Preparations for the 2014 season got underway in Jerez on Tuesday, and it was all too clear how much work the teams will have to do before the first race in March.
With Lotus absent, 10 teams were supposed to be running. However, several have suffered problems as they completed the build of their cars. The new Marussia didn’t even leave its UK base until Tuesday morning, after the team had to work on it in the factory. It might run late on Wednesday.
More surprisingly, perhaps, top teams like McLaren and Red Bull experienced trouble in their garages after arriving at the track. Indeed, Jenson Button didn’t go out at all after the team struggled with electrical problems that prevented the car from running properly, while Sebastian Vettel did not emerge until the final 15 minutes after RBR made a setup error that took all day to rectify.
Vettel, who didn’t set a flying lap time, said: “We did really just a total of three laps, just carried the car round. We didn’t run the whole day for a reason. We weren’t ready, so it took longer than we thought. Considering the amount of total running we saw today, everybody has quite a bit on, so it’s just to make sure, to run the car to get everything up to temperature, but no feeling yet.”
“They’re very complicated cars,” said Red Bull’s Adrian Newey of the widespread problems. “It’s a very complicated power unit. I think when you see complicated road cars, hybrid road cars, aircraft, by the time we see them in public, they’ve had a huge amount of running, they’ve had a huge amount of private testing. Obviously, in F1 we don’t have that luxury. We have to come out straight away and try and get this very complicated systems to work in the public arena. It was always likely this was going to be the case in the first few days of testing.”
In the end, the best time and the most laps were recorded by Kimi Raikkonen, who completed 31 laps by the end of the day in the Ferrari F14 T. However, he was still well off a representative lap time for the old generation of F1 cars – his best lap of 1m 27.104 was some nine seconds slower than that set by Button on the first day of the same test last year.
The only other driver to set a ‘quick’ lap time was Lewis Hamilton. Mercedes was the first team to start building up mileage, having already shaken its W05 down at Silverstone last week, but the day’s running ended when the front wing fell off and Hamilton crashed. A modified replacement is on its way from the UK.
Another team struggling to finish its car, Williams did not run until very late in the day. Valtteri Bottas recorded the third best time but was three seconds off the guys ahead. The other three cars to set flying laps were even further off the pace as they focused on basic systems checks, with Sergio Perez running for Force India, Jean-Eric Vergne for Toro Rosso, and Esteban Gutierrez for Sauber.
Vergne, who stopped with a software issue, said: “It would be easy to say things did not go well today, because the car stopped, because we didn’t use full power and therefore I did not get a chance to see what the car feels like. However, that is the wrong way to look at things, because we expected plenty of difficulties, especially learning about how the new type of power unit works. In fact, I would say this was a positive day, because just getting the car on track was an achievement, so the team can be pleased with that as it was down to their hard work.”
Swedish rookie Marcus Ericsson did a single installation lap in the new Caterham.
1. Kimi Raikkonen (Ferrari) 1m27.104s 31 laps
2. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) 1m27.820s 18 laps
3. Valtteri Bottas (Williams) 1m30.082s 7 laps
4. Sergio Perez (Force India) 1m33.161 11 laps
5. Jean-Eric Vergne (STR) 1m36.530s 15 laps
6. Esteban Gutierrez (Sauber) 1m42.257s 7 laps
7. Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull) No time 3 laps
8. Marcus Ericsson (Caterham) No time 1 lap