Formula One teams began their final pre-season test in Bahrain on Thursday with champions Red Bull and engine partners Renault still struggling as Mercedes-powered rivals racked up the laps.
Australian Daniel Ricciardo, Sebastian Vettel’s new team mate at Red Bull, started off with a promising 32 laps in the morning but an attempt at a longer run in the afternoon was aborted.
He told reporters that the team were still playing catch up after a difficult first two tests in Spain and Bahrain: “We’re definitely not up to scratch with where we’d like to be in terms of programme,” he said.
“It’s clear we probably won’t come out to Melbourne and dominate as the team did last year, but it’s still very early to say. We’re getting there. The morning was definitely better and we definitely made a step forward in terms of power.”
With the season starting in Australia on March 16, the four Mercedes-powered teams – Mercedes, McLaren, Force India and Williams – have looked well ahead of the four using Renault engines.
The works Mercedes team of Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg alone completed 3,073 km over the first eight days of testing in Spain and Bahrain while the four Renault teams together managed only 4,019 km.
The Red Bull spent much of the afternoon in the garage before Ricciardo, who has replaced compatriot Mark Webber, managed seven more laps.
Red Bull`s race engineering coordinator Andy Damerum said the afternoon run had been cut short when the sensors reported some issues that turned out to be a problem with the exhaust.
Mercedes teams were the only ones to have carried out race simulations before the final test with four times world champion Vettel’s Red Bull risking heading for Melbourne without having gone a full race distance in one stint.