Reigning Formula One world champion Sebastian Vettel has had to contend with technical delays at pre-season testing on a Spanish circuit. His Red Bull team was hardly the only one to struggle with new rules.
New regulations made their mark on at the first day of pre-season Formula One testing in Spain on Tuesday, quickly deflating enthusiasm as teams' 2014 cars took to the track for the first time.
Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen was fastest as he made his return to the team, while Red Bull driver Vettel completed just three laps. Former champion Lewis Hamilton crashed his Mercedes, and McLaren failed to make it out of the garage.
Setup problems plagued Red Bull's new RB10 car of before he emerged with just 15 minutes of testing time left. In all, only 93 laps were completed by eight of the 10 teams present at the race circuit in Jerez, Spain.
That was a far cry from the 657 on the opening day of testing last year, and provided scant value for fans who had paid for tickets.
New engines prove problematic
Teams have had to make several changes to their cars for the new season, the most major of them being the long-planned switch from a 2.4-liter V8 engine to a 1.6-liter turbo-charged V6.
"The car looks very different - especially underneath," said Vettel, whose former team mate Mark Webber has been swapped for another Australian, Daniel Ricciardo.
"There is a lot going on. The technology behind it is really complex," Vettel said. "We are all starting with a sheet of white paper. We will know more after the first tests and the first grand prix. It will take a bit of time to adjust."
Changes on the nose
Among the other enforced changes are new noses for the vehicles, introduced to limit the chances of cars taking flight during collisions. Red Bull 's veteran designer and technical director, Adrian Newey, however, said at testing he was "concerned the opposite may occur" and cars could "submarine."
Raikkonen - back at the team where he won the 2007 drivers' title - said the aim of the week was for both drivers and their teams to get used to their new cars:
"The biggest challenge is just getting all the things working as we want," he said. "Everyone wants to see more laps and obviously we want to do more laps, but it is pretty normal with such a big change. It will take time before we can all go at 100 percent. Lap times don't mean anything right now. We are just trying to get the car working as well as we can."
Prayers for Schumi
A host of drivers expressed their ongoing concern for F1's most succesful driver in history, Michael Schumacher, who remains in a coma after a skiing accident on December 29. The Mercedes cars of Brit Hamilton and German team mate Nico Rosberg both carried the Twitter hashtag #KeepFightingMichael on their chassis, with Schumacher's teammate of three seasons Rosberg saying the team wanted to show they were "thinking of him and hoping for the best every day."
Vettel said he was "still shocked as everyone and obviously I pray and hope a miracle will happen and he will come back and be the person he has always been before."
Pre-season testing continues in Jerez until Friday, then moves to Bahrain from February 19 to 22 and February 27 to March 2. The 2014 season opens on March 16 with the Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne.
ph/msh (AP, AFP, Reuters)