Though we still have a month before the first race of the 2014 calendar, the Formula One preseason has already thrown us some surprises and provided plenty of action on track in Jarez.
Preseason testing in a time where mid season testing is forbidden is vital to both the teams hoping to via for the sports championship trophy as well as the companies supplying and developing the parts to get them there.
This year, more than most, there is a lot of focus on engines with the introduction of the new V6 Turbocharged engines and the ERS (Energy Recovery System) which engineers are touting as the most complex system that The formula has ever had.
What teams and suppliers hope to achieve over a testing session is to complete a minimum of 1200kms over the four days of testing. The first test is best considered an extended shakedown as with any new mechanical parts, most technical issues will soon become apartment once the engines and energy systems are put tinder real world loads that dyno’s and wind tunnels are unable to simulate. Along with mechanical, the hydraulics and computer systems will need to go through a debugging phase.
By the second test you want to have a car that is able to run long so you can work though high fuel runs of about 15 to 20 laps so that teams can get a feel for the cars behaviour over a race period on fuel consumption, tyre ware and how the cars aero parts work under load in corners. This allows the teams to make adjustments to downforce and balance to help understand where the car is happiest and where it begins to fall off the cliff, loosing performance.
This years second test will also be vital for teams to work out the optimum average gear ratio as a new rule, preventing adjustments race to race, means that ratios will be locked for the entire season. So if you have a fast car you may be able to run a longer ratio giving you an advantage in the DRS zones or if your car is a little slower off the mark you may choose a shorter ratio to get out of corners that much quicker than your rivals.
This years testing in Jarez only saw three teams reach anywhere near the minimum target kilometres with Mercedes on top achieving 1368kms. Ferrari (1111kms) and, last years disappointment clearly behind them, McLaren (1084kms) will head to the second test in Bahrain with plenty of data and confidence.
Last years champions Red Bull, on the other hand, have started the year at the bottom of the heap with only 92kms under their belt. This puts immense pressure on the defending team as they will be starting fresh in Bahrain with little to no data to build from. This lack of track time is entirely down to a problem with the Renault supplied power plant. Though engine teething problems are never down to a single issue, fingers have been clearly pointed at the ERS’ energy storage system which Renault are confident will be remedied by the next test.
Only time will tell and regardless of the outcome, Red Bull and fellow Renault supplied teams will be on the back foot by time the cars line up for the first race in Melbourne.
Here is how all this years teams and engine suppliers stacked up in Jarez.
|Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team|
|Vodafone McLaren Mercedes|
|Williams F1 Team|
|Sauber F1 Team|
|Sahara Force India F1 Team|
|Caterham F1 Team|
|Scuderia Toro Rosso|
|Marussia F1 Team|
|Red Bull Racing|
|Lotus F1 Team|
Did Not Run
So what have we learnt from the first outing of these new 2014 Formula 1 cars?
Well we have learnt that Williams have made a great decision in moving to Mercedes supplied engines from their long term partnership with Renault. That McLaren have clearly come to the party looking for a fight with their innovative aerodynamics and what appears at present to be a consistently fast car and that Red Bull will have to hope it really does give you wings if Vettel hopes to have any chance to defend his title.
Or is it all speculation and nonsense? What can an outsider really learn from watching cars test? Well I know I will be anticipating the first race in March more than I have in quite a few years and if the anticipation of an exciting F1 season is all I gained then F1 is still doing its job in keeping me enthralled.
If you want to know more about this years Formula One Season and the changes to the regulations, take a look at our F1 Changes Cheat Sheet.