After a winter of anticipation, Formula One racing’s new generation of 1.6-litre turbocharged cars were put through their paces for the first time on Tuesday as pre-season testing got underway on day one, 28th January 2014, in Jerez.
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At the end of a day that saw limited running as teams battled to get to grips with the radically different systems on their new machines, Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen emerged at the top of the timesheets in Spain.
Raikkonen completed 31 laps – the most of anyone – and set the best time of 1m 27.104s as the Italian team did some aerodynamic mapping and checked the functionality of the F14 T’s onboard systems.
“We had a lot of new things to learn today,” said the Finn. “Even if we would have liked to do more laps, I think that for a first day, it was alright. Towards the end, we chose not to take any risks when the track was damp. Now we have a lot of work ahead of us, but we are pleased with our first day.”
Lewis Hamilton set the day’s second-quickest time for Mercedes, despite having his running severely curtailed. The Briton had been the first car out on track in the morning, successfully completing 18 laps in the new F1 W05, whilst others, including Raikkonen and Sergio Perez in the Force India, stopped on track and brought out the red flags.
But just as it looked like Mercedes were stealing an early march on their less reliable rivals, a front wing failure pitched Hamilton into the crash barriers at Turn 1. The resulting damage was enough to end the 2008 world champion’s encouraging opening day behind the wheel of his new car.
Despite the setback, Hamilton was still upbeat: “For me, it’s an incredibly positive start to be the first car out on track and completing a good number of laps.
“Other teams have been going out for single-lap runs, starting a few hours after we had first hit the track, so to have started running through our test programme was very encouraging. The car feels quite good, especially considering it’s so early in our programme, so overall, it’s been a positive day.”
Williams’ Valtteri Bottas ended the day with the third-quickest time, despite completing just seven laps as he debuted the new Mercedes-powered FW36. An engine sensor problem meant Bottas had to wait until the session’s final hour before he could run the car.
“The car matched my expectations on track with more torque,” commented the Finn. “It feels like a very different car compared to last year in its handling and power. After only a few laps, we found a few things we can improve, which is also good, so we need to start working on those things tomorrow.”
Force India’s Sergio Perez was fourth quickest in the VJM07 but only completed 11 laps after hitting technical problems early in the day. The Mexican’s best time was marginally better than that of Jean-Eric Vergne in Toro Rosso’s STR9. The Frenchman completed 15 laps before a software glitch brought his day to a premature end.
“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,” said Vergne, “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. From my point of view, it was also interesting to work with my new race engineers for the first time and to be back enjoying the atmosphere of the Formula One paddock.
“Now, we will spend a lot of time looking at all this data tonight, and then Daniil [Kvyat] will move the programme forward tomorrow. Overall, a satisfactory start to the season in very difficult conditions.”
Esteban Gutierrez was the final driver to set a time on Tuesday, taking the Ferrari-engined Sauber C33 around Jerez in 1m 42.257s. The only other men to lap on the opening day of the 2014 pre-season test were reigning world champion Sebastian Vettel and rookie Marcus Ericsson.
Both were only able to make it out in the session’s final moments after various technical issues. Vettel managed three installation laps in the newly-unveiled RB10, whilst Ericsson recorded just one lap after Caterham took the covers of their CT05 machine.
Further along the pit lane, it was a frustrating day for McLaren, who could not run Jenson Button in the MP4-29 because of electrical issues.
“The subsequent dismantling, inspection and re-installation of several major components ultimately meant we could not conduct any running today,” read McLaren. “We’re re-installing key systems on the car overnight, expecting that Jenson will begin the car’s installation programme tomorrow.”