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F1 set for another close season
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F1 set for another close season
Posted By:   |  23 Feb 2009   |  5:46 pm GMT  |  6 comments

I didn’t think that anything could top last season, with the championship decided in the final corners and many races where most of the field was separated by a second, but talking to the teams, the feeling is that it’s going to be very close again this year, despite the massive rule changes, which normally spread the field out.

The recent Bahrain test showed that Toyota and BMW are closer that expected to Ferrari at this stage of the game and the Toyota looks to be pretty reliable as well as fast. Meanwhile Ferrari and McLaren have also been paying close attention to the lap times being set by Red Bull and Williams.

I’m going to the Barcelona test in the second week of March to get a closer look for myself, but it seems amazing to me that in a year when the rules have been changed so dramatically and with the introduction of KERS, the cars should be so close to each other on performance.

And remember that it’s not as if Ferrari are going to do a final test at Imola where they bolt on some new Bridgestone tyres and suddenly go half a second faster ( as they did before the start of the 2004 season). There is a lot of development to go on once the season starts and it will probably by there that McLaren and Ferrari edge ahead, although you’d have to say that last year Renault made some pretty dramatic improvements over the season.

Toyota has put a lot of emphasis on making sure that the rear tyres last over race stints and they seem to have succeeded in this. Their weakness in recent times was the car’s inability to handle bumps. I’ll be interested to see if they have changed the DNA there.

The FIA’s dream is that KERS is the deciding factor in performance terms and that this will drive a development battle on regenerative technology. Toyota is not running KERS at the start of the season, and BMW, like many others, is keeping its options open, but some positive noises on KERS have been coming out of Ferrari and McLaren after the most recent tests. If they can get the system working well enough that the performance gain outweighs the disadvantage of weight and braking difficulties, then they will get an advantage from it.

In the early days of development, most teams worked out that KERS was going to cost lap time, not gain it, but I’m starting to sense with the top two that they are starting to believe it could be a net gain.

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6 Comments
  1. rpaco says:

    Close yes, but we haven’t seen the new spec McLaren yet, since they still had the old rear wing on during the tests, I wonder why when the others fielded full 2009 regs cars. Do Mclaren have a problem or are they concealing an advantageous interpretation of the rules until the last minute?

    The ability to handle bumps will be important with the front wings so close to the track now, a small change in height off the ground may make a very large difference in grip.

    If ["The FIA’s dream is that KERS is the deciding factor in performance terms and that this will drive a development battle on regenerative technology."] then why have they restricted it so much? KERS has enormous potential; if they had restricted the fuel to 80% of last year’s allowance and left KERS “free” then that would open a whole vista of development for the future and made sense in keeping with the times and the predicted “Max oil” in 2015, after which $150/barrel will seem a bargain.

    KERS has direct application on “Eco” road cars and should be compulsory at some future stage on new vehicles. (If there are any major motor manufacturers left in 4 years time with sufficient development facilities after the recession/depression)

  2. Alv says:

    Aren’t Ferrari and McLaren keeping an eye on Renault’s performance? They looked quite competitive in the last spanish tests and they are runnig KERS flawlesly

  3. vonspeex says:

    Well i understood that BMW have been devoloping KERS longer than the rest so this seems a supprise to me.I suppose its impossable to run kers in the race and not in qualifing thus lighter car equels better grid slot and then for maybe overtaking in the race…..crazy thought!!!

  4. Raz says:

    Nice insight to the situation James, Will you be getting any one on one interviews at Jerez?

  5. LoudHoward says:

    Renault have done a complete 180 in their comments about their KERS in the last two months or so, they seem to have made some big progress. Bolt that into the RB5, plus the upgraded engine with Webber and Vettel (strongest driver pairing on the grid with BMW maybe?), and we could have something interesting.

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