Force India’s Sergio Pérez remains at the top of the Bahrain timesheet while Mercedes and McLaren experience technical difficulties.
Fri 28.02.14, 6:06PM
On the first day of pre-season testing a Ferrari topped the timesheet, since then every day has seen a car with a Mercedes engine go quickest. Today added a slight variation to the theme with the same driver going quickest for the second day in a row, with Force India’s Sergio Pérez once again the fastest man at the Bahrain International Circuit.
Along with Pérez, Daniel Ricciardo and Pastor Maldonado were continuing for Red Bull and Lotus respectively, while the other eight teams opted to switch drivers for day two of this final test. That saw Fernando Alonso appearing for Ferrari, Felipe Massa for Williams and Jenson Button at McLaren. Jules Bianchi stepped into the Marussia, Lewis Hamilton took over at Mercedes, Jean-Eric Vergne at Toro Rosso, Esteban Gutiérrez for Sauber and Marcus Ericsson at Caterham.
It was Pérez who set the first time of the day with a lap of 1:46.166. He followed that with a more representative 1:38.014 on his next lap. That stood for half an hour before Alonso announced his presence, going quickest with 1:37.274, before the Mexican driver took top spot back with 1:36.440, 90 minutes into running.
That came shortly after the first red red flag period of the day. Hamilton beached at Turn Three on new hard tyres. Mercedes, tongue-in-cheek, suggested they were testing the gravel. Running resumed as soon as the W05 was recovered and continued until Button necessitated a second red flag, slowing to a halt with a mechanical issue some two and a half hours into the session.
"It feels very good to have another full day and to do so many laps. It’s my last time in the car until we arrive in Melbourne and I’m feeling positive about how things are going."
Repairing the McLaren took much of the day but Button was able to resume with 75 minutes of the day remaining and finished the session with a long run.
“We had a problem within the gearbox,” said Button after the chequered flag. “It took a while to change – as anything within the power-unit does these days – but we got back out at the end, and everything ran smoothly, which was good. It was a shame to lose that time – it’s the first major issue we’ve had this winter; but it’s better to suffer it here, rather than at a race weekend.
“We were still able to do a long-run on high-fuel this afternoon. The basic car is good, and there’s a great deal of potential there, but there’s still a lot of work to do. We have a good understanding of the power-unit, and we know how to race it, but, in terms of balance and grip, the car isn’t quite there yet.”
When running resumed shortly before noon, everyone had a time on the board baring Ricciardo, who to that point had only managed installation laps. That would change soon after with the Australian getting on the board with a lap of 1:40.867. Shortly before that, however, Pérez had improved upon his best lap, lowering the benchmark to 1:35.570. That time would stand until the end of the session, despite Force India completing 75 laps after lunch.
"It feels very good to have another full day and to do so many laps,” said Pérez. It’s my last time in the car until we arrive in Melbourne and I’m feeling positive about how things are going. The set-up work today was very useful because we tried some different things to have a better direction for the first race. Everything went to plan and we managed to complete all the long runs in the afternoon.”
"A big improvement everywhere over yesterday and a much more optimistic outlook now I think. We still have a lot to learn and understand, but we’re making progress and the past two days have been a big step in the right direction.”
After lunch it was Lotus’ turn to bring out a red flag as Maldonado’s E22 caught fire. It was sufficiently serious to end Lotus’ participation on day two. “We had a localised fire in the car which ended our running early and caused a reasonable amount of damage to the E22,” said trackside operations director Alan Permane. “We’re inspecting the chassis and installation very carefully to deduce the cause of the fire and rectify any issues we find. Clearly this is not how we wanted to spend our day, but our focus is getting the most from the remaining days of the test.”
Less spectacular was Mercedes decision to end their day 90 minutes before the close with a gearbox problem, but track marshals had to deal with another fire when Ericsson was required to exit the Caterham quickly as it started to burn, causing the final red flag of the day. It wasn’t all bad news for the Renault teams, however, as Vergne completed 61 laps for Toro Rosso and Ricciardo 66 for Red Bull. The Australian finished the day third quickest in the RB10, less than two-tenths off the best time of the day – though with Red Bull still lagging behind in its pre-season programme, the comparison with teams concentrating on long runs is invalid.
“It went a lot better today,” said Ricciardo. “In the afternoon we did some good stuff. We had a go on the soft tyre, which was nice, to see how the car responds with a bit more grip. We also did one long run at the end, which was very important, just to see how the car is behaving with the tyres. A big improvement everywhere over yesterday and a much more optimistic outlook now I think. We still have a lot to learn and understand, but we’re making progress and the past two days have been a big step in the right direction.”
Testing continues tomorrow.
2014 second Bahrain test day two – unofficial times
1 Sergio Pérez Force India 1:35.570s 108laps
2 Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1:35.634s +0.064s 122laps
3 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull 1:35.743s +0.173s 66laps
4 Felipe Massa Williams 1:36.507s +0.937s 103laps
5 Jenson Button McLaren 1:36.901s +1.331s 52laps
6 Jules Bianchi Marussia 1:38.092s +2.522s 75laps
7 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:39.041s +3.471s 89laps
8 Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso 1:39.636s +4.066s 61laps
9 Esteban Gutiérrez Sauber 1:39.976s +4.406s 106laps
10 Pastor Maldonado Lotus 1:41.613s +6.043s 31laps
11 Marcus Ericsson Caterham 1:42.516s +6.946s 55laps