Mercedes’ reliability gives it the initiative at Jerez

F1 statistics

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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58 comments on Mercedes’ reliability gives it the initiative at Jerez

  1. andae23 (@andae23) said on 2nd February 2014, 15:42

    @keithcollantine Correction on the final table: it says Frijns and Chilton used Caterham and Marussia engines, though I doubt these teams would be able to build their own engines with their current budgets..

  2. mr ROSSI (@mr-rossi) said on 2nd February 2014, 15:45

    I know its early days but Renault`s problems must be severely worrying for its teams,shocking.

    • Ivan (@wpinrui) said on 2nd February 2014, 15:52

      Renault’s troubles remind me of Top Gear always making fun of French reliability ;)

      • Blackmamba (@blackmamba) said on 2nd February 2014, 17:46

        I am not so sure it’s all Renault’s fault given that Caterham managed to do 54 laps in 1 day. Newey after all did design that contraption that cost Kimi the Championship at MacLaren, always falling apart.

        • Eugene flowers said on 2nd February 2014, 18:45

          I heard the majority of those Caterham laps were competed with the ERS being disabled. However, I’m struggling to find the article. Anyone?

        • Feuerdrache (@xenomorph91) said on 2nd February 2014, 19:01

          @blackmamba: Newey also designed the car that enabled him to fight for WC in the first place. Then also Kimi had quite a few races where he made mistakes on his own (Australia – minimum 4 points lost on Alonso, Europe – 12 points lost on Alonso). The championship would have been a lot closer.

  3. Ivan (@wpinrui) said on 2nd February 2014, 15:51

    Thanks Keith for a great conclusion on the tests! I’m definitely looking forward to the Bahrain tests to see what happens next! Can’t wait!

    • mantresx (@mantresx) said on 2nd February 2014, 16:59

      @wpinrui Me too, and I remember a year ago someone here said that tests were becoming more and more boring with no dramas, well you certainly can’t say that now :)

    • Blackmamba (@blackmamba) said on 2nd February 2014, 19:21

      I doubt we will learn anything more from Bahrain other than confirming Merc and Ferrari engines are reliable in the heat as well. Red Bull will still have a huge headache as realistically there is not enough time to sort out the mess they are in. The good thing for the next test is that no one can afford to sandbag so we will have a more realistic picture of the pecking order going into the season opener. Williams and MacLaren appeared to be chasing the time a little too hard in Jerez, and the MacLaren looked suspiciously to close to a race ready car with their suspension to wonder if there is any more to come. If they manage to keep running at the very front in the 2 tests then we will know they have a shot at the Championships. All very exciting though.

  4. Colossal Squid (@colossal-squid) said on 2nd February 2014, 15:59

    This is where Mercedes having so many customers running their engine is giving them a big boost, especially over Ferrari who have only two much smaller-resourced teams compared to giants like McLaren and Williams. I think it’s still early days when trying to determine which engine manufacturer has the outright best engine but Mercedes have such a big pool of data to draw on I wouldn’t be surprised to see a clear picture develop over the coming weeks.

    Should Ferrari have been more aggressive in trying to get other teams on board and prevent such a disparity? Surely the more teams you have running one engine in such a season, the better the performance and reliability will be going forward?

  5. Mach1 (@mach1) said on 2nd February 2014, 16:36

    If the Mercredes Engine proves to be so good and reliable after this season is over, it will be fascinating to see what happenes when McLaren switch to Honda….

    • Blackmamba (@blackmamba) said on 2nd February 2014, 17:52

      I’m sure they already have engineers from Honda at their factory looking at the design of the Merc engine. It would be the height of stupidity on Honda’s part if they don’t check out the competition and look for ways to out do them.

      • Mach1 (@mach1) said on 2nd February 2014, 18:10

        That is one of the interesting things though. I doubt Mercredes would let anyone from Honda near their engine. I remember reading that while close co-operation would continue between McLaren and Mercredes; Mercredes would be taking steps to ensure McLaren/Honda were not able to get sensative data/information about the engine. How this works in practice, I have no idea…I remember reading it somewhere though….

  6. Ciaran (@ciaran) said on 2nd February 2014, 17:02

    Pretty telling how every team with Mercedes engines were able to put in more laps than the vast majority of their rivals. And considering the fact that Honda will add another new variable next year, we’ve already got a very interesting situation in this era of F1.

  7. MatthewRacing (@matthewracing) said on 2nd February 2014, 17:09

    Is there a reason why Juncadella and Frinjs were given a day each in the cars instead of the race drivers?

  8. Giggsy11 (@giggsy11) said on 2nd February 2014, 17:29

    Is there a way to calculate how much time each team got out of their engines as long as they are at the track? obviously all the Mercedes teams were there from the start but Ferrari had Marussia missing for the first two days and most of the third and Renault didn’t have lotus at all. I don’t think that we can conclude that Mercedes have an ultimately more reliable engine yet when they pretty much have two extra cars on the track which adds up to about twice as many laps run.

  9. Ninad (@nin13) said on 2nd February 2014, 17:34

    RBR is a very quick car, as soon as engines are sorted, they will win 5th WC.

  10. So excited thinking that this could be the year either Hamilton or Button gets his second title (a girl can hope). Only thing tempering it really is the traditional Red Bull dominance of the last half of the second coupled with the double points coming along to make a mockery of the whole thing…

    • Blackmamba (@blackmamba) said on 2nd February 2014, 18:15

      The backing MacLaren have put behind MiniMag suggests they have belief he is in the mould of Hamilton and they expect big things from him. Having watched him in the lower classes I tend to agree, don’t be surprised to see him do to Button what Hamilton did to Alonso. As for Hamilton himself I think he is going to find himself in a mighty tussle with Rosberg whom I feel the new cars would suit much better btwn the pair. Preserving the car to the finish line is expected to be the name of the game in the early part of the new era and I think Rosberg is much better at nursing the tyres, the fuel, torque and ERS compared to Hamilton’s banzai style. That is if the Merc is even competitive to begin with.

      • mark p said on 2nd February 2014, 18:31

        It’s too simple to label 1 driver hard on the car and another not. It’s more complex like in 2012 Button would thrash Hamilton due to tyre use but in reality on occasion Hamilton looked after his tyres better. In F1 things are never so black and white only certain media would play on such things out of dumbed down sensationalism or pure ignorance.

        • Blackmamba (@blackmamba) said on 2nd February 2014, 18:56

          There is some evidence though I have to say, like Malaysia last year. For 2 thirds of the race Hamilton was much faster and pulling away from Rosberg and hanging with the Bulls but towards the end he was running out of fuel and the tyres were shot, allowing Rosberg to cruise to his gear box. I just feel that is gonna be a feature of this new era.

          • mark p said on 2nd February 2014, 19:37

            It may well happen but Rosberg also had reliability issues last year and I do not think this was down to driving style. Malaysia could well have been mis information on fuel loads a calculation error from Hamiltons race engineer or other. The driver does not have a fuel guage although if they did this would bring an extra strategic skill element to a drivers role.

          • Breno (@austus) said on 2nd February 2014, 20:53

            I dont buy it. In spain Rosberg took care of his tyres much better than Hamilton, to the point the team was constantly urging Hamilton to coast through some of the corners, like Rosberg was doing.

          • Kingshark (@kingshark) said on 2nd February 2014, 22:06

            No way, Rosberg was easily faster than Hamilton in Malaysia. He was faster than Lewis in every stint.

          • JCost (@jcost) said on 3rd February 2014, 8:54


            Rosberg had some problems with tyres and fuel saving too, the most recent being Brazil 2013…

      • HoHum (@hohum) said on 2nd February 2014, 19:52

        @blackmamba, so if the Mercedes is reliable but not ultra quick which driver style would you favour, then if as it appears the Merc is both reliable and quick why would you choose a different driver?

        • Blackmamba (@blackmamba) said on 2nd February 2014, 22:49

          @hohum – don’t get me wrong I much prefer the all out attack drivers like Lewis, Kobayashi, Grosjean and to a certain extent Alonso but it would be ill advised of them to be spinning their rear tyres out of the corners due to the torque on these cars. It may be more fun to watch for a while but after they destroy their tyres they would be limping home while the more ‘feel’ type of drivers breeze past them on their serene way to the points. I’m just saying the consensus is that races are gonna be more marathon than sprint so it would make sense to pace yourself for the whole race a la ‘Driving Ms Daisy’ style, even though it’s boring! There is no point disappearing down the road with all systems turned up only to stop 3 laps from home coz you ran out of fuel.

  11. mark p said on 2nd February 2014, 18:25

    The benefits of engine mileage will be finite. Ferrari Mercedes Renault only have to reach a certain mileage to check all engine situations. Once a certain level is reached in mileage the rest maybe surplas as far as engines are concerned. I am sure Ferrari will reach the mileage they need although Mercedes will do this faster. As long as you reach a certain level you will not lose out.

    • Mouse_Nightshirt (@mouse_nightshirt) said on 2nd February 2014, 19:00

      True, but once that milage is “reached”, then they can concentrate on other things like improved engine maps and focus on ways to improve performance within the limitations of the regs.

      • mark p said on 2nd February 2014, 19:32

        They probably do this at the same time they work on a matrix when testing and setting things up due to limited time frame. Plus there is a mileage limit in testing so if you hit it too early you have to park up although this is per team. Mercedes extra laps can be used by Ferrari at a later test when may possibly be better served should either be anywhere near the test limit. Intricate engine performance are likely to be team specific due to different packaging and aero effects on cooling. At the moment it’s relatively basic engine maps cooling data thats collected. The fact Merc have done the most mileage is in no way a bad thing and is a benefit I just question the extent that some people are putting on this data from the 1st test

  12. Joshua Mesh (@joshua-mesh) said on 2nd February 2014, 19:46

    The Ferrari engine was not unreliable at Jerez… they just had less teams lapping around the track.

  13. Bleeps_and_Tweaks (@bleeps_and_tweaks) said on 2nd February 2014, 21:27

    It was a terrible test for the Renault teams, there is no doubting that. But if it is an easy fix as some have been saying, RBR and the others could rack up the miles in no time and be relatively set by Melbourne from an engine point of view.
    I think the biggest problem for the teams could be their lack of set up experience and work with the tyres. Even in the cold, the teams would have all learnt something about using the new Pirellis. Plus Mercedes, Mclaren and Ferrari were all out with aero monitoring kits at Jerez, which as the article points out, is a sign that their track time means they can push on with the development program, which after such a big regs change, is going to provide a very steep learning curve!

  14. Kingshark (@kingshark) said on 2nd February 2014, 22:12

    I’m interested to know how many people on here predicted that Ferrari engines would be in Renault’s current position.

    • Tifoso1989 (@tifoso1989) said on 2nd February 2014, 23:31

      The rumors were in favour of Renault in terms of reliability and drivability and Mercedes in terms of horsepower, i don’t know why but the numbers of engine failure Ferrari suffered in the last decade can be counted on one hand, i just remember Shumacher retiring in Suzuka 2006 and it was very unusual to see a Ferrari engine failure, if i’m not wrong it was the first failure in 5 or 6 years

      • Juzh (@juzh) said on 3rd February 2014, 10:40

        also alonso in malaysia 2010. Those are rare and far in between. I also didn’t get people saying ferrari would be unreliable. I always thought if V8 era learned us something it was that you can always count on renault to spoil red bull’s day.

      • BarnstableD (@barnstabled) said on 3rd February 2014, 21:30

        Yep. I think I remember someone saying that the Ferrari engine had done a lap of the Earth since the last breakdown (may be mistaken and no source, just a vague memory).

  15. SauberS1 (@saubers1) said on 2nd February 2014, 23:17

    It will be more important…

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