Bottas fastest as Ferrari run into problems
Mercedes Valtteri Bottas was fastest on the final day of the third test at the Bahrain International Circuit. The Finn was over a quarter of a second faster than Sunday’s race winner Sebastian Vettel in the Ferrari.
Bottas spent his day focusing on aerodynamic work and trying to get a better understanding of the tyres. Mercedes struggled in Sunday’s race with their long run form, an area which the team had be struggling with. The Finn set his best lap of 1m31.280s in the final hour as track conditions cooled.
It wasn’t a trouble free day for Vettel losing a lot of time in the pits after a few hydraulic leaks during a set-up change. But, when he resumed after lunch there were more issues, as engineers without telemetry and he had to stay put until the issues could be rectified.
Toro Rosso’s Carlos Sainz, who only ran in the afternoon, was third fastest. McLaren will be relived after a trouble free day and despite no changes there was no repeat of the MGU-H issues that plagued them over the weekend. That allowed Stoffel Vandoorne to go fourth fastest.
Kevin Magnussen continued his evaluation of breaks for Haas on his way to fifth. Force India’s Esteban Ocon was sixth after failing to improve his time from the morning.
Daniil Kvyat was ahead of Williams test driver Gary Paffet. Renault’s Sergey Sirokin was ninth, ahead of Red Bull’s Pierre Gasly and Sauber’s Pascal Wehrlein, with Sergio Perez rounding of the top ten.
Taking me “way to long” – Raikkonen
Kimi Räikkönen says it is taking him “way to long” to adapt to the new Ferrari and to start to challenge his team-mate Sebastian Vettel. The Finn has looked to struggle this season to stay with the pace of his team-mate.
Raikkonen told Autosport “To be honest, it takes way too long. season. We’re supposed to get it right straight away, and obviously we haven’t.”
“A lot of reasons but it didn’t help in the last race [China], not driving the first day [because practice was abandoned]. When you’re going through some issues, you want to get track time.” he added,
The Finn struggled in Australia and China with understeer, but says the problems he had was “much less” prevalent during the Bahrain GP weekend. Saying “I’m pretty happy with the car now. I feel that we are doing the absolutely right things.”
He said in the race in Bahrain, he felt the car was in a very good position and insists he made good progress. Ferrari President Sergio Marchionne, publicly question his form in Shanghai.
Raikkonen’s response was “”It’s just the small things now, in the big picture we are pretty much where we want to be – it’s just that we need to fine-tune a few things.
“I don’t think it’s the big things but obviously it has cost us. It’s taking too long, but nobody to complain [to], it’s my job.”
Power cut cuts Ferrari’s program
Sebastian Vettel says that Ferrari suffered a power cut which added to their problems on the final day of testing in Bahrain. The German lost most of the morning because of a hydraulic leaks that had been discovered during a configuration change.
Then they were further confined to the garage in the afternoon when its garage systems went down. Vettel did manage to get out on track finishing second, but was slightly annoyed at the missed opportunity to get through all he had wanted.
Vettel told Motorsport.com “It was a bit mixed, not ideal. We lost a lot of time, as we had an issue with the car that we could fix. And then also we had a power supply issue.”
“The whole garage shut down, I think we lost another two hours trying to fix it before it came back.” But said that the two day test hadn’t affected there programme too much, as Antonio Giovinazzi getting through a good programme on the opening day.
Vettel says he hasn’t been paying too much attention to Mercedes as they ran an extensive tyre programme to better understand its long-run form.
Chassis not where it should be – Ricciardo
Daniel Ricciardo says that Red Bull’s chassis is still not where it should be. The team were hoping that they could of made progress this season with the change in aerodynamic regulations this year.
In pre-season testing quickly revealed the shortcomings of the new RB13 compared to Ferrari and Mercedes, with the Renault power unit lacking power compared to their main rivals. Ricciardo told ESPN “I feel like we’re kind of where we’ve always been in terms of the gap [in power], the deficit it’s kind of where it’s been [the last two years].”
“The reliability is a bit of a question mark but the others have had their issues as well. Ferrari have had some things going on in practice and so on, and they won the race.”
Ricciardo added if we could improve one thing it would be the car, because the you can do more with a better chassis. The austrilian says “Right now, if I would say engine or car, I’ll probably say the car for now.”
“I know what we can do with a good chassis and less power — we can still put ourselves in the fight — so I think the engine deficit is pretty much what it always has been.” However, he says understanding the tyres is key.
Adding he “think if everyone is getting their tyres in the right window then I think it’s downforce at the moment that is our main answer. It kind of showed that when we were pretty happy with the tyres and Mercedes maybe weren’t it can really make a big difference.”
Red bull believes that a big gain can be made if they begin to understand the tyres sooner than their rivals.
He says the tyres “For sure it’s sensitive, they can make a big difference, but I’m sure at some point we’re all going to figure out the best thing for the tyres and you’ll still go back to trying to bolt more downforce.”
Mercedes test plan
Mercedes are hoping that this week’s test day’s in Bahrain will hope them to understand the weakness in there tyre performance. Today, Valtteri Bottas took over from Lewis Hamilton, after he spent day one focusing on some new parts evaluation and tyre runs.
Mercedes are adamant that by unlocking stronger pace will be key in beating Ferrari, and Hamilton felt progress had been made on the opening day. He told Autosport “Our focus was on advancing our understanding of the tyres and also the rear of the car so that we can improve our long runs.”
“particularly during the race and on the super-soft compound,” said Hamilton after his test came to an end. We came here with a specific goal, so it was positive to get on top of that with the team.” he added.
Both Ferrari and Mercedes are focusing on different areas of their weaknesses.
Force India over delivering
Sergio Perez says that his Force India is “over-delivering” as they have managed to get the cars into the points in all three races despite the tight midfield battle.
The Silverstone-based team was expecting to struggle in the early part of the season until an upgrade in Barcelona. But, the Mexican and his team-mate Esteban Ocon, have both been in the top ten in all three races.
Perez told Motorsport.com “I think as a team we are over-delivering massively given where the car performance is at the moment. I think we are taking opportunities from others, from other people getting it wrong.”
He says he thinks by looking at the race simulations the team should not be the fifth or sixth fastest team, saying he thinks that Williams, Renault and possibly Toro Rosso are a bit ahead of them. Speaking about Bahrain he said he was pleased the pace the team showed.