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Report: F1's First Day of 2014 Testing

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On: Thu, Jan 30, 2014 at 3:09PM | By: Nick Bakewell

Report: F1's First Day of 2014 Testing

Today marked the first day that 2014’s flotilla of title contenders were allowed to run on track, and I’m pleased to say that it fit my expectations and predictions to a T. The first of the three pre-season tests began today at Circuito de Jerez, and will be followed by two further tests at Sakhir International Circuit in Bahrain.

In a technical exposé that accompanied the debut of their car, the MP4-29, McLaren’s sporting director Sam Michael posited that any teams that managed to finish the first few races would likely have some decent points to show for it. For the first time in recent memory, F1’s focus has shifted from outright pace to bare reliability, and this was visible in spades following the first day of testing. Ferrari’s prodigal child, Kimi Raikkonen, piloting the F-14T, recorded the highest number of laps today at 31, followed by Lewis Hamilton in the Mercedes W05. Even incumbent World Champion Sebastian Vettel recorded only three laps, none of which were timed.

Mechanical and electrical issues abounded across the board, with several cars breaking down halfway through their exploratory installation laps, resulting in red flags. McLaren found themselves unable to get the car running at all, delaying Jenson Button’s chance to begin acclimating himself to the new machinery.

When you consider how monstrously complex these cars’ powertrains have become, all this breaking down and crapping out is forgivable. The new regulations have imposed a raft of very significant changes to the cars’ fundamental designs, and have finally given engineering teams a chance to stretch their limbs a little bit and get creative. Since the first shots of the 2014 cars surfaced late last week, the F1 body fanatic has been collectively bemoaning the sheer hideousness that the new regulations have engendered. Prima facie, I sympathized, particularly regarding the new Ferrari, with its morose, anteater-esque nose. Upon further reflection, however, I’ve changed my mind. The cars may not be as breathtakingly beautiful as they were during the previous turbo era (the 1980s), but unlike previous seasons, all the cars have something to distinguish between them besides their paint schemes and sponsor logos. Most people, I’ll wager, couldn’t have differentiated between most of the cars last season if they’d seen them stripped of their liveries. There’s no mistaking who’s who this season, however, whether it be the aforementioned anteater snout on the Ferrari, the “trident-style” protuberance lunging off the nose of the McLaren, or the incongruous asymmetrical fork fronting the new Lotus. It feels like the cars have personality again, and that’s something to be lauded.

Testing will continue tomorrow, when some rain is forecast, and then it’s only a month and a half until the first race in Australia. Even if the extreme reliability issues we’ve seen today have been somewhat curbed by that point, it’s still sure to make for more interesting and diverse racing than we’ve seen in previous seasons (particularly last year). More uncertainty in the field can’t be a bad thing as far as the fans are concerned; I feel it’ll put a little bit of the “show” back into a sport that had become all but rote pantomime. I’m very, very excited—and you should be too.

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