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As Tom covered earlier, this first test with all new power units was primarily about reliability.  Performance can come later, once the cars are running for representative stint lengths (and perhaps the temperatures are warmer to allow the tyres to behave in a more realistic manner).  So can we draw any conclusions from the event at all?

Day one saw a total of 93 laps started (not all of them completed as there were many incidents that prevented cars from returning to the pits under their own power.  The works teams (Mercedes and Ferrari) seemed to get off to a better start than the rest, although Mercedes progress was halted with Hamilton’s wing failure.  Toro Rosso and Force India ran the next greatest number of laps (both getting into double figures on the first day) perhaps indicative that like Mercedes they had used one of their four ‘promotional days’ to shake down the car before coming to Jerez.  Williams, Sauber, Red Bull and Caterham also managed to leave the pits under power on the first day.  This left only McLaren of the teams present who didn’t manage to start a lap on day one.

Things improved dramatically for most on day two, with 331 laps being started.   Mercedes running an impressive 97 laps some way ahead of Sauber on 53, with Ferrari and McLaren close behind on 47 and 43 laps respectively.  The other Mercedes powered cars (Force India and Williams) also did a respectable number of laps for this stage of the testing programme both teams in the mid thirties.  That left the Renault powered teams again at the back with Toro Rosso not able to even start one, and Red Bull (8) shown the way by Caterham who only did 11 laps.

With Renault working overnight to try and solve their teams Power Unit issues, better things were hoped for day three.  However between them the Renault powered teams only managed 43 laps on Thursday (while more than they had managed in the previous two days combined,  this was far short of their rivals).  Ferrari engines had started 97 laps (the works team with 58, Sauber on 34 and Marussia managing 5 on their first day of running after arriving late the day before).  This total was eclipsed by Mercedes though, with their power units managing to start 218 laps.  The comparison is not quite fair as there are four Mercedes powered teams compared to only three Ferrari (and only three Renault at this test), however the factory team (62) and the McLaren (92) exceeded the number of laps managed by the best Ferrari team (Ferrari 58).

At the end of day four three teams had managed to exceed 100 laps for the day (Mercedes 132, Ferrari 115 and McLaren 110), these were the sort of distances we were seeing in testing last year.  It is encouraging that the doom and gloom that some were posting on twitter has not proved to be correct.  Yes Renault still appear to have some problems, with Red Bull packing up early on Friday after only attempting 7 laps.  However Caterham managed a respectable 54 laps, so at least one of the Renault teams is putting some miles on the power unit.  Times recorded in this test are slower than this time last year, but with new Power Units this test was mostly about reliability.  As Grace regularly points out on the podcast, these cars will look very different on the grid in Melbourne, as there are lots of performance parts to be added to the cars.

The tables below show the laps started for each team per day, at this stage I don’t believe times are that relevant:

Team Engine Day 1 Day 2 Day 3 Day 4 Total Jerez
Mercedes Mercedes

18

97

62

132

309

Ferrari Ferrari

31

47

58

115

251

McLaren Mercedes

0

43

92

110

245

Williams Mercedes

7

35

47

86

175

Sauber Ferrari

7

53

34

69

163

Force India Mercedes

11

37

17

81

146

Caterham Renault

1

11

10

54

76

Toro Rosso Renault

15

0

30

9

54

Marussia Ferrari

0

0

5

25

30

Red Bull Renault

3

8

3

7

21

   

Power Unit Day 1 Day 2 Day 3 Day 4 Total
Mercedes

36

212

218

409

875

Ferrari

38

100

97

209

444

Renault

19

19

43

70

151

Total Laps

93

331

358

688

 

Renault now has until the second test in Bahrain to try and resolve their issues.  Sauber also need to use the time to fix their braking problem which has prevented them from getting close to the pace of the fastest cars.  Hopefully at Bahrain we will also see the first appearance of the team from Enstone, while they haven’t lost much ground to the other Renault powered outfits, they have yet to even try and run the car, and as has been seen this week, that could take a few days to sort out.

What conclusions, if any have you drawn from this first test, has it wetted your appetite for the first race, or has the appearance or sound of the cars put you off.  Let us know in the comments below, or over on the forum.

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A long time fan of Formula 1 and grass roots motorsport, I am interested in the engineering aspects not only of F1 but the 'men in sheds' who develop homemade specials to take on the products of the big racing car manufacturers.
  • David in Seattle

    Caterham run half of total Renault laps!
    Is this brilliant design by Caterham, or overreach by Newey?
    Obviously Renault have some battery issues, but clearly Red Bull have additional problems. Since Red Bull have more engineers than NASA their bit of it will be fixed, but my bet is that the penile Caterham nose is producing some suble cooling flows.
    David

  • TK

    Caterham’s gone for the pull-rod front suspension. Just Ferrari and them. Interesting.

    • Niyoko

      That have?! Good eyes. I don’t think I’ve heard anyone analyze the Caterham past its color and nose. I wonder why they choose pull rod vs. push rods. As Davis In Seattle mentions, I wonder if it also aids in cooling. I worry that Caterham might get held back by the quirks of the pull rod suspension.

      • Jack Flash (Aust)

        But there are some big differences in the Caterham vs Ferrari application of Front Pull-rod suspension. The geometries are really different. Caterham’s is far less compromised for suspension geometry than Ferrari’s.

        Ferrari have maintained that very shallow angle for the pull-rod member that exacerbate tuning issues (dampers, springs having to react to minimal rod activation), whereas Caterham have allowed a bit more of a lower chassis section above their smaller turning vanes, and as such their Pull-rod angle is quite a bit steeper (and hence more equivalent to Push-rod geometries of the other teams, and not so tricky in suspension tuning). In short, Caterham have opted to get lower CoG of suspension elements at front by moving to Pull-rod arrangement, but they have not compromised the geometry effectiveness by over prioritising aero clearance (pushing up chassis bottom).

        Ferrari and McLaren had difficulties using very shallow angle Front Pull-rod geometries. Caterham have side stepped this.

        I don’t think Caterham will have anywhere near as many issues with this Front Pull-rod arrangement, that Ferrari and McLaren had in their design applications. Caterham may loose some aerodynamic effect at the tea-tray due to reduced turning vane height though. I think Caterham did the right thing though. Make sure the mechanical grip and suspension behaviour is flexible and controllable first, THEN push for aero improvements around this sound base. Jack Flash.

        • David in Seattle

          So, have Maclaren kept the pull rod?

          • MIE

            No, McLaren have reverted to push rod for the front suspension.