Thoughts on the cars after an hour at turn two

2014 F1 season

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, Jerez, 2014Turn two at the Circuito de Jerez in Spain is over 17,000 kilometres away from Melbourne, Australia, scene of the first race of the year.

But as far as the F1 teams are concerned it is seven weeks away. And that matters because some of them have a huge amount of work to complete before the season begins.

An hour spent watching the cars tackling turn two on the morning of the third day at Jerez threw into sharp focus how far on each of the teams are with their 2014 programmes.

On a warm track under a clear sky, Lewis Hamilton is already piling on the laps. But as he accelerates away from the scene of his Tuesday accident it’s clear he’s leaving some of the Mercedes’ potential untapped.

He rolls the W05 gently into the sharp turn two and picks up the throttle carefully at the exit, leaving no risk of breaking traction as the track twists downhill to the left.

Few of his rivals accompany him at first. Adrian Sutil passes by in the Sauber C33, whose low aircraft whine at all speeds immediately distinguishes it from any other car on the track. He pits after a gingerish lap.

Robin Frijns is next to emerge from the pits in his Caterham. The CT05 popped and banged on its first steady tour of the track an hour earlier, then came to a stop at the pit lane entrance. As Caterham occupy the pit box farthest from that point, Frijns’ poor mechanics had to jog the length of the pit lane and then push him all the way back.

The car completes a second run under its own steam, its Renault engine sounding better but still not right. Meanwhile Hamilton presses on, pushing more now, using the full width of the track at the exit, but still driving within himself. Steady testing pace.

Fernando Alonso, Ferrari, Jerez, 2014Out of sight, another engine fires up in the pit lane. A small group of spectators inside turn one clap and whistle: it’s Fernando Alonso, making his first appearance at Jerez in two years.

In marked contract to Hamilton, Alonso is really leaning on the F14 T. He runs deep at turn two on his first attempt, then fires the Ferrari down the hill. The flat-faced red car is not what you’d call attractive but it makes a welcome break from its dull-coloured rivals and their snigger-inducing noses.

More importantly as far as Alonso is concerned, it seems to be a willing partner to his driving ambitions. He comes back into view and aims the car at the apex of turn two, punches down the gears, and the F14 T obliges with the crisp turn-in he favours.

Sutil rejoins the track for another slow tour as Hamilton’s stint comes to an end. Mercedes were the first team to hit the track on Tuesday and their drivers have racked up more kilometres than anyone else so far. It’s not unusual for them to complete high testing mileages – only Sauber did more during pre-season last year – but in the context of the 2014 rules overhaul it is significant.

By the end of day three the Mercedes-powered cars had accumulated over 2,000 kilometres of running at Jerez. That’s twice as much as Ferrari and almost six times more than Renault. That advantage counts double as not only are they enjoying better reliability, but it allows them to make far more rapid progress in exploring the limits of complex new regulations which offer vast potential for gains.

The new brake-by-wire systems is just one the new areas which needs to be mastered. Back on the track Sutil is still plugging away on his first morning in the C33, his front-right wheel never rotating on his approach to turn two as his left foot adjusts to new sensations.

Jean-Eric Vergne judders past in the Toro Rosso, whose Renault engine is making a variety of unconvincing noises. He is 20 seconds off the pace as his team strive merely to get the car running properly.

Day one of the test was a write-off for McLaren, so some of the time Kevin Magnussen was due to spend in the car has been given to Jenson Button. Watching his progress in the MP4-29 you wouldn’t know he had a complicated new braking system, torquey turbo and vastly uprated energy recovery systems to contend with. His trademark smoothness is much in evidence.

Jenson Button, McLaren, Jerez, 2014But ‘smooth’ is not a word you would use to describe the noise from his new engine – a subject which has been the cause for much debate. I may be in the minority but I wasn’t wedded to the sound of the old V8s, which to my ear were loud but bland.

The new V6 turbos are a bit quieter as you’d expect, but you’re not in any danger of forgetting you’re at a racetrack. More interestingly, there are discernible differences from engine to engine and car to car – something which had been lost under the old formula.

The Ferrari is the most pleasant of the three to listen to, while the Renault appears too infrequently to pass judgement on. The Mercedes sounds great at full song, but emits a gruff burble on part-throttle.

Put 22 of these on a track and I think it will sound great. Compared to the ridiculous-looking cars and the ludicrous double points rule, it doesn’t concern me in the slightest. But not everyone agrees – one photographer I spoke to later lamented how dismal he thought the new cars would sound at a larger venue like the Circuit of the Americas.

I head back to the paddock without having seen three cars. The Marussia appeared later that day and the Lotus hasn’t made it out of Enstone, though given Renault’s early problems they may not have missed much.

Renault’s plight is illustrated most dramatically by Red Bull, whose serious lack of running is a major talking point. They still have time to regroup but the world champions have begun the year on the back foot.

Meanwhile Hamilton has re-emerged in the Mercedes. Still seemingly not at ten-tenths, the W05 now appears at the top of the times charts as well as the lap count.

These are still early days, but Mercedes are looking as strong on the track as they are on the data screens.

2014 F1 season


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57 comments on Thoughts on the cars after an hour at turn two

  1. Lucas Wilson (@full-throttle-f1) said on 31st January 2014, 11:45

    Great article!

  2. Great stuff this article.
    But the way you describe it, the Ferrari looks even better at turn 2 than the AMG Mercedes. So why isn’t Alonso topping the charts?

    • dragoll (@dragoll) said on 1st February 2014, 2:31

      A number of factors come to my mind:
      1. It’s only 1 turn of an entire circuit
      2. All teams are lifting off throttle to make sure the engine plants, transmissions, clutches, and all mechanical components in between don’t get too stressed while they run through their testing programmes
      3. It might be a car that turns in well, but might have oversteer or understeer mid corner, or on the exit
      4. Fuel load differences
      5. Tyre wear
      6. Setup isn’t working for him

      And there are other reasons, testing is so complicated, that only the teams themselves get a gauge of their own performance in comparison to previous years. Teams don’t know how other teams are progressing.

    • Luth (@soulofaetherym) said on 1st February 2014, 15:20

      Because it’s testing. No times set mean anything.

  3. kowalsky jose sanchez said on 31st January 2014, 11:53

    Cars are 10 secs a lap slower than they were un 2004,2005. That to me is tragic, And it will take at least five years to recover some of that speed back. I will stop traveling to circuits until they do get at least, some of it back.
    This formula reminds me of the early 60`s 1500 cc, at the time that le mans was getting stronger with the creatión of the ford gt40, like today with the comeback of porsche. It took until 1967 with the change to the ford cosworth 3000cc to watch some proper cars. Jim clark used to love racing the indy cars because were very powerful, AMD he missed that. Would this happen with todays star drivers? I really doubt it. They have changed to a point of no recognition.

    • Will Wood (@willwood) said on 31st January 2014, 12:06

      I think it’s far, far too early to read into laptimes during a test when half of the teams are struggling to get the car around the circuit for more than five laps at a time.

    • joetoml1n (@joetoml1n) said on 31st January 2014, 12:11

      This years cars aren’t 10 seconds slower! Testing times are slower than last year, but that’s to be expected, and no driver is pushing their car like they would in a qualifying session.. At least wait until Q3 in Melbourne until we know how much slower they are.. If they are about 2-3 seconds slower than last year, which is what is to be expected based on the facts we have at the minute, then they will be 5 seconds slower than 2004

    • Dave du said on 31st January 2014, 14:54

      We’ll said, I will not be wasting my money on what used to be the pinnacle of Motorsport
      It might make for a better spectacle than last year on TV but with out that noise and speed forget it
      They have killed f1

      • Kelsier (@kelsier) said on 1st February 2014, 9:22

        I don’t really understand this reasoning. This years cars are a lot faster than they where in 1990, does this mean that 1990 was not real F1?

        I agree that it would be nice if cars get better and better to keep F1 “the pinnacle of motorsport”. Some people seem to equate this to mean faster and faster. But slowing F1 through regulations has been going on for a long time: banning ground effect, banning turbos, narrower cars, smaller tyres, grooved tyres and less aerodynamics to name a few.

        Did you start watching F1 since the last such change and this is new to you or did you suddenly decide that this time they stepped over the line? If so why now?

    • matt90 said on 31st January 2014, 15:45

      I will stop traveling to circuits until they do get at least, some of it back

      That’ll be at the next test then. Honestly reserve judgement until they run properly at least!

  4. I don’t go to race tracks to see a lap time. I go to see the skill of the drivers up close and at a slightly slower speed that skill will be even more apparent. Also slowing down the cars makes for better racing imo.
    If anything is tragic this year it’s the sound of the cars, some ugly design choices and the continued use of the anti-racing device (also known as DRS). I reckon i could get used to the first two and if it wasn’t for DRS i’d be anticipating this season more than i have done for a long time.

    • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 31st January 2014, 12:44

      @racectrl

      anti-racing device

      I’m going to start calling it that.

      One little-commented-on feature of the new season is what effect the more powerful DRS is going to have.

      • You can have it :-)

        I haven’t heard the DRS system mentioned once pre-season. I just assumed it was remaining the same?

        • Dizzy said on 31st January 2014, 14:28

          @racectrl

          DRS has changed for this year, The DRS flap will now be able to open wider to drop more drag & create a larger speed gain.

          Expect even more highway passes which are even easier this year.

          • Wow. Truly tragic. For some reason this had escaped my attention until now. Probably because DRS was so effective last year that it doesn’t make sense to improve on it. Like the double points fiasco this has left me completely bewildered and confused.

          • The slot gap opens wider because the rear wings are shallower to start with. The idea is for the effect to be the same. Will it be? Time will tell. But if there is a year for aero to take a back seat when it comes to straightline speed, this is it.

        • Luth (@soulofaetherym) said on 1st February 2014, 15:22

          Since the rear wing’s angle is much shallower than last year, they buffed DRS to make up for the loss of effect it’d have if kept the same…

      • matt90 (@matt90) said on 31st January 2014, 17:11

        Could just make DRS Detrimental Racing System.

  5. marc512 (@marc512) said on 31st January 2014, 12:50

    I see an interesting battle between mclaren and mercedes this year. They both have the same power units, so it will come down to the best overall package. I have no doubt that either of their drivers are able to put up a good fight.

    With the double points system, I kind of expect Renault powered to get a point just for finishing a because someone feels sorry for them.

  6. Kisii said on 31st January 2014, 12:51

    This is how to write an “F1 testing” article. Personal and engaging, and does a good job transporting you there, thanks Keith.

  7. Dan Brown (@danbrown180) said on 31st January 2014, 13:06

    I enjoyed the present tense writing.

  8. Mike Dee (@mike-dee) said on 31st January 2014, 14:07

    Turn two at the Circuito de Jerez in Spain is over 10,000 kilometres away from Melbourne, Australia, scene of the first race of the year.

    Slight understatement, it is more than 17,000 kom away!

  9. Shimks (@shimks) said on 31st January 2014, 14:20

    @keithcollantine What an exciting articles to read, Keith; I was practically on the edge of my seat. Like every year, I just can’t wait for the first practise session!

  10. The Blade Runner (@thebladerunner) said on 31st January 2014, 15:15

    Love it! I’m not sure whether working for the established media kills jounalists’ enthusiasm but Keith’s article is a lesson in how to write about something you love for those that share those feelings.

    • mantresx (@mantresx) said on 31st January 2014, 17:22

      Nowadays a lot of journalists are just plain lazy, it’s easy to just report the facts and copy/paste information than to actually investigate, have an opinion and elaborate on a subject, and that applies to any form of journalism on any media.

      • OOliver said on 31st January 2014, 19:18

        You are right, but to be honest, it isn’t easy being a journalist these days.
        The time spent writing quality material often doesn’t go rewarded as some crazy sites can come out with sensational headlines that captures audiences and leaves you chasing pointless arguments such that you are then too exhausted to follow genuine articles.

  11. WilliamB (@william-brierty) said on 31st January 2014, 16:03

    Excellent article. At this stage, other than mileage, the only thing that can be learnt about the pecking order is from the side of a race track; that is if you a bit of nerd like me regarding vehicular dynamics. Certainly what is prevalent from what I’ve read so far this week is that a W05 running out of grip is indeed are rare sight. Neither of the drivers are suffering with oversteer, braking stability or most importantly corner exit traction. Now that is probably because neither driver is pushing, but the very fact that they haven’t been pushing and yet have often been one of the fastest cars on track is encouraging for the team. Especially so if, as Keith says, Alonso has been seen leaning on the F14 T and Magnussen locking his brakes heavily into T1 in the MP4-29 yesterday, although Kevin said he wasn’t “balls to the wall”.

    However all statements regarding relative performance is sheer speculation, and instead it is more useful to observe the car balances whilst trackside. Again, here the W05 appears to have an advantage with the car leaning towards subtle understeer, thus protecting the rear tyres from the immense torque of the V6, a trait the FW36 apparently also shares. The Ferrari and McLaren though have been seen suffering a touch of oversteer, with the MP4-29 reportedly having a very direct nose that can sometimes trigger rear rotation. More worryingly, the Ferrari appears to have its now conventional traction issues, with Alonso often being seen laying black lines on the exits of corners…

  12. I feel the same way about the v8, Im not a fan of v8 vut the f1 v8s sound different than any other v8 and even those i dont quite like it generally I v12 v10 v6 or straight 4 all normally aspirated but there are plenty examples of good turbo sound you certainly dont have to be a boy racer to enjoy the sound but in my opinion f1 stood apart because the sound is unique and thunderous, not only the engine but all the other noises aswell, regardless of tastd it seems that the imposing authority of the old sound is gone to my dismail I only had a couple chances of experiencing it.

  13. mantresx (@mantresx) said on 31st January 2014, 17:12

    @keithcollantine Interesting you mention the Circuit of the Americas, I went there last year and although the cars were loud I was expecting them to be louder.
    I thought it would be deafening to hear the 22 cars pass in the first couple of laps, but I didn’t even wear earplugs.

    But is true that the topology doesn’t amplify the sound as I couldn’t hear any echo whatsoever in the grandstand I was. However, in one of the practice sessions I stood under the Pirelli bridge and it was completely different, my ears actually started to hurt after a while, I can only imagine what it is (or should I say was) like in a place like Monaco.

    • JohnBt said on 1st February 2014, 7:04

      On an open track the loudness dissipates but it if you’re under a grandstand or covered area. It can damage your ears easily. I’ve tried removing my earplugs, don’t screw around, it’s really really loud as the sound gets trap under the canopy.

      The turbos will still be very loud in the covered stands i’m very sure about that.easily above 140db.

  14. anybody know what sort of revs they going upto in jerez? be great to hear these cars giving it max throttle,, from the videos ive seen it sounds abit like theyre short shifting alot , although theres some short clips that seem to offer a glimpse of some major throttle and then i reckon it sounds good , although obviously different, ive got hope for f1 !

    • Bullfrog (@bullfrog) said on 31st January 2014, 18:30

      13000rpm – an educated guess by Gary Anderson (here). From the trackside videos I’ve seen, it sounded like the McLaren was revving a little higher than the others – maybe that’s all part of their testing programme out of the four different Mercedes-powered teams.

      Great to read some decent trackside observations, this really stood out from all the writers covering the test as if it’s a qualifying session.

  15. Ciaran (@ciaran) said on 31st January 2014, 20:21

    Great article. It must be a fantastic year to be at an F1 test, being able to see the vast differences between teams and even being able to listen to the new V6s. What you said about Hamilton leaving untapped potential is very interesting, I can’t imagine a situation where Mercedes aren’t fighting at the very front this year, having heard so many good things about them this week.

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