Magnussen, 21, had to wait until the afternoon to get his first taste of the MP4-29 as teething troubles on Tuesday meant that McLaren opted to give Jenson Button more time in the car on Thursday morning. When the Briton relinquished the Mercedes-powered machine at lunchtime he’d completed 40 laps and set the fastest time of the day to that point, but Magnussen was able to go quicker still a couple of hours later. On top of that, his tally of 52 laps gave the Woking team a total of 92 for the day - the most of any team.
“This was a big day for me,” said Magnussen. “I had butterflies in my stomach and had trouble sleeping last night - I’m a rookie, and I was just excited to get in the car. Equally, however, this doesn’t feel like my first day at work: I know everybody at McLaren, so I really felt at home.
“Happily, everything worked as it should, and the car felt good. I’m pretty pleased with our reliability - to have done as many laps as I did in just half a day was pretty positive. I’m not taking too much from the fact that I set the fastest time - I was pushing, but it wasn’t a balls-to-the-wall lap. We wanted to get good data and learn about the car, so I think everyone is pushing out there.”
Sandwiched between the McLarens on the timesheets were fellow Mercedes-powered runners Felipe Massa, who was spending his first day at the wheel of Williams’ new FW36, and Lewis Hamilton. The 2008 world champion briefly took Mercedes’ F1 W05 to the quickest time of the week so far, before being leapfrogged by first Magnussen and then Massa to end the day with the third best lap.
“It was good to get Lewis back in the car today for his first real opportunity to drive some good laps and explore the performance of the W05,” said Paddy Lowe, Mercedes’ executive director (technical).
“We made a relatively strong start to the day and completed two medium length runs before lunch. We began running again at around 14:30, completing a couple more runs before a transmission issue brought our day to an early close. Nevertheless, we achieved reasonable mileage overall with a total of 62 laps and learned a great deal more about the car. The target for tomorrow will be to continue making progress in our understanding of the car and put more miles on what is still a very new technical package.”
Making his first test appearance of 2014, Fernando Alonso put another 58 laps on Ferrari’s new F14 T, although the Spaniard was one of several drivers to bring out the red flags after stopping on track during the session. Another to do so was Force India’s Nico Hulkenberg who was restricted to just 17 laps because of technical issues. The German finished just behind Alonso with the sixth fastest time.
“It’s difficult to give a lot of feedback after my first day in the car because most of my time was spent doing mapping and data collection with some constant speed runs,” explained Hulkenberg.
“I’ve yet to really get a feel for the car. My first impressions are that the new era of Formula One feels very different to the car I drove in Brazil last year. It’s a very different sensation, but you have to remember this is very early days and there is a lot more to come. Things will evolve quickly over the next few weeks because the car is very much a work in progress and we still have lots to learn.”
Jean-Eric Vergne took seventh in the standings in the Toro Rosso STR9, his total of 30 laps considerably greater than sister team - and fellow Renault-powered runners - Red Bull could manage. The world champions’ RB10 had completed just 11 laps in Sebastian Vettel’s hands prior to Thursday, and managed just three more with Daniel Ricicardo in the cockpit as technical problems set in once more.
“We worked hard yesterday to make the changes it was felt were necessary to overcome the problems we identified and we were hopeful of a more successful day today,” Red Bull’s race engineering co-ordinator Andy Damerum said.
“Unfortunately, the measures we took only partially solved the issue and, as with yesterday, it’s more sensible to stop and dig deeper into finding a solution. It’s obviously not where we want to be and naturally the whole team is frustrated by these issues. However, we’re pretty good at bouncing back from this type of thing. This is where the whole team pulls together and I’m sure we will get these problems fixed.”
Adrian Sutil was the last driver to record a time in the Sauber C33 and logged good mileage for the Swiss team before crashing entering Turn 7.
“It’s early on, so the systems are not always working exactly as they should, but we had a few decent runs,” said Sutil, who was enjoying his first run with his new team.
“Our biggest issue was the brake-by-wire system, so we still need to work on that. Also to get a feeling for the tyres is quite tricky. The hard tyre is very hard, so it is going to be a big challenge to make them work.
“Towards the end of the session we did a few installation laps. On the last one the tyres lost a lot of temperature, it caught me by surprise when I accelerated out of the corner, shifting up from third to fourth on a straight line, and suddenly the car snapped and I went off. It’s all repairable but it will be a long night.”
Making their first appearances of 2014 were Caterham test driver Robin Frijns and Marussia’s Max Chilton, who gave the Ferrari-powered MR03 its debut run. Technical problems prevented Dutchman Frijns from completing a flying lap, whilst Marussia were pleased to complete several installation laps after delaying their new car’s arrival in Spain.
“After a huge effort by the whole team, the five laps we have achieved today may seem scant reward,” said chief engineer Dave Greenwood. “However, as has been seen up and down the pit lane over the past few days, the first day of testing with this very sophisticated level of technology has really been all about ensuring the systems are reliable and also to give the engineering teams initial track data and the necessary time to aid their understanding of the car. The laps we were able to complete were without issue, so we are pretty pleased with the start we have made to our testing programme.”
Testing continues at Jerez on Friday on what is the last day of testing at the Spanish venue this winter, ahead of two subsequent four-day tests in Bahrain.
Unofficial Thursday test times from Jerez:
1. Kevin Magnussen, McLaren, 1m 23.276s, 52 laps
2. Felipe Massa, Williams, 1m 23.700s, 47 laps
3. Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, 1m 23.952s, 62 laps
4. Jenson Button, McLaren, 1m 25.030s, 40 laps
5. Fernando Alonso, Ferrari, 1m 25.495s, 58 laps
6. Nico Hulkenberg, Force India, 1m 26.096s, 17 laps
7. Jean-Eric Vergne, Toro Rosso, 1m 29.915s, 30 laps
8. Adrian Sutil, Sauber, 1m 30.161s, 34 laps
9. Robin Frijns, Caterham, No time, 10 laps
10. Max Chilton, Marussia, No time, 5 laps
11. Daniel Ricciardo, Red Bull, No time, 3 laps