Testing for the 2014 season got underway this week at the Jerez circuit. Testing is notoriously unpredictable and any attempt to ascertain a pecking order are ultimately futile. However this week was certainly not without it’s surprises. First were the problems encountered by Renault, with the engine manufacturer seemingly behind in it’s efforts to get on top of the new “powertrain” regulations. The Renault powered teams have struggled so far, completing a total of 151 laps compared to Ferrari’s 444 and Mercedes’ even more impressive 875. Numerous reports have flown around the paddock, ranging from energy storage problems to vibration issues, which appears to suggest the Renault engine has a number of problems, ranging in complexity. This is less than ideal, especially considering the complexity of the new engines.
Second was the abject failure of Red Bull, the dominant team of the previous regulations. Whilst they are attempting to put a brave face on their issues, I can’t help but feel that Daniel Ricciardo let more slip than he would have liked, telling the media that if Red Bull’s problems persisted he was confident that they would make up ground throughout the season- hardly bullish aspirations and essentially admitting the team were behind. Of course Adrian Newey rarely designs poor cars, his design record is testament to his brilliance. However Newey’s aggressive hunt for aerodynamic performance may be hurting Red Bull at this early stage of the season; Newey is famed for his attention to aerodynamics, pursuing tight packaging that pushes the limit of cooling. There are reports that the Red Bull is experiencing overheating issues, with rumours of burning components. At this stage of the game surely it would be prudent to take a conservative approach, putting miles on the car, getting a sound understanding of the base chassis before searching for those important performance gains. Mercedes and Ferrari, Red Bull’s principle rivals last year, have been very reliable and it would not be a stretch to say they have a substantial advantage at this moment in time with regards to understanding their package. We of course do not know if the Red Bull is quick yet, no team has any true idea as to the pecking order, but what’s better- to qualify on pole and retire, or be slower yet reliable? As usual, only time will tell and I can’t wait.