Five conclusions from the Jerez test

1. Red Bull are in a bad way (but it’s not all over yet!)

The reigning World Champions managed only 21 laps in four days of running while their rivals hit the ground running from the first day. All four days followed the same trend, with the team struggling with (and eventually conceding defeat in regards to) mechanical problems early on as its expected competition, Mercedes especially, increased their mileage and improved their lap times. It’s been said Renault are unhappy with the way Red Bull have decided to package the inside of their 2014 title challenger and it’ll be a serious knock back for the team if they’re forced to re-evaluate the fundamental internal design of their car. Deitrich Mateschitz and his drivers remain upbeat, though, with the Austrian having taken the very back-foot defense and age-old saying with his comment that the title isn’t won in the opening race(s). Ricciardo, too, said on Friday that he’s at the best place in the paddock for a quick turnaround of fortunes.

Red Bull: It doesn't look great, but it's not over yet. © Andrew Hone/Getty Images

Red Bull: It doesn’t look great, but it’s not over yet. © Andrew Hone/Getty Images

“We do have the best team in the world and they are going to turn this around,” he said to AUTOSPORT.

“You hear stories that they turn things around quicker than anyone else here, so that definitely gives me a lot of positiveness and optimism about it all,” he said.

They’re in a bit of strife now, but you’d be a fool to write them off so early in the season. In 2010, 2012 and 2013 the team managed to push themselves from victory contenders to practically assured victors and there’s little reason to expect them to fail in 2014.

2. Renault have a lot of work to do

Oh dear: Not a one-off failure for Renault. © Martin Rickett/PA

Oh dear: Not a one-off failure for Renault. © Martin Rickett/PA

The testing issues weren’t just confined to Red Bull, though. Every Renault team found themselves with issues throughout the weekend. All the laps managed by Renault-powered cars combined amounted to only 151 laps. To put this into perspective, Ferrari managed 444 laps in the same period and Mercedes trumped Renault by more than five-times by lapping the Jerez circuit 857 times. But the engine manufacturer has assured us they will be getting to work on resolving the issues before the first Bahrain test on February 19.

Whether or not they sort out their current issues, the Renault-backed teams will very likely remain behind their Ferrari- and Mercedes-powered rivals for the time being.

3. Mercedes teams have the edge

The four Mercedes-powered teams covered almost 3800km in four days of running, vastly more than the Ferrari- or Renault-engined teams. Off-season speculation said Mercedes were on top of engine development, but few must have expected such a vast difference between the power units. The German manufacturer has taken honours in both reliability and pace, which has allowed their customers to learn more about their new vehicles and the tyres than their rivals. It’s no surprise then that with the sort of reliability the Mercedes power units were providing, nine of the top 11 fastest times were set by Mercedes-backed cars and the top-four times were all set by Mercedes-backed drivers.

Back on top?: McLaren set two of the top-four fastest times of the week. © Alastair Staley/LAT Photographic

Back on top?: McLaren set two of the top-four fastest times of the week. © Alastair Staley/LAT Photographic

Lap times mean little in pre-season testing, but they do indicate who may be better off at the very moment. When Mercedes fills the top-four places and those top-four drivers together manage to lap more times than all Ferrari- or Renault-backed cars, it’s an indication of who may be better prepared for the season ahead.

4. Lotus’s financial issues aren’t disappearing quickly

Skipping the first test of 2014 may have saved Lotus money (and may have been a wise decision in light of the limited running by Renault-powered cars), but will it mean much in the end? Valsecchi admitted recently that Lotus are yet to pay him for his duties in 2013 and the team only recently paid their 2014 entry fee, much later than any other major constructor.

Taking on Maldonado and his Venezuelan money will have helped the team in the short term, but there are underlying issues that will need to be sorted out before they are comfortably on the grid. The team need sponsors and results quickly. The team’s car for 2014, the E22, is expected to debut in Bahrain on February 19 and Lotus will be hoping it hits the track immediately and quickly appears on the pace of its rivals. If the car turns out to be a dud in Melbourne, Lotus’s position on the grid after 2014 will be in serious jeopardy.

5. Mercedes AMG F1 is getting things done

The first team to get themselves into double-figure lap runs, the Mercedes AMG F1 team was clearly the most comfortable team in Jerez. Rosberg’s race-distance stints on Friday was almost an insult to the struggling Renault squads (in particular Red Bull) and really put the gauntlet down in regards to which team was the one to watch in the early stages of 2014. It’s no surprise then that leading betting agencies switched Red Bull and Mercedes as title favourites and now have the German constructor as expected top-dog in 2014.

With Jerez’s reliability checked off the list, the team will now focus on pace in the Bahrain test. Does the speed match the reliability? We’ll have to wait and see. Their rivals have a challenge ahead of themselves if they wish to catch Mercedes. The start to the 2014 Formula One World Championship season will be fascinating and will be one that few will have the courage to predict.

Flying high: Mercedes covered more laps than anybody throughout the week. ©2014 MERCEDES AMG PETRONAS Formula One Team

Flying high: Mercedes covered more laps than anybody throughout the week. ©2014 MERCEDES AMG PETRONAS Formula One Team

 

 

Also check out the comprehensive list of numbers from the Jerez test here: Final numbers from the Jerez test

 

 

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