Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton has finished quickest on the final day of pre-season testing ahead of the 2014 Formula 1 season as the German marque enjoyed another fruitful day in Bahrain.
Hamilton posted the fastest time of 1:33.278 in the final hour of an interrupted day of testing at the Bahrain International Circuit that saw seven drivers cause eight red flags, resulting in the afternoon session being extended by an hour.
Having failed to complete a single lap on Saturday, Sebastian Vettel and Red Bull began in better fashion by completing some good mileage early in the morning. However, the German driver then spun into the gravel at the first corner, leaving his team with a small repair job before returning to the track in the afternoon. He ultimately finished in ninth place with 77 laps under his belt.
Hamilton’s closest challenger was Williams’ Valtteri Bottas as the British team enjoyed yet another successful day in Bahrain. The Finn was the pace-setter for large parts of the session, but finished seventh-tenths of a second down on Hamilton’s fastest time. Nevertheless, the signs are very good for Williams in 2014 as the team bounces back from a disastrous 2013 campaign.
Fernando Alonso finished in third place for Ferrari as the top non-Mercedes powered car. The Spaniard was responsible from bringing out one of the red flags after a stoppage, but he eventually rallied to finish just over one second behind Hamilton. Nico Hulkenberg finished behind the Spaniard in fourth place, whilst Jean-Eric Vergne was the fastest Renault-powered driver as he came fifth for Toro Rosso.
Adrian Sutil and Esteban Gutierrez shared driving duties for Sauber on Sunday in Bahrain, and were separated by nine-tenths of a second respectively. Max Chilton ran well for Marussia, completing 61 laps and splitting the two Saubers on the timesheets in seventh place.
Kamui Kobayashi completed a great amount of milage for Caterham on the final day, recording over 100 laps. However, he could only finish P11 on the timesheets, only ahead of the stricken Romain Grosjean. The Frenchman was limited to just 32 laps as a fire on his E22 car meant that he failed to come back out after lunch. It also means that Lotus head into the new season without having completed a full race simulation.
Like Lotus, McLaren also packed up early in Bahrain as Jenson Button suffered an engine failure. He finished down in tenth place with just 22 laps to his name (less than any other driver).
With testing now complete, the early signs suggest that it will be a battle between the Mercedes-powered teams and Ferrari at the opening round of the season in Australia.
However, it was apt that the twelfth and final day of testing finished with so many reliability problems – this will be the main theme in the opening few races. With just twelve days to go until practice in Australia, all of the teams have a lot of work to do.
Bahrain Day 4 – Times
1. Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:33.278 (69 laps)
2. Valtteri Bottas Williams 1:33.987 +0.709 (108)
3. Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1:34.280 +1.002 (74)
4. Nico Hulkenberg Force India 1:35.577 +2.299 (74)
5. Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso 1:35.701 +2.423 (74)
6. Adrian Sutil Sauber 1:36.476 +3.189 (91)
7. Max Chilton Marussia 1:36.835 +3.557 (61)
8. Esteban Gutierrez Sauber 1:37.303 +4.025 (86)
9. Sebastian Vettel Red Bull 1:37.468 +4.190 (77)
10. Jenson Button McLaren 1:38.111 +4.833 (22)
11. Kamui Kobayashi Caterham 1:38.391 +5.113 (106)
12. Romain Grosjean Lotus 1:39.302 +6.024 (32)
The two-day Chris Griffis Memorial Mazda Road to Indy Test concluded on Sunday at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course.
Combined times after the two days of running are below, with Nico Jamin (Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires) and Oliver Askew (Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires) remaining on top from Saturday to Sunday, and Darren Keane (Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda) supplanting Andres Gutierrez at the head of that field.
Previous notebooks are linked here (Friday, Saturday), with additional Sunday notes to follow.
Several drivers pulled double duty between series, namely Parker Thompson (Exclusive Autosport in Pro Mazda and USF2000), Carlos Cunha (Juncos Racing in Indy Lights and Pro Mazda) and Aaron Telitz (Team Pelfrey in Pro Mazda, RJB Motorsports in USF2000). Telitz (above) added a run in Pro Mazda in Team Pelfrey’s No. 82 car; the Wisconsinite has done a lot of the series’ testing for the new Pro Mazda Tatuus PM-18, and had hoped to run all three series. We’ll have more meanwhile on Thompson and Exclusive’s double in the days to come; the Michael Duncalfe-led team out of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan was one of three new Pro Mazda teams adding those cars to USF2000 efforts (Pabst Racing, BN Racing) this week.
There were a handful of drivers that changed cars or teams for Sunday’s second day of the test, primarily in USF2000. While Keane ran both days at Newman Wachs, the Brian Halahan-managed team ran David Osborne and Oscar DeLuzuriaga in the Nos. 37 and 38 cars, taking over from Jake Craig and Max Peichel. Osborne switched from Team Pelfrey, where he ran Saturday, and where Jacob Loomis ran Sunday. Justin Gordon ran a second Exclusive Autosport chassis, switching to the No. 90 on Sunday after running the No. 92 Saturday.
The PM-18 best lap set by Askew is more than three seconds faster than the series’ official track record (Pato O’Ward in 2016, at 1:22.8800, 105.941 mph). Askew’s best time of 1:19.8142 averages 110.010 mph around the 2.439-mile circuit. Neither the Indy Lights nor USF2000 cars eclipsed the existing lap records in those categories.
Drivers largely extolled the PM-18’s outright pace and potential with the horsepower upgrade, in what is a significant step forward for the series. “Following prototype testing of the new PM-18, I believed that we had a special race car and this weekend’s testing confirms that,” said Dan Andersen, Owner and CEO of Andersen Promotions. “Based on team and driver comments, this is a fantastic race car and I am very pleased with what Tatuus, Elite Engines and my team have assembled. It fits perfectly in between the USF-17 and the IL-15 in terms of lap times and, more importantly, it takes what a driver learns in the first step and introduces higher HP, higher grip and higher aero. This will be a great training car for years to come, and seeing our program now with three excellent and well-designed cars is very satisfying to me.”
Keane, one of the few veterans (relatively speaking) within USF2000 was plugged in this weekend as the only driver outside Pabst Racing to threaten the top of the timesheets. “It’s a good boost in confidence for me heading into next year. I am really happy with how everything is going with the team. They are a great group of guys and it’s just really good to see us improving and being where we want to be,” he said.
Rinus Veekay hailed the Indy Lights Dallara IL-15 Mazda this weekend in his first test there, although the talented Dutch teenager may well focus on Pro Mazda next season and shoot to win that championship, and continue his battle with Askew established in USF2000. “The car is very nice, quick,” noted VeeKay. “You can really feel the downforce and it was a pleasure to drive.”
The MRTI is done with official running for the year, but the $200,000 MRTI Scholarship Shootout remains in December at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park, the former Firebird Raceway, outside Phoenix. The winner of that will get a ticket into USF2000 for the 2018 season.
Full MRTI spring training will take place at Homestead-Miami Speedway in February 2018, with undoubtedly a bevy of driver and team announcements to come over the following months.