Testing at Jerez has taught us a thing or two
Formula 1 in 2014 was a different type of season. With a complete change of the rules regarding the engine, moving from the V8 to a turbocharged V6, it was going to be a trying one for the teams. Last year Red Bull with the Renault power unit had the most difficulty, with the team failing to complete even a single day's worth of testing in Jerez.
This year, there is a newcomer, or rather a re-joiner, as Honda is back in F1 with McLaren, after completely dominating the sport in late 1980's into the early 90's. McLaren gave up the most powerful power unit in 2014, to go with an unknown in 2015, but more on that later.
All drivers are locked in to their respective teams, and two of the teams are no longer on the docket for 2015.
A rough go at Jerez for McLaren and engine partners Honda
Testing is pivotal in Formula 1. It is where you get crucial data from the car and how it handles the track and real world environmental issues. As we stated before, RBR was the team having most issues last year. This year, the McLaren engineers are having the biggest headache as they put a brand new Honda engine to test.
As you can see from the video below, Honda has made the V6 turbo sound a bit more throaty than the other power units. However, as racing director Eric Boullier explains, it's hard to address the issues when they arise as the power unit is very compact, and in order to address something you may need to take the engine out of the car, or remove many parts to take care of the issues. This can put a damper on running out on track, with repairs taking most of the day.
Jenson Button and Fernando Alonso have gotten a total of 79 laps on the car. When you compare that to a team like Mercedes AMG, who has now put over 500 laps on their car, the difference in data obtained is staggering.
Two teams missing
While we had a inkling that it would happen, it seems now that neither Marussia, or Caterham will be back on the grid for 2015. Caterham had a crowdfund going for the end of last year so that they could show up at Abu Dhabi for the final race. It wasn't enough to come back for 2015. No one has bought in to the team and their 2014 equipment is being auctioned off.
On the other hand, Marussia F1 Team had been in trouble after Suzuka, where their driver Jules Bianchi was involved in a horrific accident. Not long after that, the team didn't make it back to the grid and were put in administration. There were a few talks taking place over the off season and recently there was a meeting held in the Strategy Group where the six top teams, the FIA and FOM reviewed Marussia(now Manor Racing) requested to use the 2014 model for racing this year. They rejected this offer and the decision will now head to the F1 Commission, but one can assume they will uphold this decision, blocking Manor Racing's return.
Racing requires a good amount of cash and investors on board and a lot of the smaller teams in F1's history have suffered this same fate. However, I don't think blocking the return of a team that could have a longer history is a smart idea. But then, these small teams had a financial motive behind their decision.
There is no question during testing, you don't want all your cats out of the bag. It just gives the other teams an idea of where they should be running up to.
Mercedes was interested in mileage only, as their drivers plowed through the laps, but weren't putting up top times, sometimes down in 4th or 5th place for the day. Ferrari however, seemed happy to put in some fast times with Kimi Raikkonnen running down to a 1:20, which was almost a 3% faster time than last year’s testing in Jerez.
Sauber was also surprising, putting down some competitive times with their rookie driver, Felipe Nasr. Williams were strong as well, looking for data from their new chassis. Lotus, who moved from Renault, to Mercedes this year, also enjoying some strong runs after a few gremlins along the way.