Kevin Magnussen and McLaren were fastest on the second day in Bahrain today as the teams gradually began to pick up the pace.
However, they are still far from the sort of lap times they are likely to achieve in full qualifying form come April.
Trying supersoft tires Magnussen set a best of 1m34.910s, which was some 2.6s off Nico Rosberg’s pole time for last year’s Bahrain GP. The Dane was in turn 1.5s ahead of yesterday’s pacesetter Nico Hulkenberg, who had another good day for Force India.
“We’ve made some improvements to the car, collected lots of data, and continued to learn with each lap,” said Hulkenberg. “At the moment it’s still early days, but I’m pleased with the progress we have made in terms of understanding the car. I think we are getting closer to seeing the potential of these cars, certainly compared with the performance in Jerez, but it’s such a steep learning curve and I expect the times to become quicker and quicker.”
He just edged out Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso, who ran 97 laps, a total bettered only by Valtteri Bottas at Williams.
“We are not yet at the point where we can concentrate on performance, but the important thing is to continue to rack up kilometres,” said Alonso. “The team has done a great job of preparation over the winter for these tests, which has allowed us to do a lot of running and test all aspects linked to these new and complex technologies. At the moment, everything is going as we expected, but there are still a lot of new elements to learn about.”
Rosberg was fourth fastest, although the Mercedes twice stopped on track.
“We achieved another good amount of laps today which proves that the first part of testing in terms of reliability is going well,” said the German. “We had a few small issues but it’s important to find out what they are to see what is not yet running perfectly. We need to push the car to the limits to see how it works in every condition. We don’t yet know where we are in terms of performance, but today was a great day for me personally because I felt at home in the new car for the first time. All the settings were as we would like and the buttons on the steering wheel are now easier to get used to.”
After fuel system problems spoiled Wednesday for teammate Felipe Massa Bottas was able to run 116 laps for Williams, earning fifth spot.
Meanwhile Kamui Kobayashi was the fastest Renault driver for Caterham: “It was good to be back in the car and even though we had quite a few interruptions in the morning with a telemetry issue, we still completed 66 laps which is another useful day’s work.”
It was a better day for Red Bull as the RB10 finally ran some decent mileage, although the car was some way from the pace. Vettel ran 59 laps in the Red Bull, although he was 5.4s off Magnussen’s best time.
“Definitely a better day today,” he said. “We did more laps, so that’s encouraging. It’s good to check the car, check the reliability, but obviously there is a lot still to do. It was good to get a proper first feel for the car and it feels OK but there’s a lot more to come. It’s difficult to talk about catching up [to rivals] because I don’t know what other people are doing, but we did more laps than we have done so far and that’s the big thing. We’re learning every single lap, even if the quality of the lap is sometimes not the best. However, the most important thing is to run and we did that. The last two days have been very useful. I hope Daniel can get some more good laps in tomorrow.”
Jean-Eric Vergne finally gave the sister car of Toro some decent mileage, nearly matching Vettel with 58 laps.
“This morning was relatively trouble free and we got through plenty of items on the job sheet,” said the Frenchman. “However, later in the day, we did experience a few minor technical troubles, that cut short our running time. It’s the first time I’ve been able to push the car on track and I have to say in terms of its balance, it gave me a good feeling.”
“We achieved some more laps today but there’s still work to be done,” said Grosjean. “It’s been a frustrating couple of days as I want to get as many laps under my belt as possible, but at least we’re learning some things about the car. I’m looking forward to returning for next week’s test and seeing what progress has been made.”
Pos Driver Team Time Laps
1. Kevin Magnussen McLaren 1m34.910s 46
2. Nico Hulkenberg Force India 1m36.445s 59
3. Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1m36.516s 97
4. Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1m36.965s 85
5. Valtteri Bottas Williams 1m37.328s 116
6. Kamui Kobayashi Caterham 1m39.855s 66
7. Sebastian Vettel Red Bull 1m40.340s 59
8. Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso 1m40.609s 58
9. Esteban Gutierrez Sauber 1m40.717s 55
10. Romain Grosjean Lotus 1m41.670s 18
11. Max Chilton Marussia 1m42.511s 17