The second round of the world championship takes place this weekend in Sepang and there will be a lot of learn from the action on track this weekend.
It’s also likely that there will be rain at some point over the weekend and that should give everyone a chance to learn some more about the Pirelli intermediate tyres, on which little running has been done so far by teams. Pirelli themselves did a test in Abu Dhabi where they wet the track to test the tyres out, but there was only the odd wet session in pre season testing in Spain, one of which was a full wet condition.
We should learn more about the adjustable DRS rear wing this weekend and its capacity to improve overtaking. The hairpin leading onto the straight at Sepang offers the ideal testing ground for the DRS wing, so we can draw more conclusions from this weekend’s race.
On the subject of the blown diffusers, one thing which definitely caught my eye this week was the statement from Renault that they used 10% more fuel during the race in Australia in order to maximise the exhuast gas pressure on the overrun in the corners. Here’s what they said,
“To power a blown floor effectively and generate additional downforce, an engine must produce significant amounts of exhaust gas. Simply put, the more fuel burned, the more exhaust is produced and potentially more downforce. Since the RS27’s fuel consumption rate is extremely good, the Renault-equipped teams were able to burn 10% more fuel than normal during the Australian Grand Prix without running out of fuel, therefore giving more exhaust flow to its partners using the blown diffuser.”
That is something like 15kg of extra fuel needed, which around Albert Park equates to about six tenths of a second compared to not carrying that fuel. Renault’s boast here is that their engine is that much more efficient than the other engines that they can have the gain of the diffuser without carrying more fuel than their rivals. That’s quite a benefit. I’d like to drill down into that a bit more over the coming weeks.
Renault were the pioneers of the return of the exhaust blown diffuser with Red Bull last season and they seem to have an advantage here. Meanwhile their rivals Ferrari and McLaren have a bit of an advantage on KERS, having optimised their second version of KERS this year. Red Bull has a different kind of KERS from the Renault and there is still a lot to learn about how that works. The heads up that they were using a start only system in Australia was a strong one but appears to have been not entirely correct. It’s only a matter of time before someone uncovers the truth behind what they are doing differently.
Tyre wise, the heat combined with the higher energy corners and the slightly more abrasive surface will mean that a “Perez” (ie a one stopper) is very unlikely in dry conditions. Pirelli are saying three or fours stops but engineers I’ve spoken to this week say that a car which is gentle on its tyres like the Sauber can maybe get away with saving a stop, so we will see a mixture of two, three and maybe even a four stop strategy.
This looks to be an area where Ferrari has a weakness at the moment – they are tougher on tyres than their rivals. It’s a key area for them to work on. Fernando Alonso said today that preparing strategy for Sepang is one of the most stressful of the season, “You need to be prepared for every eventuality. It’s not just a problem for us drivers, as its affects the whole team: in some cases you need to be ready with a plan B or C, or even maybe a D for all the various scenarios,” he said
Incidentally, the Sepang race is one of the least likely to see a Safety Car – a 14% chance in fact, one of the lowest probabilities of the season.
For my full pre race Strategy Briefing, with in depth analysis of all the considerations for race strategy this weekend, go to my Strategy Briefing, brought to you by UBS
Click on “Microsite Special” and then click the Sepang circuit map. Enjoy!