Jerez Day 4: Williams' Felipe Massa was fastest as Red Bull ended their work early
World Champions' struggle continues; Mercedes-powered teams end week on top with Alonso completing 100+ laps for Ferrari on Friday
By Mike Wise
Last Updated: 31/01/14 9:12pm
While the World Champions ponder how they might overcome the poor reliability they have endured in southern Spain with their RB10 car, their closest rivals can be forgiven for feeling a glint of satisfaction at the end what has undoubtedly been a testing week for everyone.
Mercedes, in particular, might be forgiven for feeling happy after four days of running that has seen them lead the way in terms of mileage. If reliability is what counts at this stage then the Silver Arrows have the edge, with Nico Rosberg completing a full race distance - and then some - on the final morning with no problems.
Such was Rosberg's progress, in fact, that Mercedes felt able to hand the W05 back to Lewis Hamilton during the afternoon, with the pair racking up 91 and 41 laps respectively.
Red Bull, meanwhile, were once again to be found at the bottom of the pile. Daniel Ricciardo at least managed to set a time but the bare figures - seven laps completed with a best of 1:45s - summed up their week. With the Australian again having spent most of the morning in the pits as the team struggled with what they simply termed "a mechanical issue", they bowed to the inevitable early in the afternoon.
Moreover, the gap between all the Renault-powered teams and the rest remained stark, although Kamui Kobayashi's 54 laps on his return to F1 action with Caterham was at least an improvement. He ended the day ninth fastest, ahead of Daniil Kvyat, whose Toro Rosso managed just two more laps than Ricciardo's Red Bull before stopping on track.
Up at the sharp end, Massa wound up P1 with a time of 1:28.229s - the times coming down during the afternoon after a damp start to the day, but still several seconds slower than Thursday's. Next up was Fernando Alonso, who was able to place Ferrari well in the reliability stakes too after completing a total of 115 laps.
Making his debut as Force India's reserve, Daniel Juncadella was third fastest and completed 81 laps ahead of Kevin Magnussen, whose second day in the McLaren saw him complete 110 laps - the young Dane also indulging in a couple of spins, one of which wiped the front wing off his car and brought the session to a premature end.
The presence of Jules Bianchi's Marussia between Hamilton and Rosberg gives indication enough as to where Mercedes' priorities lie just now, although the Frenchman's 25 laps will be valuable enough to the backmarkers as they work hard to improve the MR03. Sauber's Adrian Sutil also split them, with the German completing 69 laps but also spinning off.
Rosberg and Ricciardo both might have finished their day's work by lunchtime - but, of course, for different reasons. And in the finest tradition of sporting interviews, both also assumed a level of certainty at odds with their current standing: Rosberg modestly saying Mercedes are still unsure of their ultimate pace, with Ricciardo bullishly predicting that his team will be back on it in Bahrain.
There's no reason to suspect Red Bull won't be, but neither was there any suspicion at the outset that their week would turn out the way it has. In contrast, there has long been a feeling that Mercedes' reliability would be strong; now it needs the performance to match as teams focus more on lap times in the weeks to come.
Jerez test, Day Four timesheet:
1. Massa, Williams-Mercedes, 1:28.229, 86 laps
2. Alonso, Ferrari, 1:29.145, 115 laps
3. Juncadella, Force India-Mercedes, 1:29.457, 81 laps
4. Magnussen, McLaren-Mercedes, 1:30.806, 110 laps
5. Hamilton, Mercedes, 1:30.822, 41 laps
6. Bianchi, Marussia-Ferrari, 1:32.222, 25 laps
7. Sutil, Sauber-Ferrari, 1:36.571, 69 laps
8. Rosberg, Mercedes, 1:36.951, 91 laps
9. Kobayashi, Caterham-Renault, 1:43.193, 54 laps
10. Kvyat, Toro Rosso-Renault, 1:44.016, 9 laps
11. Ricciardo, Red Bull-Renault, 1:45.374, 7 laps.
Total laps completed by each team at Jerez
Mercedes - 309.
Ferrari - 251.
McLaren - 245.
Williams - 175.
Sauber - 163.
Force India - 146.
Caterham - 76.
Toro Rosso - 54.
Marussia - 30.
Red Bull - 21.
Laps completed by each engine manufacturer
Mercedes - 875.
Ferrari - 444.
Renault - 151.
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