Nico Rosberg, Mercedes, Jerez, 2014

Mercedes’ reliability gives it the initiative at Jerez

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Williams FW09, 1984In the last turbo era, reliability was often its own reward. The maxim “to finish first, you must first finish” seldom rang truer than when Formula One teams last grappled with the complexities of high-performance blown engines.

Points were only offered down to sixth place during the eighties and it wasn’t uncommon for there to be only a handful of non-points-scoring finishers.

Cars have become so reliable in recent seasons that teams could almost take it for granted they would finish a race. But at the dawning of this new engine formula that no longer appears to be the case.

Reliability is the first goal for teams at this early stage in the season. And those who achieve it will have an added advantage, as last week’s test in Jerez illustrated.

Engine manufacturers’ test mileages

The mileages logged by F1’s three engines manufacturers varied significantly. Ferrari completed nearly three times as many laps as Renault – but Mercedes did almost twice as much again:

EngineTotal distance (km)Total laps

This of course does not include shakedown running completed prior to the test. Mercedes, Force India and Toro Rosso are all known to have run their cars beforehand.

Both Mercedes and Ferrari appear to have achieved a reasonable level of early reliability with their engines. But what made the difference for Mercedes is not so much impressive the out-of-the-box performance of the works team’s W05, but the quality of the contribution made by its three customer teams.

As this graph shows the Mercedes W05 only covered 58 laps more than Ferrari’s F14 T. However Mercedes had more data flowing in from McLaren, Force India and Williams than Ferrari did from Sauber and Marussia – the latter only getting their new car on track late on day three.

McLaren’s recovery from their earlier setback was particularly impressive. Having failed to emerge from the garage at all on day one they almost caught up with Ferrari in terms of total mileage by the end of the test.

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Nico Rosberg, Mercedes, Jerez, 2014While having reliability is important enough on its own, it brings with it the added bonus of being able to push their development programme along at a faster rate than Ferrari and much quicker than Renault, who are mired in all kinds of problems with their Energy F1 unit.

Drivers and lap times

Although it would be premature to infer a pecking order among the teams from last week’s test, the lap times give a further indication of Mercedes’ early advantage. All nine Mercedes-powered drivers appear among the top eleven lap times, with just the two Ferrari drivers appearing in the middle of them.

Even taking into account the varying conditions and the wide differences in performance between the different types of tyres (some of which did not carry identifying markings during the test), that pattern is a persuasive sign Mercedes have the early edge on performance as well as reliability.

1Kevin MagnussenMcLarenMercedes1’23.276162
2Felipe MassaWilliamsMercedes1’23.7000.424133
3Lewis HamiltonMercedesMercedes1’23.9520.676121
4Jenson ButtonMcLarenMercedes1’24.1650.88983
5Kimi RaikkonenFerrariFerrari1’24.8121.53678
6Valtteri BottasWilliamsMercedes1’25.3442.06842
7Fernando AlonsoFerrariFerrari1’25.4952.219173
8Nico RosbergMercedesMercedes1’25.5882.312188
9Nico HulkenbergForce IndiaMercedes1’26.0962.82017
10Sergio PerezForce IndiaMercedes1’28.3765.10048
11Daniel JuncadellaForce IndiaMercedes1’29.4576.18181
12Jean-Eric VergneToro RossoRenault1’29.9156.63945
13Adrian SutilSauberFerrari1’30.1616.885103
14Jules BianchiMarussiaFerrari1’32.2228.94625
15Esteban GutierrezSauberFerrari1’33.2709.99460
16Marcus EricssonCaterhamRenault1’37.97514.69912
17Sebastian VettelRed BullRenault1’38.32015.04411
18Kamui KobayashiCaterhamRenault1’43.19319.91754
19Daniil KvyatToro RossoRenault1’44.01620.7409
20Daniel RicciardoRed BullRenault1’45.37422.09810
Robin FrijnsCaterhamRenault10
Max ChiltonMarussiaFerrari5

The next two tests at a much hotter venue will reveal whether that pattern persists in more challenging conditions – and if Renault can bounce back from their disastrous start to the new season.

2014 F1 season

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Images ?? Honda, Mercedes/Hoch Zwei

Author information

Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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58 comments on “Mercedes’ reliability gives it the initiative at Jerez”

  1. @keithcollantine Correction on the final table: it says Frijns and Chilton used Caterham and Marussia engines, though I doubt these teams would be able to build their own engines with their current budgets..

    1. I think it’s meant like that, somehow due to the fact that they have no recorded lap times

  2. I know its early days but Renault`s problems must be severely worrying for its teams,shocking.

    1. Renault’s troubles remind me of Top Gear always making fun of French reliability ;)

      1. I am not so sure it’s all Renault’s fault given that Caterham managed to do 54 laps in 1 day. Newey after all did design that contraption that cost Kimi the Championship at MacLaren, always falling apart.

        1. Eugene flowers
          2nd February 2014, 18:45

          I heard the majority of those Caterham laps were competed with the ERS being disabled. However, I’m struggling to find the article. Anyone?

        2. @blackmamba: Newey also designed the car that enabled him to fight for WC in the first place. Then also Kimi had quite a few races where he made mistakes on his own (Australia – minimum 4 points lost on Alonso, Europe – 12 points lost on Alonso). The championship would have been a lot closer.

  3. Thanks Keith for a great conclusion on the tests! I’m definitely looking forward to the Bahrain tests to see what happens next! Can’t wait!

    1. @wpinrui Me too, and I remember a year ago someone here said that tests were becoming more and more boring with no dramas, well you certainly can’t say that now :)

    2. I doubt we will learn anything more from Bahrain other than confirming Merc and Ferrari engines are reliable in the heat as well. Red Bull will still have a huge headache as realistically there is not enough time to sort out the mess they are in. The good thing for the next test is that no one can afford to sandbag so we will have a more realistic picture of the pecking order going into the season opener. Williams and MacLaren appeared to be chasing the time a little too hard in Jerez, and the MacLaren looked suspiciously to close to a race ready car with their suspension to wonder if there is any more to come. If they manage to keep running at the very front in the 2 tests then we will know they have a shot at the Championships. All very exciting though.

  4. This is where Mercedes having so many customers running their engine is giving them a big boost, especially over Ferrari who have only two much smaller-resourced teams compared to giants like McLaren and Williams. I think it’s still early days when trying to determine which engine manufacturer has the outright best engine but Mercedes have such a big pool of data to draw on I wouldn’t be surprised to see a clear picture develop over the coming weeks.

    Should Ferrari have been more aggressive in trying to get other teams on board and prevent such a disparity? Surely the more teams you have running one engine in such a season, the better the performance and reliability will be going forward?

    1. I highly doubt big teams like RB, McLaren or Williams will go into a partnership with their biggest rival.

      1. No, but what @colossal-squid is suggesting is that data from all three Merceds Benz powered teams will send data back to MB which will be used to further refine and develop the engines.

      2. @udm7 No I’m not suggesting that, but what of smaller teams such as Force India, Caterham ect? Would it be of benefit to Ferrari to have more teams being supplied with their engines? It appears to be of benefit to Mercedes.

    2. Surely the more teams you have running one engine in such a season, the better the performance and reliability will be going forward

      Don’t forget that Ferrari with bigger resources is managing 2 customer teams whereas Mercedes is managing 3

  5. If the Mercredes Engine proves to be so good and reliable after this season is over, it will be fascinating to see what happenes when McLaren switch to Honda….

    1. I’m sure they already have engineers from Honda at their factory looking at the design of the Merc engine. It would be the height of stupidity on Honda’s part if they don’t check out the competition and look for ways to out do them.

      1. That is one of the interesting things though. I doubt Mercredes would let anyone from Honda near their engine. I remember reading that while close co-operation would continue between McLaren and Mercredes; Mercredes would be taking steps to ensure McLaren/Honda were not able to get sensative data/information about the engine. How this works in practice, I have no idea…I remember reading it somewhere though….

          1. Yeah, that’s just posturing from Toto. You can most definitely not guarantee that information won’t cross over to Honda. I am sure Boullier has got a lot of tales to tell to his new employer about the Lotus and its characteristics, such as the benefits of its 2 pronged nose.

  6. Pretty telling how every team with Mercedes engines were able to put in more laps than the vast majority of their rivals. And considering the fact that Honda will add another new variable next year, we’ve already got a very interesting situation in this era of F1.

  7. MatthewRacing (@)
    2nd February 2014, 17:09

    Is there a reason why Juncadella and Frinjs were given a day each in the cars instead of the race drivers?

    1. Reserve drivers need to get a feeling for the car in real life since it is they who do the bulk of the simulator work necessary for developing the car.

  8. Is there a way to calculate how much time each team got out of their engines as long as they are at the track? obviously all the Mercedes teams were there from the start but Ferrari had Marussia missing for the first two days and most of the third and Renault didn’t have lotus at all. I don’t think that we can conclude that Mercedes have an ultimately more reliable engine yet when they pretty much have two extra cars on the track which adds up to about twice as many laps run.

  9. RBR is a very quick car, as soon as engines are sorted, they will win 5th WC.

    1. As much as this may be right, I would like to know what data you’re using to make such a confident statement.

      1. Indeed, @nin13 your opinion is unsubstantiated at the moment. RBR barely got it’s wheels on the track.

    2. @nin13, Marty McFly, is that you? You where supposed to get the 1950-2000 Grays Sports Almanac, not the 2000-2015 version!

      1. @nin13 @rally-man
        Can I borrow the almanac please?

    3. Worrying thou for Renault is that when they did run all the Renault powered cars were way way way of the pace suggesting a rethink might be needed which would take months not weeks to get to grips with. Either way we are going to see what Vettel is made if he is not running at the front. Might just be what he needs to elevate himself to legend status and demand the respect he feels he is due from his peers and critics.

    4. Of course the engine may not be sorted till next year, if so RBR will be in the WC.

  10. So excited thinking that this could be the year either Hamilton or Button gets his second title (a girl can hope). Only thing tempering it really is the traditional Red Bull dominance of the last half of the second coupled with the double points coming along to make a mockery of the whole thing…

    1. The backing MacLaren have put behind MiniMag suggests they have belief he is in the mould of Hamilton and they expect big things from him. Having watched him in the lower classes I tend to agree, don’t be surprised to see him do to Button what Hamilton did to Alonso. As for Hamilton himself I think he is going to find himself in a mighty tussle with Rosberg whom I feel the new cars would suit much better btwn the pair. Preserving the car to the finish line is expected to be the name of the game in the early part of the new era and I think Rosberg is much better at nursing the tyres, the fuel, torque and ERS compared to Hamilton’s banzai style. That is if the Merc is even competitive to begin with.

      1. It’s too simple to label 1 driver hard on the car and another not. It’s more complex like in 2012 Button would thrash Hamilton due to tyre use but in reality on occasion Hamilton looked after his tyres better. In F1 things are never so black and white only certain media would play on such things out of dumbed down sensationalism or pure ignorance.

        1. There is some evidence though I have to say, like Malaysia last year. For 2 thirds of the race Hamilton was much faster and pulling away from Rosberg and hanging with the Bulls but towards the end he was running out of fuel and the tyres were shot, allowing Rosberg to cruise to his gear box. I just feel that is gonna be a feature of this new era.

          1. It may well happen but Rosberg also had reliability issues last year and I do not think this was down to driving style. Malaysia could well have been mis information on fuel loads a calculation error from Hamiltons race engineer or other. The driver does not have a fuel guage although if they did this would bring an extra strategic skill element to a drivers role.

          2. I dont buy it. In spain Rosberg took care of his tyres much better than Hamilton, to the point the team was constantly urging Hamilton to coast through some of the corners, like Rosberg was doing.

          3. @blackmamba
            No way, Rosberg was easily faster than Hamilton in Malaysia. He was faster than Lewis in every stint.

          4. @blackmamba

            Rosberg had some problems with tyres and fuel saving too, the most recent being Brazil 2013…

      2. @blackmamba, so if the Mercedes is reliable but not ultra quick which driver style would you favour, then if as it appears the Merc is both reliable and quick why would you choose a different driver?

        1. @hohum – don’t get me wrong I much prefer the all out attack drivers like Lewis, Kobayashi, Grosjean and to a certain extent Alonso but it would be ill advised of them to be spinning their rear tyres out of the corners due to the torque on these cars. It may be more fun to watch for a while but after they destroy their tyres they would be limping home while the more ‘feel’ type of drivers breeze past them on their serene way to the points. I’m just saying the consensus is that races are gonna be more marathon than sprint so it would make sense to pace yourself for the whole race a la ‘Driving Ms Daisy’ style, even though it’s boring! There is no point disappearing down the road with all systems turned up only to stop 3 laps from home coz you ran out of fuel.

          1. Only time will tell.

  11. The benefits of engine mileage will be finite. Ferrari Mercedes Renault only have to reach a certain mileage to check all engine situations. Once a certain level is reached in mileage the rest maybe surplas as far as engines are concerned. I am sure Ferrari will reach the mileage they need although Mercedes will do this faster. As long as you reach a certain level you will not lose out.

    1. True, but once that milage is “reached”, then they can concentrate on other things like improved engine maps and focus on ways to improve performance within the limitations of the regs.

      1. They probably do this at the same time they work on a matrix when testing and setting things up due to limited time frame. Plus there is a mileage limit in testing so if you hit it too early you have to park up although this is per team. Mercedes extra laps can be used by Ferrari at a later test when may possibly be better served should either be anywhere near the test limit. Intricate engine performance are likely to be team specific due to different packaging and aero effects on cooling. At the moment it’s relatively basic engine maps cooling data thats collected. The fact Merc have done the most mileage is in no way a bad thing and is a benefit I just question the extent that some people are putting on this data from the 1st test

  12. The Ferrari engine was not unreliable at Jerez… they just had less teams lapping around the track.

  13. It was a terrible test for the Renault teams, there is no doubting that. But if it is an easy fix as some have been saying, RBR and the others could rack up the miles in no time and be relatively set by Melbourne from an engine point of view.
    I think the biggest problem for the teams could be their lack of set up experience and work with the tyres. Even in the cold, the teams would have all learnt something about using the new Pirellis. Plus Mercedes, Mclaren and Ferrari were all out with aero monitoring kits at Jerez, which as the article points out, is a sign that their track time means they can push on with the development program, which after such a big regs change, is going to provide a very steep learning curve!

  14. I’m interested to know how many people on here predicted that Ferrari engines would be in Renault’s current position.

    1. The rumors were in favour of Renault in terms of reliability and drivability and Mercedes in terms of horsepower, i don’t know why but the numbers of engine failure Ferrari suffered in the last decade can be counted on one hand, i just remember Shumacher retiring in Suzuka 2006 and it was very unusual to see a Ferrari engine failure, if i’m not wrong it was the first failure in 5 or 6 years

      1. also alonso in malaysia 2010. Those are rare and far in between. I also didn’t get people saying ferrari would be unreliable. I always thought if V8 era learned us something it was that you can always count on renault to spoil red bull’s day.

      2. Yep. I think I remember someone saying that the Ferrari engine had done a lap of the Earth since the last breakdown (may be mistaken and no source, just a vague memory).

  15. It will be more important…

  16. Funny that the Force India test driver got twice as many laps as their race drivers did.

  17. If anyone needs a visual and audible reminder of the difference between the Mercedes and Renault engines at Jerez, have a look at two of the videos I took on Day 2:

  18. LMAO! I bet STR is banging their heads for having changed engine suppliers!!! But in honesty, it´s better that Ferrari is not supplying them the engines because if they were, they would get all the info about the power units.
    I hope Renault suffers big time this season!

  19. As much as the Jerez test appears to suggest this, I still believe it is too early to hold that Mercedes engines are so reliable. This is true since the teams had differing mileages not solely because of reliability of the engines. This is true in the case of Marussia, Sauber & Ferrari. I think the Jerez test is not entirely representative of the reliability issue. I wish to quote Niki Lauda from January 3, 2014 “If it goes beyond just a few degrees above a certain limit, it tears up everything“. I am eager to know what is the situation come the more hot conditions of Bahrain. That being said, I would have been more interested in knowing how many stoppages each team had and what was the cause for it i.e. whether engine related or something else.

  20. And every one is an expert

    1. I want to add that these experts views just support their favorites and may not be the true facts . Everybody is jumping on the bandwagon after one test week, a clearer picture will emerge after the next test sessions and we will only really know in Australia.

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