If there were any doubts that Mercedes have a significant edge over their rivals, after the final day of testing in Bahrain, those doubts will surely have been swept aside as Nico Rosberg scorched around the desert venue to comfortably set the fastest time of all, in this second, penultimate stanza of Formula 1 tests before the start of the season.
Rosberg’s time of 1.33.283 was a full second up on teammate Lewis Hamilton’s best of 24 hours earlier, and 1.6 seconds up on the next best on the final day, which was set by Jenson Button in the McLaren.
Last year in FP3 at the same venue Fernando Alonso was quickest with a best time of 1:33.247 at the wheel of the V8 normally aspirated Ferrari, which is a tad up on Rosberg’s best of the day in the V6 turbo. Pole last year was 1:32.330, set by Rosberg.
With only eight days of real world running the new generation V6 turbo Power Units are almost on par with their normally aspirated V8 predecessors, suggesting that when teams get a full handle on these engines and related systems the new generation Formula 1 cars will be quick.
Rosberg set his best time in the W05 on the Soft Pirelli tyres during the morning session, and went on to rack up 89 laps – a Mercedes powered car has set the fastest lap in all eight pres-eason test sessions to date. The only hiccups in the Silver Arrows programme were two stoppages during the course of the day.
“It’s been a good day,” the German told the BBC. “We were doing lower-fuel stuff in the morning, really getting into the quali rhythm and finding a balance for that. That was working well. I felt comfortable in the car – it’s important for me to feel at home, that everything is to my liking. I was really able to push it, which was cool, a good feeling.
Second fastest was Button, and McLaren could probably lay claim to being next up in the pecking order as both the 2009 World Champion and rookie Kevin Magnussen have appeared comfortable, and fast all week, in the MP4-29.
Kimi Raikkonen enjoyed a fruitful day at the wheel of the Ferrari, setting the third best time of the day with 82 laps on his board. But with five minutes to go in the day’s proceedings it all went pear shaped as he crashed into the barriers, damaging the front end of his F14T. A glance at the final lap times will show that the Finn was 3.4 seconds down on Rosberg’s best.
Not long after Williams announced that Felipe Nasr was appointed Test and Reserve Driver, the Brazilian found himself on duty in the cockpit of the FW36 and gave a good account of himself on the way to racking up 87 laps. He set the fourth best time, in what was a hasty debut no doubt ushered along by the Banco do Brasil sponsorship deal which was announced at the same time as Nasr’s confirmation.
Lotus had their best day of all thus far with Pastor Maldonado on duty in the E22, setting the fifth best time and doing 58 laps during the course of the day, and ending the test easily the fastest of the Renault powered contingent, albeit 5.4 seconds slower than Rosberg’s best.
Drive train problems severely curtailed Sergio Perez’s time in the cockpit of the Force India VJM07. He was slowest of the Mercedes powered brigade, only managing 15 laps altogether.
Red Bull’s problems with he RB10 continued. Daniel Ricciardo only managed 15 laps, the best of which was 6.5 seconds adrift of the top pace – in total the likable Australian only managed 43 laps during the course of his two days in the cockpit as a variety of issues continue to plague the World Champions, who are enduring what must be described as a nightmare start to their season.
Sister team Toro Rosso were also hampered by technical problems, Jean Eric Vergne managing only 19 laps on his way to setting the eighth best time.
Caterham’s Kamui Kobayashi and Marcus Ericsson shared driving duties on the final day, but problems cut short any meaningful running for the team.
Ferrari powered teams Sauber and Marussia were anchored to the bottom of the timing screens because neither Adrian Sutil or Jules Bianchi managed to do any meaningful timed laps, as they too were plagued with problems on the day.
The teams now remain ensconced at Bahrain International Circuit until Thursday, 27 February when the final four day pre-season test will begin, while back at the respective factories work will continue at a feverish pace, with all teams shipping in a raft of development parts for the third and final test ahead of the season opening Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne.
Subbed by AJN.
Bahrain Test, Day 4 Lap Times – Saturday, 22 February