Sergio Perez ended day one of the final Formula 1 pre-season test fastest of all in the Force India VJM07, as once again Mercedes powered teams dominated the top half of the timing screens at Bahrain International Circuit, while Renault teams continued to be firmly planted at the bottom.
Worse of all is that while the Mercedes brigade were covering serious mileage – while the best Renault powered outfit could only manage 56 laps and the others, including world champions Red Bull fared even worse.
The opening day of this third stanza of pre-season testing was relatively subdued, with the big guns – namely the Mercedes works team and McLaren – working on race specification and setup, focusing on long runs, and not bothering to do hot laps.
Perez set his best time of the day, 1.35.290, during the morning session. Although the time was a couple of seconds down on Nico Rosberg’s best the previous week, it was nevertheless the best time by a Force India driver during the five days of Bahrain action thus far. With 105 laps racked up, the Silverstone based outfit will be happy with their day’s work.
“We really needed a good day to start this week and today we had it. We managed to do a lot of laps, try several different compounds and mappings, and it’s been a fantastic day in terms of learning about the car. Tomorrow is my last day in the car before the season starts, so hopefully we can have another solid day to be in good shape for Melbourne,” said Perez at the end of the day.
The Mercedes powered Williams FW36, with Valterri Bottas on duty did the most mileage during the course of the day, racking up an impressive and trouble free 128 laps on the way to setting the second best time.
Problems in the morning curtailed Kimi Raikkonen’s day in the cockpit of the Ferrari F14T, nevertheless he did complete 54 laps and set the third best time in the process. As on the final day of the previous test, a few days earlier, Raikkonen brought the day to a premature end when he stopped out on track with a few minutes to go. This time there was no bent metal.
Nico Rosberg was fifth fastest in the Mercedes W05 with 89 laps covered, last week’s pace setter was clearly in race simulation mode, as was Kevin Magnussen in the McLaren MP4-29 who amassed a useful 109 laps.
Splitting the two silver cars on the timing screens was the grey Sauber, with Adrian Sutil enjoying a more fruitful day in the Ferrari powered C33 – closer to the pace of the Maranello works team, with a handy 89 laps to his credit.
Red Bull again suffered with Daniel Ricciardo on duty.Overheating issues, which have plagued the RB10, returned with the aero-package – even with substantial modifications – still susceptible to the high temperatures at which Renault’s new V6 turbo power unit runs.
Ricciardo only managed 39 laps before gremlins cut short his day once again. He returned to the track for a a short run late on in the day. Nevertheless his best time of 1:37.908 was over two seconds better than anything the RB10 was capable of a week earlier, and edging closer to the top times.
Marussia had the busiest day of their pre-season, in terms track time, as Max Chilton managed 44 laps in the Ferrari powered MR03 and the eighth best time in the process.
Bottom three on the day were all Renault powered, with Daniil Kvyat in the Toro Rosso STR9 ending the day ninth, tenth was Pastor Maldonado in the Lotus E22 and Kamui Kobayashi slowest of all in the CT05 – and as he lamented prior to the test, his best lap time was in the GP2 lap time zone, and with only 19 laps on his chart.
Lotus had to call it quits early in the day as a new specification exhaust system they had bolted on failed, which caused the team to revert to the previous spec, but time was not on their side and their day ended with a mere 31 laps covered.
Subbed by AJN.
Bahrain Test II, Day 1 Lap Times – Thursday, 27 February