Dissecting the major themes from day three in Jerez
It’s safe to say that some teams in Jerez are fully in the swing of things. Day three of preseason testing, like yesterday, was a testament to the impressive skill of all the technicians, mechanics and other team personnel working in Formula One. But not everyone is having an easy go of it, and the likes of the Renault-powered teams have some major catching up to do as time quickly passes by.
The stresses of preseason testing are disproportionally distributed. For drivers testing is an opportunity for them to get in a brand new car and just drive. That is an oversimplification of the task, for while the main part of their job is to drive, they are also relied on for feedback which, this year, is more important than ever. But the pressures a driver normally feels during the season are absent. Testing, then, is the perfect opportunity to just enjoy the act of driving.
Doom-mongerers criticized the new regulations for taking away downforce, reducing the engine capacity and cylinder count, and increasing the weight of the chassis. None of that adds up to a faster racing car. But in this circumstance, Formula One cars are more than just the sum of those parts, for the increased influence of energy recovery systems adds new flair to the sensation of driving that many drivers welcome with open arms.
Speaking to AUTOSPORT’s Kevin Turner, Jenson Button said of the 2014 car: “I enjoy driving this car. The power of the engine is nice. It’s very torquey. It feels the most powerful engine I’ve driven. It obviously isn’t in terms of outright power, but as a racing driver you feel the torque and power at slow speed. It’s coming out of the corners when you have so much torque that’s exciting.”
Indeed, the new regulations, particularly those surrounding the energy recovery systems and the new-for-2014 turbos allows for nearly three times the amount of torque drivers had to contend with last season. That’s no small change considering how powerful the cars already were in 2013. But the reactions we’re getting, not only from Button, is good news for the sport. The things are complicated, no doubt. The braking philosophy is entirely different compared to last year’s in the sense that the energy recovery systems are doing most of it for you, and the reduced downforce coupled with the massive torque and harder tires means that both going in and out of a corner is a much more laborious task, albeit, more enjoyable at the same time.
The likes of Mclaren, Mercedes, Williams and Ferrari all accomplished a lot today. The fact that they occupied the top five positions on the time sheets is, finally, a testament to that. Had this been the first, event the second, day, one would have taken that running order with a huge lump of salt. But given the fact that this was the second day of real running, and that understanding of the new technologies is following not a linear, but exponential, trajectory, those times bear new significance. One can’t say with total confidence that Mclaren, Mercedes, Williams and Ferrari will be fighting for the title this year, but it is reasonable to suggest they are some distance ahead of their rivals at Red Bull Racing.
It’s hard to pinpoint what is wrong with Red Bull, and indeed all the Renault-powered teams. A supposed software problem that hindered Red Bull, Caterham and Toro Rosso’s running yesterday was said to be an easy fix, and Renault was vocal in its confidence that resumption of normal testing would begin today. But Red Bull once again ended their day prematurely after being unable to overcome their technical issues.
Christian Horner and Adrian Newey sounded the alarms with their departure from Jerez today. As they head back to Milton Keynes to hit the drawing board, the world champions are left to try their best, work throughout the night and hope all goes well on the final day in Jerez.
The one inkling of hope Red Bull can glean from this day is that Toro Rosso managed to complete a relatively solid number of laps, though they weren’t without their delays and failures.
Regardless, Red Bull are firmly on the back foot. They have now effectively missed a fourth of the allotted days of pre-season testing, and they are in danger of losing another day tomorrow. Time like that is far more important this year than in any other year before, and Red Bull will be acutely aware of that come tomorrow morning.
Mclaren also caught everyone’s attention in Jerez, but for all the right reasons. Jenson Button was fastest yesterday and this morning, while Kevin Magnussen (K-Mag), ended up on top at the end of the test today.
That’s all well and good if you think testing times are indicative of true pace at this moment, which they aren’t. What is important, though, is that their rear suspension has caught the eyes of everyone in the paddock.
These innovative suspension “blockers” are said to help in feeding air to the diffuser. “They have been quite cute with the regulations,” Williams’ Rod Nelson told AUTOSPORT. “The rear leg of the wishbones, they have got a kind of dog leg in them now.
“That means they can get these perpendicular surfaces on the trailing edges, but they still have point to point, from the inboard bearing to the outboard bearing, it is the same geometry.”
And the result of all this?
“I would imagine it is making the diffuser work better,” says Nelson.
Mclaren have indeed thrown a lot into this season, despite the team being on the verge of a new era with Honda. A final hoorah with Mercedes is just what the teams needs in what will probably prove to be a year of growth.
Images courtesy of Octane Photographic