing back to Ferrari"

surely, going on recent Ferrari development it should read:

"so it may swing back to Williams"


Lol. I see what you did there.


Wouldn't it be great if Massa, after being forced to leave Ferrari, ended up higher in the final table than Alonso and Raikkonen.....

kenneth chapman

it is a pity that no one actually has come out and stated what some of the problems actually are? from what has been observed/commented on it appears that red bull cannot run at full power. why is that? is it to do with cooling of the power unit batteries? is it something else? surely someone has been able to suss out what the problems are and the likelihood of a fix before melbourne.

one other point not fully covered is engine life. williams have been able to clock up a really impressive mileage on their car. did they do it on one engine or have there been any changes? have there been any consumption figures bandied about? that alone would be interesting to have a handle on as well. some answers to these queries would go along way to analysing the current situation.


Caveat; these are my observations.

It seems clear that the Renault engine requires more cooling than Ferrari or Merc engines. Renault got a late start on the electronics, because the Renault teams (notably Red Bull) built their own KERS and someone forgot to coordinate efforts between engine and battery in the three years that Red Bull and Renault had to build their power unit. A major failure.

This has resulted in Renault, Red Bull and other client teams getting their heat output estimates wrong.

This has led to the electronics getting overheated and behaving in unexpected ways (or just frying). badly behaved electronics would set off an ugly chain reaction to all other systems, from brakes (digitally controlled from 2014) to energy regeneration. This is because, the electronics would be sending the wrong (or random) parameters to the software and presenting a moving target the software can never keep up with.

...So, Fizzle, pop, KEBLAM!!!


The issues plaguing Renault appear to be more related to control systems and PU energy management. The heat issues initially stemmed from this, but Renault had updates early to allow teams to run with the PU derated. Any cooling issued that followed were likely team related. All of that is my observation of course.


I got this eye opener from

Helmut Marko -

“The season opener is coming at least two months too early for us. We are not where we should be”, he added. “This is a very, very serious thing. At the moment we do not know what [time] period we will need to catch up, or whether we will at all.”


A guest on the Red Bull TV channel, Niki Lauda quips at Marko, “If you started earlier, you’d finish sooner,” a reference to the relentless obsession in continuing to develop the RB9 which dominated all before it during the last 9 races of 2013.

Marko was quick to respond, “Can you say that in French The engine comes from Renault The message must go there? . . “

Marko criticises Renault’s approach to testing the engine. He claims the engine, gearbox and ERS components weren’t tested as a whole unit prior to the car hitting the track in Jerez, hence why the vibrations only became noticeable then.

“There is the conventional turbo engine, supplemented by the two energy recovery systems . The interaction of these as a single unit is making it difficult to deliver harmonious driving characteristics,“ Marko explains.

“We are currently struggling with the turbo lag. This is enhanced when the electric power is supplied. So, you step on the gas and only nothing happens. Then suddenly in comes the power and spins up the wheels”. This is a software problem and it means Renault have not even begun to tune the engine because delivering continuous and regular lap times has not been possible.

kenneth chapman

some very interesting comments and also some rather shocking admissions if in fact they are 100% correct. in ref to the comments attributed to marko could someone point me to a link as i would like to read them at first hand?

if the facts, as stated, are a truthful account of events then what happened is not only farcical but ludicrous in the extreme.

i am not questioning the provision of the statements as reported, for that, many thanks. i just happen to be appalled at the prospect of any future 'big fix' being in the pipeline.

kenneth chapman

very many thanks for all the comments re my post but it simply does not satisfy the need to know something more precise, as most people are still either guessing or using supposition to come to an understanding.

i simply cannot believe that the inter company dialogue between renault and their clients was so bad as to have resulted in such an obvious mismatch!!! surely, given the development time, this should not have occurred if in fact it is a major contributing factor.

given the paucity of details it means that much speculation will fill the pages of the media and we will be no wiser at the end of the day.

james, i urged you to don the cloak and carry the dagger into the midst of the bahrein 'garagistes'. i would've thought that at the very least there would've been the odd clandestine meeting to arrive at some meaningful 'download' on just what the real problems are......

i will be most surprised if red bull actually complete a full race distance in melbourne along with a host of other teams.


To some extent CAD/CAM can be a problem in that it allows most things to be done in the virtual world, and I expect that accounts for engine delivery at Jerez. The whole thing can in fact be assembled in the virtual world which is fine providing the models accurately represent the reality, but I tell you it would not be the first time I have found a discrepancy between the two regardless of those that protest they match, and it is is of course manufacturing that have deviated.


Helmut Marko says its software. Basically, the engine was made in separate modules which are now difficult to meld together in a working car.

It goes back to what I said earlier about not coordinating battery and engine efforts. Both Renault and Red Bull really goofed; and now that its payback time, lets see how big the cheque will be.


how big the dialog was?

marco told yesterday, that all renault teams got their engines in jerez !!

i was absolutly baffled!!!!

the renault engine never ran on a dyno with transmission or ERS attached!

never had "red bull" exaust on it, bevor jerez.

so no wounder those things dont work "together"



Comments made by the one everyone loves to hate- Dr. Helmut Marko is that it seems Renault seriously dropped the ball on all this.

They never even bench tested their units with an attached gearbox, never supplied cooling requirements, heat flow analysis, vibration analysis etc until the test in Jerez. On top of that the software making the three power elements work harmoniously together its still lacking. Renault thought they had a "working unit" . From the trouble the Renault powered teams are facing, this seems quite plausible and is frankly embarrassing.


I agree it beggars belief, but there is no substitute for running an engine in a car, particularly race cars that are so tightly package. I don't think rival teams are lightly to divulge specifics so we can only surmise what the actual problems are.

Byron Lamarque

Interesting. I must confess I was a little perplexed when the Red Bull made an appearance. The expectation was that these engines would have massive cooling requirements. The Williams and McLaren side pods supported this assumption with much larger then normal raidiator entrances. The Mercedes' openings seemed to be uncanningly small I gather the benefit of a very close affiliation with their engine supplier. But on the Renault side there was little outward evidence of the need for radical cooling. It seems like a lot of teams may have unwisely chosen to be super aggressive with their packaging during a season of massive change and unknowns. Perhaps Williams and McLaren are benefitting from having been a bit more cautious.

Byron Lamarque

Thanks for clarifying.


Mercedes' engine supplier?

Mmmmm, I would think the engine department won't be treating the works team as a client, would they?


If it helps, Autosport reported that the engine Mercedes replaced on Saturday morning had been in since the first day in Bahrain and had done 2,667km.

That seems good enough. It would give them 700km per race weekend (based on 5 engines for 19 races). A race distance is just over 300km, suggesting about 600km for a weekend.

Also it was a "precautionary" change, and the rules allow them to mix and match the 6 main assemblies that make up a power plant. So there would have been some miles left in it somewhere.


TJ13 said that was one engine for Williams and it failed late on day 4 which was explained as "wear related" and sounded expected. 5000k's seems high for what they need to cover over 5 races?? They also reported Mercedes changed their engine the day before around the same usage.


5000km is about 16 race distances.

In other words, the Merc engine is engineered with a safety factor that gives it a lifetime thats 3 times what's required of the engine.


@Quade, and for the first event I think they would want to keep an engine in there that's done at least some running. Guess we'll see in a week's time.



Ok, my inner geek couldn't resist. Here's what I found from "2014 F1 Technical Regulations" (

Things are now vastly different from 2013 and different parts of the engine incur different penalties, ALL of which are no longer tied to race weekend. Each car is limited to 5 units through the season. If its a full engine change, the driver starts from the pit lane.

Using a 6th component of a power unit in a season incurs a 10 place penalty for the first component that breaks down, all additional components requiring change add 5 grid places each. Its the same for a 7th component of a power unit - a real merry go round of penalties for unreliability.

28.4 a) Unless he drives for more than one team (see 28.4(d) below), each driver may use no more than five power units during a Championship season.

b) For the purposes of this Article 28.4 the power unit will be deemed to comprise six separate elements, the engine (ICE), the motor generator unit-kinetic (MGU-K), the motor generator unit-heat (MGU-H), the energy store (ES), turbocharger (TC) and control electronics (CE). Each driver will therefore be permitted to use five of each of the above six components during a Championship season and any combination of them may be fitted to a car at any one time.

c) Should a driver use more than five of any one of the elements a grid place penalty will be imposed upon him at the first Event during which each additional element is used. Penalties will be applied according to the following table and will be cumulative :


For the gearbox, its a bit different and includes FP3 as part of the race. A car must use a single gearbox for 6 consecutive races:

28.6 For the purposes of this Article only, an Event will be deemed to comprise P3, the qualifying practice session and the race.

a) Each driver may use no more than one gearbox for six consecutive Events in which his team competes. Should a driver use a replacement gearbox he will drop five places on the starting grid at that Event and an additional five places each time a further gearbox is used.



Release the inner geek!



Of course, FP adds to engine mileage. But teams can use any engine they like for FP, the race distance for an engine starts at Q1.

If a team suddenly find an issue with their qualifying/race engine requiring an engine change before Q1, but after FP3, they drop 10 places; if that change happens during qualy, they start from the back of the grid.


FP does count towards an engine's mileage, of course. I think it's FP3 where the engine is set for the weekend, and then an engine change thereafter will incur a penalty. Team's would always put a new engine in for Monza and Spa ... a bit easier to do when you have 8, rather than 5, for the year.

I thought there was a maximum mileage that any engine could do, but can't find that in any regulation. The F1 site is pretty bad for finding such information, though.


Rob T

The Williams engine is said to have given up life after trundling around on all test days. Mercedes also changed their engine (for old age too) on the day before the last test (their gearboxes didn't seem to fair so well).

Fernando "150%" Alonso

FP engines aren't part of race distance (305 Km for winner, aside Monaco). Indeed, teams are allowed to use old engines for free practice, and if an engine breaks down during free practice, there is no penalty for replacement. FP is a test session that's quite different from the race in all ways.

Fernando "150%" Alonso

A "race distance" is about 600 km! You have to count the kilometers from FP and quali!


...that's assuming they brought the same engine to all three tests.


two cars, two mínimum engines. I would say four at least...

And that is 1200 km per engine. 3,5 races


Above is the kind of problems that at least Lotus are facing. You get an idea of how one problem leads into another and reduced testing time.

I presume there are many problems like this for all the teams RBR in particular.


There's a lot of conjecture going on in that thread.


The issue is of course, that you'll be behind the proverbial 8-ball, and 100 points (or more, if the leaders finish 1-2) by the time you get back to the European rounds.


Agree. Everyone seems to forget this time of year the most important aspect of the championship is the development war during the Euro/Canadian summer season. No point being quick in Barcelona if you're slow by Silverstone.

The first four fly away races will be important, of course, but in development terms there is little the teams can do in this period; once when get back to Europe we will see who can progress their packages.

Twas ever thus.......


Wow! It's really looking great for Williams this year! Brilliant. And I am glad with how the Ferrari is this year. I won't be surprised if Mercedes win it this year, but I really don't care who does, as long as it isn't Vettel! I am expecting a tight competition between Hamilton and Rosberg, but for some reason I think Rosberg will just about get it. As for Ferrari, I reckon Alonso will have the edge over Kimi, but only just, an I do think that Magnussen will get a few podiums!

And it's looking disasterous for the Renault teams now! I feel so sorry for Caterham and Lotus!

Anyway, this will be a great season 😀


good points.

David in Sydney

It's testing.

And don't feel sorry for any team - it's part of the Championship to design their best car - if they've chosen a bad engine, bad packaging, bad aero then that's their lot.


I think that RBR overcooked the goose with their development program last year. It´s very impressive to win 9 races in a row with a field that has stopped most efforts in order to concentrate on 2014. RBR might´ve afforded throwing less resources at it, playing the long game. Instead they trashed the competition. Now their playing catch up. It reminds me of the last race of 2010 when they used Webber to distract Alonso allowing for Vettel to win the first one. Regardless that it was Dyer who payed for that, and probably rightly so, Alonso had been shouting for some weeks that he considered Webber to be his rival, perhaps calculating that that would demoralize Vettel. As much of a fan of his as I am, I do think that his mind games have more than once backfired. That was an intelligent move from RBR. Now they get a taste of their own medicine: they reveled in the raised finger for all those races and humiliated Ferrari, Mercedes and McLaren while the latter went quietly minding their business for this year. Vettel´s record book might have to spend a while in the back burner, while others with lesser books but comparable hunger catch their spot in the sunlight.


We still don't know the lay of the land. We can make educated guesses, but hone in on the noun there, not the adjective.

RBR developing for longer, to net those 9 straight wins, it might actually have maximized their return. Only 13 constructors in the history of F1 have won more than 9 races! RBR did that in the 2nd half of a season.

If and when the Renault PU gets sorted out, they'll be up there. They're the fastest through the corners ... doesn't take a rocket scientist to know that if you can go into a corner with more speed, carry that speed through, and exit the corner starting at a higher speed, that you can easily make up for a noticeable power deficit.

As for Alonso's mind games, I agree that I think most have blown up in his face.


Good point, well made.. And the drivers choose their teams too. But this sport provides entertainment, and where there is entertainment there is emotion and opinion. A lot of people will be hoping to see Vettel have a difficult year as we think that he has had it too easy over the last 4 years. A lot of easy flag to finish wins and 9 wins in a row last year. F1 shouldnt be that easy in my opinion. Hamilton, Alonso, all of the top drivers in non Redbull teams had to watch while Championships they thought they were worthy of winning slipped away, year after year.

Some teams and drivers had tough choices to make in pursuit of winning again. Now the rules have been changed we have a chance to see if some of those choices made by teams and drivers have been good. Hamilton going to Mercedes, Ferrari changing Massa for Raikonnen, Williams changing to Mercedes engines, Massa chooing Williams.... Maldonado choosing Lotus... that one doesnt sound too good. Looking forward to watching it all play out starting with the Australian GP.

Hamilton for 2nd WDC and a year of Williams/Massa revivals?


Tealeaf I do not doubt that Vettel is super talented. He is a great driver. He has dominated his team mate. He has done a great job with the team and car he has had at his disposal. I congratulate him and Redbull for their 4 titles. My opinion is that with 38 wins since 2009 to Webber's 9 his job has been made easier by a dominant car amd inferior team mate over that period. If he could beat Webber he could win races and lots of them. 13 wins last year including 9 in a row.

Over the same period, 2009 to 2013, JB won 14 races, LH 13, FA 11.

I am hoping for a mix up this year so that after this 5 year period we can see if the pecking order is the same. If Vettel is still on top, he will be rated higher than he is. If LH, FA, KR... or any other step up and win I will continue to reassess the drivers as I do each year. With a car that underneath him that can really dominate for the next 5 years, any of the top drivers who could consistently beat their team mate could go on to lift the title numerous times.

As a fan of competitive wheel to wheel racing, I don't want to see domination by any one team. I want to see close championships. If one team dominates, I have to accept that they have done a great job and better than the others.

Let's see what 2014 shows us. It should be great!


Mike this car/tyre suiting Vettel is getting old and tiresome, he won races and the title with Bridgestone, he wins in wet and dry, he's won with blown diffusers, single diffusers, double diffusers, then you say Webber, this is the same Webber that trounced Rosberg, the same Rosberg thats giving Hamilton a very hard time, just face the facts Vettel is probably the best driver in F1 aside from Alonso.


Yes it would. 6 years on and both in different teams. One of the key skills of formula 1 driver is trying to be in the strongest car/team. I believe Vettel got a lucky break to find himself in a winning car these last 5 years. The car and Pirelli tyres suited his style and he used his undoubted talent to beat the only driver with a car able to compete... Mark Webber.

Now time for a shake up. Hamilton, Raikonnen, Massa, Hulkenburg, Perez, Riciardo, Maldonado. ... they have all made moves, some forced but still choices to make. Which moves will pay off? Alonso, Vettel, Grosjean, Button decided to stay put. It is not just about being quick and consistent, these drivers are all talented. It is about being in the right car at the right time and beating your team mate. I am looking forward to the inter team battles as much as those between teams. Ham v Ros, Alo v Rai, Mas v Bot, Hul v Perez... there is a lot to look forward to.

Yes, it would be great to see Ham v Massa like in 2008. As a Brit living in Rio... if the battle went as far as Interlagos it would be a lot of fun!


Would actually be pretty cool to have a Hamilton V Massa round 2


Don't count out Caterham yet.

I'm not really expecting them to pick up any points, but they will enjoy waving as they pass the Red Bulls and Lotus' on the side of the road 🙂


Do you think Seb or Pastor will waive back?


You mean we still may have to put up with that finger.....:-)


Doubtful, although they may make some gesture that might be mistaken for a wave but probably isn't 😉


Hmmm, how many times have Williams looked good in testing only to be useless when the talking stops. I remember Rubens being tipped as a winner in Oz three years ago after an impressive test, and he ended up scoring three points all year. They certainly seem to have had a good run in testing, as much due to the Mercedes engine as anything else, but we'll see how they turn out in Australia. If they have genuinely turned things around to the point of being among the pace-setters, it'll be a revival similar in scope to that enjoyed by Honda-Brawn between 2008 and 09...


Forzaminardi - I thought the same thing about Williams when people started bringing their name up this year. Just going for headlines.

BUT...their data from testing is most impressive. Check out the data on all the team's running over the winter. Williams is right up there with Mercedes and Ferrari. I think they are doing very well at this point.


Williams may be good initially, but I think they cannot sustain it year long.


Massa set fastest time using a 4,000 km old PU which suggests to me that they probably will be able to sustain their performance!


^this and then they will sign with honda


This is the first time they have a decent engine, or an engine for a period of time.

This decade they have gone from BMW to Cosworth to Toyota to Coswroth to Renault to Mercedes.

No other team has had to play musical engine chairs for a whole decade, and ti really hurt them.


So the renault was not a decent engine? It won over 50% of the races in the period you are talking about!


I think they have the right one now, and let's not forget that there have been engineering staff changes such as Pat Symonds joining them which will have done them a lot of good. The EBD diffuser has gone so together with genuine improvements in the car they have moved up the pecking order. Tghe big question for me is can they maintain it throughout the season. - We will see!


Very good point - there has been little engine continuity at Grove over the last 10 years, which has certainly hindered their progress.

Hopefully, Frank and Claire can settle down to a fruitful relationship with Mercedes - they've certainly got an excellent opportunity this year to get some positive results.


While I don't doubt Williams are in good shape, I am mindful that that have a launch party with a new title sponsor this week and hence a wee bit of showboating might have taken place.

But the pace of development this year will be mighty so the big teams with the big budgets will rise to the top.


I'm not surprised Williams is up at the top. They showed to have a good car when they dumped the EBD last year. Now everyone else has had to dump it. They have the best power unit at the moment. I'll have a laugh if Massa is fighting Alonso on track in a Williams!


Pat Symonds is a very practical engineer too


@Gaz Boy

Pat Symomds is a wily character, and he potentially bring about the downfall of some great teams and drivers!

He even brought about the downfall of his own team, Renault, with the crashgate business ;-).


Good to have him back in a proper team too I think.


Agree James, Pat joining Grove was a major coup for Frank and Claire. Don't forget he steered Michael to titles in 94-95, and Fernando in 2005-06. He is quite possibly the most street wise and savvy engineer in F1. He also brings excellent operational efficiency to a team: in 2005 - excluding the farce of Indy - Fernando only had one retirement all year, and that was self induced in Canada. Otherwise, Fernando and Renault ran like clockwork all year - reliability, consistency, development work, the lot.

Pat Symomds is a wily character, and he potentially bring about the downfall of some great teams and drivers!


I'm not sure that showboating is really possible this year. The cars are struggling to meet the minimum weights due to the new power units, so taking out the ballast and running under weight isn't really an option as it was previously.


I think they may have spent a tad more time on speed and performance than some of the other teams. I in no way think they ran light.

As a team they need to maximise the first half of the season. They can in no way compete with the amount of upgrades that a team like Red Bull can deliver every race weekend. And apparently we should be looking at seconds being lopped off performance wise across the season. If Red Bull can get their issues sorted, then my money would be on Williams being 4th place at end of season. McLaren seem to have made the same mistake Ferrari made last year after having a Year of the Dog; they went for safe and lacked ambition with the car.


Why would they need to showboat? They already have the sponsor lined up.

If they were desperately looking for sponsors, then you might have a point. But they aren't.

As for big teams with big budgets, what happened to McLaren last year? They started off awful and ended up slightly less awful and without a podium for the first time in many, many years. Money is no guarantee of success.

Martin (England)

No showboating according to the in depth article by Mark Gillan above.


James please could you shed some light on the tyres Lewis was using on his 33.2 today. Pirelli say used softs and Merc albeit via twitter said super softs. Both are credible sources?


The Mercedes tweet (see below) you refereed to was tweeted after Lewis had set his best time. I think Pirelli is correct.

"Floodlights on, supersofts on, game face on...30mins left of pre-season testing 2014 for @LewisHamilton & the #F1 W05"


Incorrect I'm afraid. Pirelli announced today that Hamilton's fastest Day 4 time was set on used softs... not new supersofts. Ominous indeed

Martin (England)

Sorry Rayz you are wrong Pirelli made a mistake

MERCEDES AMG F1 ‏@MercedesAMGF1 3 min

@tgruener @andrewbensonf1 Hi all.. just to confirm, it was the supersoft tyre that Lewis used to set the fastest time yesterday


Let me correct my own correction... seen as Pirelli haven't a clue. Mercedes have since confirmed that he was on the supersofts and that Pirelli should keep their trap closed.


Ah, but he went out on new supersofts and couldn't set a better time with them. Rosberg's best time was not on the super softs either.

This probably says something about the Mercedes car if I was teccie enough to work it out. Eating tyres again?


It would be good to hear a bit more about what is meant by "the engines were turned down". With 3 distinct elements to power output this year it does not mean they were not pushing the V6 as hard as they could.

They could mean the turbos were not running at max boost - but what does that mean for the MGU T?

It could mean that they were running without any form of ERS... leaving the battery disconnected would cut a lot of overheating problems. This would make it very hard to cover a race distance. So what were Caterham doing to reach their lap counts?

I assume they will start races and quali with batteries fully charged. Does this mean that RBs can qualify reasonably near the front and will then fade quickly during the race? What will this mean for tyre life? One less pit stop suddenly takes on a whole new meaning.


You've made me wonder about how the engines might work. Button has mentioned wastegate sound, which is something I didn't expect. By using the MGU-T the turbo is limited to 125,000 rpm, and if less boost is desired reduce that rpm figure and generate more electricity. That electricity has to go somewhere though, so if the battery is overheating, adding more charge to it all the time isn't great.

Normally when someone talks about the wastegate, it is really the pop-off/blow-off valve that is being heard when the throttle shuts.

With the engine there's revs, fuel mixture and boost levels to play with, plus different maps that may vary the ignition timing too.

To save the batteries, the first step would be to reduce the harvesting under braking, especially from high speeds, as that is where the peak current flows come from. Shutting down the MGU-K would be tricky without a wastegate to bleed off excess exhaust pressure, so that might be why it is fitted: to protect the engine.

In my naivety on the rules, I'd have been tempted to run the engines without throttles and just cut fuel when the driver wants less torque. Effectively the engine would be cold blowing the MGU-T, which would boost power generation and reduce the need to use the MGU-T for lag prevention.




Martin, you're a very knowledge and insightful chap - can you forsee the direct injection units causing problems this year? Or is it possibly causing problems already? I think I'm right in saying this is the first time in modern F1 engines are using the system.


Hi Gaz,

I'm speculating as I don't really know, but I doubt there'd be major injector reliability problems. The pressures used are much less than in diesels and the pumps tend to be mechanically driven off the crankshaft.

Making best use of them is another matter, and one I don't know a lot about. Varying the time of injection and also the use of port injection (up to 25% from memory) would change to combustion temperature.




I was thinking specifically of pressure related problems with the common rail - and also the immense thermal related issues with a turbo unit.


I agree it would be good to get more insight into PU behaviour during testing. Also how the fuel consumption is looking as I would imagine the teams have been paying a significant proportion of their attention to this. BTW I think you mean MGU-H?


I do - I was thinking of turbo rather than the heat of the moment whilst typing!


CATERHAM put Kobayasi in the car, that's wot they've done 😉

On a more serious note, if the problems faced by some teams are indeed due to cooling, maybe Caterham's aero data did not correlate and a huge amount of airflow ended up in their radiators instead of the rear wings... Ok, seriously, it's probably a by-product of not being at the cutting edge of aero design.

Jose Sanchez kowalsky

Hamilton rosberg or Alonso? Between this three i am convinced hides the 2014 world champion.

David in Sydney

It'll be Massa.

I hope.

Alexander Supertramp

I don't think Williams can keep up in the development battle..I don't really care for Massa, I just hope Williams have a great year.


In the second half of 2012 Maldonado managed to qualify in the top 4 at Spa, Singapore & Abu Dhabi.

The big teams were bringing plenty of updates that year, yet Williams managed to keep the pace throughout the entire season.

With the testing pace they've shown, fifth place is a minimum, 4th should be "expected" but Williams should be targeting a 3rd place constructors finish this year.


Don't forget Frank and Claire have got Pat Symonds on the payroll - and he is very good at developing a car throughout the season, and keeping it at a competitive level - of course, I'm assuming it is competitive going into this season!

Case in point: when Pat was at Renault/Enstone in the first race of 2005 the car was on pole and won the race. Last race of 2005: China, and Renault was.........on pole and won the race. If there was one man who can use his savvy and street wise nous to keep a car at the front of the grid, its Pat. He brings so much needed vision and direction to the Williams technical and aero department.

I don't expect championships from Grove, but podiums and wins? A very good possibility!


Who knows? They have locked up a marquee sponsor, and the reports are that Brazilian money wants to join up with them given Massa's role on the team. If the team, and in particular Massa, get off to a hot start, it may attract some more money. Maybe not for this year, but for the future. And having the Mercedes engine may be a big key in keeping them toward the front for a while.

Besides, the Renault teams will not have their problems fixed overnight. They are so far back, it is going to take a lot of changes to the cars to get them into a reliable state, and even more to gather the data they need to start extracting performance.

Furthermore, Force India and Sauber don't exactly have money growing on trees to throw into their development programs to catch up to Williams.

I think there's every chance that Williams could go through the whole year in a top position.


I think you are right, Williams will be overhauled by the more monied teams. But what might they achieve first?


Based on the above analysis, I completely agree.

As I see it, Hamilton has a slight speed advantage over Rosberg, but Rosberg could keep the car going more reliably. Although that wasn't the case last year, these gearbox issues have affected Hamilton, and have done his McLaren in the past. So it could be very close between the pair of them. Mercedes have the quickest car.

The Ferrari's reliability will give them early points, while their new wind tunnel (I think they are using this year), should give them better tunnel to track correlation than in previous years. Raikkonen has a natural speed advantage but Alonso is obviously very quick and has clever race craft. Alonso holds his cars together better while Raikkonen can destroy them. Possibly. Alonso is far better in wet conditions.

So Hamilton, Rosberg and Alonso are the main contenders for me too.

Only one thing bothers me about Alonso...The him going to McLaren rumours in the near future seem too strong to ignore. If Ferrari believe them, all support for him will go out the window. Didn't he deny he was leaving Renault the first time? He denied he was leaving McLaren......That's what the media said.

Back on topic. Hamilton, Rosberg and Alonso.

You can rule out Vettel this year. He's driving for Dead Bull.


Raikkonen can destroy his cars? This is they guy who has the longest number of consecutive points finishes.

The evidence is he is very delicate with his cars.


I think the Alonso to Mclaren speculation just about ended with the change of ultimate control back to Ron Dennis. Last year he kept saying that his problem wasn't with the Hamilton or team, but with one person that wasn't (at the time) there anymore.


Alonso doesn't like Ron Denis at all, he's public stated that his problem at McLaren was with one person and it wasn't Hamilton. I'd say it's very much up in the air at the moment.

And Ferrari have had their fair share of reliability problems in testing as well.


Between these three?

Yep, if Alonso moves to the right a touch you might just be able to see the little fella with the big smile known as Ricciardo 🙂


Rendom,you may have a point there mate.

I do feel for the little guy with the smile like a plit watermelon,one would think he had kill the chinaman?, the opportunity of the life time for him,and look what hapen the car at the end of testing it seems to be a dud,but one can't underestimate champoins and as saying goes,he who laugh last laugh best and I do hope that being the case for Ricciardo.


If I'm honest I'm not sure what kill the chinaman means, but the rest is nice to say 🙂


That's assuming of course Daniel can get his car started..........or even if it does start it doesn't catch fire!


Random, like you I hope we see Daniel's beaming smile on podiums this year - but is that wishful thinking? Certainly on pace and reliability it is a long shot.

However, for me the crux of the season will be the development race during the Euro/Canada summer season - perhaps then we may see Daniel's first merited win/podium.

Good luck Daniel; keep smiling!


...and if he's as competitive as I hope, and if Red Bull give him a fair go, and throw in a splash of luck also.

Yes, at this stage it's long odds, but I do hope he's in the mix somewhere 🙂


Why have McLaren gone backwards?. What is going on there. More than any other team, McLaren need a good season so come on all you guys down in Woking. Get a wriggle on!


On day 4, JB was setting his times on MEDIUM compound tyres, not supersofts or even softs. They were obviously going for long correlation runs to get better tuning data for the races, not showboating or trying to set fastest laps. As someone else mentioned, they didn't have their upgrades in place, but they probably made solid progress on getting set-up data.

Last year they didn't start well, unless you count a single test while running an illegal component by mistake. That got everyone excited, and was probably the best set-up they had all year! Damned regulations 😉

The important thing is that of all of the teams, McLaren seem to have had among the fewest problems over all the tests. A gearbox issue, quickly fixed. Some more minor stuff. But in a year in which reliability will be a key factor in scoring points, they seem very well positioned to score some early points in the year, and we all know that McLaren can develop cars over the year (as long as they are basically sound). I am thinking they are 2nd or 3d in the Constructor's this year...

Martin (England)

JB didnt get a chance to set times on any any other tyre on day 4 because his car only lasted 21 laps, not very good for the team who you believe had the fewest problems.


Given that in Jerez the fast cars were probably 5 seconds off their Bahrain pace, it could well be that McLaren did some headline times as part of Kevin's education.


They've come forwards since last year though. I doubt their season will be as poor as that.


McLaren were still running their car on launch spec. Their expected updates didn't arrive at Bahrain, but they will definitely run their updated car in Melbourne. As we have seen already their car base is decent, so updates will lift them upward depending how other teams updated their respective cars.


Didn't they start this way in 2013?



And they can't blame Martin Whitmarsh this time as well.........


Off course they can, if the car is not competitive, they could say that was developed under Martin, they realized that and that was the reason to fire him, they could also say that they are trying to correct the path with Eric. But I hope anything like this happen, if the Renault teams are in problems we need more good teams to have a proper competition.


I think they are getting bogged down with the mushroom suspension.


Yes you're right Random - Martin must take some of the blame for not ditching that awful Macca after Malaysia last year, but he was "persuaded" by his engineering team to persist with, rather than re-hash the excellent 2012 Macca.

So yes, he was complicit in his downfall, agree with that.


Don't be so sure - I'm sure he had some say in the development phase and you only need one hook to hang your hat on.


I'd definitely give Williams the edge over Ferrari from a fuel consumption point of view, which might be marginal at Ferrari according Ted Kravitz's notebook.

The smart money is on Rosberg to win the WDC at 7/1.

Of the Renault powered teams, I can't help but think James Key has done a better job than Adrian Newey so far and will not be surprised to see them finish more often and finish ahead of RBR.

Interesting season ahead. Very much looking forward to go to Melbourne.

And who knows, we may bump in each other again this year!


I agree, the smart money is on Nico.

One of the Merc drivers should win the title this year, the question is how big of an advantage do they have? I fear the answer is in excess of 1 second - which is more than Red Bull have ever had in hand, and we know how the 2011 and second half of 2013 turned out (when RBR had something like 0.5s over rivals).

Potentially if Merc have such an advantage, Ferrari have fuel issues and Renault powered cars can't compete we're on course for the dullest F1 season since 2002. There is no way that Williams or Force India will keep pace with Mercedes development money, McLaren will struggle too. We're also on course for another season like 2013, 2011 and 2009 where really only one team could win, but cruicially the non-Merc major players in F1 (ALO, VET, RAI, GRO etc) are in cars that have bigger performance deficits than we saw in any of the seasons I've mentioned.

I pray I'm wrong, but I fear we'll see a Mercedes 1-2 on many occasions, and crucially unlike the 2010, 2012 and the first half of 2013 we're not going to see the top 6 drivers in the world qualifying within half a second of each other, instead it'll be potentially 3+ seconds between them and that is like the bad old days of F1 when races were ZZZZZZZZzzzzz.

Fingers crossed I'm wrong and we get some close racing.


Well, at time of writing Nico's at 6/1, while Lewis is 5/2. Vettel is still 3/1. Anyways, I think Nico is good value for a punt (say 10 units of whichever currency you use - UWCYU's), but it would take big "attachments" to put down 10,000 UWCYU'S of your own money down on Nico.

If anyone out there was forced to put 10,000 of their own money down on a single driver right now, I think we know the driver which the vast majority of that money would go on.


No need to cross your fingers cos u are totally wrong.

Even if Mercedes is one second quicker than the rest (which is unlikely), we would still have a very close fight between Lewis and Rosberg, which wasn't the case between Vettel and Webber. If you are in for the thrill the sport brings then that won't be boring unless you are a hardcore supporter of a particular team then that would be agonizing to see your team one second (if that is the case) behind a winning team.

I believe this would be a balanced season among teams. Lewis vs Rosberg + Alonso vs Kimi + Massa vs Bottas + Button vs Mag + Vettel vs Ricciardo + Hulk vs Perez + all of them fighting each other in between.

Bring on Melbourne!!!!


Not really interested in seeing just teams drivers fight it out. I want to see the sports top drivers in with a shout of winning races. As I said, that wasn't possible in later half of 2013 or 2011. In the first half of 2013 for example though we saw Lewis, Seb, Fernando, Kimi and Kimi all win! 2012? We eight had different winners.

Don't give me that rubbish that watching two team mates battle - and that's if they're even allowed to battle, they weren't at RBR, Mercedes or Ferrari last year, is anywhere near as entertaining as watching Fernando vs Seb vs Lewis vs Kimi. It's not. It's not like '88 where the two stand out drivers in the sport are team mates and had significant animosity.

I really hope that Ferrari and the Renault powered runners can have the pace (and economy in Ferrari's case) to compete with the Merc powered cars, as if they can't the title is Mercedes to lose, there is no way on this earth that Force India or Williams could compete with Mercedes in development. McLaren meanwhile are likely to get seconds in the power unit department from mid-season onwards as they transfer to Honda in 2015 and Merc won't be giving it's technology ideas away FOC. I guess what I'm saying is that we need a Ferrari, Lotus or Red Bull team to compete with Mercedes, because others can't compete and that leads to a 2002/2004 season which makes 2013 look positivley interesting.

Lets hope I'm wrong. Very wrong.


With reliability issues hitting all teams, there will be some interesting races the first half of the season. If the Mercedes is really the quickest car, they need to get a jump early. I would expect Red Bull to be winning races or at least challenging by mid season.


Talk about jumping to conclusions.


It's kind of strange, but for a race engineer these days (who often get almost as much attention as the drivers), James Key is very low key 🙂


He is one of the most street wise, savvy operators in F1 - good strategist is James Key.


James, which teams have completed at least one full race simulation? Scary to think of not having any finishers at Australia; has that ever even happened before?


In my skimming of a record book (1950 to 1991) there were at least five races where not all the points were awarded - all were races that paid down to 6th. Monaco 1966 had 7 runners, but only 4 had done 90% of the race distance to be awarded points. In 1968 there were consecutive races with only five cars finishing.


Martin, I think also the 1970 Spanish GP had just five classified finishers. That was the race where Jackie Oliver's BRM front axle snapped, sending him creaming into the side of Jackie Ickx's Ferrari - of course in those days F1 cars had side fuel tanks, so inevitably wide a side impact there was a massive fire ball and Ickx was badly burned, although not seriously.

There's footage of the accident on Youtube - scary stuff.


Does a race cancelled half way through because of wet weather etc mean there are no 'finishers'? Malaysia 2009 springs to mind. I seem to recall they were awarded half points for that. I suppose the same would apply here - 'last man standing'.


Australia 1991. Half points were awarded


James or anyone else, check out footage of the end of the chaotic 1975 British GP at Silverstone where a sudden hailstorm sent I think 9 or 10 cars aquaplaning into Stowe and Club corners, with somewhat comical results! Thank goodness no one was hurt. The race had to be abandoned after 56 laps I think; even though Carlos Pace and Jody Scheckter had crashed into the barriers at Stowe they were luckily classified as finishing 2nd and 3rd respectively!


That race lasted all of 14 laps!


I was there. The sun was shining an hour after the race was abandoned!

Nigel Mansell broke his foot

Paul Simon played a concert that night, his Brazilian album.


I doubt there'll be no finishers, Some team's would try and limp home cruising if it meant points like Chilton would, also Williams looks ultra reliable and in the cooler Melbourne conditions they'll finish, as long as they don't crash.


Because of the reliability concerns, I am expecting the start of the races to be some of the dullest racing ever.

Who, in their right mind, would risk a DNF by taking a dive down the inside knowing that the car they are attempting to pass may only last a few more laps?

Closer to the finish line we will see more action as the chances of being classified greatly increases.


I disagree, there will be the usual fighting for track position in the first few laps, followed by the fuel saving middle section, with a sprint to the finish for the cars that have done the best job saving the fuel and are still running.


Good point about Melbourne autumnal conditions - more often than not the race is held in chilly weather, and even a sprinkling of rain is not unheard of at Albert Park.

And a few safety cars for good measure..........


Hi James, I know it's early days but I'll ask anyway. Given the unknown reliability of the cars and the need to make them last a whole lot longer, do you envisage team orders from the outset at Mercedes or do you think they'll let them race with the huge risks that entails of engine wear



For the first races I think they'll be cautious, and bag the points that their putative advantage suggests they should. Whether it's Nico leading or Lewis, best thing is to bring the cars home, create some points separation to the others in the table, and then when there's a decent cushion, let them contest the title between them. That's the best-case scenario of course, a nice "problem" to have. Might not work out that way.


All depends on the situation. In Malaysia Brawn wanted to get both cars home in one piece, and Hamilton was running to a lap time to conserve fuel. Rosberg was also quite low on fuel but less so than Hamilton. If he had let them race they would have used more fuel and may not have got to the end of the race or worse still collided with each other. In short he was protecting the team score nothing at all to do with favouring one driver over another as some on this site like to suggest. - It was the sensible thing to do, but normally they would be allowed to race similar in fact to McLaren.


Yet if this scenario played out itself at Redbull it would be termed as favoring one driver over another 😉


Aaron, Lewis was not black-flagged in Malaysia. He was penalized after the race.

One of the things I despise the most from drivers is the 'shudder move' in an attempt to scare off a potential passer. Perez did an awful one against Hulkenberg on the back straight of the 2012 Indian GP, and Vettel did a bad one against Lewis in the 2012 US GP. It's highly dangerous, and needs to be stamped out.


Yes but you both conveniently forget that Webber had ignored team order in silverstone 2012 and bragged about it on his post on BBC and he is on record saying " "Of course I ignored the team and I was battling to the end. I was trying to do my best with the amount of conversation on the radio."

"I wasn't doing much talking back, but I got a lot of messages coming my way, but I was trying to the end." The only difference was he couldnt pull it off unlike Vettel did in Malaysia>

Please dont get me started on "but Vettel overtook Webber when his engine was turned down" Because all Webber said on record was that they both were instructed to turn the engine down and cruse to the end. He dint say he actually turned it down. If you follow F1 for years and watch the replay you'll be smart enough to know that Vettel would have breezed past him down the start finish straight with the advantage of DRS and Webber's turned down Engine. They end up side to side. Which is not logically possible if he wasnt using the same revs as Vettel. Vettel was only able to overtake Webber because he had the faster tire on his last stint and got better traction out of the corner he pulled off the move.(In layman terms more tyre grip and traction than engine performance helped him overtake Webber).

Apart from that incident there's also the squeeze in Brazil the year before, I am sure Mark would have been instructed before the race to keep out of his Team Mates way and aid him if possible. But he caused a chain of events that nearly ended Vettels race

Speaking of poor sportsmanship Richard, you conveniently forget Hamiltons liegate scandal in the Australian Grand Prix 2009, where he lied to the stewards, or When he overtook a safety car in the 2010 European GP or when he was blacked Flagged in Malaysia 2010 for excessive weaving to defend his position. And the infamous incident where he IGNORED team order during qualification for the 2007 Hungarian Grand Prix that caused the rift between him and Alonso.

Take Alonso too. Remember Alonso's crash gate incident there is no way the team could have pulled it off without the Driver knowing. He also tried to black mail the Mclaren team for no 1 status against Hamilton(Sportmanship???) that brought out the Spygate scandal.

All of these 3 racing Driver's have flaws. All of them Champions and potential Multiple Champions(I am sure Hamilton will retire as a Multiple WDC)

The only difference is most people need a villain. So they find every possible excuse to fit their conspiracy theories. Even though a simple look at stats will state otherwise. There are Vettel lucked into the Redbull seat accusation(One conveniently forgets that Alonso was offered the seat and turned it down. and Hamilton too was extremely lucky to have a competitive car in his first year. Unlike Alonso and Vettel. Also one loses sight of the fact that that both Alonso and Hamilton had far worse Teammates when the won their respective WDC's. At least Webber was acknowledged to be better than Massa if not Ferrari wouldnt have approached him in 2012. Webber also beat Rosberg being faster than him by 100th of a second over the whole year. If you throw the Rosberg was a rookie excuse at me you should remember that both Rosberg and Hamilton came before the testing limitation and had sufficient mileage to get up to speed. Which was evident in their performance in their rookie years.(Rosberg set the fastest lap of the race in his very first race, while Hamilton went up against one of the best drivers of all time and beat him nearly winning the WDC on the way)

At the end of the day when your Idol isnt winning you got the hate the guy who's stealing his thunder. Its like you spending 15 to 20 years in an organization and barely reaching middle management. While some young guys comes along works hard exceeds expectations and end up running the organization in 10 years. I am sure no one other than the Senior Management will give him due credit for his achievements. Similarly You cant blame fans for hating Vettel. But making him a brat is a little too extreme. On the eve of winning his 4th WDC instead of retiring to his hotel after what would surely have been a grueling press session he turns up and helps the team pack up for the next race say a lot about humility and sportsmanship.

All past champions have acknowledged him as an all time great. Even the current active World Champions will eventually do so when they retire exactly like Mark Webber.

Although his year would be a good wake up call for him and Redbull. It would only strengthen him as a driver. Even though the probability of any Renault powered cars winning a single race seems higly unlikely, no one can predict how the season might pan out. Renault engine once sorted could be the most fuel efficient ones. Go figure


Well the scenario at Red Bull was worse with Vettel disobeying team orders. - Very poor sportsmanship but then he's German!


Except it had been used before at Red Bull! There were previous races where RBR had issued a multi-12 or multi-21 order, i.e. bring the cars home in the position they're in.

The order had been issued (multi-21), but Vettel ignored it!


My reading of Malaysia last year was that Hamilton was encouraged to push the Red Bulls even though it wasn't wise on fuel, and so the team protected his position.

I suspect the rest will be down to the drivers. Unless the car has large aerodynamic advantage, the additional speed comes from working the engine harder, so if they don't push then there's the risk they will lose race wins. The wins may be easier in the next race as the car that beat them takes a 5 grid slot penalty to replace something, but I feel qualifying will be less important and teams will be willing to burn components and take a penalty in the next race.


Yes, Lewis and Nico were having their own little race while the Red Bulls were way out front cruising. The team told Lewis to pressure the Bulls which he did and this is what left him low on fuel. It was a team call and that is the main reason Nico was not allowed to pass Lewis at the end.


Even if the Williams is about equal with the Ferrari, it's Alonso & Raikkonen vs. Massa & Bottas, which means Ferrari will probably make twice as many points as Williams. Hope they can win a couple of races, though.


I can't make my mind up with Williams. The reason for this is that there have been a couple of seasons recently where they've had a good car (2009 & 2012). Yet in both cases they didn't really take full advantage of it. In other years they've been touted as contenders and barely ended up with any points at all (2011 and 2013; also 2006 to an extent). If anything I'm tempted to argue that their best effort in recent seasons was 2007; they may not have had the best car that year, but they seemed to get the most they could from it.

For all that, though, Pat Symonds will be an important asset and another part of my brain is telling me that Valtteri Bottas could be one of the stars of the season. The odd result aside then, I don't think Williams will hit the heights some have predicted for them, but I think they'll be good enough for Bottas to show us the real potential I think he has!


If Williams finishes the season just behind Ferrari, and it's down to their driver payroll difference, they will consider that job done. And worthy of many bottles of champagne.


Yes, but the thing is they are equaled once you take into acount the drivers. The williams is a clearly better car.




Where are Marussia and Sauber in all of this?

Marussia must have questionable reliability, but had some good lap times whilst Sauber hardly set the world alight but have put in the miles when the going was good?


Marussia seem to have made significant progress. They may now be comparing themselves with fellow ferrari engine users sauber and leaving caterham behind


Williams in the top three? Wow. I'm amazed if this is the case in Australia. Quite a jump. Maldonado might be wishing he hadn't moved now!


I don't think that was Maldonado's choice to make.


Frank Williams smiling! Isn't that one of the signs of the apocalypse?


Yes, but a nice apocalypse 🙂

Relax though - The other three signs are Maldonado finishing a race without touching another car, Chilton going to drive for Ferrari, and Marussia winning a race, so we have a while to go yet 🙂


Don't forget that other apocalyptic scene - Mr E relinquishing his control of F1/FOM.

Pigs might fly eh?


Of course I forgot - Mr E might be eating German porridge this summer!

The key word in that sentence is of course might...........still, the trial isn't far away and we will be put out of our misery one way or another.


Yeah, but it might be time to wind up that catapult again 😉


Would be nice to see Bottas on podium come Oz GP.

I hope Rosberg is on the top step!


Depends on the weather, but if it is bone dry then yes, I would expect Merc powered cars to be going great guns - if they are reliable of course!


Alonso has had hardly any reliability issues compared to kimi - I smell a rat


The rat left ferrari in the 1970s - he hangs around the mercedes garage now 🙂


@ Max

Alonso and Ferrari had issues in day 4 of the second bahrain test which did not allowed them to complete their simulation

What rat you smell here ?

The Resentment you people have here against Alonso is simply far too much (Nearly 80 % posts do reflect this).

Wake up and see the reality.

We have not even witnessed one competitive session into the season yet. Still people have already started to discover the excuses in favour of kimi and against the Legend Fernando.

Ferrari have problems with the new F14 machinery and it does look difficult to drive. Ferrari need to sort out the issues and must compete with Mercedes toe to toe every session otherwise game over already. Besides this If Ferrari can get it right with the car in terms of pace and reliability. Alonso will wipe the floor with kimi and will bag the WDC by Race 16 itself.


I remember a season where Kimi and Fernando were fighting neck and neck for the championship. I seem to recall that the winner was determined because one of the two drivers was a bit of a car breaker: A specific episode in the Nurburgring comes to mind.


Ha yes it was him not the engines. Kimi deserved the 05 title, Alonso won on default just by finishing.


@ Nick H

Well we cannot compare Mechanical failures with opertional Errors and Crash / Track incidents

Yet if you say kimi deserved the WDC in 2005. Well i am more the 200 % Cert Alonso is the best pilot i have ever seen and he desereves the title more than vettel in 10 & 12. He drove some stellar races and his performances were nothing but simply pure mystic

Ferrari were simply poor and did not had any incentive to beat RBR in terms of Car devlopment and Technical details ever since 2009 to this point. Yet Alonso gave every ounce of himself and kept the team in the title battle through his own efforts.

Finally we can dispute about the belguim and japense 2012 GP crash incidents. Yet in both scenario the lotus drivers did drove into alonso and affected the WDC.


Also, Alonso's '10 and '12 failures are not the same in anyway mate. I can't even remember how many times Kimi's Benz engine went boom, the amount of times he had to start from way down the grid. How many times did that happen to alonso in '10 and '12. I think never?! not the same


@Krischar. I agree with you're main point, no one deserves anything in F1, and I also agree about the trade off between speed/reliability. It's just, for me Kimi was so special that year, and it was such a big shame that he didn't finish half the races he was leading, Alonso cruised round 20 sec behind to pick up the wins. I just think Kimi deserved something from that year. He did win autosport international driver award 2005, which tells you how good he was even though Fernando picked up the championship. I suppose Suzuka 05 slightly made up for it.

Also which Lotus driver crashed into Alonso at Suzuka 2012? I'm pretty sure it was Alonso who crowded Kimi onto the grass


@ Nick H

To win the race or WDC you have to finish the race first (Old cliche in F1)

Kimi had a superior pace advantage in 05 and yes Mclaren had relaibility issues. You can hardly see a car which has pace advantage and cent % reliability. There is always a trade off between pace v/s reliability.

No one deserves anything. If we go by Who deserves the WDC rather than who won the WDC. Then we can notice some pilots who were unlucky and certain others were flukey WDC champs. If's and But's does not count in F1

Had Ferrari gambit was not a blot Alonso would have won WDC in 2010. Had the lotus drivers did not crashed into alonso in Belgium and Japenese Gp in 2012. Alonso would have won WDC in 2012 as well. Alonso deserves WDC in 10 & 12 if we go by your logic.


That is so wrong funny enough Kimi lost that championship due to an unreliable Mercedes engine!


Kimi wasn't a car breaker! Those Mercedes engines that year blew up spectacularly in practice sessions of numerous GPs which led to Kimi losing the title even though having the fastest car.

Anyways, Kimi's teammate Montoya also suffered his share of failures but wasn't in the running when it came to WDC battle, that does tell you something?


Nothing except that at the end of the day kimi dint win the WDC


Ah, yes the 2005 F1 season, the end of King Michael's reign..........

In all fairness to Kimi that 2005 Macca was very fast but fragile; Kimi seemed to have endless engine/transmission problems. I don't know if it was Kimi's driving technique that caused the issues or whether it was just bad preparation on Macca-Merc's part.

You are right to point out that Fernando had amazing mechanical reliability with that year's Renault R25, probably something to do with Renault/Enstone being a very disciplined, pragmatic, well oiled (no pun intended!) operation.

Kimi and Fernando in the same team; mouthwatering stuff!


I think at this 'prototype' stage, anyone doing laps benifits the engineers, the team and both cars more than it does benefit one driver.

I think both Kimi and Alonso have the experience to handle it and adapt. Plus I don't think you need to be making excuses for Kimi before the season even begins. 😉


I agree - I'm sure Ferrari technically can provide equality with their cars. They have hired Kimi to win the constructors title at the very least - why would they jeopardise that?


LoL. Ferrari keeps a completely new untested car in the garage, in a season with a complete overhaul of the regulations/technology, and in-season testing not allowed...why exactly? ALO gets more "testing points"? Brilliant analysis!

Along your lines, it is way more likely that RAI had partied too hard the night before, and had a bad hangover.


You smell the fact that Kimi was the one to test the car for the first time and tried the new parts also first. This always means more probability of trouble. No the question is... ¿Why is he doing the nº2 driver job? Probably beacuse Alonso doesn't want to and, contrary to what many people would like to believe, his demands are still at the top of Ferrari priority list. No blame to them, if you have Alonso you want him to be as comfortable as possible, track results will feel it.


that's ridiculous. no team would hamstring themselves this early in the season with all the development that needs to take place. if they wanted a lap dog for Alonso they would have kept Massa or brought in a rookie.


Agree 100%


Somebody has to say it

Agree 300% !


Agree 200%


Don't think so - it's too important to get the miles in to mess about at this stage.


And so let the conspiracy theories commence... 🙂


Just his luck man. Don't think there's a smelly rat.


They just trust Kimi's feedback more so they tried more new stuff with Kimi 😉



I have the impression that the Mercedes teams may have had coordinating 'exposure management'; I find it noteworthy that all of the Mercedes teams had a showing at the top of the time sheets over the entire testing period.

It seemed that Mercedes was purposely keeping a low profile.

Likewise, at Ferrari, it seems very controlled, in terms of expectations management. I feel strongly that they are holding back, and I would be interested in the follow up article, with Mark commenting on the findings of audio analyses of the comparatives of engine utilization, i.e. who had their engines turned up, and who had their engines 'turned down' and cross-referenced of course to the results of the day.

At Renault, I get more the impression of they running a longer term optimization, which would coorelate to their pattern as an engine supplier in the past 30 years in Formula One.

It is with optimism that I look forward to the first race in Melbourne as certain as ever that we could have some extreme upsets, like the tortoise (Caterham) and the hare (Mercedes), at the finish line.

Go Kamui, go! (nice and slow, see, that's the way you do it.)


Reports are that the Ferrari looks a bit of a handful.. We will see in Melbourne


@ yes Nick H

You are spot on mate. Ferrari does look a bit more than handful indeed. Looks like a diffficult car to drive. The car slid around and out of the tarmac at the last Turn in bahrain which leads to the start / line finish straight.

There were instances where Fernando and Kimi struggled to find the rear end downforce / grip. The current picture disguise the issues which Ferrari have. They are in same poor shape like they were in the last few seasons. A row 3 or row 4 Grid start awaits them in Albert park

My only hope is Allison, he can improve the current machinery as season the progress.


I hope you are right about Ferrari.

Remember, this year more than previously, great drivers will make a difference!!


Heinz, you are not Mr Frentzen who drove for Sauber, Williams and Jordan are you by any chance?


interesting that with all the shake up this year brings us that we have the predicted best car from about 18 months ago being...the best car.

Lets all hope that this year lives up to the promise. I can't wait but am getting nervous that there will only be a fight for 2nd best in 3 weeks time.

Good job Pirelli. We know you make those round black things but not talking about them is a win.


might have something to do with the amount of money Mercedes has thrown at this year. Spend more than anyone else and have good technical managers who can understand which ideas are worth investigating and the chances are good.


Let's not forget that Red Bull are also big spenders. It takes time and money to develop things to a satisfactory level.


Martin: I'd be surprised if it wasn't!


In total chassis budget it has spent the most in the last few years, but I'd be confident that in total chassis and engine development spend that the Mercedes is the most expensive 2014 car so far.


They just did the same as what RBR did before the last big reg changes in 2009. Forego current performance to make a big step in the new era.

RBR has spent more than any other team in the 2009-13 era. Mercedes thought they could do it on the cheap when they entered, but now they know it will take big money.

I thought you believed that Mercedes was too full of "nearly" men on the technical side?


The RB5 had big money thrown at it, likely behind only Honda (Brawn GP) and Toyota. Both McLaren and Ferrari were caught out with having to develop to the very last race of 2008, plus their commitment to running KERS at the first opportunity.

Not sure about the Brawn BGP001 having less development potential than the RB5, rather than the team itself being run on a shoestring budget, with decimated human capital to draw on. Right after their 1-2 finish in Australia, they let a THIRD of their workforce go.


From what I've read, Red Bull spent a lot on its infrastructure in its formative years. Newey has said the team wouldn't have been ready for big changes in 2008. I don't think you can compare the 2009 Brawn development time with the RB5s. I believe Red Bull concentrated on 2013 for longer, and possibly relied on systems that usually produced upgrades that worked to believe it could design the RB10 quite quickly.

On Mercedes, clearly Ross Brawn is not a "nearly" guy. So on the chassis side the overall structure is probably prey good. If you look at the others, the record isn't brilliant. But it is the guys and girls that we don't hear of that do most of the work in developing ideas for the chaos and engine. If the analysis tools are good then time to compare approaches will lead to a refined result.

What could happen though is that Mercedes may have a highly refined approach to design with less potential, which is what happened with Brawn

David in Sydney

Looks like Hamilton's decision was a sound one although I think he might be worrying about being out qualified by Rosberg consistently.


I think Hamilton will have the edge, if the car suits him nobody can follow him, as we saw at Silverstone last year, the only GP he was really happy with his car: Rosberg is quick no doubt , but Lewis can put it to another level If he has the car right for him

Daniel Spiller

"I think Hamilton will have the edge, if the car suits him nobody can follow him, as we saw at Silverstone last year, the only GP he was really happy with his car: Rosberg is quick no doubt , but Lewis can put it to another level If he has the car right for him


I love that people boo boo others on this forum when they write this sorta stuff about Jenson like it's such a bad thing. But if it's Lewis that needs the right car to be untouchable then that's totally ok. Haha. For the record I just want a close championship with the ultimate winner having no obvious advantage and simply performing better over 19 races. If it's a Williams or a Marussia I couldn't care less. I just want an exciting championship.


If is a big word in F1........if is F1 spelt backwards...........

Richard makes a vald point about the Pirelli's - but are they as durable as we think they are? I mean we all thought they were fine going into Silverstone, but look what happened there!

As ever, those four black things made out of rubber/kevlar are going to hugely influence performance, and of course, the championship.


Well said! I'd also like to point out that Hamilton on the soft tyre was faster than Rosberg on the supersoft in testing. This year I think will allow some of Hamilton's natural speed to show through because of the reg. changes and the more durable tyres.


Hamilton will most likely out qualify Rosberg. However, I expect Rosberg to outsmart Lewis in the race.

It is going to be a fascinating intra team battle at Mercedes. Both have very different driving styles. I have a feeling Rosberg will emerge on top in the Driver's Championship battle.


I wonder what your basing those assumptions on? I'm no Lewis fan and have respect for Nico's talents, but we have last season to look at, and Lewis outqualified and outscored Nico. Also worth remembering that last season was Hamilton's first for Mercedes and Rosberg's fourth. I can't think of a reason why Nico would overhaul a more settled Lewis this year, if he didn't beat him last year.


Interesting read thankyou, but it looks like the mclaren is on higher fuel loads to me, but i guess we shall see in 2 weeks time. This year there is also the added unknown of who is running to a fuel restricted level for race sim and who is running to maximum speed for reliability testing. I can see it being a fascinating season though, with a lot more drama than the last few years.


I sure hope ferrari will do sonething to make that car a capable race winner.

Forza alonso


Do not pin too high hopes on Ferrari - recent history suggest you will be disappointed. That being said, we know ALO always gives 120% and takes no prisoners, so excitement is guarantied no matter the equipment.

Fernando "150%" Alonso


150% from Fernando, please 😉


I just like the fact that you went 10% over the often-used 110%. 110% just wasn't good enough; had to go another 10% more. Just found it funny.


Let's hope it will be enough with 120% this year. I cannot keep with the stress of 150% 😉


I'm sorry for the correction I'm about to do, I know that you are trying to say that Alonso is a great and hard worker driver which is true, but giving more than 100% is mathematically and physically impossible, on the other side, if the car is not fast and reliable it won't win, the last recent years the Ferrari hasn't been as slow as many want to imply, in 2012 he was more than 40 points ahead in the first half of the season and lost the gap due to two accidents (one partially because of him).

Fernando "150%" Alonso


Any argument about 2012 championship equals 0! The real champion in 2012 is Alonso and that 2012 Ferrari was a good enough machin in his hands, the real 2012 champion car!


"in 2012 he was more than 40 points ahead in the first half of the season and lost the gap due to two accidents"

Thank you for pointing that out! So your reasoning is that "since ALO in 2012 was more than 40 points ahead (both Redbulls and Mclarens which apparently WERE faster), he must have had a faster or as fast package! What you are doing is rationalizing instead of actually seeing the facts. I do look at the lap times throughout the season of 2012, observe that the Ferrari certainly and clearly was behind Redbull AND Mclaren on per lap pace - and get kind of surprised that ALO was ahead by that amount and, as you point out, would have beaten the whole bunch had he not been taken out in incidents out of his control. That my friend is what I call 120%. Thanks if you managed reading until here 🙂


"the last recent years the Ferrari hasn’t been as slow as many want to imply"

Then explain for me why average starting position for the Ferraris of recent 4 years is somewhere between 6-8th on the grid! And then explain why you STILL think that ALO should be expected/able to be at the front fighting for it. (hint. I think it is because people (without thinking of it) discount the mental strength and abilities of ALO, even though his package may be several tenths per lap behind the fastest packages).


"if the car is not fast and reliable it won’t win"

I was not talking about winning, rather about overachieving. We have clearly seen that certain drivers through history (ALO certainly one of them) will achieve more with a FAST package, than another driver who drives a FASTER package. That is a bigger achievement (for me) than when a driver wins the title, with the absolute FASTEST package on the grid.


I love insightful corrections as those make me learn more, so thank you. I beg to differ though 🙂

"I know that you are trying to say that Alonso is a great and..."

That is exactly what I always say and for sure I can back it up by cold facts.

"but giving more than 100% is mathematically and physically impossible"

Meeh, that is the common perception and one of the reasons why most people fail. 100% means different things to different people, it is not an absolute term even though it clearly is an absolute number. You can have a sports person (or a businessman, entrepreneur, student...really whatever title that stands for a person) that really does NOT achieve much, even though he/she THINKS he/she is giving 100%. And then, solely by changing the way they THINK (by help of sports psykologist for example), you see them transfor to become much more successful and achieve things THEY PREVIOUSLY THOUGHT WERE IMPOSSIBLE. Changing the way they think about yourself and the opportunities you have - can be the difference between winning or not, regardless of the amount of hard work/talent do/have. As I see it, ALO really (and I here mean REALLY) believes nothing is impossible. You could see him in interviews in the most dark moments of 2010 and 2012, when his package was clearly much worse than the Reddull, saying that he was going to win the title - people were laughing at him. He was not just saying that, he really meant it and THAT attitude my friend is not easy to have in that moment and not many individuals have the mental strength to have it and act accordingly. That enabled ALO to regularily finish infront of drivers driving much faster packages (Redbulls, Mclarens and Mercedes) - and that is, by my standards, the definition of 120%/overachieving/driving beyond the limit of the car or whatever you want to call it - yes it is possible and if you go back and compare package strength you will see that it is.


So will you correct my earlier reply that I agreed 200%??? Come on man. Lighten up. Furthermore, I disagree with your 2012 analysis on his 40 point lead vanishing. Spa, not his fault, everyone agrees: Grosjean's mistake, ALO & HAM out.

But I believe your "partially because of him" comment was about Suzuka. Now, the FACTS. The accident at Suzuka went back to Q3. Kimi spun on exit of Spoon and brought out a sector yellow sector. Jenson and Fernando where the only drivers affected by it. Fernando's lap was quick enough to that point to get him up into the 2nd row AT LEAST. He would not have been near Kimi at the start when the accident happened. So was it his fault? No, it was just bad F1 luck. Which is the hand he was dealt that year. But I digress. I'd just say, don't be too quick to judge friend.


The big thing I notice is the disparity in lap times between Rosberg's and Vettel's consistent runs. It looks to me like there were actually a group of laps on Vettel's data that were consistent, but were about 6 seconds off of the W05's pace! (Rosberg's consistent string of laps toward the end of his running). James, taking into account Mark's opinion that Renault PU cars were running with dialed back power, just how much does this say about the spot Red Bull is in? It looks like they had to baby the car around the track to produce any consistent running. But I could be completely wrong. What do you think?

David in Sydney

Maybe the RedBull has disabled ERS and/or TERS just to get some chassis work done?


I think they not only turned down the ERS but also the boost. All of it generates heat, and cooling issues are suspected to be their major gremlins. (Team specific "Red Bull" gremlins, aside from Renault issues) But it would be a sight to see that Red Bull was multiple seconds off the pace when the lights go out at Albert Park.


Can James or anyone tell me who can be credited for Mercedes 'improvement'/development to the car since last year - did Ross Brawn have any hand in its design 'before he left'?

And, same question about Williams - who is - or are - the main achievers? (I appreciate this question isn't as straightforward as it sounds!)


Ross Brawn put all the engineering elements in place, and obviously had a good understanding what characteristics are required in the car to win a championship. The answer really is a lot of designers and engineers work on a project and see it through to delivery. I suppose the answer is really the engineering and design team, but without Ross they would not be there in the first place so team effort.


That's who Merc need to credit their success to. Aero wise Merc have always had the edge on Williams and FI and McLaren were scared to go too radical after last years issues.

It's worth pointing out that Merc have long had the best engine in F1. The V8 they had last year was IRO 40bhp up on the Renault and less fuel hungry than the Ferrari (which made similar power to the Merc apparently).

As it's looking like an engine formula in F1 this year, the HPP team are the guys who deserve credit. Kudos to them!


40 bhp up?! This is false. Maybe if the engine didn't have to be detuned as an equalization measure. The Renault V8 after equalization in 2010 was the best engine, and mainly b/c of its fuel efficiency and better driveability.

Renault used the equitable provisions last time to turn a frozen-in disadvantage into a frozen-in advantage. They want to try it again. The FIA should tell them where to go.


Yeah 40 bhp is too much. James did an article on this back in 2009 that is worth a read:

So probably no more than 20 bhp difference.

I think Renault's strength over the past few years has come from their inventive engine mapping, which of course was key to the blown diffusers and such.

David in Sydney

I'd like to think that just like in the final year of Honda, Brawn has led, managed, inspired the team to produce a balanced, reliable, fast car.

If I was to start or buy an F1 team I'd give 50% to Brawn with naming rights and watch him make history. Again.


Ross Brawn was not a designer at Mercedes, he is more likely to have employed all the good people, organized and set strategic priorities for resource use.


Its not the car, its the way it can work well with the PU, don't believe for a moment these 2 teams will have better chassis than Redbull over the season aero wise.


The car = chassis + engine + wheels + tires.


The thing is Newey's got to change his tightly package unit so something is going to be lost in the process.


Red Bull has better looking Chassis, but any chassis must run on an engine to go fast. Unlike any other seasons, this season is a combination of everything put together better. If their chassis can't run reliable without overheating their PU, then it's no better than a box of matches.


...whoever made the engine...


A somewhat simplistic analysis. Nevertheless, why do you imply that's a bad thing? Surely, it's called motor racing for a reason.


"equipment at the track so they will no exactly how many revs the Renault" typo - should be know and not no !


I doubt how accurate this equipment is, with the teams all having different exhausts. Besides you can't get the power output from revs that will depend on a large number of things.

Renault have come out and said that the teams can use maximum revs. It's probably the electric side of things thats tuned down a bit.


In simple terms it's the same principle as some steam engines having 4 exhaust beats per revolution, now the IC is doing that much faster, and but it's one exhaust beat for every two revolutions for each cylinder of the IC. Such is the sensitivity of sound equipment these days that they can pick that up quite easily and measure it. I think it's probably 3 exhaust beats per revolution for V6 but don't quote me.


Thanks for these. The most insightful analysis I can find online.

As comments on previous posts suggest, with all the data-hungry nerds following F1, it would be interesting to see these graphs after each race by driver.



The Mclarens after its early testing promise seemed to have slipped behind quietly and without much news why. Any insights as to what is going on with the team? 22 laps on the last day of testing after consistently banging in 100+ laps mystifies.


The engine packed up by the sounds of things - and the Melbourne update didn't make it in time to test. There was the new front wing on but the car failed twice so they got no understanding if it worked or not. Worrying as McLaren had clearly focused on long run reliability rather than outright performance and now if the reliability goes...



Excellent article and analysis as always.

I would like to mention though that several typo's and grammer errors have entered the site's articles. I haven't noticed them before, but it's definitely on the up.

Feels a bit stupid criticizing, but I thought it worthwhile to bring under your attention.



Reliability apart, it looks like Melbourne could see the repeat of the 1998 race, with the pole and the race win being decided between Lewis and Nico. Do you see it the same way?




I believe thats the case too, the Merc's out qualifying Renault powered cars by close to 3sec a lap and even faster than Williams and Ferrari by at least 1.5-2sec. How will it go in the race? Major team orders will be in place for Hamilton to win and for them all to cruise home, there won't be a proper 'race'. Only chance is if Button or Alonso can keep the Merc's honest and force them to go fast.


Sounds to me like you're lining up all the excuses early on.

You know what's a good strategy to posting? Say things that are reasonable, and likely to hold up to scrutiny no matter the situation.


Team orders in place for Hamilton to win ?


I can tell that a Hamilton victory will be hard for some people to take.

Ferrari and Mercedes don't have a clear number one driver this year. McLaren probably does, and Red Bull certainly does.


You may be on to something there, though it may be the winner is whoever is first after the first lap or first stop.

We have the prospect of potentially closely matched teammates racing each other (Ham Ros, Alo Rai, Mas Bot), but I really hope they don't all slap in early team orders for the sake of reliability.

Particularly if the field is spread into almost different classes in the early races when ideally you need the team mates racing each other.


James, thank you for your informative site. Is it possible for you to determine did any team run the equivalent distance (even if not at race pace) of the number races the engine & gearbox etc will have to perform to not incur a penalty.

What teams incurred what failures and what penalties would have resulted if this happens in races


I hate to say this, but after all the testing and failures during testing we may see the first Grand Prix where nobody finishes! This seems reasonably possible after watching team after team having issues.....even the seemingly reliable Mercedes team had to replace the gearbox so that Hamilton could run today. The good news is they will all have two cars which may help the situation slipping into a farce.

We may end up seeing teams during the race trying frantically to get their cars fixed so they can finish.

My question to you James, how much work are they allowed to do on the car during a GP? Can they replace a gearbox, or an engine? Though my understanding is that changing an engine could take hours to accomplish with the complex systems in the car.

Is it covered in the rulebook how the points would be awarded if nobody finishes the race?


Malaysia 2009 - no one finished the race. It was red flagged and half points were awarded (I think) because they had covered less than 75% race distance. To my mind, the person who drives the furthest in the 2 hour race period would win and everyone would get max points if the leader had gone past 75% race distance.


Yes, exactly right. And the result that's used is the lap 2 laps before the lap suspended on. So if the race is suspended during the 40th lap, the result will be based on what order cars passed over the start/finish line for their 38th lap.


You have to remember in testing however the cars sensors cause shutdowns at the first sign of problems - so the cars are babied to an extent to prevent expensive meltdowns - it's an over cautious approach on purpose. In races they'll run the things til they burn so a lot of cars will finish I expect (though there might be a few limpers across the line!)


In races they’ll run the things til they burn ..

Red Bull were running things till they burnt in testing. In the race they will need to explode, if they are to exceed their testing limits:-)


It is highly likely that the top 10 points finishing places will not be filled by cars that actually cross the finish line. I am expecting Melbourne to be a debacle, and maybe the first few races likewise.!!


If no-one finishes are points awarded on the basis of who went furthest?


I am not sure what would happen. They can't suspend the race just b/c there are no cars running. But perhaps the race would end on the 2 hr limit, although there it's supposed to end when the leader next crosses the start/finish line.

If no car has done 75% of the distance, then half-points will be awarded (has to be over 2 laps, or else 0 points are awarded).


Yes. It could also be Marussia or Caterham looking to gain points by 'unlapping' themsevles from say a Merc that retires with four laps to go.


To your question in the end, thats easy, whoever covers the most distant wins.


There's very little chance of no one finishing, both Mercedes and Ferrari engine teams have race distance under their belts, not the case with Renault though. Major changes like engine or gear box changes are not practical, a slow pit stop can ruin a race, there would never be enough time to do proper mechanical work and compete. That said, its possible the Renault powered teams would want the lap time so consider doing work just to get out on track, but I doubt it, no one wants the sport to be a farce.


Certainly there will be some DNF's, perhaps about 50%, but the stronger teams are likely to finish as they will have put fixes in place

to remove the root causes of issues faced in testing. Some perhaps with rather deeper more complex issues will have resolved some of the issues properly and taken a flyer on the rest hoping for the best. We will get a good indictor of this in free practice.


What would be worse though is if 20 cars break down in the first 20 or 30 laps and we end up with two drivers tooling around by themselves.

It would put Indy to shame 🙁


That would be very bad indeed.

I'm wondering if we'll have people pulling off during the formation lap, and then Charlie having to wave drivers through for another formation lap (and one less off the race distance).

Another thing we'll have to watch out for, that hasn't been a problem recently, is drivers having problems while in their grid slot. Raised hands before the race start might be a normal occurrence now. Hopefully we don't get anyone stuck in their grid slot after the lights go out ... very dangerous stuff, that.


True, but I guess now whatever happens they'll just have to deal with it - more so since Renault has been denied their extension.


I reckon most of the drivers will be running a maximum of 12,500 revs, changing gear early, running the engine as lean as possible.....

It reminds me of Australia 2005 with the one set of tyres per weekend for that year, everybody was pretty much tarting around the track in Melbourne, but a few races in they were back to charging. Give em time and all that..........

Still, I reckon if even half the field finishes in Melbourne, that will be a great achievement!


I think that's unlikely, but I would guess that points are awarded to the ten who manage to make it the furthest 🙂


No ... points will only be awarded to those that finish at least 90% of the distance of the winner. If there are less than 10 drivers that manage that, then less than 10 drivers will be awarded points. The other points would not be handed out.


Thats a good point (no pun intended!), to qualify for a points finish, a driver/car has to finish is it 90% of the distance?

At the, ahem (cough), Indy 2005 "race" no points were awarded for seventh and eighth as no drivers other than the Bridgestone boys qualified for the permitted distance required for points.

So, say, drivers from 7th to 10th breakdown outside the required percentage, they won't get points? I'll have to check on that.


What about a damp flannel?


Keep the faith Random! All this worrying over reliability could be a damp squib.

Or a damp sump, I dunno.............


Actually that is a good point - I forgot about that.

If worst comes to worst Aus could end up being a big expensive write-off / slash test session...not good 🙁


Don't need to finish a race to get points. Down to watch position you were running at (or just at if stopped) at the time the race finishes (and if the race got to 50% conclusion etc for 1/2 point awards),

It is possible that the lower points awards will go to cars many many laps down in the first 2 or 3 races.


It'd be interesting to see cars being repaired that would otherwise be out of the race, as there might now be something to be gained by finishing 10 laps down.


10 laps down won't qualify for points, as anyone would have to complete at least 90% of the race distance.


Thanks for the news, even if they aren't all to my liking... Typo: "they will no exactly" - "they will know exactly"


Apologies if this question has been asked previously in another thread, but if all cars fail to finish the oz gp, is there a winner declared, ie last car to grind to a halt, or there is just no result declared. ?


I presume that if it got to that point the race would be red-flagged once it got down to the last car (and they'd gone the required two laps for countback) and then anyone else who had completed 90% of the race would then be classified and awarded points.

I very much doubt that we'd get to that stage though, although in some ways it would be fairly amusing to witness.


Confirms what many of us were assuming James, thanks for posting this great information and roll on 2014, here is hoping is a good year.

One thing is for sure, this cars are going to be fragile, at least at the start and with the new 5 races per PU rules it looks like a war of attrition this year.



Could it be possible to get some mechanical problem stats? For example, how many mechanical problems teams had and how severe the problems were.

This is of course reflected on kilometers ran, but it would be interesting.


It looks to me like the key at the moment is the teams with stronger rear downforce are ahead. Mercedes have had the edge on that for two years. Watching the footage, they have better exits from corners but they do struggle on the way in. All teams are still after front end always.

That McClaren looks like a car with serious potential. It seems to have great entry to corners but slides on exit which is the downforce issue Jenson refers to. However, the fact it is so good on entry means that once they find the balance, the should be very competitive.

Ferrari will develop through the year underJames Allison and have gone for a solid base. Keep tabs on them as we go along.


I think it's the opposite. Teams are hunting for efficient rear downforce, they then add it to the front as needed for balance. They aren't limited at the front. The Red Bull has had the lead recently in efficient downforce production. The Mercedes has been good mechanically with low speed traction. That could partially be down to engine mapping as well.


You're right, the development race from Spain in May through to Italy in September will be pivotal for the championship, as always.

dimitar kadrinski

Well I am not too sure anyone can say who is faster and who is not. The only think anyone can guess from the tests is how reliable some cars are compared to others. It is obvious that this season ( or at least first half of it) will be all about being able to prepare a car for the race, rather than the outright pace of a car.... And Mclaren are very good at that (listening to Button the other day). Certainly hoping WIlliams can strike a surprise season, but being second fastest is very hard for me to believe, even with the few great people they have signed in later.


Yes, I can. Mercerdez - fast. Caterham - not so fast.

But seriously, I agree with you that reliability is more of an indicator this year rather than speed.

In order to finish first, you must first finish.


polite correction.

In order to finish first, first you must finish.:-)


I expect some teams doing very little running in the free practice sessions in Oz, since these cars take so long to fix if problems emerge.

Hope I'm wrong.


thats what i thought ...

if something breaks in fp3 .. no qualifing ... no race

those cars need hours to take apart



You Could well be right and the only people running in FP3 will be those testing repairs from the previous day. Everyone will want to start qualifying with a running car not one in the garage with repairs not finished!


Hello James,

Do you think there is a chance that Mercedes will run away with the championship?


Of course there is a chance, looking at the picture at this stage. They have the best car at the start and the money and people to develop it at the same rate as anyone else. Can they stay in front?

But I think Ferrari are in OK shape and once Renault sort problems RBR will compete, but it may be too late to fight for the title.


This year, all the teams will be developing the whole season through, unlike last year.

There are too many variables still. If the Merc's don't finish, what use is a speed advantage?!?

But if the reliability is more or less a saw-off through the field, then Mercedes look pretty good.


Too late to fight for the title already? Say it ain't so James, say it ain't so.


front breakdisk exploded or at least gave up


I expect them to fight back as well.

It's not like they are seconds behing with that time to be found via upgrades like aero tweaks etc. For most of testing they have been running with a PU not at maximum power plus they'll no doubt resolve their overheating aero packaging issues as well.

When Renault get the PU running at max, including the energy recovery systems and the software to apply this energy in a full but drivable way, they'll take a big leap forwards. As mentioned though it could take a few sessions and races to get back.

Looking at Merc, they've caused many red flags in testing though this may be as they pushed their PU/gearbox/car the most. It's probably a good thing for them as they gathered data to resolve these issues in testing. Renault may have to suffer and gather this kind of data in Friday practices in the fly away races. I bet their mechanics will be under pressure throughout the race weekends with those hours long rebuilds. They'll be no doubt hoping for failures and a mix of teams winning the opening races.

Anyone know what caused Seb's lock up and spin in testing? Was it mechanical failure, was it the energy recovery auto rear braking system, or just a spin?

Fernando "150%" Alonso


your post remind me about "The Empire Strikes Back"

Alexander Supertramp