Massa quickest on day four

Jerez testing concludes with Williams driver top of the timesheet as Red Bull continue to struggle

Formula One’s first test of 2014 concluded with a solid day of running in Jerez. Three teams completing more than one hundred laps and several others nudging up towards the mark. One of the latter was Williams, for whom new recruit Felipe Massa managed 86 laps and finished the day top of the timesheet with a time of 1:28.229. It was not such a good day for Red Bull Racing: Daniel Ricciardo registered only seven laps before the World Champions once again called an early halt to their participation.

Elsewhere in the pitlane Fernando Alonso, Kevin Magnussen and Adrian Sutil were continuing for Ferrari, McLaren and Sauber respectively. Force India gave test driver Daniel Juncadella a day in the car, Jules Bianchi got his first taste of the Marussia MR03 and Daniel Kvyat returned for Toro Rosso. Kamui Kobayashi made his first appearance for Caterham and Mercedes split their day with Nico Rosberg driving in the morning and Lewis Hamilton taking over for the afternoon.

Despite the day starting grey and wet, most teams seemed keen to get down to business. A flurry of installation laps was followed by Sutil completing the first timed lap, setting the benchmark at 1:53.700 half an hour into the session. Four minutes later the timesheet had the previously unseen sight of a Red Bull at the top, with Ricciardo recording a lap of 1:45.374.

“For sure it is important to be competitive, but testing is testing, and we now need to look to prepare for Bahrain and then towards the first race, which is the most important thing.”
Felipe Massa

Sadly, that was also to be the Australian’s best lap of the day. He completed a five lap run in that stint, and came about again shortly after 11am but could only manage a further two before the car was retired. Red Bull released a statement citing a ‘mechanical issue’ but did not go into specifics.

“It's been a very difficult test,” concluded team principal Christian Horner. “We have had numerous Renault issues as well as chassis cooling issues, which have affected our progress. However, despite the lack of mileage, what we have managed to learn shows that the problems should be solvable for the next test in Bahrain. Part of the purpose of this early test was to learn about any issues ahead of the start of the season and there will now be a lot of focus on the dyno over the next few weeks.”

Things were little better at sister team Toro Rosso, for whom Kvyat managed nine laps with the car afflicted by the team referred to as a ‘systems issue’.

Elsewhere running had a familiar ring with Rosberg soon rising to the top of the order and, lapping consistently throughout the morning session, occasionally lowering his time. He stayed in front for three hours before Alonso nipped ahead with a lap of 1:35.334 set on Intermediate tyres shortly before the lunch break. Rosberg, however, had completed 91 laps in his half-day and later professed himself happy with the mileage he accumulated.

“It's come as a bit of a surprise that we were able to do so many laps here today and throughout the whole week,” he said. “I was able to do a full race simulation on only the fourth day of winter testing, so we can be very happy about that. Performance-wise we don't know where we are because you can't really compare to the other cars, but that's not the focus right now. We've learned a lot this week so it's an encouraging start to the year.”

Elsewhere the long runs were highlighting the consistency of some of the younger and less experienced drivers: Magnussen was following his excellence performance on day three with another good showing but the driver to really catch the eye was Juncadella who did not appear at all fazed by the difficult conditions.

“I was able to do a full race simulation on only the fourth day of winter testing, so we can be very happy about that."
Nico Rosberg

“It was my first day working with the team and it was a big challenge because of the tricky conditions.,” said the young Spaniard. “I took things very cautiously because I had never driven a Formula One car in the wet and for the whole day the track still had damp patches. It was a case of building up my confidence and learning how the team operates.”

A dry line began to form in the afternoon, though the surface was still damp in places, leading to a variety of tyres being used in the period immediately after lunch. Regardless of compound, times were falling rapidly in the afternoon with Alonso deposed first by Magnussen, then Juncadella before taking the top spot back just before the day’s first red flag was caused by Sutil beaching the C33 in the gravel.

Juncadella returned briefly to the top of the order at the restart before Massa became the first man to duck under the 1m30s barrier with around 80 minutes of running remaining. Another stoppage followed as Magnussen’s McLaren needed to be recovered after a spin with an hour remaining. Massa improved his time when the track went green again, and was still leading with ten minutes remaining when running came to a premature halt when Magnussen spun again and broke the front wing of the McLaren.

A veteran of many winter testing sessions, Massa refused to read too much into his performance. “We managed to do many more laps today than we have in the last three days which is important. Today we didn't have any issues with the car, which I think is also another step forward. We now need to concentrate and prepare with an aim to do more laps per day in Bahrain.

“For sure it is important to be competitive, but testing is testing, and we now need to look to prepare for Bahrain and then towards the first race, which is the most important thing.”

2014 Jerez test day three – unofficial times

1 Felipe Massa Williams, 1:28.229 86laps
2 Fernando Alonso Ferrari, 1:29.145 +0.916 115laps
3 Daniel Juncadella Force India, 1:29.457 +1.228 81laps
4 Kevin Magnussen, McLaren 1:30.806 +2.577 110laps
5 Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, 1:30.822 +2.593 41laps
6 Jules Bianchi, Marussia 132.222 +3.993 25laps
7 Adrian Sutil, Sauber 1:36.571 8.342 69laps
8 Nico Rosberg, Mercedes 1:36.951 +8.722 91laps
9 Kamui Kobayashi, Caterham 1:43.193 +14.964 54laps
10 Daniil Kvyat, Toro Rosso 1:44.016s, +15.787 9laps
11 Daniel Ricciardo, Red Bull 1:45.374s, +17.145 7laps