After four days of testing at Jerez, teams will head back to their respective factories with a differing opinion of how they fared in southern Spain. There is, of course, the caveat that testing is what it says on the tin: a chance to trial the cars before the first race. No-one was hugely hung up on the lap times as teams focused on mileage, with the cars and power units not pushed to the maximum, while Jerez’s atypical track surface was exacerbated by cold temperatures and Pirelli’s special winter tyres. Making conclusions from the first test is always a dangerous game, but here’s how each team coped across the first four days of 2014 action.
All eyes were on Red Bull when they unveiled the RB10 early on Tuesday morning as the champions attempt to defend their title yet again. But matters soon deteriorated. Such was their rush to make it to Jerez that the team spent most of Tuesday in the garage after a part was incorrectly mounted. Later in the week the RB10 suffered from overheating due to the car’s packaging, which was accentuated by the wider issues suffered by Renault. Sebastian Vettel and Daniel Ricciardo completed 21 laps between them, with none of them anywhere near competitive. Ricciardo stopped on track on his out lap on Thursday, with the Australian later conceding that his team is on the back foot. Having completed the fewest laps and a best time 15 seconds off the pace, few would disagree with their new driver.
Mercedes means business. Not only did they turn up in Jerez with two brand new sharp-looking paddock units, but out on track they performed better than expected. The team completed 309 laps – more than any other team – and their power units performed well and sounded excellent. Having watched Nico Rosberg around the turns three-six segment, he was comfortable with the handling of the car, with the power unit responding to his demands. Rosberg was also the only driver to complete a full race distance. With mileage being the crucial aspect of the first test, Mercedes is ahead of Ferrari and Renault in terms of understanding the hugely complex 2014 power units. There were a few minor setbacks – most notably the front wing failure suffered by Lewis Hamilton – but this was a commanding start to the year by the Silver Arrows.
Ferrari enjoyed a quiet yet fairly positive start to the year at Jerez. The returning Kimi Räikkönen stopped on his first proper lap of running on Tuesday but returned to the circuit to set the fastest time on a subdued day. Fernando Alonso also stopped on track on Thursday but he was second only to Rosberg in terms of laps completed. Unlike many drivers, Alonso does not believe the cars need to be driven that differently, but both he and Räikkönen had a few twitchy moments with the F14 T out on track. In terms of sound, the Ferrari power unit is much quieter than their counterparts at Mercedes but was running fairly smoothly all week.
McLaren is undoubtedly one of the teams to have had an enjoyable week, especially after their torrid time in 2013. The MP4-29 was running smoothly, with its Mercedes power unit emitting a pleasingly deep grunting sound, with a noise reminiscent of off-throttle blowing at the first corner. Jenson Button topped the times on Wednesday while team-mate Kevin Magnussen followed suit a day later. The Danish rookie oozed confidence out on track and was immediately comfortably on circuit, although he blotted his copybook slightly by spinning during the closing moments of the test. Nonetheless, his approach – both on-track and off-it – was impressive. Not only did he set the fastest time of the week, which he said was not “balls to the wall”, but he was ultra-consistent across longer stints. The team’s clever rear suspension design has grabbed the attention of rivals, who have questioned its legality. Despite missing the entire day of running on Tuesday due an electrical problem, McLaren nonetheless managed 245 laps across the course of the test.
Force India’s VJM07 isn’t pretty on the eye but out on track both Nico Hülkenberg – who claims that his choice of #27 is his birth dates added together (19/8) – and Sergio Pérez were fairly comfortable. Both drivers suffered mechanical failures during their running, with Pérez’s car coming to a smoky halt at the first corner on Wednesday. Reserve driver Daniel Juncadella completed more running than Hülkenberg and Pérez combined. Hülkenberg remains unconvinced by the sound of the V6 power units, likening them to a DTM car, but the Force India still emits a satisfying noise. The team’s new black, orange and white livery also looks pleasingly striking out on track and is easily distinguishable – unlike the Mercedes and McLaren, which even caught out McLaren’s pit board man on Thursday!
A visibly more confident Esteban Gutiérrez likened the feel of his Sauber-C33 to a GP3 car and claimed to be enjoying the new experience of the power units. Both he and new team-mate Adrian Sutil completed a decent amount of running, with the Sauber having a lot of the typical turbo whine and a quieter sound than their counterparts from Ferrari. Neither Sauber driver had significant technical problems although they still had issues. Gutiérrez was caught out by the feel of the Energy Recovery System under braking and spun off the track; before then he’d also spun at the first corner and looked a bit loose under braking at the hairpin. Sutil was also affected by the new braking system and subsequently crashed out after being surprised by the aggressive nature of the turbocharger. Sutil and Gutiérrez have an aggressive style, usually busily working the steering wheel, so they may well need to adapt their approach in the C33.
Toro Rosso switched to Renault for 2014 in a bid to align themselves with sister team Red Bull, but they were probably hoping for more than 54 laps across four days of running. The fact that Jean-Éric Vergne’s time of 1:29.915 – 6.6 seconds off the pace – was Renault’s fastest time of the week should set alarm bells ringing. Daniil Kvyat managed only nine laps on Friday after he failed to make it out of the garage earlier in the week. It was impossible to gauge the fundamental handling of the car due to its lack of running but standing from track side the car was spluttering all over the place: just as it sounded as if it was working adequately, it promptly cut out and Vergne had to stop at the pit exit. Kvyat’s lack of running wasn’t ideal, but the Russian acquitted himself well off-track considering his youth and inexperience.
Running in their heritage blue livery, Valtteri Bottas and new recruit Felipe Massa relished a productive week of testing. The Grove based team must have enjoyed a brief smile when they saw the woes being encountered by former engine supplier Renault. Like the other Mercedes powered teams, the Williams produced a good noise, with a crisper sound than their rivals with the same power unit. The car also appeared to have a strong front end, allowing Bottas and Massa to feel the car on corner entry. Massa also exuded confidence during his press sessions, convincingly speaking of his desire to see Williams succeed and his happiness at having made the transition from Maranello. He’s a driver who understands the history of Williams.
Delays with the car at the team’s UK base in Brackley meant that, despite the presence of Marussia’s staff and transporters, the car only arrived on the back of a van late on Wednesday afternoon. Max Chilton finally gave the MR-03 its debut during the latter stages on Thursday and he completed five laps without any issues. Jules Bianchi – who spent some time on Wednesday watching the action from his road car – took over on Friday and conducted 25 problem-free laps.
Caterham postponed their launch until Tuesday afternoon and when the CT05 finally appeared it wasn’t the most aesthetically pleasing machine. Marcus Ericsson gave the car its debut and completed a handful of laps across two days of running, with the Renault emitting a hideous noise, as if it was misfiring all over the shop. Robin Frijns completed 10 laps – none of them timed – on Thursday while Kamui Kobayashi put in a decent amount of running on the final day of the test.
Lotus opted to skip the Jerez test and will instead debut their E22 at the next test in Bahrain, which will take place between February 19th and 22nd.
Combined times and laps, 28-31 January:
|9||27||Nico Hülkenberg||Force India-Mercedes||1.26.096||17|
|10||11||Sergio Pérez||Force India-Mercedes||1.28.376||48|
|11||34*||Daniel Juncadella||Force India-Mercedes||1.29.457||81|
|12||25||Jean-Éric Vergne||Toro Rosso-Renault||1.29.915||45|
|17||1||Sebastian Vettel||Red Bull-Renault||1.38.320||11|
|19||26||Daniil Kvyat||Toro Rosso-Renault||1.44.016||9|
|20||3||Daniel Ricciardo||Red Bull-Renault||1.45.374||10|
|21||46*||Robin Frijns||Caterham-Renault||No time||10|
|22||4||Max Chilton||Marussia-Ferrari||No time||5|
*For reserve drivers at Jerez, numbers were allocated to them at random.