I heard an amazing statistic this week in Singapore from the manager of one of the teams. He said that a Formula 1 car has 4,000 parts on it and during a season they change up to a quarter of them!
The aim of course of all this development is to lower the lap time and Renault boss Eric Boullier told me that since Bahrain the Renault has improved by 1.7 seconds a lap.
Singapore is always a significant date technically because for most teams it is the last opportunity to bring a major package of upgrades to the car. From now on the cars will not return to the factory again until after the season has finished, even after the Abu Dhabi tests. That’s not to say that there will not be new parts on the cars in the remaining races, but they will have to be flown out in engineer’s luggage and they will be individual components rather than packages.
In sharp contrast to the last race in Monza, Singapore is all about downforce, the more the better. So you see more elements on the front wings and some very elaborate designs.
Red Bull are really going for it. There were sounds of grinding coming from their garage in the early hours of Saturday morning as new bodywork parts were fine tuned before being fitted for FP3 and qualifying. Here they had not one, but two new specifications of front wing and there was one of each for both drivers. They did back to back tests on them during Friday practice. The aim, as with all the teams’ updates, was to find more downforce and to improve the airflow to the floor and the rest of the car to improve stability and driveability. Look at how steeply angled the main element is. Both drivers used the same wing for qualifying and the race.
Ferrari were interesting to watch during the weekend, trying various configurations during practice, making the most of the track time. They had a new Singapore front wing, with the outer element of the endplate further back than before and a different main element. But they also had wings of the type used in Monaco and Silverstone. Alonso raced the new wing.
McLaren were miles off the pace the last time we went to a high downforce and bumpy circuit, in Hungary. Here they were more competitive and part of that has to do with the way that they have evolved the rear end aerodynamics. This has allowed them to run the suspension softer and that helped over the bumps.
McLaren had a sumptuous looking new front wing on display this weekend, based on the main profile introduced at Silverstone. This layout has the purpose to separate the airflow into two channels, but with both directing airflow around the outside of the front tyres . There is so much detail in this wing, check out the tiny fin vents on the inside of the top element. And contrast the complexity of this wing with the simplicity of the Ferrari one. McLaren ran a back to back comparison between this wing and the previous version and Button opted to run the new one.
In contrast to all of the above we have Hispania’s car, built by Dallara. This car has basically not had any development on it at all.
For reference the Hispania was 3.75 seconds off the pace in Turkey, earlier in the season and here in Singapore it was 6.4 seconds.
A tough race for Brakes
With new rules for 2010 requiring drivers to start the race with full fuel loads, Singapore has become one of the toughest races on the calendar for the brakes. The reason for this is not because there are many big stops from high to low speed. Rather it is the lack of cooling opportunities.
There are 17 braking moments on every lap and an incredible 21% of the lap time is spent braking – that’s 22 seconds of braking in a 1m 45s lap. On two occasions the driver has to put over 100kg of pressure on the brake pedal. If the carbon discs and pads are not given a chance to dissipate the heat and cool down their performance fades, so getting the brake ducts right to finding ways of cooling them is critical.
The brake discs were 28mm thick at the start or the race and during the course of the Singapore Grand Prix they wore down to just 22mm. A set of brake discs and pads for each F1 car costs £10,000 and at the end of the 61 lap race they are thrown in the bin.