Are Ferrari sandbagging in Bahrain or are they seriously down on power

Kimi Raikkonen's Ferrari F14 T stops on track in the final moments of day one in Bahrain

Kimi Raikkonen’s Ferrari F14 T stopped on track in the final moments of day one in Bahrain

With Mercedes powered teams clearly out front and the Renault clan equally obviously right  at the back, Formula 1’s third engine supplier Ferrari has had a comparatively low-profile winter, with two possibilities emerging: the first that they have something in reserve which they have yet to unleash, the second being that they may be down on required power relative to Mercedes.

Many believe that works team Scuderia Ferrari currently rank somewhere between the top Mercedes teams like Mercedes themselves and longtime customer McLaren and the struggling Renault-powered outfits.

A speculative report doing the rounds in the paddock as the final pre-season test began in Bahrain on Thursday put Ferrari’s deficit to Mercedes at up to 75 horse power.

Ferrari have been somewhat  secretive during Bahrain testing

Ferrari have been somewhat secretive during Bahrain testing

When that number was put to Finnish driver Kimi Raikkonen, the Finn said: “I can’t give an honest impression because I have not paid attention to it.”

“I have only seen other cars when I’m passing them or when they’re passing me,” he is quoted by Speed Week, “but I can’t put a number on it.”

As for Maranello based Ferrari’s overall position with just three test days of testing left until Melbourne, Raikkonen told members of the media after day one in Sakhir, “We are not yet where we want to be, but we are not far away.”

He also revealed that Ferrari intends to try a race simulation this week in Bahrain, “Fernando [Alonso] will too, and then we will see where we are, but really we are still working on the setup.

Kimi Raikkonen in bahrain

Kimi Raikkonen in Bahrain

“I have had much worse winters and then the season has gone well, so I’m not worried. Things can change quickly during the season,” said Raikkonen.

Mercedes’ obvious advantage, however, is evidenced by the smiles in the Williams garage, with some paddock sources believing that the new FW36 (the immediate successor to to the woeful FW35 of 2013) is currently a more competitive package than the works Ferrari.

But Mercedes-powered Williams driver Valtteri Bottas said: “[Ferrari] also seem strong. Their reliability is not too bad, and we will see that Renault will improve.”

“I don’t think we should underestimate anybody,” Bottas is quoted by Brazil’s Totalrace, “but we’re hoping to be in the top ten and my feeling, at least for the start of the season, is that cars with Mercedes engines will be in front.” (GMM)

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  • Tamburello1994

    I’ve been calling sandbaggers throughout the entire testing regime and I’m sticking to it.

    Is anybody sure Merc isn’t either?

  • karlich

    I bet you Renault and their peeps are – having a good laugh back in the garage while watching all this hullabaloo unfold in the media.

    Well, I can wish, can’t I?

  • Tamburello1994

    I entertained the thought myself but then realized we’d be witnessing an Oscar winning performance by Team Renault. No, where there’s smoke, there’s fire. This website, for example, has been banging the drum on Renault from day 1 and apparently – have been vindicated by the facts. Reports have Red Bull shipping all kinds of modifications to Bahrain overnight, suggesting the “kitchen sink” approach.

  • mopar21222

    Guess that the wild rumors last fall of Mercedes having a 100 hp advantage wasn’t so wild after all. My thought is that everyone is holding back on power, similar to late race levels of boost and ERS. No need to break things yet, they will probably let it rip Saturday afternoon and I think that we’ll be below last year’s pole time.

  • KevinW

    Having more power and being able to use it are two different realities. In testing, the teams are not required to run within the fuel flow limits, nor are they going to suffer any issue of fuel capacity limits since they can pit for fuel when they wish. If Ferrari are playing it closer to race specifications on fuel consumption, they may be slower that Mercedes running beyond those limits to gather data and stress the car. This will skew results in testing that will not represent actual race performance. Renault is still screwed, but perhaps not to the degree it appears… I was holding out hope they were sandbagging, but it is now killing the teams development of their cars in other ways, so it has become obvious they just suck at this moment, and are pulling their customers down the drain with them. Does not bode well for the first few races of the season for the victims of Renault’s failure.

  • KevinW

    There is a fine line between wishing on a star and delusional hallucinations. Renault teams pulling together a grand sand bagging scheme in concert probably borders on the latter, sorry to say. I wish it were true, as it would be a spectacular way to see the season kick off. But… sadly, after taking my meds, it appears a fantasy of massive proportions. For those sick of Red Bull winning it all in stride – this is your season. Enjoy, your wishes have come true. Make sure to thank Renault – send them a nice card, or a pot of flowers when you get a moment between gleeful dancing and laughing fits.

  • RBC

    No point sandbagging with such a technology change. Better to run at maximum and find all the parts that break.