Crisis, caution and confidence abound ahead of final Formula 1 test in Bahrain


With only four days of track running now left until Melbourne, a clearer picture is starting to emerge with defending Champions Red Bull in major trouble, and the works Mercedes team leading the way.

At the wheel of the Mercedes W05, Nico Rosberg ended the first week of Bahrain testing on Saturday with a stunning lap time, less than 1 second off his 2013 pole.

And it emerges that the German, practicing qualifying, was using only the ‘Soft’ tyre, not the even faster ‘Super-soft’ that has also been in action with other teams in Bahrain.

At the same time, despite earlier signs of recovery, Red Bull’s problems with the Renault-powered RB10 persist.

F1 Testing in Bahrain - Day Two

Daniel Ricciardo, who managed a meagre 15 laps, was almost 7 seconds off the pace as the Bahrain test wrapped up on Saturday.

“The challenge is to improve the rate of progress,” engine supplier Renault’s Rob White said, “because the gap to where we wanted to be at this stage remains substantial.”

With the FIA’s engine development freeze deadline now just days away, White admitted that Renault is “weeks” behind their rivals.

Red Bull’s problems, meanwhile, are even deeper. The similarly Renault-powered Lotus has been faster, and on Saturday managed four times as many laps as the RB10.

Kevin Magnussen (McLaren) on track

“I think we could be the lead Renault team,” Lotus Technical Chief Nick Chester said. Of the four Renault-powered teams, only Lotus’ black E22 does not feature a Red Bull gearbox.

But none of them are likely to be in the running for Melbourne spoils.

“The strongest teams out there are the Mercedes-powered teams,” Mercedes’ Paddy Lowe told Sky.¬†“The Ferrari is also looking strong, so those are the people we are watching and trying to measure against.”

Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen ended his Bahrain week with a crash, and according to the German news agency SID he said the Formula 14-T is “not bad”.

View of the Bahrain tower

“The Mercedes powered teams have gone well here,” he admitted, “but we were doing our own programme. It won’t get serious until Melbourne.

“The reliability of our car has been OK,” Raikkonen is quoted by Finland’s Turun Sanomat, “but in terms of speed I do not know what’s going on.”

Also fairly confident is Jenson Button, who told reporters that after McLaren’s disastrous 2013 season, “We’re in a reasonable position but you would also like to be faster.

“We know we don’t have the fastest car,” he is quoted by Auto Motor und Sport, “but we also know that we are not slow.”

Formula One Testing, Day One, Bahrain International Circuit, Sakhir, Bahrain, Wednesday 19 February 2014

Button agreed that the Mercedes works team currently appears the fastest.

“I already have a good idea of who will be on pole in Melbourne,” he said, “but you couldn’t say who will win the Championship.”

Right now, not too many bets are being placed on Red Bull.

But Mercedes’ Rosberg insisted: “It doesn’t mean that they won’t recover. What it does mean is that [Red Bull] winning again this year is likely to be a far bigger challenge than the previous four.” (GMM)

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  • =El Presidente=

    I am really interested to see how Little Seb will handle driving only for a podium, or maybe even ‘just for points’.

    If the RB-10 turns out to be out of contention, it will be a great opportunity for Vettel to prove that he can also do ‘great’ things in a mediocre car. Because love him, or hate him, thus far Vettel had everything he wished to his disposal. I’ m not sure either way how he will cope with a situation like that, i do feel however that he is a but more mature, and that if a bad season presents itself he will be able to cope with it, better than for instance if that dreadful year would have appeared in recent seasons, but now, after 4 double titles, i think he can keep his calm, and show he is really is a great driver.

    -all this above still does not mean i like the little german one little bit-

  • KevinW

    It will be a shame if this seasons proves out as a complete Mercedes route, with Renault and Ferrari cars held off the podium. That will be a serious bore. Also, while the constructor will have deserved their reward, the winner of the WDC is devalued. However, I am sure that should Hamilton be that beneficiary, the media will ignore the obvious advantage and set aside and the whole argument that the previous champion won due to superior car will be completely set aside. As far as Red Bull, I believe they knew 2014 was going to be a rebuilding season, and are focused on in-season development, I expect by the end of the season, they will have vectored themselves back to the front, ready to return as title contenders in 2015. If this is the case, they will be in their own world in 2014, plodding through their program, moving up the grid a little each weekend…

  • karlich

    I guess no better and no worse than say Alonso who has been a sour grape for so long now. Or Hamilton who is either shaken by his own ambition or by the tumultuous relationship with Scherzinger. Or Kimi who unlike, let’s say, Kamui is in for the money and when that stopped flowing, pulled out of Lotus quicker than jackrabbit on a date.

    Thing is, I really have nothing against all those drivers, but every single one of ’em have acted up, gone too far, done mistakes, slammed their teams or behaved like divas at some point in their F1 careers. It’s not even a driver thing. It’s a human trait common to us all.

    Vettel has nothing left to prove to anyone besides himself. I am sure, if things continue to go awry with Renault power units and the RB10, there will be times where he will criticize the car or team. What of it? Proves nothing other than that he too may overreact under pressure or disappointment.

    Seriously, I don’t see why so many people are going on about how he has to prove his worth and talent. It’s not like any of the other drivers ever won a championship in a crappy car.

  • Krunksoft

    Well said sir! Why the hell Vettel is held to a different standard than some of these other guys is beyond me. The best car doesn’t always win and everybody knows that!! If Alonso, Kimi, Lewis, and Jensen are such great drivers shouldn’t they still have been able to beat Seb in their “inferior” cars?? It doesn’t work that way! You can’t just drop anyone into the fastest car and expect them to win. It’s not nearly that simple but people will say whatever they can to discredit someone that just won the Championship 4 straight times and that’s a bit childish to me. Trust me. The other drives would much rather have the best car and championships than praise as the “best” driver.

  • TheDudeson

    karlich 100% correct. And if Seb throws his toys out the pram then even better because it shows he hates losing and that’s why he is a champ. Senna, Schumi even Prost they all hated losing. Seb has nothing to prove and four titles is what he has which none of his contemporaries have.

  • BK201

    “a clearer picture is starting to emerge with defending Champions Red
    Bull in major trouble, and the works Mercedes team leading the way.”

    Why do people keep saying things like this? It appears that all the Renault engined cars are facing major trouble. This includes Lotus, Caterham and Toro Rosso as well as Red Bull. Red Bull are not in bigger trouble than the other teams running Renault engines. It appears that Ferrari and Sauber are in trouble as well.

    Is the Mercedes team in better shape than the other Mercedes engined teams, McLaren in particular? It’s impossible to say at this point.

  • BK201

    I am really interested in why you think Seb is “little”, given that he is the same height as Lewis and taller than Alonso.

    “it will be a great opportunity for Vettel to prove that he can also do ‘great’ things in a mediocre car”

    Based on what we’re seeing thus far, his car is going to be a long way short of “mediocre”.

    “thus far Vettel had everything he wished to his disposal”

    From which I assume you just started watching F1 in the middle of the 2013 season.

    “all this above still does not mean i like the little german one little bit”

    Bigotry and ignorance are not things to brag about.