Mercedes power dominates again but Red Bull enjoy first good day of testing
Thu 20.02.14, 7:07PM
The second day of testing at the Bahrain International Circuit saw a mix of the familiar and the novel. Familiar was the Mercedes-powered teams dominating both the timesheet and the mileage charts. Kevin Magnussen recorded the quickest time of the day with a lap of 1:34.910 for McLaren, while Valtteri Bottas completed 116 laps for Williams, making up for their lack of running on day one.
Less familiar was the sight of the Mercedes works car twice slowing to a halt on track and causing the session to be red flagged. This was in contrast to Red Bull Racing, for whom the RB10 completed significant mileage for the first time.
Many teams chose to swap drivers for day two. Along with Bottas running for Williams, Nico Rosberg took over for Mercedes and Kamui Kobayashi appeared for Caterham. Esteban Gutiérrez slotted in for Sauber, Jean-Eric Vergne for Toro Rosso and Max Chilton for Marussia. Carrying on after day one were Magnussen, Sebastian Vettel for Red Bull, Nico Hülkenberg for Force India, Romain Grosjean in the new Lotus and Fernando Alonso for Ferrari.
The first significant action of the day was a red flag as Rosberg coasted to a halt on his out-lap. Mercedes later reported this is a precautionary shutdown based on sensor data. Once the track re-opened Verge set the first time of the day with 1:45.244. Toro Rosso had announced their intention to make up as much running as possible after an oil leak kept them in the garage for most of Wednesday.
It didn’t take long for the distinctive-sounding Mercedes engines to make their presence felt. Magnussen was the first driver under 1m40s, setting a benchmark of 1:39.958 a little way into the second hour of running. Bottas went quicker soon after but it was the Ferrari of Alonso that then enjoyed a period of domination, first breaking into the 1m38s and then breaking out again with time of 1:37.700 that would be the best of the morning.
Rosberg’s second red flag of the day came shortly after noon as he stopped in sector one. Mercedes did not divulge the cause but the car spent several hours in the garage after that. The problem did not appear to be overly significant as when Rosberg did re-emerge with two and a half hours of track time remaining, he promptly went to the top of the timesheet with a lap of 1:37.368 and went on to complete 85 laps in total.
“We achieved another good amount of laps today which proves that the first part of testing in terms of reliability is going well,” said Rosberg. “We need to push the car to the limits to see how it works in every condition. We don't yet know where we are in terms of performance, but today was a great day for me personally because I felt at home in the new car for the first time.”
"It feels good to get some good times recorded, but winter testing is just that – testing. It isn’t about times."
Shortly after Nico Rosberg’s re-emergence it was the turn of Nico Hülkenberg to rise to the top with a string of laps that culminated in a time of 1:37.211. Whereas Mercedes were running with the medium tyre, Hülkenberg was using the soft compound for his run. Gutiérrez, suffering electrical problems in the Sauber, caused another red flag and halted Hülkenberg’s progress but the German dropped under the 1m37s mark on the resumption and beat Wednesday’s best lap, setting a time of 1:36.445 with a little under 90 minutes of running remaining.
Up to this point the one Mercedes team not to feature prominently on the leaderboard were McLaren. IT issues had kept the car garaged for most of the morning, and not until mid-afternoon did Magnussen get in any significant running. After building up to speed, however, he went to the top of the time sheet with 50 minutes remaining, setting an impressive 1:35.489 on the soft tyre. Afterwards, McLaren let the young Dane off the leash and, running on Pirelli’s supersoft, he had time to set the best lap of the day with 1:34.910, 40 minutes before the close.
“Unfortunately, we didn’t get too many laps done this morning, but it was good to get some laps done at the end of the day,” said Magnussen. “There’s a lot of discussion about lap times, and it feels good to get some good times recorded, but winter testing is just that – testing. It isn’t about times. We’re still learning a lot about the car. We have four more days of testing next week and there’s still a lot of work to do.”
It was good to get a proper first feel for the car and it feels OK but there’s a lot more to come."
Hülkenberg finished the day second-quickest, one-and-a-half seconds adrift, while Alonso was third fastest with another solid, reliable day of the sort that has characterised Ferrari’s pre-season to date. Sebastian Vettel was down in seventh place with a best time of 1:40.340. Under other circumstances that would have remained largely anonymous were it not for the fact the 59 laps he completed represented the Constructors’ Champion’s best return since the launch of the RB10 in Jerez. The team completed more laps in the morning on day six than they had managed in the first five days combined.
“Definitely a better day today,” said Vettel. “It was good to get a proper first feel for the car and it feels OK but there’s a lot more to come. It’s difficult to talk about catching up [to rivals] because I don’t know what other people are doing, but we did more laps than we have done so far and that’s the big thing. We’re learning every single lap, even if the quality of the lap is sometimes not the best.”
The only teams not to get past 50 laps today were Marussia, who were halted at lunchtime with a fuel system problem, and Lotus, who suffered a variety of installation and software issues with the new E22.
Testing continues tomorrow.
2014 first Bahrain test day two – unofficial times
1 Kevin Magnussen McLaren 1m34.910s 46laps
2 Nico Hulkenberg Force India 1m36.445s +1.535s 59laps
3 Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1m36.516s +1.606s 97laps
4 Nico Rosberg Mercedes n1m36.965s +2.055s 85laps
5 Valtteri Bottas Williams 1m37.328s +2.418s 116laps
6 Kamui Kobayashi Caterham 1m39.855s +4.945s 66laps
7 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull 1m40.340s +5.430s 59laps
8 Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso 1m40.609s +5.699s 58laps
9 Esteban Gutiérrez Sauber 1m40.717s +5.807s 55laps
10 Romain Grosjean Lotus 1m41.670s +6.760s 18laps
11. Max Chilton Marussia 1m42.511s +7.601s 17laps