After a break of 18 days, the end of the opening test in Jerez action resumed again in Bahrain today.
The twin four-day sessions at Sakhir represent the last chance for the teams to prepare for the Australian GP.
After the Jerez debacle it’s a big week for Renault and especially Red Bull, and the early signs are that the World Champions still have a lot of work to do. Sebastian Vettel got out late while updates to the RB10 were completed, and ran only 14 laps, having stopped on track at one point.
Meanwhile Mercedes continued to shine, with three of its cars setting the pace for most of the day, until Ferrari joined the party.
Nico Hulkenberg set the ultimate pace for Force India and ensured that a Mercedes car finished the day on top.
“A very positive and satisfying day,” said Hulkenberg. “We had a busy program and we learned a lot. Time in the car is very valuable at the moment and so it feels good to cover so many laps and even complete two long runs at the end of the day. That gave me a chance to see how the car behaves and to start getting a feel for it, which was not something I was able to do in Jerez. It’s great that we’ve already done some set-up work and started to improve the drivability of the car. But it’s still very early stages; we are learning with every lap and we face a very steep learning curve in the coming days.”
Fernando Alonso moved into second place in the afternoon with a best time 0.999s shy of the German’s effort. Ferrari said its main focus today was on its brake by wire system.
“It’s nice to be driving again, especially when you have more reference points compared to the previous time, which means you get a better feeling for the car,” said Alonso. “We are also at a track that is more representative, with normal temperatures, where it’s been easier to understand tire behaviour. We are in a phase where we are discovering things and with every lap, we learn something new. For everyone, there is still a lot to do to be well prepared for Melbourne, so it will be important to make the most of every day we have available to us.”
Lewis Hamilton was third fastest for Mercedes, although the Briton lost the chance to improve when brake-by-wire issues caused his day to finish early.
Kevin Magnussen was fastest up to lunchtime for McLaren, and was fourth at the end of the day, having completed more laps than anyone else.
Meanwhile Vettel’s best time some 3.3s off Hulkenberg’s pace as he took a distant fifth spot.
“Obviously we’re not happy with where we are now and we have a long way ahead of us.,” said Vettel. “The first gut feeling from the car is OK, but we need more running,” he said. “It’s not easy to find a quick fix, but I think we understand the problems. We sorted out the issues from Jerez and we were able to do some laps today. However, very often you fix one problem and another pops up, which is what happened. That’s testing. We all knew this year was a massive challenge and we knew it would be difficult. We obviously didn’t want this, but it is what it is and we are working flat out to solve the problems.”
“We did 82 laps today and were able to put a lot of mileage on the engine,” said Sutil. “The car is getting better, but there is still a lot to do. We still have issues with the brakes and the engine drivability, but we were able to progress, which is good. It was good to have a better day today than any we had in Jerez and I am more confident now. Also in terms of aerodynamics, the car was in a much better shape with much more grip and better driveability.”
Ongoing problems restricted Daniil Kvyat in the Toro Rosso, which had an oil leak, and Romain Grosjean, who gave the Lotus E22 its first public outing. Meanwhile, no flying lap times were recorded by either Jules Bianchi in the Marussia, or Felipe Massa in the Williams, the latter handicapped by a frustrating fuel system problem.
“It was a difficult day,” said Massa. “It was frustrating for me but also for the whole team as we all wanted to get lots of laps on the board today. We had a few issues with the car which we are investigating and aim to solve for tomorrow and the following days. We know the most important thing is to get mileage on the car, so we hope to do that and get everything we want from tomorrow, and through until the end of next week.”
Pos Driver Team Time Laps
1. Nico Hulkenberg Force India 1m36.880s 78
2. Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1m37.879s 64
3. Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1m37.908s 74
4. Kevin Magnussen McLaren 1m38.295s 81
5. Sebastian Vettel Red Bull 1m40.224s 14
6. Adrian Sutil Sauber 1m40.443s 82
7. Robin Frijns Caterham 1m42.534s 68
8. Daniil Kvyat Toro Rosso 1m44.346s 5
9. Romain Grosjean Lotus 1m44.832s 8
10. Felipe Massa Williams No time 5
11. Jules Bianchi Marussia No time 3