Williams go quickest at the Bahrain International Circuit while Red Bull endure further disappointment.
Sat 01.03.14, 6:06PM
The penultimate day of winter testing saw teams arriving at the Bahrain International Circuit with a wildly divergent set of objectives. For some today was about long-run pace, others were concentrating on pure performance, yet more were still chasing reliability. Williams’ Felipe Massa recorded the fastest lap of the day and of the seven days completed in Bahrain so far – but there were many other stories.
Only Massa, Caterham’s Marcus Ericsson and Marussia’s Jules Bianchi were continuing from day two, the other eight teams elected to swap their race drivers. Nico Rosberg returned for Mercedes, Kimi Räikkönen for Ferrari and Kevin Magnussen for McLaren. Sebastian Vettel was back for Red Bull Racing, Romain Grosjean returned for Lotus and Nico Hülkenberg for Force India. Daniil Kvyat had the seat at Toro Rosso and Adrian Sutil at Sauber.
"You can never be sure that you are 100% ready for the first race, but I feel that what we have done in these days testing has been important for making sure that we have a car that can not only get to the end of the race, but that will have good performance as well.”
For Mercedes the day got off to a bad start before it begun. The team announced its overnight crew had diagnosed an engine problem and at 0400 decided to make a precautionary change. The W05 was in pieces at the scheduled start time of 0900. Rosberg eventually appeared on track at noon.
Caterham also had a heavy overnight schedule. A fire late on day two caused significant damage and the repair work was still ongoing as the start of day three approached. Ericsson’s delay, however, was less severe and he was out on track 40 minutes into the session.
By the time the CT05 appeared the session was already over for Sutil. On his installation lap the German driver coasted into the pitlane with a smoking Sauber and did not reappear. After that drama the first time of the day was set by Hülkenberg with a time of 1:38.845.
Massa took the top spot an hour into running with a lap of 1:38.603. Williams had announced they would be concentrating on performance so the presence of the Brazilian at the top of the order was no surprise. He improved on that time with a lap of 1:37.224 which led the way two hours into the session.
At that point neither Red Bull nor Lotus had put in an appearance. Vettel emerged from the garage half an hour before noon but his run lasted only half a lap before the RB10 ground to a halt. He tried again an hour later but this time the car failed before exiting the pitlane. It was pushed back to the garage not to emerge again.
“Given how well the car behaved yesterday we were anticipating a solid run for Seb today,” explained Red Bull race engineering co-ordinator Andy Damerum. “But almost as soon as he went out there was an electrical problem, which stopped him on track. We brought the car back, identified the issue – which is one other teams have had but which hadn’t affected us so far – and set about fixing it. We got ready for another run but this time the car stopped in pit lane. We brought it back again and discovered a leak, which we thought we could fix but it turned out it had caused enough damage that we weren’t able to go out again.”
Lotus faired somewhat better. Their morning delay was attributed to a wiring issue. It was rectified shortly before noon and Grosjean was able to begin his day’s work complete 33 laps before an MGU-K problem ended his session early.
“It wasn’t a perfect day!” said Grosjean. “It is true to say that we haven’t been as successful as we wished in our preparations so far. This doesn’t mean everything is lost or that it will be impossible for us to win races, but certainly we are behind schedule.”
"This doesn’t mean everything is lost or that it will be impossible for us to win races, but certainly we are behind schedule.” Romain Grosjean
The lunch break began a little earlier than planned as Bianchi caused a red flag, rolling to a stop at 1250. After lunch the session ran smoothly until Grosjean’s KERS issue caused the third and final red flag of the day with two hours remaining. After the restart, and on a warm afternoon in Bahrain, the pace picked up. Kvyat recorded Toro Rosso’s best lap of testing so far and went fastest with a lap of 1:36.113, though he only stayed at the top of the timesheet for ten minutes before Massa took a second and a half out of it with a lap of 1:34.450. Rosberg was making up for lost running and passed the 100-lap mark while setting 1:33.484 and with 15 minutes remaining looked like finishing top of the timesheet but Massa had time to respond and reclaimed the honour with a lap of 1:33.258 a few minutes before the close.
“We did a lot more performance work in the car which is something that we haven't done so much of so far,” said Williams’ new recruit. “I'm really happy with the car and feel we found a good balance. We did so much work on the set-up but it is very important that we go to Australia prepared. Of course you are always happy when you see your name at the top in first place, but as well as performance, today was good for the mileage and reliability of the car which we know is needed for Australia. You can never be sure that you are 100% ready for the first race, but I feel that what we have done in these days testing has been important for making sure that we have a car that can not only get to the end of the race, but that will have good performance as well.”
Pre-season testing concludes tomorrow.
2014 second Bahrain test day three – unofficial times
1 Felipe Massa Williams 1:33.258 99laps
2 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1:33.484s +0.226 103laps
3 Kimi Räikkönen Ferrari 1:35.426s +2.168 87laps
4 Kevin Magnussen McLaren 1:35.894s +2.636 88laps
5 Daniil Kvyat Toro Rosso 1:36.113s +2.855 81laps
6 Nico Hülkenberg Force India 1:36.205s +2.947 115laps
7 Jules Bianchi Marussia 1:37.087s +3.829 78laps
8 Marcus Ericsson Caterham 1:38.083s +4.825 117laps
9 Romain Grosjean Lotus 1:42.166s +8.908 33laps
10 Adrian Sutil Sauber no time
11 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull no time