Posted on May 30, 2010

Last year after the race at the Nurburgring, I went into the Red Bull motorhome to congratulate Mark Webber on his first Formula 1 victory. There was no sign of Webber, but team principal Christian Horner and Dr Helmut Marko were deep in conversation next to the bar. Both looked pretty serious. Webber had won the race while Vettel had finished second, largely due to being rather tentative in qualifying, where he ended up fourth. I watched him very closely that weekend and spoke to him several times and I felt that he was really feeling the pressure of a More…

Posted on May 30, 2010

Lewis Hamilton won the Turkish Grand Prix, his first victory of the season with Jenson Button second and Mark Webber third. It is McLaren’s second one-two finish of the season. Webber leads the drivers championship, McLaren take over the constructors’ championship lead. But the race will be remembered for the extraordinary incident on lap 40 when the two Red Bull cars drove into each other while fighting for the lead. It is likely to prove a turning point in the championship and certainly in the relationship between the drivers. It will require incredible management skill by Christian Horner to establish More…

Posted on May 29, 2010

Lewis Hamilton put in a great lap today, just 15/100ths of a second slower than pole sitter Mark Webber’s, to line up on the front row of the grid for the first time this season. It’s taken McLaren a long time to get on top of qualifying this season and although there is still some way to go to qualify ahead of the Red Bulls, the McLaren’s race pace indicates that we could have a race on our hands tomorrow. This is particularly true when you consider that the McLaren enjoys a 6km/h speed advantage on the straights, thanks to More…

Posted on May 29, 2010

Mark Webber’s incredible momentum continued in Istanbul with his third pole position in a row, his fourth of the season. It continued the clean sweep of seven pole positions from seven races for Red Bull, but they were under real pressure today from the McLaren of Lewis Hamilton, who split the dark blue cars in qualifying, setting a time just 15/100ths of a second slower than Webber. It was a great result for McLaren, for whom Jenson Button qualified fourth. “You always try to push the car a little bit faster,” said Hamilton. “We were able to put together a More…

Posted on May 28, 2010

This weekend the F1 teams are racing in Istanbul, one of the newer circuits on the calendar, which features a celebrated corner.

Istanbul’s mighty Turn 8
All F1 fans love seeing high speed corners and the ultimate is Turn 8, not a particularly romantic or iconic name, but a corner which excites both fans and drivers alike. Turn 8 is one of the longest corners in F1; the cars spend eight seconds going through it, covering 600 metres before they exit onto the back straight. The average speed for the corner is 260km/h and the peak is 270 km/h.

According to the Renault team, “the g-force stats are just as impressive with the drivers experiencing an average lateral force of 4.3 g during those eight seconds, with a peak of 5.2g.”

But, believe it or not, the teams do not set the cars up around performance through that corner. That said, it is important to set the ride height correctly to allow for the bumps, especially when the cars are full of fuel.

According to the engineers, Turn 8 is not anything like as significant in terms of lap time as Eau Rouge at Spa or Turn 9 at Barcelona, both of which give out onto long straights. If you are three or four kilometres an hour slower through those corners, it can cost you as many tenths at the end of the following straight. Turn eight has a short following it.

In practice on Friday we saw lots of cars flying off the road at Turn 8. This is partly because of the bumps and partly because of the lack of risk.

Drivers take calculated risks in every corner as they try to find the limit in the short time available for practice. The reason why so many of them fly off at Turn 8 is because the huge run off areas allow them to try to find the limit as quickly as possible. Drivers take their time to find the limits and Monaco or Montreal where the track is lined with walls. Conversely, they crash all the time on the simulators!

New Tech on the cars
This weekend there are some eye-catching new things on the cars, including another new front wing on the Renault, which is quite different in concept from the previous ones (compare to previous Tech Reports).

Ferrari has an evolution of its double diffuser, but the main talking point has been the introduction of the drag reducing rear wing on the Red Bull. Up to now the team has delayed it, because the harm it did to downforce levels was greater than the gain from extra speed on the straights.

The value of the system was shown by the speed the McLarens had in practice. It is worth around 4/10ths of a second a lap and gives a gain of around 10km/h, if you get it right.

McLaren were the pioneers of the system. It was a finely balanced decision but Red Bull decided after practice not to go with it for qualifying and the race. They will take the learnings from today’s test and hold it over to Montreal where it will be a massive gain due to the long straights. As Montreal has no fast corners, a Red Bull strength, they will be looking to claw back performance from the rear wing.

McLaren’s car was designed around the concept, so they have an air intake hole in the optimum place on the top of the chassis, just ahead of the driver’s knee, with which he switches the wing on. Other teams trying to copy it have found it hard to get sufficient air into the system to have an effect when it exits through the duct at the back of the wing.

Engineers say that a fully functional system is worth 4/10ths of a second per lap at Istanbul.

Telemetry in F1

I've been looking into where telemetry technology is up to these days with Virgin Racing. During a 90 minute session the team will collect between 5 and 6 gigabytes of data from the car. It comes off the car in a raw format over radio.

The car transmits at 2 megabits. The transmitter is placed in the sidepod and then a cable runs to an an antenna on the nose on the car.

Data is transmitted from the car using the standardised McLaren electronic system and is picked up by an antenna on the roof of the race truck, behind the pits. The data then goes into the garage to a telemetry receiver rack. The signal is encypted to keep everyone's data separate.

The data is then decoded and converted into a signal that can be understood by a PC. It goes through a software system called Atlas, which displays the telemetry channels for the engineers. This is the suite which displays all the wavy lines on the screen.

The system is connected via internet to the factory in the UK

CSC's Darren Lunn (L) with Virgin's head of IT Joe Birkett (R) analyse the data

The main things that the engineers are looking at are things that could stop the car from running, such as gearbox and hydraulic temperatures and pressures.

The race engineers and drivers look at steering, throttle and brake inputs. There is a sensor on the car which detects when the tyres are slipping across the surface of the track. It measures driver inputs compared to how the car is reacting.

Working with the telemetry data, a large part of the time is spent working on the differential, the most tunable part of the car. The differential, which allows the two rear wheels to rotate at different speeds, can be adjusted for corner entry, mid corner and corner exit. It plays a big role in cornering stability and done well can contribute a lot to the lap time.

You often see the drivers studying telemetry print out sheets. So what is on them? It is mainly the driver inputs; throttle, steering and brakes. If one driver is doing a better lap time than the other, they can look at the traces and see what the inputs are compared to the car speed and that tells them how they can improve by using the controls differently.

In this Virgin telemetry print out, the wavy lines represent (from top to bottom) Revs, Gear, Car Speed, Delta time between runs, Steering angle, throttle and brake pressure overlaid.

For the Virgin Racing team the IT is managed by CSC, who take care of all the telemetry management as well as setting up the a broadband network for the team at every race.

It takes a day and a half of set up time before each Grand Prix to build the IT system, rigging the cables and the racks, connecting the connections to the car.

Posted on May 28, 2010

An eventful first day of practice at Istanbul ended with Jenson Button setting the fastest time, with team mate Lewis Hamilton fourth. The Red Bull cars look very fast but there are reliability worries. Winner of the last two Grands Prix Mark Webber stopped out on track in the final moments of practice with a suspected engine failure, having set the second fastest time. It will have been an old engine, probably close to its mileage limit, but nevertheless and engine failure is an engine failure. His Red Bull team mate Sebastian Vettel was third fastest despite time lost to More…

Posted on May 27, 2010

Today has seen the bosses of Red Bull and Ferrari give strong hints that they will be keeping the same driver line up for next season. First Ferrari’s Stefano Domenicali said Felipe Massa was likely to be given an extension in an interview with my old sparring partner Martin Brundle on the BBC. “Yes I think so,” he said responding to Martin’s question would Ferrari retain its drivers. When Martin asked if he was “sure” he said “Yes” Massa has had a difficult start to the season and has been outpaced by team mate Fernando Alonso so far. But he More…

Posted on May 27, 2010

When Fernando Alonso crashed in practice for the Monaco Grand Prix, his car was lifted away from the circuit on a crane and photographer Darren Heath was right there to capture it. The result is this photograph, which at face value shows little more than a very smashed up Ferrari. However looking more closely at the underside of the car, there are some details which have been secret up to now and they tell us quite a bit about the design philosophy behind the car. Starting with the obvious – the car is leaning backwards. Obviously there is no driver More…

Posted on May 26, 2010

McLaren managing director Jonathan Neale took part in the latest in the series of Vodafone teleconferences with leading websites today and it was an interesting discussion. What caught my attention was his comment about Jenson Button, who lost the championship lead in Monaco after a pair of fairly ordinary results there and in Spain. For Button it has either been victory, gained through tactical plays in changeable conditions, or minor placings this season and his best qualifying has been fourth. My understanding of the situation has been that Button is quite happy with the general set-up of the car and More…

Posted on May 26, 2010

This weekend at the Turkish Grand Prix a lot of attention is likely to fall on Felipe Massa. A three times winner of the Istanbul race, this is a weekend when he needs to show that he still has it in him to take Ferrari to the winner’s circle and to run his team mate Fernando Alonso close. If Red Bull still has a big margin over the rest, as is expected, then Massa’s minimum task is to beat Alonso. He should have great confidence he can achieve this on a track which he “owns” and where he even had More…

Posted on May 26, 2010

“Hispania Racing, and Dallara Automobili S.p.A have agreed that what they have achieved in such a short period of time was more than could have been reasonably expected. The two parties wish each other the best of luck in all future endeavours.” So ends a strange episode in F1. Dallara was originally hired by Campos Meta to design, build and develop a chassis for the 2010 season. But when Campos ran into financial trouble in February, the team was taken over in a last minute deal by Jose Ramon Carabante and his chosen team principal Colin Kolles was never happy More…

Posted on May 25, 2010

Tonight the official F1 website has announced that the United States Grand Prix is to return to the calendar in 2012 in Austin, Texas. The deal runs through to 2021 and the promoters are going to create a purpose built facility to host the event. Austin is a thriving “It” city in the USA with a strong technology sector and a dynamic reputation. F1 has been hunting around for years for a purpose built track in the USA, along the lines of what we see in Bahrain, China or Abu Dhabi. Recently there has been a lot of chatter about More…

Posted on May 25, 2010

Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo has given a series of interviews lately, as Ferrari celebrates 800 Grand Prix starts and the most recent one is in today’s Gazzetta dello Sport. In the interview he deals with Alonso’s recent mistakes, hints at some possible changes in the team and says that Ferrari wants to go back to using its Fiorano test track. He also reveals that Ferrari has saved 30% this year compared to its budget of two years ago before the teams got serious on cost cutting. On the subject of Alonso he says that he’s delighted with him both More…

Posted on May 24, 2010

This thread has received an incredible response in the last 24 hours with over 330 readers suggesting a name for Sebastian Vettel’s new chassis, replacing the unfortunate “Luscious Liz”, which bit the dust in Monaco. Raja Sen’s suggestion of “Stickshift Stella” was a favourite while readers saw the funny side of Andrew’s suggestion of “Sweaty Betty”. Furtherdown, Speed Saint 85 went down the Sonic the Hedgehog route with their suggestion of “Seb-Sonic” while Jaelle took inspiration from the Star Wars movies with her offering – “Liz II: The Revenge”. But perhaps the name which drew the biggest reaction was Wu’s More…

Posted on May 23, 2010

As we mentioned the other day, Sebastian Vettel is getting a new chassis for next weekend’s Turkish Grand Prix. And in keeping with his tradition of naming cars after girls, it’s going to need a name. Red Bull announced that Vettel’s Monaco chassis was damaged and the team has built up and sent out a new one to Istanbul. It should be identical to the old one as chassis are homologated these days as a cost saving measure, so there is no incentive to bring out a B Spec car. Vettel has a tradition of naming his cars, as American More…

Posted on May 21, 2010

I’ve been thinking about Mark Webber’s recent success and it struck me that ‘older driver makes good’ is such a positive storyline for Formula 1. In two successive seasons we have seen the phenomenon of drivers in the later stages of their careers finding success; Jenson Button and Mark Webber. Both have seen their careers revitalized when it looked like the sands of time might be starting to run out for them. What makes it doubly positive is that It hasn’t happened for a while and it goes against the prevailing trend of gilded youth in sport. In the last More…

Posted on May 20, 2010

The fallout from Sunday’s Monaco Grand Prix continues. This morning the FIA has accepted that the way the Safety Car was handled on the last lap and the information given to teams was not clear and has said that new rules will be drafted to make sure there is no repeat. According to a statement the incident, “Showed a lack of clarity in the application of the rule prohibiting overtaking behind the Safety Car. “Adjustments to the regulations are necessary to clarify the procedure that cars must meet when the last lap is controlled by the Safety Car whilst also More…

Posted on May 19, 2010

Welcome to our look-back at the key decisions which made the Monaco Grand Prix. Monaco is normally a frustrating race for team strategists. Qualifying is so important, it sets the tone for the race and only the start and the sole pit stop give any real opportunity to gain track positions. That said, a safety car at the right moment can make a big difference and this is what happened for Fernando Alonso. For the rest, the start was decisive in the battle between Robert Kubica and Sebastian Vettel, while the timing of the pit stop led to some changes More…

Posted on May 19, 2010

When Rubens Barrichello threw his steering wheel out of the car in Monaco on Sunday, the electronics engineers and the accountants at Williams will have screamed. Those things are packed full of incredibly complex electronics and are expensive – over £40,000 a piece! If you want to know more, I’ve done a behind the scenes video on the secrets contained in an F1 steering wheel and now seems like the perfect time to show it. The drivers are very busy at the wheel nowadays during a Grand Prix. In addition to the clutch and gear change functions on the back More…

Posted on May 18, 2010

Mercedes has decided not to go through with the appeal into the stewards’ decision to punish Michael Schumacher for his opportunistic pass on Fernando Alonso in the final corner of the Monaco Grand Prix on Sunday. In a statement this morning the team said it had instructed Schumacher to race in the final corner, as they believed that the track was green and therefore the race would not be finishing under the safety car. “We believed that the combination of the race control messages ‘Safety Car in this lap’ and ‘Track Clear’ and the green flags and lights shown by More…

Posted on May 18, 2010

Damon Hill has spoken to the Times today, questioning the validity of former drivers acting as a fourth steward and sitting in judgement on fellow professionals. He also revealed that he has received hate mail from Schumacher fans for his part in the decision to punish the German for his overtaking move on Fernando Alonso on the final lap. Hill insists that he acted impartially. This issue has aroused huge interest. My Sunday night post on the subject here has attracted 532 comments in 36 hours and a majority of fans seem to agree with Schumacher and his Mercedes team More…

Posted on May 17, 2010

I’ve been thinking about the Monaco race and it occurred to me that something really remarkable happened on Sunday, which no-one has commented upon. Alonso’s fightback from the pit lane to finish sixth was achieved in a car which was a box of bits on Sunday morning. Built in a hurry, without any shakedown or warm-up, it was sent out into the race and performed perfectly for two hours, getting a single set of tyres to last 77 laps. If you think about it, this is quite incredible. We take it for granted these days that the cars perform and More…

Posted on May 17, 2010

This weekend the teams faced up to the challenges of the Monaco Grand Prix circuit, one of the most famous but also most difficult circuits on the calendar.

Monaco is a unique circuit and calls for some particular details in the technical preparation of the cars, which you will not find anywhere else.

The main one is the steering lock, which needs to be 21 degrees in order to get round the Loews hairpin. Normally an F1 car has a steering lock of 17 degrees.

It is possible to run a standard steering lock and still make the turn, but engineers tell me that it is around 3/10ths of a second slower, so everybody runs the extended steering range.

The brake calipers get quite hot here so there is extra ducting to them. Some of the new teams found that they had not factored in enough cooling and struggled in the race.

The other point to make is that the cars use less fuel to cover the race distance here. Around 125 kilos instead of the 160 they use at many tracks.

And there are quite a few wrong assumptions, such as the idea that you need to run the suspension soft. In fact very stiff set ups can work very well in Monaco. Look at slow motion shots of Robert Kubica attacking the kerbs and you’ll see what I mean.

Monaco is unusual because you need very little entry stability to corners, all the braking is straight. Then you need to be able to turn without understeer. If you can manage that then traction comes because car is turned and pointing straight. Traction in a straight line has a significant effect on lap time, so a rearward weight distribution is beneficial. But there is a trade-off because this can add rear tyre wear, which is often a problem in the race, particularly on the super soft tyre as we saw last year here.

New tech on the cars
There were not many technical updates on view this weekend, more Monaco specific details looking for extra downforce and traction.

Ferrari did not use its drag reducing (F Duct) rear wing here but they did have an additional couple of winglets placed one each side of the shark fin.

This was done to increase the downforce generated at the level of the rear axle so to improve the traction on this very slow circuit. The wing angle was of course at its maximum figure both front and rear.

Ferrari team principal Stefano Domenicali revealed this weekend that the F Duct rear wing needs some work before its reintroduction in Turkey because, although it gave the team the fastest car through the speed traps, the team found in Spain that it took overall downforce away from the car and this is a handicap in competition with the Red Bull.

Red Bull’s technical wizardry
Red Bull had many teams scratching their heads after qualifying almost one second clear of the rest in Spain. Again in Monaco the margin of pole position was 3/10ths of a second, which is a lot. The team does not yet have a drag reducing rear wing and its Renault engine is considered not as powerful as the Mercedes. This meant that it was 20th through the speed trap on Saturday, some 9km/h down on the Ferraris. However it made up for that in its speed around the corners, thanks to its high level of downforce.

The secret of the Red Bull is the multiple little details which ensure that the bodywork of the car is optimised to work with the airflow that comes off the front wing and gives the massive diffuser the best chance to function. Red Bull were making microscopic changes to the front wings in Spain, adding a tiny gurney flay to the top element in practice to fine tune this.

The bodywork at the rear of the car is incredibly slender and low it is designed to clean up the airflow. The exhausts have been repositioned low and the technical team has introduced small slots just in front of the rear wheels, all tiny details to optimise the car. The result is a well balanced, aerodynamically efficient missile, perfectly in tune with itself.

Mercedes revert to shorter wheelbase
Mercedes reverted to the standard wheelbase on its car for Monaco, after extending it by 5cm in Barcelona. The shorter wheelbase is more suitable for the dynamic demands of the tight circuit. The longer wheelbase is designed to give the car more of a range of options on weight distribution.

Mercedes will revert to the longer wheelbase for the next Grand Prix in Turkey.

Posted on May 16, 2010

Michael Schumacher’s cheeky attempt to steal sixth place from Fernando Alonso in the Rascasse corner in today’s Monaco Grand Prix has been deemed illegal by the race stewards, of whom Schumacher’s former rival Damon Hill was a member. Meanwhile his former Ferrari boss Stefano Domenicali described the move as “really dangerous.” The safety car had been deployed for the fourth time during the final laps when Jarno Trulli and Karun Chandhok collided at Rascasse corner. Schumacher’s move came on the final lap, as the safety car peeled into the pit lane to allow the cars to cross the finish line. More…

Posted on May 16, 2010

Today’s Monaco Grand Prix was full of drama but we also saw some amazing performances from several drivers, not just in the race, but over the weekend as a whole. So let’s take a look at the two main contenders: Mark Webber A dominant drive by the veteran Aussie, who is in the form of his life. For the second race in a row he took pole and controlled the race. He had four safety cars to contend with, which cut his lead down to nothing each time. He made an assured start, not giving Vettel or Kubica a chance More…

Posted on May 16, 2010

Mark Webber won the Monaco Grand Prix today ahead of Sebastian Vettel and Robert Kubica. He leads the world championship for the first time in his career. It was Red Bull’s second 1-2 finish of the season and the fourth team 1-2 we have had in six races, which must be some kind of record. If it seemed effortless for Webber, the race was nonetheless full of drama with no less than four safety cars. “It’s the greatest day of my life every F1 victory is special but to win on the streets here and join all the great winners More…

Posted on May 16, 2010

There has been an interesting reaction in Italy to Fernando Alonso’s accident, which put him out of contention for today’s Monaco Grand Prix. Alonso cut a dark, brooding figure yesterday during qualifying, having sidelined himself with an accident during free practice. His chassis was destroyed as the suspension pierced the tub. Spare cars are banned and the rules state that he has to start today’s race from the pit lane in a car made up from a spare monocoque. Alonso lost control of his car at Massanet corner, as he braked from 170mph down to around 60mph for the left More…

Posted on May 15, 2010

Mark Webber stunned F1 again today with his second pole position in eight days as he dominated qualifying for the Monaco Grand Prix. It is the sixth pole in six races for Red Bull this season. That is championship winning form and after early season reliability issues, they need to make sure they again convert it to a win tomorrow. All predictions, including his own, were that it would be very close. In the end it wasn’t close at all. Webber was 3/10ths of a second ahead of Robert Kubica’s Renault, with Sebastian Vettel in third, 4/10ths behind Webber. But More…

Posted on May 15, 2010

Robert Kubica took the starring role in the dress rehearsal for the Monaco Grand Prix qualifying session. The Pole in the Renault was impressive on Thursday in free practice, but he was on a mission this morning, lapping the principality in 1m 14.806s, just 5/100ths ahead of Felipe Massa. Mark Webber was a whisker behind in the Red Bull with Hamilton fourth, two tenths off Kubica’s time. But if Kubica’s declaration of candidacy for the new Prince of Monaco was the feel good story of the morning, the eye catching headline was the accident of Fernando Alonso, who crashed the More…

Posted on May 14, 2010

It has long been rumoured but now it’s official – Jean Todt’s son Nicolas is launching a bid to run his own F1 team, taking his highly successful GP2 team ART GP into the sport’s highest category. With the failure of USF1, there is a 13th slot on the grid for next season and the FIA is inviting applications from teams wishing to fill that slot. Stefan GP has indicated its intention to apply, but Dave Richards’ Prodrive outfit and Lola have both said that they will not. As with last year’s applicants, teams will be subjected to a financial More…

Posted on May 14, 2010

The trial of Nigel Stepney started in Sassuolo, Italy this week. He is accused of trying to sabotage the Ferraris before the 2007 Monaco Grand Prix with white powder. Stepney’s lawyers have indicated that they wish to plea bargain, according to La Gazzetta dello Sport. Stepney himself will appear before the court on May 21. McLaren boss Martin Whitmarsh confirmed that designer Pat Fry has left the team. Fry has been with McLaren for 17 years and is one of two designers who takes it in turns to design the F1 cars. He was responsible for last year’s car and More…

Posted on May 13, 2010

Fernando Alonso topped the timesheets today in practice for Sunday’s Monaco Prix. The two times Monaco winner was the only driver to dip below the 1m 15s mark, setting a best time of 1m 14.904s – just a tenth of a second shy of the fastest lap in low fuel qualifying last year. Alonso was having to contend with the back end stepping out quite a bit, but he always looked fast and believes that whereas Barcelona rewarded massive downforce, Monaco is about getting the car tuned in to the circuit, “Here, having the right set up can make more More…

Posted on May 12, 2010

There is a lot of chatter at the moment about the updates on the Mercedes in Barcelona being done to help Michael Schumacher, but at the expense of Nico Rosberg. Rosberg had a stronger start to the season, but in Spain the form was turned around. Rosberg went into Sunday’s Spanish Grand Prix in second place in the championship, but had had his most uncompetitive weekend of the season; he could not get the car to work as he wanted it and scored no points. In contrast, Michael Schumacher qualified well and finished in fourth place, his most competitive showing More…

Posted on May 12, 2010

The Spanish Grand Prix at the weekend was a relatively straight forward affair in strategy terms with the main decisions on tyres pretty clear with little room for variation. But there were some key decisions to be made on the timing of the pit stop, with positions to be won and lost and the second set of tyres to be maintained over a long period. Bridgestone brought with them the soft and hard tyres from their range and it was clear that the soft was the better qualifying tyre. This meant that all the top ten started the race on More…

Posted on May 11, 2010

McLaren boss Martin Whitmarsh today spoke of his concern that there would be chaos and controversy during the first part of qualifying in Monaco this weekend, due to the enlarged field and the speed differential between the fastest and slowest cars. With the three new teams this year regularly around six seconds off the pace in qualifying and 24 cars packed onto the tight streets of Monaco for the first 20 minute session, Whitmarsh predicts trouble. It is possible that one of the front runners might get blocked, miss the cut to get out of Q1 and be forced to More…

Posted on May 11, 2010

Over the weekend I had a chance to chat at length with the new owner of the Renault F1 team, Gerard Lopez, who is a fascinating character. One of the world’s leading investors in technology companies, he was a founder investor in Skype and is bringing some fresh thinking to this sport. I will post separately on the wider topics of our conversation, which include his plans for Renault, how he is helping F1 engage with the internet and mobile phones and a whole new business model for an F1 team. But the eye catching headline from the chat was More…

Posted on May 10, 2010

Felipe Massa looked rather dejected all weekend. He was asked after the race by Italian colleagues whether this was because of the rumours that Ferrari was thinking of replacing him with Robert Kubica, “I’m not happy because the whole winter test I was 110% happy with the car the way I drive. I started the first race and I was 120% happy with the car. We did a great job in the first race. The last four races have been harder tyres than Bahrain and I can’t use them like I want, I need to understand, I’m a little bit More…

Posted on May 10, 2010

F1 in Schools, the educational competition backed by Bernie Ecclestone and the F1 teams, is to hold its World Championship finals in Singapore, in the week leading up to the Singapore Grand Prix in September. It will be the culmination of a series of competitions involving an estimated 6 million children worldwide. F1 in Schools challenges students to use software to design, build and race a miniature Formula 1 car made from balsa wood and powered by a single compressed air cylinder. It has the support of leading F1 engineers including Ross Brawn, Adrian Newey, Sam Michael and Mike Gascoyne. More…

Posted on May 10, 2010

Jenson Button had a frustrating afternoon in the Spanish Grand Prix, losing a place to Michael Schumacher at the first pit stop and failing to pass him for the remainder of the race. Button scored ten points for fifth place and retained his lead in the world championship heading into this weekend’s Monaco Grand Prix, but his comments surprised senior figures in the Mercedes team and many onlookers. Button criticised Schumacher for his passing move as Button exited the pits, “”He turned in and if I didn’t back out of it we would have crashed,” he said. “So he didn’t More…

Posted on May 10, 2010

In the aftermath of yesterday’s Grand Prix, everybody was focussed on Mark Webber’s stunning weekend and the last minute heartbreak of Lewis Hamilton, who had second place in the bag when his left front tyre blew, possibly as result of a wheel rim problem. But the most interesting story for me yesterday was Sebastian Vettel’s ability to overcome a host of technical problems and come though to collect 15 points. Along with the 12 points he salvaged in Bahrain after his spark plug problem, this could prove crucial later in the season. It could be what wins him the championship. More…

Posted on May 9, 2010

Mark Webber won the Spanish Grand Prix in Barcelona today, crushing the opposition in a Red Bull car they had described all weekend as ‘untouchable.” It is his third Grand Prix win and was one of those weekends where no-one could get near him either in qualifying or the race. It was the 10th time in a row this race has been won from pole position and Webber is the fourth different winner in five races this season. But it wasn’t a perfect day for Red Bull as Sebastian Vettel’s race was compromised by losing a place to Lewis Hamilton More…

Posted on May 9, 2010

There was a curious incident during qualifying when Fernando Alonso exited his pit garage and almost drove straight into Nico Rosberg. The German braked hard and an accident was avoided, but Rosberg called for a penalty for the Spaniard over the radio and the FIA stewards decided to fine him and the Ferrari team $20,000 for unsafe release. It was a bit like a footballer who calls for a fellow professional to get a yellow card. Operationally it was unusual that there was no Ferrari mechanic in the pit lane in front of the car, looking to see if the More…

Posted on May 9, 2010

The 12 Formula 1 teams under the banner of FOTA are due to meet this morning (Sunday) in the paddock in Barcelona to discuss a number of subjects of which tyre supply for 2011 is the most burning issue. The teams have said that they want a decision this week. All teams are now deep into the design phase for the 2011 cars and they want to know what tyres they will be running on, particularly if they are to be different from the current ones. At present there are three principle avenues open, including Pirelli, Michelin and Avon. However More…

Posted on May 8, 2010

The pace of the Red Bull cars this weekend has really shocked its rivals, all of whom are heading back to the drawing board after the updates their brought here seem to have taken them further away rather than closer to the pace setters. Mark Webber took pole today with a lap which was 9/10ths of a second faster than the McLaren, a second faster than the Ferrari and 1.3 secs faster than the Mercedes. “I came here thinking that we could really put on a challenge now and it’s not gone that way. We really need to look into More…

Posted on May 8, 2010

Mark Webber took a dramatic pole position in qualifying for Sunday’s Spanish Grand Prix ahead of team mate Sebastian Vettel, with the next fastest car almost a second behind. Webber was fastest in the eliminator stages of qualifying, as he often is, but when it counted this time he held on to the advantage, beating Vettel by a tenth of a second. “Both of us have done thousands of kilometres around here, so it´s hard to get an advantage over him, plus he´s got a great record for pulling a lap out. Today I had to do something special to More…

Posted on May 8, 2010

The impression that Red Bull are untouchable this weekend in Barcelona was reinforced this morning in the final practice session before qualifying. Sebastian Vettel set a time of 1m20.528, while team mate Mark Webber aborted his final run after setting the fastest first sector time.So the margin was 7/10ths of a second between them. It looks like being a titanic scrap between the pair for pole position once again as on their previous runs there was only 2/100ths between them. A similar margin separated the McLaren drivers Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button in 3rd and 4th places. While a resurgent More…

Posted on May 8, 2010

Walking through the tunnel to the infield here in Barcelona I noticed something unusual about one of the images which have been put up to make the walls more colourful. Two years after his ill fated partnership with Fernando Alonso at McLaren, looks like some Spanish fans still cannot get over their negative feelings about Lewis Hamilton!

Posted on May 7, 2010

The Spanish Grand Prix, round five of the F1 world championship is the first European round after the flyaway races and as such is always an event where all the teams bring updates to their car to a greater or lesser extent and this year is no exception.

What we are seeing this weekend is in most cases not as extreme as last season, when many teams were trying to catch the Brawn team by copying the double diffuser, but there are some quite significant and eye-catching changes on many cars.

Perhaps the team with the most eagerly anticipated changes is Mercedes. Last year’s champions – when they were called Brawn – have had the slowest car of the top four teams thus far and always targeted Spain as the race where they would bring in big changes.

Mercedes has two obvious updates here, one is the angling forwards of the front suspension, to help with a weight distribution problem and the other is the air intake, which is so radical a solution that many aerodynamicists I’ve spoken to say they’ve never even thought of trying it in a wind tunnel.

Instead of a hole above the driver’s head, the Mercedes has two air intakes lower down on either side of his head with a short fin to give the car the required height dimensions. This solution also helps the airflow onto the rear wing.

What makes this very interesting is that if you look carefully the driver sits quite high in the car anyway, probably in order to see over the very high front of the cockpit on the Mercedes. This isn’t perfect as every millimetre your driver’s backside is above the floor is raising your centre of gravity, which is a bad thing. The air coming off the driver’s head must be affecting the flow into the air intakes. Today the drivers were experimenting with plastic flip-ups on the top of their helmets to see if it improved that.

The front suspension is angled forwards on the Mercedes in order to lengthen the distance between the front and rear wheels and this has the effect of moving the weight backwards. They have done this because the drivers were complaining of the car pushing straight on in the corners, or understeering. Weight distribution is the most critical thing when it comes to tyre temperature and balance and this is clearly what Michael Schumacher was struggling with in China. The new narrow front tyres don’t grip like last year’s or like the ones he was used to in 2006. Judging from his strong performance in practice today, this fix seems to be working.

A lot has been said about this problem, but engineers tell me that angling the front suspension is the lightest solution, indicating that it was not a major problem, more a characteristic which needed addressing. Of course in moving the front wheels forward they have had to move the front wing forward too. This will have a negative effect on the aerodynamics so there is a loss to be swallowed before the gain you get from the improved weight distribution, but they must be happy with that trade off to have gone ahead with the change.

(Incidentally look at the small orange ring on the underside of the monocoque. That wasn’t there before and appears to be for adjusting the ride height during pit stops.)

Doing all of this will have eaten up much of their resources at a time when teams need to be well into the design of next year’s cars. There is a big rule change next year with the banning of double diffusers, so Mercedes will be worried that they are falling behind on that.

Ferrari and McLaren front wings

Many teams have new front wings here. The more complex they are with flaps to add downforce the more it indicates that the team has also added downforce at the rear of the car via the rear wing and diffuser and need to balance it out at the front. Judging from the McLaren, Red Bull and Ferrari front wings there is a lot more overall downforce on the cars and it shows when you watch them on track. They look nailed to the ground.

It’s interesting to contrast the McLaren and Ferrari front wings. The McLaren is an elegant cascade, like the Red Bull wing, whereas the Ferrari is more classic with more detailed work on the endplates. It’s striking how different they are.

New longer Virgin car
Virgin has brought a new chassis for Timo Glock this weekend, which is longer than the original model, still being used by Lucas di Grassi. The fuel tank was not large enough to complete the Grand Prix distance and the team was given special dispensation to change the monocoque, which is a homologated part. The Virgin team has used the opportunity to introduce some other bodywork changes, such as a fin engine cover, which is in vogue at the moment and a large exit hole for cooling which is straight out of the Red Bull design textbook.

These engine covers are very eye catching but actually contribute only a small gain, in comparison to front wing or diffuser updates. But they get everyone talking because they are so noticeable.

A big cooling exit like this has a cost in lost downforce, but it gets all the hot air out of the engine bay in one go and in Red Bull’s case is the most efficient system given the extremely tight packaging of the rear end of the car. Virgin doesn’t appear to have such packaging issues, but has gone for the exit hole anyway.

Posted on May 7, 2010

Sebastian Vettel set the fastest time on the first day of practice for Sunday’s Spanish Grand Prix in Barcelona. The German, who has had three pole positions already this season and one win, easily topped the times in the faster second session in the afternoon. He set a lap of 1m 19.965, which is 1/100th of a second slower than the outright fastest lap in qualifying last year. Red Bull team mate Mark Webber was second fastest with Michael Schumacher in the revised Mercedes third. The Red Bull pair were separated by just 2/10ths of a second. Many rivals, including More…

Posted on May 7, 2010

This morning in Free Practice the Red Bull team did a back to back test on the new front wing it has brought to the Spanish Grand Prix. After one run mid way through the session a mechanic took the wing off Vettel’s car and fitted it to Webbers and vice versa. They would do this to check some fine detail on how the wheel behaved in steering and to look at the yaw. This is the kind of fine detail work the teams are involved in as they test out their new aerodynamic parts ahead of qualifying and the More…

Posted on May 6, 2010

Nico Rosberg said this afternoon that he expects his team mate Michael Schumacher to come back strongly in this weekend’s Spanish Grand Prix, after a disappointing start to the season, now he is armed with the updated Mercedes car. Rosberg has had the edge on Schumacher at every race so far and in China the gap between them was significant. But both men believe that this was an aberration and Rosberg expects a tough fight from Schumacher from now on, starting this weekend, “He was very fast in Malaysia and China was a complete anomaly, so we need to be More…

Posted on May 5, 2010

Among the teams bringing updates to Barcelona the ones likely to make the biggest gain are the new teams – because they are coming from the furthest back. In the case of Lotus their entry for 2010 was only accepted in September last year and they had one month to finalise the design before going into production, in order to make the pre-season tests. They put out a fairly conservative car for the opening races, always aiming at a major upgrade package for Barcelona. And technical director Mike Gascoyne says that a gain of around 1.5 to 2 seconds per More…

Posted on May 5, 2010

Tomorrow afternoon (Thursday) we will be in the pit lane in Barcelona closely studying the updates the teams have brought to their cars for the start of the European season. It will not be as radical as last year’s first European event, when the race was on to fit a double diffuser as soon as possible to many cars. Nevertheless this year we will see some major aerodynamic and mechanical updates and F duct rear wings, the devices which ‘switch on’ at top speed to allow a car to shed drag on the straights, first pioneered by McLaren. The Ferrari More…

Posted on May 5, 2010

McLaren is targetting the front row of the grid at this weekend’s Spanish Grand Prix with an updated car featuring new front and rear wings and a revised floor among a host of changes. The team is currently leading both the drivers’ and constructors’ championships and has two wins and two podiums, but qualifying has been its Achilles’ Heel and it has yet to get a car on the front row of the grid. However the designer of the McLaren MP4-25, Tim Goss, said today in a Vodafone backed McLaren team phone-in today with the leading websites that he was More…

Posted on May 3, 2010

Following on from the video of an on board lap of the new Silverstone Grand Prix track I posted on Thursday, in this latest film Martin Brundle and I take a more in depth look at the new corners, which will feature in this year’s British Grand Prix on July 11th. Judging from the response of many fans to the on board video, there is some concern that in adding the new section at the expense of the old Bridge corner and Abbey Chicane, the circuit may have lost some of its character and challenge. There are also questions about More…

Posted on May 3, 2010

Fernando Alonso has been speaking about life at Ferrari in an interview with Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera. The Spaniard has claimed Michael Schumacher’s decision to turn his back on Ferrari in favour of a return to Formula 1 with Mercedes GP has helped him settle in more quickly with Italian team. Alonso, who won the season opener in Bahrain and currently lies third in the championship with 49 points, is clearly enjoying competing at the front again after spending two relatively uncompetitive seasons at Renault and feels the absence of Schumacher, both as a driver and Ferrari team consultant, More…

Posted on May 2, 2010

The British Sunday Times newspaper has published its first Rich List for sports stars and with seven of the top ten coming from F1, it appears that it is still a very lucrative business despite the credit crunch. Johnny Dumfries, a former Lotus team mate of Ayrton Senna and heir to one of Scotland’s oldest aristocratic families, is the best placed motor racing personality in third ahead of former Ferrari driver Eddie Irvine (£80million), 1979 F1 champion Jody Scheckter (£60million), who is in because he lives in the UK and Prodrive boss Dave Richards (£58million) David Coulthard (£50million), Nigel Mansell More…

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