Bahrain Test 2, Day One: Force India fastest as Mercedes runners rout Renault rivals
Red Bull in "serious trouble" after RB10 overheats again; All of the Mercedes runners enjoy a productive day; Renault teams only manage combined total of 145 laps; Ferrari trial new nose designs
By Pete Gill
Last Updated: 28/02/14 8:58am
On a hugely encouraging day for all four of the Mercedes-powered quartet, Sergio Perez topped the timesheets with a mid-morning lap of 1:35.290 in the VJM07.
While the Mexican's lap was two seconds slower than the benchmark time set by Nico Rosberg's W05 at last week's Bahrain meet, the Silverstone-based team also enjoyed the additional - and perhaps more significant - boost of completing a race simulation along with fellow Merc teams McLaren and the consistently-impressive Williams.
Endorsing their credentials to be considered the dark horses in the fast-approaching 2014 campaign, Valtteri Bottas racked up 128 laps - almost as many as Renault runners Red Bull, Toro Rosso, Lotus and Caterham combined - in the process of setting the second-best time of the day for the revitalized Williams outfit.
The Mercedes works team, meanwhile, completed another 100 laps with the Silver Arrows outfit focused on race procedure work - including practice pit stops and starts - during the afternoon session.
But what a contrast at Red Bull as the World Champions endured their umpteenth troubled-filled day of the winter and a drama lurched into apparent crisis.
How the mighty appear to be falling. Having scarcely got out of the blocks in the opening two tests of the winter, the RB10 was limited to less than 40 laps on Thursday as Red Bull's new car once again suffered from acute overheating.
Still yet to lap within five seconds of Mercedes' Bahrain-best time, and with just three days of winter testing remaining, the team's prospects for the season-opening Australian GP appear to be dire.
"If the remaining three days of this test continue the way day one has, I think Red Bull might struggle to get out of Q1 when we get rid of the slowest teams in Melbourne! It is that serious and even if they get towards the middle or front part of the grid, it looks like they will only complete half the race then break down," warned Sky Sports F1's Ted Kravitz. "It is very, very serious for Red Bull."
While the ultra-tight packaging at the rear of the RB10 has been deemed culpable for the bulk of Red Bull's travails, the fact that all of the Renault runners were once again down on mileage compared to their Mercedes counterparts told an equally worrying tale for the World Champions as they try to plot a route back to respectability.
Although Toro Rosso managed 56 laps, two fewer than their single-day winter best, Lotus packed up for Day One when an exhaust issue struck after just 31 while the Caterham broke down after less than an hour.
In total, the Renault teams completed an insubstantial 145 laps - a third of the combined Mercedes tally.
As so often this winter, Ferrari were the best of the rest as Kimi Raikkonen enjoyed a productive run in the F14 T, registering the third-quickest time of the day as the team trialled a series of new nose designs.
Curiously, on a day of repeats at Bahrain, a late stoppage for the Ferrari brought about an early end to proceedings for the second day of testing at Bahrain in row, although on this occasion the cause looked to be mechanical.
Ironically, having spent the previous five hours locked away in its garage, the Red Bull was the lone car on track as the red flag fell ahead of schedule.
It's turning into that sort of winter for the embattled World Champions.