Sergio Perez took Force India to the top of the timesheets on day one of the third and final pre-season F1 test of 2014, ensuring Mercedes-powered cars continued their dominance on another challenging day for their Renault and Ferrari rivals.
The morning session saw Caterham hit trouble rather publicly as Kamui Kobayashi’s demise saw a red flag flown early doors, but there were similar struggles in private for Ferrari who managed just twelve laps with Kimi Raikkonen before a problem (the nature of which the Scuderia was unwilling to divulge) brought a halt to their running. There was another stoppage when Pastor Maldonado faced a long walk back to the pits from the turn eight hairpin where his Lotus E22 stopped with an exhaust problem, while post-lunch saw Daniil Kvyat’s momentum, built up over fifty five faultless laps, come to an end when his STR9 performed its now obligatory daily breakdown. Nonetheless, the increase in laps completed signals an improvement of sorts for the Renault powered teams, as Red Bull also set to work in a bid to overcome their issues before pre-season testing finishes. Those hopes were damaged by further overheating issues in the afternoon, which abruptly took second place to a small flash fire on the RB10 while it was stationary in the garage; despite the emergency Ricciardo completed a couple of laps right at the death.
To that end Daniel Ricciardo obliged and did the honours behind the wheel of the RB10, setting 3rd fastest time for a while before the relentless progress of the Mercedes and Ferrari powered teams told and they surged into the lead, with Perez in his Force India VJM07 battering his way into the 1:35’s before the lunch break; a new addition to the schedule after marshals failed to find time to eat at last week’s test.
Mercedes and McLaren continued rather serene progress toward consolidating their position at the front of the pack, though the F1W05 drew admiring glances as key aerodynamic updates were visible on the sidepod and exhaust sections of the car driven by Nico Rosberg, a clear sign the Silver Arrows are long past baseline testing and exploring the minute fractions obtainable with a few million pounds to spend in the windtunnel. McLaren by comparison had a minor hiccup as Magnussen stalled in the pitlane while venturing out, and the MP4/29 featured less in the way of aerodynamic refinement than it’s rival, but nonetheless there was no doubt it was another solid day for the team. Rosberg was prevented from running toward the end of the day thanks to some minor problems on the car, but he ended the day with a respectable eighty nine laps on the board.
Ferrari worked hard to correct Raikkonen’s fault and the Finn duly took to the track post-lunch to put in some more laps alongside countryman Valtteri Bottas, whose consisent lapping on high fuel attracted attention for all the right reasons. Williams again appeared real contenders, though they faced a stiffer challenge from rivals Sauber who got onto front-running pace for the first time in 2014 courtesy of Adrian Sutil with a one-off flyer halfway through the day that took him up to 4th place. There are suggestions that the team still has issues with its braking system however and the German was unable to replicate his achievement in the afternoon. Max Chilton experienced a more successful day behind the wheel of the Marussia, entering the top six briefly and seemingly getting to grips with his new Ferrari-powered mount before handing over to team-mate Jules Bianchi tomorrow.
DAY ONE – TIMES – Bahrain Testing 27th Feb 2014