Le Grand Retour
Paul Ricard 2018
French Grand Prix
Hamilton Quickest in Bahrain As pre-season testing draws to a close
Posted By:   |  02 Mar 2014   |  5:16 pm GMT  |  319 comments

Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes ended pre-season testing in ominously potent style today, with the Briton topping the times in Bahrain, ahead of Valtteri Bottas and Fernando Alonso. But Hamilton did not eclipse the fastest time of the winter, set by Felipe Massa on Day 3 in 1m 33.258s

With only 12 days now remaining until the new 1.6 litre turbo-charged engines are fired up for the first free practice session in Melbourne, today offered the teams their final chance to confirm reliability and assess short run pace, and in those regards there were varying degrees of success and failure.

Hamilton spent much of the morning out of his Mercedes W05 as another gearbox problem delayed the team’s plans, but with installation laps prior to the lunch break and a series of longer runs this afternoon, the final hour of his test programme focused on shorter stints.

A lap of 1:33.278 on used soft tyres saw the 2008 World Champion snatch the fastest time away from Williams’ Bottas in that hour, taking 0.7s off the Finn’s time, also set on soft tyres. Hamilton then returned to the pits for a set of Pirelli’s super soft tyres and the prospect of seeing Mercedes’ true pace in the final 30 minutes of the day.

However, after posting the fastest first sector seen across the eight days in Bahrain, Hamilton then backed off and made no improvement in his pacesetting time.

Williams have enjoyed the highest level of reliability throughout the pre-season but their previously perfect record of zero on-track stoppages was ended today, though in the end it was only a minor blot on their testing copybook. Bottas followed Felipe Mass’s lead from Saturday by heading the times at the lunch break and remaining there this afternoon, only for a break down on the pit straight to require some behind the scenes work.

After two difficult years, in which Pastor Maldonado’s 2012 Spanish GP victory was the lone success, Williams’ current form looks very strong. A neat car that works well in both fast and slow corners is aided by the Mercedes engine, which has proved to be the power-unit of choice.

With the final day seeing eight red flags, a 25-minute extension to running was granted, and that conveniently allowed for use of the flood lights that will be used for this year’s running of the grand prix. The lights have, of course, been used previously, at the final round of last year’s World Endurance Championship.

During the time extension, Alonso set Ferrari’s quickest time of these Bahrain tests, using a set of supersoft tyres to post a lap one second adrift of Hamilton’s best on used soft tyres. The F14T was the cause of one red flag but still managed 74 laps.

The 12 days of testing have been painful but informative for Red Bull Racing as they have battled with a catalogue of problems. After a nightmare day three this week, during which the team failed to complete a single lap, today ran more smoothly, with Sebastian Vettel added 77 laps. The day still wasn’t without it’s problems, however, and after a positive morning session, during which Vettel completed 40 laps, a rumoured brake failure pitched him in to a spin upon entry to the first corner – now named in honour of Michael Schumacher.

With the issue resolved after lunch, the final four hours ran smoothly and with a 100km filming day taking place in Bahrain on Monday, the Milton Keynes have another valuable change to add miles to the RB10 before their cargo is shipped to Melbourne.

It was also an improved day for Sauber, who yesterday managed just one lap after a fire surrounded the rear of the car. Adrian Sutil took the wheel of the C33 this morning due to his lack of running yesterday before handing the car over to Esteban Gutierrez. With 91 laps completed before lunch and a time quick enough for sixth best, the afternoon saw a further 86 laps from  the young Mexican.

Lotus had another troubled day with Romain Grosjean bringing out the red flag twice, eventually leading to the team calling it a day for the third time this week. An electrical issue disrupted this morning’s running only for a fire to put a halt to the afternoon’s plans.

According to data from Pirelli the total testing distance completed so far this year, combining Jerez and both Bahrain tests is 7,099 laps and 36,974 kilometres. This time last year, the teams had completed 10,902 laps and 49,942 kilometres of pre-season testing (Jerez and two Barcelona tests 2013 combined).

They also have posted that the performance difference between the tyre compounds are approximately as follows: the supersoft is around 0.7s per lap faster than the soft, the soft is around 1.3-1.5s per lap quicker than the medium, and the medium is around 1.3-1.5s per lap quicker than the hard.

The tyre compound choices for the first four Grand Prix are therefore as follows:

Australia MEDIUM and SOFT

Malaysia HARD and MEDIUM

Bahrain MEDIUM and SOFT


Bahrain Test Two; Day Four Times
1. Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:33.278s 69 laps
2. Valtteri Bottas Williams 1:33.987s +0.709s 108 laps
3. Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1:34.280s +1.002s 74 laps
4. Nico Hulkenberg Force India 1:35.577s +2.299s 74 laps
5. Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso 1:35.701s +2.423s 74 laps
6. Adrian Sutil Sauber 1m36.467s +3.189s 91 laps
7. Max Chilton Marussia 1m36.835s +3.557s 61 laps
8. Esteban Gutierrez Sauber 1m37.303s +4.025s 86 laps
9. Sebastian Vettel Red Bull Racing 1m37.468s +4.190s 77 laps
10. Jenson Button McLaren 1m38.111s +4.833s 22 laps
11. Kamui Kobayashi Caterham 1m38.391s +5.113s 106 laps
12. Romain Grosjean Lotus 1m39.302s +6.024s 32 laps

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Williams looks very impressive. Just hope they bring their testing reliability and pace to the races. Massa and Bottas stand a huge chance of battling for the WDC.

Feel sorry for Vettel though, from hero to almost zero with so little running. He looks ruffled in the interview but who could’ve blamed him. It will be a huge blow if both cars don’t even finish in Melbourne.

Ferrari, still not sure about them until race begins.

McLaren’s been kinda quiet and not grabbing any headlines.

Mercedes seems very strong but still going through some glitches, not major though.

I forgot about the turbo audio and look forward to a thrilling year. There will be surprises looming ahead.

In less than a fortnight the red light goes off!!!


Don’t feel that sorry for Vettel! He’s had four very good years, and is a multi-millionaire. He like all other racers will have to eat humble pie until he get’s another shot, but I think his run may be over. – All depends on Newey really!


To date, RBR have not lost out on any points! This season of any season, it could be all over the map. Hamilton and Rosberg could lap 2s faster than everyone else, but then go kaput 10 laps out from the finish …end result? 0 points!

Mercedes said they have GPS data that shows the RB10 is still the fastest through the corners. So whenever they and Renault figure out how to get the most from their engine, then they could be at the sharp end once more. Too much whining going on by too many RBR fans, and all in the absence of any real loss.


I doubt that because the thing that made them fast through med/high speed corners has gone such that all teams have much less downforce than last year. Of course there is no loss for anyone yet, but Red Bull like their engine manufacturer has a mountain to climb. They are however a strong team and could do some last minute changes to get through the race, but as you say we just don’t know. One things for sure all the front running teams will be going the extra mile to attempt to make their cars bulletproof.


Thoughts on pre-season testing – 2014 Edition

We have no information on which car/driver/PU combination will be able to go the fastest and farthest with the least.

The greater torque profiles of the PU systems are creating Gearbox reliability issues. Expect to see drive system failures for the first times in MANY years.

I suspect the Renault projections for heat output and cooling requirements were off the mark by 1-2 percent. Given the V-6 designs are nearly identical (bore, stroke, v angle, valve size, RPM, Direct Injection [500 bars], Variable valve timing, maximum fuel flow)we must assume they will be very similar in fuel efficiency potential. Therefore, the harvesting of Kinetic and Thermal energy becomes the dominate parameter for the PU.

Perhaps this is why Renault is on the back foot; they designed the PU to retain more heat. In the dyno room it works splendidly; on the track, wrapped in insulating body work and subjected to high G loads and unpredictable load cycles – not so well. Car component layout and packaging verse Aero design have exaggerated the problem for some designs.

Considering the above I suspect RBR (lead by Mr. Newey) has aimed for a very efficient design. I doubt he has produced a car with a handling disadvantage, if he can keep it from blowing up they could be harvesting the most heat and thus have more kW available in the ERS.



I would never count them out as they are a strong team, and they have taken a wrong path.

Vettel himself has said that even when the reliability is fixed they still lack pace compared to the front runners. Given that the Renault engine lacks powers relative to the Merc it will be next year before they can make the changes necesary to bring it in line. So while I fully expect Red Bull to improve, I doubt they will be competitive this year. Same goes for all the other Renault powered teams. In short Renault have hit their target for power output, but Mercedes have exceeded it and

I think that will tell this year.


This is how I see the Driver Rankings per 2014 Melbourne

(alphabetical order)

A List [World Class, any Era]

Alonso, Hamilton, Raikkonen, Vettel

A-List [Extraordinary talent]

Hulkenberg, Rosberg

B List [talented, racer]

Button, Grosjean, Massa, Perez,

the Other non-rookie drivers are capable of great drives and moments of brilliance.

Kvyat and Magnussen have shown themselves to be ready and deserving

Ericsson is going to be severely tested, how he copes with flyaway races will be very interesting and telling.

Best Driver not on the Grid – Robin Frijns


Couple of minor typos in the article:

Felipe Mass’s

valuable *change* to add miles (chance)


I think the pecking order in Melbourne will be:-





Force India


Red Bull I think will be some time before they get their reliability sorted out, and then they have to contend with using an engine that’s down on power relative to the Mercedes.


My feeling…

1. Merc/Ferrari/McLaren

2. Redbull

3. FI

Williams will fade…As they have prooven in the last few years. Bottas will pull over and park his car, while massa will be too slow and uncool in racing conditions.



in preparation for Melbourne you and the other F1 commentators should make sure you are up-to-date with the FIA rules regarding DNFs and point scoring positions. For example, if only nine cars see the chequered flag, and the tenth placed care had an engine failure 15 laps from the end, does it score a point?!

Similarly, all should be aware of the new penalty system, and how many places cars will be demoted when the battery on the seventh power unit fails in Saturday qualifying. 🙂


A little off topic here but Lewis has described the RB10 as “stunning”.

There has been a lot of people writing off Red Bull as they went too deep into last season with development. I would like to challenge that in the aero development. Remember in the second half of last year they changed their rear wing to a much lower profile, taking their speed trap readings from constantly at the bottom end of the charts to being consistently at the top end of the charts.

Ross Brawn commented back then that this will pay dividends this year with the smaller rear wing. If (and its a big If) RBR can get their power unit operating reliably at full power and cool their components better I think the other teams have a lot to fear…


RBR will continue to be the best in Aero for some time.

However the overall impact that aero superiority will have on race pace remains to be seen. We only know that the advantage is not gona as big as in the last couple of years.


My thinking exactly. They were running that skinny rear wing even in high speed suzuka which was unusual to say the least, yet still posting fastest 1st sector times. This year everyone is forced to run equivalent of lets say canada spec wing so RB looses the least on that front. They were able to that with the best exhaust blowing and downwash air stream from the front wing, thus sealing the diffuser edges enabling them to run extreme rake angles which in turn expands the very limited diffuser working area.

In short: RB generated much more rear DF from diffuser than anyone else, so they could run less rear wing with no loss on overall DF produced.


Well, that’s testing down then.

The cars will be packed up and sent to Melbourne, where all our questions will at least be partly be answered.

At the moment, Merc V6 powered cars look in the pound seat, but that’s assuming the Mercedes engined cars are bulletproof……that’s a big supposition!

Anyway, good luck to the all teams and drivers, give us a season to remember.

The Spanish Inquisitor

Another year lost for Alonso. Only fuel consumption can save Ferrari’s season.


Your handle implies you are Spanish? Every Spaniard I ever met was an optimist. Have faith.


… or perhaps reliability, and the half second per lap Alonso brings.

“Giornata fantastica, FANTASTICA”


It looks like merc is the strongest.

Ferrari is around 1.2-1.5 sec behind.

Williams is good, but they will fade away soon.

The second half of the year it will be merc fighting red bull.

Ferrari, williams and mclaren will fight for 3rd.


Alonso 340 kmh in speed trap.


The trap speeds we are seeing have been higher than I had thought they would be. Silverstone, Spa and Monza could be epic this year.


Wow – pretty impressive from a new engine!


Rosberg said wait till they get to China. Thinks with all the recovery boost energies and engine power they may be hitting 370k or about 230mph at the end of the straight!

Not sure if he meant just himself and Hamilton though 😉


alonso was constantly at the top of speed traps, so I don’t think ferrari is noticeably down on power compared to merc.


Whatever the arguments, implication, frustrations…..the cars with ugly noses, the double points madness, the “rubbish sound” suggestions…

…all I can say is that two weeks is too long to wait for Melbourne. This could be the most random and exciting season for fans in my relatively short lifetime and I’m definitely looking forward to it

Byron Lamarque

Go Williams!

They have all my goodwill this season. Their rich and enduring legacy fully deserves a resurgence. Massa has always struck me as a stand up guy who got the short end of the stick at Ferrari between his unfortunate accident and the politicking of Alonso. I’d love to see him on the podium again having a go at the world championship. It’s going to be an interesting season Nico vs Hamilton potentially for the lead. Alonso vs Kimi for the bragging rights ; )


I think even the free practice sessions will be fun to watch now!

@James, are the engines used during FP the same ones for the race?


No, they mix them and make a change usually Saturday am. An old race engine from first 2/3 races usually ends up as practice engine for several events after that


That’ll be interesting given the time it takes to change the power unit now.


this is where it will get interesting. With the engines taking so long to change there won’t be time to make a change before quali. Any change will have to be after FP2.

Any failure of a unit on the Friday will cost a lot of set up time.


OK who remembers the first Ferrari win for Mansell with the first semi auto box? That car had awful reliability in the pre season then won first time out.

For the first time in ages I truly think could happen at the first race.

Alexander Supertramp

Looking forward to some in depth analysis of the long runs, those should give the better view on the pecking order.

Anyone brave enough to make a prediction for the Australian GP?


Offering my neck to the Ax

Predictions for Melbourne

Mercedes or Ferrari to win. Reliability, Qualifying, Planning/Execution of race strategy and rear tire conservation will be the deciding factors.

McLaren and Williams will challenge but fall short of the top step. I expect Force India, Red Bull, and Sauber to have a car in the points. Lotus, Toro Rosso, Marussia and Caterham could find Melbourne a week too soon.


Sounds good:)


Mercedes to lock front row (Lewis on pole), Williams to lock 2nd row (Massa 3rd), Ferrari and McLarend to fight for 3rd and 4th rows (Alo 5th, But 6th, Kimi 7th). Both Ferrari jump two positions at the start, by lap 30 half renault powered cars have broken down or are racing some seconds per lap slower than the leader (still lewis), who will have a gearbox problem at the last part of the race. Marussia to score their first point ever as only 12 cars end the race and the last ones are the caterhams. Podium will be: 1 Ros, 2 Mas, 3 Alo.


Lewis always gets the bad luck, so I could very well see your scenario playing out.


“Anyone brave enough to make a prediction for the Australian GP”


At approximately 17:00 local time 22 slightly insane individuals will line up on the grid with the hope of completing approximately 307km in their magnificent driving machines.

Of course some of these individuals will end up being disappointed when their not so magnificent driving machine unexpectedly stops on the side of the road, but the one who manages to complete their 307km in the least amount of time will be termed the “winner” and will get to stand on a “podium” and splash fake champagne all over the first two individuals that followed him over the finish line.

So, how’d I do?

p.s. I should also add that I hope the “winner” will be named Ricciardo 😉


i think the first leg of this years championship is going to provide a forgotten excitement to anyone who didn’t watch pre 1993 and that is engine blow ups!

ever since renualt vs honda battles back in the day there hasn’t really been the “will it make it to the end” repeating in my head, engines were always pushed to the limit as a new one could be used anytime without penalty and would often go out in style.

thats what i’m looking forward to this year, having cars breaking giving others a win or ruining it for them.

i don’t expect close racing either, too few engines in reserve and heat is causing issues on a clear track.

lets hope there are plenty of engines blowing up because i doubt there will be much over taking.


On the contrary, having engines blow up will aid overtaking immensely.

It’s part of the Overtaking Working Group’s new strategy 😉


LOL! blow up as in power boost, you mean?


More like power loost 😉


Hi James, I have an off-topic question for you:

The question is regarding RBR: I was just wondering, RBR started in 2005, and they have had very average results until 2009 when they had the fastest car even without the double diffuser at first. So what made them dominate so much ever since? Now we see them ” struggling” in testing, is it possible that they are gonna go back to their ” old” form, 5th and 7th in the championship?

I hope my question makes sense: why is it that since 2010 they have completely dominated the sport, and they couldn’t dominate from 2005 until then, and is it possible that their recent dominance is not gonna be replicated this year because the new ” formula” doesn’t suit them?

Toyota had the biggest budget in F1 for so much years and they never dominated, so money is not the only reason.




Or just maybe a young German replaced a Scotsman at the start of the 2009 season………


Aerodynamics, resources for sure.

Engines were not a performance differentiator the last five years, aero was.

Now engines are a differentiator again and they don’t have the best one at the moment!


“Mclaren have a car and the drivers to win this year but there season could be ruined if Magnesson winds up Button like Hamilton did Alonso all those years ago…”

It was not HAM who did wind up ALO – he has not gotten the talent to manage that over the course of a season, as very clearly demonstrated in the final standings of the last four consecutive seasons – it was R Dennis. And I am sure, now that he is back, he has learned a good lesson in driver management from that season.


U suggest hamilton cant manage fuel…seriously what do you base this on? In fact it is the team with data who manage fuel usage over radio so your comment does not add up


James, are you sure Alonso did his best time on a set of softs? There are so many websites giving different data that I’ve got really confused. And being a Ferrari fan, a bit worried too – I don’t want to believe Merc is a full second in front of Ferrari…

Is there any official source of information that shows the tyre compounds?

Cheers, Bart


Pirelli have provided the tyre information from today:
1. L Hamilton Mercedes 1m33.278s Soft Used
2. V Bottas Williams 1m33.987s Soft New
3. F Alonso Ferrari 1m34.280s Supersoft New
4. N Hulkenberg Force India 1m35.577s Supersoft New
5. J-E Vergne Toro Rosso 1m35.701s Supersoft New
6. A Sutil Sauber 1m36.467s Supersoft New
7. M Chilton Marussia 1m36.835s Supersoft New
8. E Gutierrez Sauber 1m37.303s Supersoft New
9. S Vettel Red Bull 1m37.468s Soft Used
10. J Button McLaren 1m38.111s Medium New
11. K Kobayashi Caterham 1m38.391s Soft New
12. R Grosjean Lotus 1m39.302s Soft New




Does it say anywhere what hamiltons 1st sectors time on super softs was?


29.427s on his fastest lap on softs


Doesn’t necessarily means that “super soft” was the fastest rubber compound on a given hour and day .

H.Guderian (ALO fan)

Bahrain Day One (Feb, 27)

Kimi: 1:36.432s

Bahrain Day Two (Feb, 28)

Alo: 1:35.634s

Bahrain Day Three (Mar, 01)

Kimi: 1:35.426s

Bahrain Day Four (Mar, 02)

Alo: 1:34.280s (SOFT tyres, not super soft)

Best Kimi Time: 1:35.426s

Best Alo Time: 1:34.280s (1.2sec faster)

Do you guys know what that mean???

*NOTHING* (We don’t know what they were testing, fuel levels, nothing. We know nothing).

So people should be very carrefull when they say that Kimi was 1/2sec faster on long runs than Alonso, right??? 😉


James if you have the info could you please extrapolate what Hamilton’s lap time would be on the supersofts by comparing the percentage difference in the first sector times.


Can you believe it?! Neither Magnussen nor Hamilton, but Massa set the overall fastest time in Bahrein!

I would never have guessed … roll on Melbourne!! 2014 is gonna be epic!


Don’t get too excited – Massa’s time was set with SuperSofts while Hamiltons time was on Softs ( and used softs too ) . If its true that there’s 0.7s between the two compounds it means that Hamilton would have been about half a second faster than Massa if he actually wanted to really go for it.


Given Williams “high mileage” failure on their ICE can it we assumes that they did the three test sessions on a single power unit? If they did it speaks volumes for the reliabilty of the Mercedes motor and will cause some long faces at teams who did have to change PUs! From memory I think Ferrari, Sauber and Marussia had engine changes but did anyone else make their full distance on one motor?

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