New drivers, new cars, new engines, new noise. Much has changed in F1 for 2014. Last week’s 4-day test in Jerez shed some light on these ‘new developments of newness’ up and down the grid. So, team by team, what’s new?
The reign could be over. Well, at least for the moment it is, with Red Bull experiencing a truly torrid time of it out in Jerez last week. The problems seem to stem from two issues with the RB10, in the form of its tight rear-end packaging, and the thing that the tight rear-end is, well packaging. Renault themselves have acknowledged that their new-for-2014 powerplant is flawed, and even Adrian Newey and co haven’t been able to hide the fact that only one week in, the Milton Keynes team are at panic stations. In other words, Red Bull are on the back foot. Remember those words… Mr F1 Fanatic pointed out that ‘RB10’ sounds like ‘RB are beaten’ – ominous? Probably not.
If the Jerez test was the first day back at school for Formula One’s elite, then Mercedes can definitely be labelled the keen bean. The star pupil if you must. Putting in a huge 309 laps over the four days (compared to Red Bulls mere 21), Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton certainly had reason to smile, and smile they did. With no real mechanical issues, the first team to cover a race distance, and only the small matter of a front-wing failure at the end of the home straight on day one, the post-Brawn era at Mercedes has started off quite frankly as well as it possibly could have. Bravo.
Not too far behind Mercedes in terms of nodding heads and satisfied technicians, Ferrari enjoyed a relatively strong start to 2014 with their *F14 T. Out of all the teams expected to be towards the front, Ferrari will be those breathing the biggest sigh of relief, with the number crunching on track matching that of the number crunching back in the windtunnel at Maranello; something that hasn’t been the case for a fair while now for the Prancing Horse. Couple with that with the similar driving styles of Raikkonen and Alonso, a trait that is surely handy for development purposes, and 2014 looks to be a strong one for Ferrari.
*Yes it says F14 T. Not FIAT, F14 T. Now laugh, grow-up, and get over it.
Lotus didn’t make it to Jerez, instead they’ll make their 2014-bow at the next test in Bahrain.
Like Ferrari and Mercedes, McLaren enjoyed a relatively positive start to life in 2014. Okay, so day one in Jerez was a write-off owing to an electrical issue, but once the Woking based team got Button out on track, the car looked strong, both in terms of reliability, and even at this early stage, pace. Scratching the surface and this can be put down to a number of reasons; firstly the Mercedes powerplant that will sit behind Button and new teammate Kevin Magnussen, is easily the most reliable at this premature stage. Secondly, a clever car; McLaren look to have a innovative rear crash structure and suspension set-up, aimed at guiding airflow to the diffuser- something that we all thought we’d seen the back of… anyhow, amidst the carnage of management restructuring, McLaren look to have a strong on-track package after a year’ hiatus from the front.
The first point to make about Force India’s new VJ07 is GOOD HEAVENS, THAT NOSE! Beyond its explicit nose however, and the midfield team made a midfield impression, with average pace showing at times, being outshone unfortunately by a lack of reliability. With Sergio Perez and Nico Hulkenberg however, the team have an extremely talented, rather youthful, and more importantly relatively experienced driver line-up to help get the squad out of stuck. It was 3rd-driver Daniel Juncadella however who got the most running on the final-day of the test, doing more laps than Perez and Hulkenberg combined from the previous days.
Like Force India, Sauber were very midfield. More of a Chicken Tikka than a Chicken Tikka Masala. Good, but not great. The problems for the Hinwil-based team may go deeper however, with onlookers at the test claiming the new C33 looks like a handful to drive a best. This would be backed-up by the fact that both Esteban Gutierrez and Adrian Sutil dropping the car at points during the test. A big aerodynamic package has been promised for the forthcoming Bahrain test however, with a new front wing, rear wing, and side-pod deflectors being penned to make debuts. One to keep an eye on…
Williams often promote a lot of promise in pre-season testing, especially on the verge of a big-rule change as is the case this year. This is once again the case. The brand-new FW36 ran well at Jerez last week, with Felipe Massa looking hot to trot at the wheel. The Brazilian certainly made good noises about his first experience in the car, matching the impressive 175 lap count racked up throughout the course of the week. It’s been a good start for Williams, and as ever the suspicion is that the teams will need to come out fighting early on the season, as the big guns try to play catch-up (should they need to, of course).
Toro Rosso may have churned stomachs with the appearance of their new-for-2014 challenger, but on-track matters failed to stir up much of a reaction. A switch to Renault-power for this season at such an early stage at least, seems ill-advised, owing to a distinct lack of reliability in the engine department. Couple this with the Red Bull-style ‘coke bottle’ design generating little cooling towards to the hot and compact rear of the car, and Toro Rosso have some serious issues to shift.
The car arrived late, but when it did, there was a relief – it looks good. Again. A switch to Ferrari power for 2014 and retaining their 2013 drivers all looks promising too. The car ran well in Jerez and the the team feel positive heading to Bahrain. It would be so so so great to have one of the smaller teams cause an upset with the regulation changes, in fact it would be good for F1 as a sport. Come on Max and Jules!
Like Marussia, it wasn’t a smooth launch to the new season and then when the car was unveiled at the end of the day, woah there! That nose! If Caterham wan’t to be the talking point of the #newnosegate then well done, it’s definitely an interesting concept. We’re very pleased to see Kamui Kobayashi on track again in F1, in fact we’d like to hug Caterham for bringing him back, he makes F1 more fun and that’s priceless. Speaking of which, he’s driving for free. What a legend. In terms of performance in Jerez, along with the other Renault-powered teams, they’ll be waiting until Bahrain to get some proper running in.