• 2014 testing analysis

Who's hot and who's not after the final test

Laurence Edmondson March 4, 2014

Red Bull

Combined lap count over three tests: 319
Fastest lap at final test: Daniel Ricciardo - 1:35.743
It's no secret that Red Bull is in trouble heading to the first race in Australia. Problem after problem emerged throughout testing, forcing the team to focus on short to medium-length runs to try to diagnose each issue, often finding brand new ones in the process. But don't fall into the trap of thinking the RB10 is slow. On the second day of the final test, Daniel Ricciardo managed a 20-lap run that caught the eye of its rivals up and down the pit lane. The car was relatively sluggish on the straights but corner speeds were high, confirming Adrian Newey's design team has lost none of its sparkle over the winter. But without a race distance under its belt, there are serious questions over whether the RB10 will be able to exploit that pace. Once the car is running smoothly it should be up among the front runners, but the big question is how many races will pass in the meantime.

Mercedes

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Combined lap count over three tests: 975
Fastest lap at final test: Lewis Hamilton - 1:33.278
Mercedes is still the favourite ahead of the start of the season, but the final week of testing suggested its advantage is not as big as it first seemed. The speed is definitely there, but the W05's reliability record took a bit of a hammering during the third test. Both Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg shied away from the favourites tag, referencing reliability issues as a concern after the team had a couple of slow mornings with engine and gearbox issues. One possible explanation is that the upgrades to the car over the final week started to push the upper tolerances of the W05. But finding those tolerances is what testing is all about and Mercedes had the luxury to do so with two solid tests behind it. It will be a big surprise if a Mercedes does not feature on the podium in Australia, but F1 is anything but predictable at the moment.

Ferrari

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Combined lap count over three tests: 873
Fastest lap at final test: Fernando Alonso - 1:34.280
The question for much of pre-season testing was whether Ferrari was hiding its true potential, but that seemed to be answered in the final couple of days. The F14 T's fastest lap was roughly a second off the very quickest times and a similar gap existed over longer runs. On Sunday evening team principal Stefano Domenicali said it was no secret that Williams and Mercedes were ahead, so Ferrari looks set to start another season playing catch up. Domenicali was not so open when he was asked to comment on rumours that the Ferrari powerunit is significantly down on power, but he did admit there was still work to do to get the most from its energy recovery systems. Reliability is also a bit of a concern compared to the Mercedes-powered teams, but it appeared to hamper Kimi Raikkonen more as he completed 344 laps to Fernando Alonso's 529 over the three tests.

Lotus

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Combined lap count over three tests: 238
Fastest lap at final test: Romain Grosjean - 1:39.302
Lotus is the least prepared team heading to Australia. The car was not ready for the first test in Jerez and its time in Bahrain was riddled with problems. It is hoping to learn on the job in Australia, but if it encounters similar problems to the ones it was facing each day in Bahrain then the downtime to fix them could mean it misses entire practice (or qualifying) sessions. The car has produced some promising figures in the windtunnel, but got nowhere near backing them up on track due to the reliability issues. Making the chequered flag will represent a significant victory in Melbourne.

McLaren

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Combined lap count over three tests: 812
Fastest lap at final test: Kevin Magnussen - 1:35.894
McLaren showed promise in the first half of pre-season testing, but a lack of performance started to be exposed in the final week. The team has righted the wrongs of last year's ride issues, but it is struggling to stand out among the Mercedes-powered teams. Reliability issues on the final day prevented it getting any meaningful running with new aero parts and it heads to Australia unsure of exactly where it stacks up. The word "potential" was being used regularly by the drivers, but that is often another way of saying expectations have not been met

Force India

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Combined lap count over three tests: 761
Fastest lap at final test: Sergio Perez - 1:35.290
Force India could well be a dark horse at the opening races. The team started development of its 2014 car very early and the sacrifices it made in 2013 seem to be paying off. It did not show - and is probably not capable of - the one-lap pace displayed by Mercedes and Williams, but should be a strong contender in the race. It's mileage at the second test was second only to Williams, so the team will also be confident of making the finish. Podiums should be the target at early races and the it has a good platform to develop for later in the season.

Sauber

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Combined lap count over three tests: 775
Fastest lap at final test: Adrian Sutil - 1:36.467
Sauber has been one of the hardest teams to judge during pre-season. The C33 has been a long way off the headline-grabbing pace of the Mercedes-powered cars, but has been reliable enough to complete race simulations. After a few problems with its brake-by-wire system and the drivability of the engine, the team seemed to make progress over the final week. On the final day it managed 177 laps between its two drivers, although it needed to after completing just one lap due to a Ferrari engine failure on the previous day. It's hard to imagine Sauber competing with the Mercedes-powered cars, but it may well find itself securing a decent haul of points at the opening races if it can run reliably.

Toro Rosso

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Combined lap count over three tests: 464
Fastest lap at final test: Jean-Eric Vergne - 1:35.701
Like all the Renault-powered teams, Toro Rosso struggled for mileage during pre-season testing. It arrived in Jerez confident it had been conservative enough with its packaging of the Renault powerunit to complete a healthy amount of laps, but quickly realised it would not be so simple. Jean-Eric Vergne's fastest lap at the final test was actually the quickest of all the Renault-powered cars, but it is unlikely to be able to keep up with Red Bull and Lotus once the powerunit problems are ironed out. Chief designer Luca Furbatto leaving the team during the pre-season will not help either.

Williams

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Combined lap count over three tests: 936
Fastest lap at final test: Felipe Massa - 1:33.258
Williams heads to the first race of the season with a serious shot at victory. The car is not only quick, it is reliable and the team was happy that it had ticked off the vast majority of its pre-season objectives by the end of the final test. On outright pace it is likely to be Mercedes' closest rival in Australia, but whether it can match the development over the course of the season remains to be seen. The odds of a Williams winning in Australia have shortened dramatically in the last week and are now 17/2 - the same as Red Bull. It's still a very good bet.

Marussia

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Combined lap count over three tests: 315
Fastest lap at final test: Max Chilton - 1:36.835
Of the teams taking part in all three tests, Marussia completed the fewest laps of all (although it was only four short of Red Bull). The car is clearly quite fragile, but when on track it has been surprisingly quick. Jenson Button noted how much better it looked in high-speed corners compared to last year's Marussia and its pace has been closer to Sauber and Toro Rosso than Caterham so far. The hope is that it has finally bridged the gap to the midfield.

Caterham

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Combined lap count over three tests: 626
Fastest lap at final test: Marcus Ericsson - 1:38.083
Despite a number of smoky failures during pre-season testing, Caterham still notched up the most laps of any of the Renault-powered teams. But perhaps it is no coincidence that it was also among the slowest and appears to have the most generous packaging around the V6 turbo powerunit. However, the team has made clear that the CT05 seen in testing is a long way from the finished article, and if it can score points early by playing it safe it could well pay off in the constructors' standings at the end of the season.

Laurence Edmondson is deputy editor of ESPNF1

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Laurence Edmondson is deputy editor of ESPNF1 Laurence Edmondson grew up on a Sunday afternoon diet of Ayrton Senna and Nigel Mansell and first stepped in the paddock as a Bridgestone competition finalist in 2005. He worked for ITV-F1 after graduating from university and has been ESPNF1's deputy editor since 2010