Day one of the first round of Formula 1 preseason testing in Jerez, Spain yielded some big headlines as the teams took their new cars out on the track for the first time.
The day started off with two more car launches, as both Marussia and Caterham F1 Team unveiled their 2013 challengers.
The Marussia MR02 will be driven by the young Brit Max Chilton, who is thus far the only driver to be named by the team for 2013, while the Caterham CT03 will be utilized by drivers Charles Pic and Giedo van der Garde. Both cars feature updated livery, with Marussia opting for more of their trademark reddish orange and Caterham lightening up their signature green and yellow a bit from 2012. Caterham became only the third team to forego the use of a vanity panel to hide the stepped nose of their car, joining Red Bull Racing and Lotus F1 Team, while Marussia chose to add the panel to their new ride.
Once the cars took the track, it didn’t take long for big things to start happening.
McLaren brought out the first red flag of the day when Jenson Button’s MP4-28 stalled out and came to a stop in turn four after only three laps. It was later determined that a fuel pump failure was the source of the problem. Button was in the garage until mid-afternoon as his team worked to resolve the issue.
Mercedes ran into problems only a short time later, when Nico Rosberg came to a halt between turns 11 and 12 due to an electrical fire onboard his F1 W04. Rosberg had been the fastest on the track at the time of the fire, but Mercedes was forced to shut down testing for the day as they sought a solution for a faulty wiring loom which was cited as the cause of the flames. The team said they will modify the part prior to tomorrow and get their new machine back out on the track.
Lotus and Red Bull were the big winners of the first day of testing as their drivers were the only two to manage sub 1m20s laps.
Romain Grosjean of Lotus was the first driver to break the barrier around 1:30 P.M. local time in Jerez. Grosjean put in a total of 38 laps in the new Lotus E21 with a time of 1:19.798 ending up as his fastest lap of the day.
Mark Webber would eventually best Grosjean by turning out a 1:19.709 lap. However, he spent a considerably longer amount of time on the course logging 60 laps in his RB9.
McLaren’s Button was the third fastest of the day with a 1:20.081, followed by Paul di Resta of Force India who ran a 1:20.343. The two drivers completed 23 and 79 laps respectively. Rounding out the top five fastest cars of the day was Daniel Ricciardo in his Toro Rosso STR8, who managed a 1:20.401 in 59 trips around the circuit. Only two drivers failed to make it into the 1m20s range: Caterham’s van der Garde (1:21.915) and Marussia’s Chilton (1:24.176).
Despite the problems they encountered early on in the day, I wouldn’t worry if I were a McLaren or Mercedes fan. These sorts of issues arise with new cars, which is precisely why Formula 1 runs preseason tests in the first place.
Day two at Jerez should be very fun to watch as the teams rotate drivers and get some more laps in on their new cars. With the first practice runs of the Australian Grand Prix only 37 days away the teams will have to learn fast in order to get the most out of their machines and drivers.
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