Nico Rosberg, Mercedes, Jerez, 2014

Mercedes’ reliability gives it the initiative at Jerez

F1 statisticsPosted on | Author Keith Collantine

Williams FW09, 1984In the last turbo era, reliability was often its own reward. The maxim “to finish first, you must first finish” seldom rang truer than when Formula One teams last grappled with the complexities of high-performance blown engines.

Points were only offered down to sixth place during the eighties and it wasn’t uncommon for there to be only a handful of non-points-scoring finishers.

Cars have become so reliable in recent seasons that teams could almost take it for granted they would finish a race. But at the dawning of this new engine formula that no longer appears to be the case.

Reliability is the first goal for teams at this early stage in the season. And those who achieve it will have an added advantage, as last week’s test in Jerez illustrated.

Engine manufacturers’ test mileages

The mileages logged by F1’s three engines manufacturers varied significantly. Ferrari completed nearly three times as many laps as Renault – but Mercedes did almost twice as much again:

Engine Total distance (km) Total laps
Mercedes 3,874.5 875
Ferrari 1,966.0 444
Renault 668.6 151

This of course does not include shakedown running completed prior to the test. Mercedes, Force India and Toro Rosso are all known to have run their cars beforehand.

Both Mercedes and Ferrari appear to have achieved a reasonable level of early reliability with their engines. But what made the difference for Mercedes is not so much impressive the out-of-the-box performance of the works team’s W05, but the quality of the contribution made by its three customer teams.

As this graph shows the Mercedes W05 only covered 58 laps more than Ferrari’s F14 T. However Mercedes had more data flowing in from McLaren, Force India and Williams than Ferrari did from Sauber and Marussia – the latter only getting their new car on track late on day three.

McLaren’s recovery from their earlier setback was particularly impressive. Having failed to emerge from the garage at all on day one they almost caught up with Ferrari in terms of total mileage by the end of the test.

Nico Rosberg, Mercedes, Jerez, 2014While having reliability is important enough on its own, it brings with it the added bonus of being able to push their development programme along at a faster rate than Ferrari and much quicker than Renault, who are mired in all kinds of problems with their Energy F1 unit.

Drivers and lap times

Although it would be premature to infer a pecking order among the teams from last week’s test, the lap times give a further indication of Mercedes’ early advantage. All nine Mercedes-powered drivers appear among the top eleven lap times, with just the two Ferrari drivers appearing in the middle of them.

Even taking into account the varying conditions and the wide differences in performance between the different types of tyres (some of which did not carry identifying markings during the test), that pattern is a persuasive sign Mercedes have the early edge on performance as well as reliability.

Pos. Driver Team Engine Time Gap Laps
1 Kevin Magnussen McLaren Mercedes 1’23.276 162
2 Felipe Massa Williams Mercedes 1’23.700 0.424 133
3 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes Mercedes 1’23.952 0.676 121
4 Jenson Button McLaren Mercedes 1’24.165 0.889 83
5 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari Ferrari 1’24.812 1.536 78
6 Valtteri Bottas Williams Mercedes 1’25.344 2.068 42
7 Fernando Alonso Ferrari Ferrari 1’25.495 2.219 173
8 Nico Rosberg Mercedes Mercedes 1’25.588 2.312 188
9 Nico Hulkenberg Force India Mercedes 1’26.096 2.820 17
10 Sergio Perez Force India Mercedes 1’28.376 5.100 48
11 Daniel Juncadella Force India Mercedes 1’29.457 6.181 81
12 Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso Renault 1’29.915 6.639 45
13 Adrian Sutil Sauber Ferrari 1’30.161 6.885 103
14 Jules Bianchi Marussia Ferrari 1’32.222 8.946 25
15 Esteban Gutierrez Sauber Ferrari 1’33.270 9.994 60
16 Marcus Ericsson Caterham Renault 1’37.975 14.699 12
17 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull Renault 1’38.320 15.044 11
18 Kamui Kobayashi Caterham Renault 1’43.193 19.917 54
19 Daniil Kvyat Toro Rosso Renault 1’44.016 20.740 9
20 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull Renault 1’45.374 22.098 10
Robin Frijns Caterham Renault 10
Max Chilton Marussia Ferrari 5

The next two tests at a much hotter venue will reveal whether that pattern persists in more challenging conditions – and if Renault can bounce back from their disastrous start to the new season.

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Images ?ι?® Honda, Mercedes/Hoch Zwei