Overview: The situation after pre-season testing
4 March 2014 – Pre-season testing has been and gone in a flash, with the opening race in Australia now just around the corner. Although the early pecking order is still far from clear, the 12 days of running – or lack of it in the case of certain teams – have provided a solid base to work from, as GPUpdate.net outlines below...
Mercedes / 4972.644 km
From the very first day of testing at Jerez, it became clear that Mercedes had put together a strong package for the upcoming season. Throughout 2013, rumours had been building that the German manufacturer's powertrain was well ahead of rivals Ferrari and Renault, with the three pre-season gatherings all but confirming those suggestions. The team will, however, be slightly concerned about reliability ahead of the first race, with the final Bahrain test proving that its W05 is not bulletproof.
Williams / 4893.432 km
Following a massive restructuring process, which has seen Pat Symonds and a number of other key technical heads arrive, Williams launched its FW36 with a great deal of optimism. And that optimism has seemingly transferred to the circuit, with the Grove-based outfit looking both fast and reliable. Felipe Massa topped the combined Bahrain timesheets, while Valtteri Bottas's final day stoppage was the team's only major issue. What was a trying 2013 season could be quickly brushed to one side...
Ferrari / 4488.516 km
Ferrari, bidding to capture its first title since the 2008 campaign, is one of the more difficult teams to read after the pre-season test period. That said, the F14 T looks solid – even if it showed a few signs of frailty last week – and the drivers behind the wheel, Fernando Alonso and Kimi Räikkönen, are undoubtedly world class. In the all-important engine department, the brand appears to be occupying the middle ground, clear of Renault's troubles but lacking driveability compared to Mercedes.
McLaren / 4153.464 km
After a highly-encouraging start at Jerez, McLaren experienced a more challenging time in the heat of Bahrain. While Jenson Button says there is plenty of potential in the MP4-29, he later admitted that work needs to be done on the development front, with the car not yet where it needs to be. There is no doubt that the outfit finds itself in a better position than at this point last year, but in terms of pure performance, fighting for victory at the opening round does not look like being a realistic aim.
Sauber / 4039.320 km
Although Sauber features high on the testing mileage charts, the C33 has shown signs of being a nervous car to drive. Both Adrian Sutil and Esteban Gutiérrez have been caught out on numerous occasions during the pre-season, with the former particularly aggrieved by the new brake-by-wire system. As Renault's powertrain struggles continue to affect four teams, the squad should be aided by its extended Ferrari partnership, but climbing out of the midfield bracket will be a tall order.
Force India / 3974.868 km
Force India made sizeable gains as the winter tests wore on. Having begun at a steady pace in southern Spain, the Silverstone-based team found another gear in the Middle East. It topped the timing screens on two occasions, and showed consistent pace over long runs. Additionally, its refreshed driver line-up has plenty to offer. The returning Nico Hülkenberg has proven that he is worthy of a top seat, while Sergio Pérez will be eager to make up for his humbling McLaren experience.
Caterham / 3313.128 km
Caterham is under massive pressure to move up the grid this season, with founder Tony Fernandes effectively describing it as a final chance. But although the team's latest creation was able to rack up the most pre-season mileage of the Renault contingent, it is lacking both one-lap and race pace. Kamui Kobayashi, who returns after a one-year hiatus, went as far as claiming that he would be better bringing a GP2 car to Melbourne's streets, hardly a ringing endorsement of the CT05...
Toro Rosso / 2436.384 km
Both Jean-Éric Vergne and Daniil Kvyat are confident that Toro Rosso's new car is fundamentally competitive, but they have been unable to prove their claims during the trio of pre-season tests. With the team switching from Ferrari to Renault power for the 2014 campaign, countless technical issues have, in a similar manner to the other three outfits supplied by the French company, restricted its mileage and left it in an unenviable situation ahead of the long-haul flight to Australia.
Red Bull / 1705.764 km
After four consecutive Drivers' and Constructors' world titles, Red Bull looks set to face a monumental task in 2014. While, as previously stated, Renault's power unit is troublesome, the design of the RB10 has caused problems of its own. Adrian Newey packages his cars as tightly as possible for optimal aerodynamic efficiency, but major cooling issues and multiple on-track failures suggest that he has overdone it this time. The team's factory will be a hive of activity over the next two weeks...
Marussia / 1686.084 km
Marussia has produced a solid, if unspectacular, car for the sport's regulation overhaul. After recovering from technical issues that saw it miss the majority of the first test at Jerez, and an IT glitch that severely hindered its running at the second Bahrain gathering, the team was able to put some serious miles on the MR03 last week. It is unlikely to set the world alight, but Ferrari power should move the long-time backmarkers ahead of key rivals Caterham and closer to the midfield.
Lotus / 1288.056 km
With Lotus completing the least pre-season mileage of all 11 teams and finishing at the bottom of the overall Bahrain timesheets, it would be a huge understatement to describe the team as 'on the back foot'. When the E22, fitted with Renault's faulty engine, was not being fettled in the garage during the two Sakhir tests that the outfit attended, it crawled around the track and on plenty of occasions broke down. Romain Grosjean and Pastor Maldonado will be hoping for a miracle down under.