The name Andy Damerum may not be familiar to everyone but Red Bull Racing’s Race Engineering Co-ordinator summed up the first day of the ‘new’ Formula 1 perfectly when he called the opening day of testing in Jerez “a voyage of discovery for everyone”.
What most of the 10 teams who were there discovered (Lotus were absent) was that they weren’t quite ready to hail the dawn of a bright new turbo-charged era. In fact only six drivers contrived to set lap times of any meaningful kind and even that adjective is debatable at this stage.
Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen topped the rather flimsy time sheet with a best lap of 1:27.104. The Finn’s benchmark for the day was a cool eight seconds and more slower than the times set on the corresponding day of the 2013 season, but Ferrari will be delighted by his 31 laps in the F14-T – a comparative marathon and easily the longest running seen on the day.
Ferrari and Mercedes dominated proceedings, with Lewis Hamilton in the W105 managing 18 laps before a front wing failure late in the morning halted his work for the day.
“It’s better to have these things happen now than in Melbourne,” said an upbeat Hamilton, who described the feat of getting out on track first and setting a time of 1:27.280 as “an incredibly positive start”.
The sheer complexity of the new-look machinery had seen several teams warn that just getting a car ready in time to go out on track would be an achievement in itself.
Red Bull didn’t quite get there: rumours of wrongly-fitted componentry surrounded the team as Sebastian Vettel started his campaign for a fifth straight world title by waiting until 15 minutes before the end of the day’s scheduled running to put in three laps.
“We weren’t quite ready this morning,” said the German euphemistically, “and things took a little bit longer than expected.”
Electrical problems were always going to rear their ugly heads as teams figured out how to cope with the new methods of harvesting, storing and using energy from the hybrid systems.
It was ‘electrical issues’ that kept the McLaren MP4-29 in the pits all day, with not a single lap recorded; ‘electrical issues’ also restricted the new Williams-Mercedes FW36 to a single lap in the hands of Valtteri Bottas, who summed the day up perfectly when he said with some feeling, “it feels like a very different car”.
Elsewhere down the Jerez pit lane a software glitch stopped Jean-Eric Vergne’s STR9 out on track, though the Frenchman had managed to get 15 laps in; Sergio Perez did 11 laps for Force India on what the Mexican described as “a slow day for everybody”.
One of F1’s 2014 rookies, Swedish youngster Marcus Ericsson, was thrilled just to get a single lap on his CV in the Caterham, which was also hamstrung by what the team called “problems with final car assembly”, and he shrugged off those who sniped at the car’s aesthetic appeal.
“If it’s fast then I don’t care if it’s the worst-looking thing out there,” said the GP2 graduate. “If it’s slow but beautiful, then what’s the point of that?”
Good question! There will be plenty more as the test unfolds, and we will try to find some answers when we wrap it all up next week.