Hallelujah! Just when we were getting depressed, fans are enjoying the sights of an F1 car speeding round a track for the first time in 2014.
The start of pre-season testing is always a curious affair, with drivers remembering which button does what, mechanics hoping they can recall where the fuel goes in and fans generally staring at each car hoping it’s the one they think it is.
It was the same story this year at Jerez as already weary engineers wake up usually before they went to sleep the previous night, while drivers don hilarious woolly hats they could for a week of mostly being sat in the garage interrupted with the odd trip out on to the circuit.
Journalists meanwhile sit in the Media Centre having a mini party as they were finally away from the family who had talked non-stop about ‘stuff’ ever since they arrived back from Interlagos the previous November, and, much like the drivers driving, interrupted the biscuits and coffee for the odd bit of writing as some poor guy had once again broken down exiting turn one coming out of the pits.
Inevitably this also started the annual ‘Who can get the best picture of a recovery vehicle’ competition among the photographers around the circuit.
What was different about Jerez 2014 however was this was the start of something different, to quote the Nina Simone song: “It’s a new dawn, it’s a new day, it’s a new liiiiife… for me, and I’m feeeeeelin’ gooooood!”
New cars really are nothing new for the opening test of a fresh season, but this year they came complete with a new soundtrack, the first time anyone other than a man in a lab coat had properly heard a V6 turbo at approaching full chat easing round a racetrack.
Unsurprisingly this got a lot of the older members of the F1 family running around clutching their privates harping on about the good times of the 1970′s and 80′s – the last time the sport had such engines.
For the younger fans it was period of adjustment, after whining about the loss of the V10 roar for 7 years some began complaining about the end of the V8 scream, happily these people can be put under a certain category because joining them in their defiance to the new era is Mr ‘I don’t know what I want’ himself Bernie Ecclestone.
For those of you who didn’t work it out, I endorse ‘change’, I don’t mind new ideas, new technology even new gimmicks providing the sport remains about racing and some level of ‘extreme’ is maintained.
Certainly the challenge of producing a V6 engine that runs with just 100kg of fuel over 300km while also having a whopping big turbo and a system that turns something wasteful into more (Clarkson-style) power I would consider ‘extreme’.
The early signs too are good for something most F1 agree does need to change, the end of the domination by ‘Ze German’.
Indeed Sebastian Vettel stormed out of Spain on Wednesday probably wishing he’d stayed at home thinking up names for his new car after all a good name is perhaps all the RB10 could have going for it based on the events of Jerez.
Newly appointed PR man Daniel Ricciardo tried his best to put a positive spin on Red Bull’s outlook, claiming that while the team barely managed 20 laps all week everything would be OK, heck he even argued that despite Mercedes managing nearly 25 times the number of laps, the car itself might be a second per lap slower!
What was obvious from the first pre-season test is that anything powered by a British built-German engine and to a lesser extent an Italian engine are enduring far fewer problems than a French equivalent.
Over the four days Mercedes engines completed 849 laps with four teams, compared to Ferrari’s 437 from three teams and Renault with just 151 by their three customers.
The opening test wasn’t just about new engines as a number of new drivers put on their best media smiles before getting behind the wheel, and some made their debuts with new teams.
Certainly near the top of the ‘Most impressive newbie’ list was McLaren’s latest hot-shot Kevin Magnussen. The Dane set the fastest time of the week on Thursday and put in 110 laps on Friday, however two late incidents prove he is still a little rough around the edges.
Sushi restaurants reopened for business near Jerez as Japanese Kamui Kobayashi returned with Caterham. After a year with Ferrari in 2013, fans all over the world jumped for joy as he also set the most number of laps for any Renault powered car with 54 on Friday, before gearbox issues forced him off the track midway through the afternoon.
Finally Felipe Massa stepped out of Fernando Alonso’s shadow, making his first appearance in the dark blue of Williams. He wasn’t left feeling blue however after a successful week topping the damp final day and enjoying the new V6 era.
All in all Jerez was just a taster for what the upcoming 2014 season may have to offer, it’s left more questions than answers but much more importantly fans can rest easy knowing the new season is getting closer all the time!
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