What started as an average day to testing turned into quite the exciting exchange of blows at the top of the time sheets, while Lotus and Red Bull endured another horrible day at the track. With just one day (really!) of testing left before all the teams pack up and head to Melbourne, it is clear who will be struggling at the season opener and who has a far better chance of success.
If anything, today taught us that just one day of good running doesn’t guarantee another. This sounds preposterous given that the amount learned on a good day would surely help on the following days. But, such is the extent of the complexity of the new power units and energy recovery systems, even solving multiple problems one day doesn’t mean others won’t crop up. Red Bull learned this today, after a surprisingly trouble-free day yesterday, with just two attempted runs amounting to about half a lap completed. This was by far the team’s worst day on track this preseason (besides the ones where they didn’t make it to the track at all, of course).
Anything remotely resembling a string of consecutive laps tomorrow will be a success for Red Bull. Their inconsistency will be their downfall should it not be rectified. However, as Jenson Button was quick to point out yesterday, the Red Bull looks very competitive when it does run consistently. All the signs point to a car with lots of untapped potential, potential its rivals will want to keep in check. The teams with a perceived advantage will keep an eagle eye on the world champions from here on out.
The same notion goes for Lotus who, surprisingly, seemed one of the better-placed Renault-powered teams at one point towards the end of the first Bahrain test. Now, a wasted day today means that hopes for a decent run in Australia have almost disappeared completely. But only almost. Adding further insult to injury, news emerged today that the team’s social media guru and Group Brand Director Stephane Samson, responsible for some of the most entertaining tweets in all of Formula One, has left the team. All that was keeping alive the team’s image of a top team succeeding against the odds seems to have deserted Lotus. These are troubling times at Enstone, indeed.
But it isn’t all doom and gloom for Renault-powered teams, for while the top dogs of the Renault hierarchy struggled massively today Toro Rosso and Caterham had very successful days of running, with the latter completing a race simulation and nearly 120 laps. Toro Rosso set the timing sheets alight, albeit briefly, with by far the team’s fastest time of the Bahrain tests. This amounted to a fifth place finish on the time sheets at the end of the day, but it was no doubt a boon for the newly-Renault-powered team as it heads to Australia.
As for Merecedes-powered teams it was much of the same, and that’s a good thing.
Fans following the tests live were treated to a wonderful exchange of fast laps, the fastest of which coming from Williams’ Felipe Massa and Mercedes’ Nico Rosberg.
This back-and-forth culminated in the fastest lap of the seven days of testing in Bahrain from Massa who, on the supersoft tires, showed the rest of the field just what the revitalized team from Grove can be capable of this season. Behind him, the Ferrari of Kimi Raikkonen and Mclaren of Kevin Magnussen exchanged blows as well, albeit two-and-a-bit seconds off the pace. Don’t read too much into that discrepancy, though, for all the teams still have yet to show their true strength when it comes to performance. But we are getting close, agonizingly close.
A few words of praise must go to Marussia who, after struggling massively during the preseason tests, managed a commendable 78 laps today along with the seventh fastest time, 3.8 seconds down on Massa.
As the smallest team on the grid with the fewest resources, monetarily or otherwise, Marussia have always been fighting an uphill battle since the first test in Jerez. There were days when the team wouldn’t even emerge from the garage such was the extent of their problems. Thankfully they have made slow and steady progress since and thus can be very proud of what they achieved today. Remember though, one day of success in testing in now way guarantees another, so there is nothing stopping another miserable day tomorrow. Marussia will need to be wary of this fact this season, for if improved performance this year can’t reduce their competitive deficit, then perhaps reliability can.
There is just one more day of testing. In any other season, most teams would be itching to get to Melbourne and showing just what they can do. This season, however, the fact that just mere hours of track time remain before the F1 circus must pack up and head to Australia spells trouble, not just for the small teams or the Renault-powered teams but for everyone. Get ready for a busy day tomorrow.
Images courtesy of Infiniti Red Bull Racing/Getty images and Williams F1 Team