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Ferrari gets another mid season technical shot in the arm
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Posted By: James Allen  |  13 Jul 2011   |  8:34 am GMT  |  119 comments

Leaving aside whatever benefit they may have accrued from the chopping and changing of rules over the off throttle engine mapping, the Ferrari worked well in Silverstone because of some key updates.

This time last year Fernando Alonso said that despite being a long way behind in the points, he could fight for the world championship.

Alonso was saying this because of the updates Ferrari had made to its 2010 car. They didn’t really show in Valencia and Silverstone because Alonso had problems with safety cars in both races, but he knew his car had been transformed.

And he was proved correct, the championship was in his hands as the start lights went out in Abu Dhabi. But he didn’t get his fairy tale ending.

This year the points gap – Alonso is 92 points behind Vettel – is more or less unbridgeable in ten remaining races, which is why the Spaniard isn’t making any promises. But Ferrari have done it again and revamped his car so he can fight Red Bull.

After qualifying a tenth behind the pole sitter in Silverstone, Alonso said, “I think it is the best qualifying in terms of the gap to pole position of the year. We have been more or less, on average, one second or seven-tenths in the last couple of races, and here in Silverstone, on a circuit that normally is not our preference in terms of lay-out and characteristics, with these high speed corners, being one-tenth off the pole is good news for us. The new parts we brought here are working well and (I’m) pleased with qualifying.”

And the car was faster relative to the Red Bull in the race than it was in qualifying as well as easier on its tyres.

Most obvious and eye catching of the updates was a new rear wing without a central pillar which also had a new mobile DRS activation. Silverstone requires a wing with less DRS effect because there are lots of high speed corners, where you want to shed drag, but still maintain plenty of downforce. It’s not traditionally been a strong Ferrari circuit in confrontation with Red Bull, but they got it just right this year.

In qualifying Alonso’s pace through sector 2 was comparable to the Red Bulls – when DRS activation is allowed. But in the race, when DRS use is not allowed, the Ferraris were half a second faster, showing that they’d pitched the level right on the DRS wing, so it’s effectiveness “or authority” as engineers call it was still high.

Ferrari also had a new rear suspension layout, which wasn’t a silver bullet but did contribute to Alonso feeling the car more to his liking.

There was a modification on the exhaust position, to improve the efficiency of the blown diffuser, notwithstanding the moving target that was the ruling on how much engines were allowed to blow them when the driver lifts off the throttle.

It should also be pointed out that Ferrari was helped by the wet start to the race which meant that drivers were not required to use the hard tyre at any stage in the race. This has been a weakness for the Ferrari. It would have been interesting to see how the updates might have helped their performance on harder tyres, but chances are Alonso would have been under more pressure in the final stage of the race.

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119 Comments
  1. Jaco says:

    Ferrari’s development over the last few years has been really impressive. If they can manage to have the fastest car at the beginning of the year they have the technical team to run away with it.

    1. Jo Torrent says:

      yep Ferrari has been very good development wise these last couple of years but where they lacked is the creativity. Their new born contenders were never innovative recently (at least from the outside) and that explain both their slow start & their good development rate.

      For example, when they copied the blown diffuser last year, it was clear they would make bigger gains than RBR whose job was to develop the solution & push it to its limits. Same with F-duct. That’s why the development effectiveness looks more impressive.

      I wonder if they were the ones coming with innovative solutions if their development speed would’ve been the same. I doubt it.

      1. MAS says:

        I think a solid fundamental design is far, far more important than “creativity”. Having something on your car that others do not is nice (as long as it works).

        However past innovations have always been easily copied and have also been at the mercy of favourable decisions by the FIA. Investing time and money in developing these features is also risky and VERY wasteful (see my post below). And all that investment will prove to have no long term benefit because these things will almost always be banned a season later.

        And quite rightly they are banned! The so-called innovations are very clever but they generally serve only to circumvent the regulations, not the laws of physics. Things like the F-duct and DDDs aren’t sensible engineering solutions in the real world. But I digress.

        It is no accident that the most successful team since the ’09 regulation-changes is a team with an evolutionary approach that departed from a very solid and adaptable concept. Ferrari should focus on their initial design and let more desperate teams worry about gimmicks.

      2. MAS says:

        Now that I think of it, it’s not like Ferrari did nothing new in the past two seasons. They had the little vanes on their wheels last year and this year their rear-suspension is quite funky. It’s not earth-shattering but remember that Red Bull was also behind the curve on the DDD and F-duct and even now has trouble implementing KERS. And Newey’s EBD is a concept from F1-cars of the 80′s or early 90′s or something.

        At the same time Brawn’s DDD and McLaren’s F-duct might have been more influential in the short term but they were very clearly focussed on circumventing a regulation and only Charlie Whiting’s permissiveness allowed the (likely massive) investment in those features to pay dividends. Should one-off tricks like that really be a major focus of a team?

      3. Jo Torrent says:

        Ferrari was innovative during their successful years :

        - high exhausts exit

        - brakes fairings

        - spoon central section of the front wing

        - tight rear end

        The car was evolving but there were always noticeable pioneered solutions which other teams copied.

      4. wayne says:

        Didn’t rbr’s revolutionary diffuser and exhaust system just win them a wdc? Didn’t Brawn’s double diffuser win them a WDC they year before? Do you think they care that these devices were banned or part banned having achieved that?

        I would say that a revolutionary design innovation is perfectly valid in F1 where they are trying to win WDCs – If they achieve their aims of winning championships who cares if it has any real world applications? Indeed recent WDC’s have been won not by evolutions of solid designs as you claims but by those who best innovated.

        McLaren’s F-duct did not allow them to win WDCs but it did allow them to mask a poor-ish car for much of the season and win a few races. Thus they too would have been perfectly happy with their return on investment.

        I think you gloss over too easily why the teams are on the grid at all – They are there to win world championships and if they achieve this, their one-off evolutions would have been completely worth the expense and effort involved. Do you think Brawn said “well we won the wdc after years of trying but what a waste the double diffuser development was”?

        This is an inductry where teams like McLaren will spend 2 Million dollars to find 2 tenths going into the last race of the year as they did in Hamilton’s title winning year. They would have considered a championship a strong RoI!

      5. Martin says:

        One innovation last year that would have been impossible to copy with the honologated gearbox was the angled engine position. The whole engine was tipped up at the rear to allow the diffuser to work better. Quite subtle, and not really talked about, but it helped Ferrari get closer to Red Bull than McLaren did.

      6. Damian J says:

        Ferrari need to demonstrate good development during the season because they have not developed a strong car at the start of 2010 or 2011.

      7. Jo Torrent says:

        it’s not a question of need or have or must.. All the teams must, need, etc but they can’t manage it ?

      8. Damian J says:

        But a team also needs to be able to develop a car in Winter testing to compete in the first half of the season. Not something Ferrari has done too well of late. They have been slow out of the blocks for two seasons.

      9. mtb says:

        It is true that Ferrari have generally started off behind the eight-ball, but some of their rivals have a propensity to start off with a competitive package and then implode. I have always wondered if such teams would benefit if a more complete driver such as Alonso were to feature as part of their line-up.

      10. Racehound says:

        coincidence or the Alonso effect? I hear he is cosidered the best development driver out there. #:)

      11. Damian J says:

        Coincidence. We are mid season already. That’s leaving it late gain to be devloping a car.

      12. Geoff Norman says:

        You’ve just defined why Ferrari has struggled for several years – their development process was based on having their own extensive testing facilities, when the use of these was banned they lost one of their major advantages and it has taken them till now to recover from that.

      13. Damian J says:

        Where has the Alonso effect been on Car development? Ferrari are third in the WCC after producing a slower car that has struggled with harder tyres in cold temeperatures for all of this year’s races with the exception of Silverstone.

        Didn’t Ferrari even attempt to apply pressure on Pirelli to bring tyres considered more favourable to their car for Silverstone?

      14. mtb says:

        APOLOGIES, THIS IS WHAT I HAD INTENDED TO WRITE

        “Ferrari are third in the WCC after producing a slower car that has struggled with harder tyres in cold temeperatures for all of this year’s races with the exception of Silverstone.”

        Are you suggesting that the Ferrari is inferior to the Red Bull and McLaren? If so, Alonso’s performances at Monaco, Valencia and Silverstone are truly remarkable!

        “Didn’t Ferrari even attempt to apply pressure on Pirelli to bring tyres considered more favourable to their car for Silverstone?”

        I am not entirely sure what you mean by “attempt to apply pressure”.

        I can imagine that claims that Ferrari applied pressure on Pirelli would appear in certain daily newspapers…

    2. MAS says:

      I think you’ve hit on the real cause of Red Bull’s success these past seasons. A good car that is understood by its engineers can be developed AND set up more easily so every pound and every hour can be spent more efficiently.

      The RB7′s lineage is clearly evolved from the RB5 and RB6. Newey came up with a very solid concept for the massive ’09 rule changes and was able to quite leisurely refine it.

      No team resources had to be wasted on finding faults and for the RB6 and 7 there was less need to work out the kinks of an unproven concept. In fact, the basic concept has proven so adaptable that other teams’ “silver bullets” like the DDD and the F-duct (as well as their own EDB) can be integrated and discarded as necessary.

      This is a stark contrast with McLaren who, up until recently, deliberately started with a blank piece of paper every season by having a different lead-designer on alternating seasons.

      This was probably in an effort to force “innovation” and in the same vein they also often chase a silver bullet (that everyone copies after the fy-aways anyway). Of course, this isn’t real innovation: the engineers are concerned with bending the regulations and not the laws of physics, but that aside it seems to be less effective on the track as well.

      Every new concept is a risk and will almost always need more trouble-shooting than usual if it even works at all. Bigger unknowns are also introduced when dealing with set-up (remember how HRT maintained the gap to their rivals in 2010 without any new parts? purely on set-up and getting to know the car better! Merc did likewise from Silverstone on).

      Every pound and every hour wasted on fixing a problem is a pound or hour not spent on going quicker. The most innovative cars on the grid today are the Torro Rosso, the Renault and the Williams and look at where they are. McLaren was also having a big problem in winter-testing with their wacky exhausts up until a hail Mary update (hastily copied from Red Bull).

      When people criticize Ferrari for not being innovative and daring enough they are missing all this. Basing your season on a borderline illegal innovation is well and good for a desperate team but improvement can be better achieved by having solid fundamentals in design and development.

      Red Bull and Ferrari are both doing that, it’s just that, lately, Red Bull has been better at it and therefore has a head start. I hope that the hiring of Fry and the sacking of Costa won’t lead to a McLaren approach in Maranello.

      Now I’m NOT claiming that innovation is always bad, I want to make that clear. However, I do think that within the framework of the hugely restrictive modern F1-regulations and limited time and budget in a season, innovation comes at a massive price and people don’t seem to appreciate that fully.

      1. Damian J says:

        I agree that innovation is only good if it works but you think McLaren is desperate but not Ferrari?

        It was only a month ago that some wanted Domenicali’s head on a plate because the team was not making any progress.

        Like McLaren, Ferrari hare still playing catch up with Redbull and have been for at least two seasons so I don’t see how Ferrari’s approach could be described as being more superior. They have only won their first race of the season and while the technical regulations keep changing, one has to keep one’s feet firmly planted on the ground!

      2. MAS says:

        Certainly Ferrari is desperate. They do need to be faster out of the gate and their aero has also been a weak spot of late. I just think it would not befit a top team to resort to gambling on gimmicks (because let’s be honest here that’s what those “radical” solutions are).

        But that goes for McLaren as well. They don’t need this rushed approach either and I’m glad to see that they’ve at least stopped alternating their lead designer. I think they’ll do better when they don’t try to reinvent the wheel every year.

        Renault or Williams I can understand a bit better. They really need to turn things around and they don’t have the resources to take a more balanced approach at the top level. As for Torro Rosso, they have nothing to lose so more power to them.

      3. mtb says:

        “one has to keep one’s feet firmly planted on the ground!”

        Great advice for Lewis!

      4. wayne says:

        2010 won by innovation in RBR’s exhast system
        2009 won by innovation of Brawn’s DD.

        Both of these technologies are or will be banned shortly and niether of these teams will care one jot as they won a wdc because of them. Bopth of these technologies seek ways around the rules and niether of these teams will care one jot as they won a wdc because of them.

        How can you say these sort of one-off’s are less effective on track? They win WDC’s for goodness sake! There is a long histroy of such innovation in F1 winning WDC’s and then being banned. The teams in question will be immensely happy with that as that is what they are there for. Mission accomplished for that year.

      5. Damian J says:

        Great Post!

  2. Red5 says:

    Ferrari’s pace certainly looked stronger at Silverstone and bodes well for the second half of the season.

    From the moment Alonso stepped out of the car you could see how pleased he was with recent updates.

    Overtaking Vettel in the championship may not be realistic but Webber’s current second place is looking like an inviting target. Once Alonso gets the bit between his teeth he is a formidable competitor.

    1. Racehound says:

      +1. Its a shame these mickey mouse add-ons,(DRS, blown diffusers, KERS and engine maps), plus the tyres that last as long as a pencil eraser have all contrived to really turn “F1 racing”? into a complete lottery!!! Everyone seems to love all the “artificial” overtaking, and drivers trying to cover each others strategies, but most of it so far this year from the teams and drivers perspective has been guesswork!!! How long are the tyres going to last has been the most occuring question during MB and DCs commentary so far. Add in a few monsoons like weve had this year and its even more of a lottery!! OK, the only reson Im still watching is coz its still the same for everybody, so although its not “real” racing anymore, they are all doing their best under the circumstances. So its still a competition that grabs the interest, but I wonder how much is now aid assisted and how much is driver. #:)

  3. Rossa says:

    Good written but there is one mistake you did: Ferrari means TWO drivers but you are writing ONLY about one. Please, don’t mislead people. You are writing ONLY about Alonso.There is no place for Ferrari. Because Ferrari is THE TEAM.There is no more Ferrari TEAM there is ONLY Alonso in the red car in F1.

    PS: but still, thanx for the analysis of why Massa lost so much on S2 of Silverstone this year.

    With regard.Rossa.

    1. Racehound says:

      Rossa….Ferrari is Fernando is Ferrari! Best driver in the best car. The V6 turbos will give F1 a boost!!! #:)

  4. goferet says:

    Good for a competitive Ferrari is good for everyone concerned.

    We wouldn’t want the Tifosi to clutch at straws saying how they couldn’t fight at the front & so on & so forth.

    Plus this means that whenever Ferrari get beaten, it will taste & feel much better for it would have been on merit.

    Personally I wouldn’t mind seeing Ferrari running around at the back of the field with the likes of Hispania.

    Ferrari as a team & their fans have a strong sense of entitlement, it’s always nice to see them eat lots of humble pie.

    1. Dave C says:

      I sense a hint of bitter jealousy there, just because Mclaren are failing big time in trying to catch up doesn’t mean Ferrari will follow suit.
      The thing is with Ferrari’s resurgent the season will be transformed and a big chunk of the praise has to be given to Alonso who is undoubtedly along with Vettel the 2 best drivers in the world, he’s making Massa look ordinary to say the least which can’t be said for what’s going on at Mclaren where Jenson is matching Hamilton, it just goes to show Hamilton as an all rounder is no match for Vettel and Alonso, it seemed to look good for Hamilton for the first half of the race only because he blew all his fuel and look at the state of him towards the end, if Jenson was still in the race at that time no doubt he would have been ahead.

      1. Dominic Winter says:

        What utter nonsense. How can an F1 driver ‘blow all his fuel’ as you put it? This was pure and simple a mis-calculation by the team and he was forced to save fuel later on because of this. If Button had been given less fuel than needed to finish the race, he’d be in exactly the same boat.

      2. lecho says:

        Saying that Hamilton is no match for Alonso and Vettel only because he is matched by Button is underestimation of Jenson. I personally don’t know why people are constantly underestimating Button – the same that is now happening with Hill. I agree that both of them aren’t or weren’t the type of F1′s universal soldiers and needed certain circumstances to shine, but on the other hand for the most of their careers none of them gathered interest by smacktalking. They just did their job and I personally think that they are underestimated just because they are no media b***s like Hamilton, Alonso or Vettel are.

      3. SkinBintin says:

        Wow! To totally discredit Hamilton’s talent because his team miscalculated his fuel consumption is crazy! While I won’t disagree with you on Alonso and Vettel being incredibly talented, I would happily insert Hamilton above both. We are blessed to have some of the greatest talents F1 has ever seen lined up on the same grid. Truly blessed are we!

    2. Galapago555 says:

      “Ferrari as a team & their fans have a strong sense of entitlement, it’s always nice to see them eat lots of humble pie.”

      An insightful comment, very interesting, bringing information and thoughtful opinion.

      Will never understand how comments are moderated (or not) here.

      1. Damian J says:

        I agree, especially when I read insightful comments such as “F1 = Ferrari” and “F1 is nothing without Ferrari”.

      2. mtb says:

        Posts that are full of factoids come to mind.

      3. Damian J says:

        Perhaps it comes from reading equally insightful comments such as “Ferrari=F1″? :)

    3. Jo Torrent says:

      Constructive posts as usual with plenty of arguments ! Jealousy will get you nowhere.

      By the way, when will Dennis get rid of Whitmarsh ?

      1. Damian J says:

        I recall reading posts on this website calling for Domenicali to be sacked. How quickly some change their tune.

      2. Jo Torrent says:

        I still think Dominicali isn’t the man for the job, too soft in my view. I don’t see the contradiction with what I said here.

        If you were more balanced, you would see that McLaren competitiveness is globally much worse than Ferrari in recent times.

  5. wayne says:

    I’m starting to wonder if McLaren are as formidible at in season development as the hype suggests. Yes they came on massively in the 2009 season but they started form such a ridiculously low point they could ONLY get significantly better. With all their experieince and resource they still have not developed a leading car since 2008 and that car was only joint first place with Ferrari.

    This year and last they have not out-paced RBR in the development arms race and Ferrari have actually done better.

    Is this partly down to the drivers? We all know Lewis is a phenominally tallented racing driver but is he a good development driver? Alonso Calimed to have brought 1/2 a second to the car’s development when he joined McLaren – maybe he actually did and took it away with him again when he left!

    1. smellyden says:

      Half a second I am sure that is more ego then reality. Its the aero guys you get the performance increases

    2. Jonathan says:

      I think McLaren are still good at in season development. The issue this year is they did much of it just before the first race of the season, when they took inspiration from Red Bull’s exhaust design.
      If you look at the improvement between pre-season test 2 and the first race and beyond, then you could argue that the improvement is as good as any other team. Unfortunately they started further back.

      I’m guessing once you’ve designed a chassis there is only so much more speed you can squeeze out of it with further development. McLaren may already have reached this point. I hope I’m wrong.

      1. wayne says:

        So really, what McLaren are good at is copying other designs once they are revealed on other cars. What I want to see (as a McLaren fan) is McLaren lead the way rather than always following. I acknowledge the F Duct but all that did last year was help mask another poor car.

        Plus let us not forget just how utterly terrible this year’s car was before they copied the RBR exhaust system. I mean it was back of the field terrible like 2009. That is two backmarker cars in 3 years for McLaren out of the box. Disgraceful.

      2. Jonathan says:

        I believe part (not all) of in-season development is copying other teams designs, and some teams are better at this than others. For example it’s taken Ferrari longer to copy the blown exhaust to it’s full potential than it did McLaren.

        But I agree their out-of-season development is where the problems lie. Ferrari had a better initial car, so now they’ve finally caught up with McLaren’s in-season development they’ve leapfrogged them.

        However as McLaren have been able to win some races, this shows they are able to in-season develop a handicapped car into something that competes.

      3. Peter C says:

        Yes, not innovating but copying. They seem to be lacking some of the top-line people somewhere. Are there just problems with aero, or chassis or suspension, or changes needed to suit the Pirellis, or………. what would we know anyway?
        McL must have thought of a great deal more than the internet experts & must be tearing their hair out.

        But then, so were Ferrari a few weeks ago.

    3. iceman says:

      Don’t forget how far off the pace McLaren were in pre-season testing this year, they’ve already had to make a huge development step just in the couple of weeks before the season started. Allegedly this was by “copying Red Bull’s exhaust”, but if that was as simple to do as it is to say then every other team would have a top-3 car too.

    4. Zombie-UrT-BR says:

      Exactly what I said in a previous post. Now, that extra second (or half as you said) belongs to Ferrari.

    5. cjf says:

      I think this is partly due to design philosophies, each year when the cars are launched the Ferrari look quite plain relative to the McLaren but is presumably a solid base line to develop from, the McLaren on the other hand has looked like it has had any and every idea thrown at it and could be a bit harder to understand and develop as a result.

      The one thing I remember reading about Alonso’s development preferances is that he would steer the team towards shedding a bit of “on paper” absolute performance in preference of real world performance, i.e. making the car more drivable.

    6. riki Lyng says:

      Wayne,

      You hit the nail bang on the head! When Fernando claimed that he brought half a second to McLaren, he was ridiculer by Martin Brundle. Saying if he brought 1/2 a second, then what did the engineers bring?

      The next year Fernando was proven right, as McLaren struggled to match the pace of the other cars (I think they were nearly 2 seconds off the pace), Eddie Jordan described the car as a dog, and called on McLaren to re-design the car instead of trying to develop it further.

      We all know how an excellent driver Lewis is, but no one knows how good he is when it comes to development. He had only one experienced team mate (that is Fernando) that he could have learned from, but we know how the relationship between the two was. We also know how valuable experienced drivers are for the in season car development especially with the ban on testing, one needs only to look at how teams hire experienced drivers even though they’re not the fastest (i.e. Mercedes with Schumi, RBR with Webber, Williams with Barichello, Lotus with Trulli, HRT with Liuzzi etc…).

      I thought that Jenson would be the development driver for McLaren, but since he’s driving style is completely different from that of Lewis, I don’t think that McLaren could develop a really competitive car for Lewis that suits his style of driving. He needs to up his game, and learn more about development to become a complete driver.

      The only way McLaren could compete with RBR and Ferrari, is to really have an experienced driver who could point out exactly where the problem lies, instead of having the engineers scratching their heads and coming up with new packages that actually slow the car down rather that make it faster (as we seen earlier this year and few other times last year).

      As a final note, I would like to speak up my mind, and send Lewis a little message: You’re a great driver, but you need more DEDICATION, otherwise you’ll end up like Kimi, an excellent driver who couldn’t be bothered => He lost it all: even though he won a world title, Ferrari dumped him, and no other team wanted him. We heard over the year that when Schumi was at his peak with Ferrari he was the last person to leave the factory, sometimes after the engineers have left. He dedicated his life to his job, and it paid off for him. even though I don’t believe that Schumi was the best F1 driver ever (and loads of people will agree with me) He’s in my opinion and in many people’s opinion the best development driver ever, and the most dedicated. There you go Lewis, the choice is yours, more dedication (look at Fernando’s dedication with Ferrari) and you’ll end up as one of the greatest F1 drivers ever, or follow a Hollywood life style, moan and winge about the car and the stewards after every race, and you’ll end up like Kimi and J.P. Montoya.

      You need to develop your own car, not try to get the best out of what the engineers gave you.

      1. Nando says:

        It’s a different world to the Schumacher era. Is Alonso permanently in the Ferrari simulator?

      2. DC says:

        A few points.

        1. In Schumi’s era there was unlimited in season testing, so he could run around the Fiat test track all he wanted to give the engineers feedback. Lewis doesn’t have that luxury.

        2. If Schumi is so good…why is the Merc such a dog?

        3. Jenson and Lewis know what’s wrong with the MP4-26. Not enough down force! Particularly at the back end. How much more info do you think a driver can give? They are not aero specialists..that’s a very complex area and not what the drivers are paid for. I think you’ve got a strange idea of what being a development driver means. Car setup for tyre use and driveability is all the driver can feedback and both Lewis and Jenson are very good at that. Jenson is often faster at dialling a car in as can be seen in free practice sessions and Lewis is not far behind…sometimes it’s the other way around. But don’t expect them to be technical geniuses in the science of fluid dynamics!!

      3. riki Lyng says:

        I agree on point 1. that’s absolutely right, and that’s why I said that an experienced driver is a must for a team because of the in-season testing ban.

        Point 2: Ross Brawn acknowledged that they kind of know exactly what’s wrong with the car, but it’s very tricky to fix!

        Point 3: We heard Nick Fry talking about how impressed he was with Schumi’s feedback. he said it was a fully technical commentary from the moment he leaves the pits. I am not a fan of the guy at all, but I have to give him credit he could be one of the engineers developing the car. He knows the ins and out of cars like a mechanic, and understands fluid dynamics as good as any engineer (and the same goes for Rubens, and few others like DC etc…, those who where involved heavily in testing). Just hear DC’s commentary and you’ll quickly realise how knowledgeable he is when it comes to aero etc… That’s what I meant by dedicated… Be one of the engineers, and 100% technically involved and not just a weekend F1 driver.

    7. devilsadvocate says:

      McLaren’s developement in 2009 isnt really what it was hyped to be. I remember hearing most of it was down to fixing a fundamental flaw in how the front wing interfaced with the rest of the aero on the car. Hence appearing to come from nowhere to race winning. 2010 I think is more standard of what expect from the mclaren development machine, lots of talk about never sleeping and being on the cutting edge and throwing the kitchen sink at it blah blah blah, meanwhile they got overtaken by Ferrari it’s happening again this year.

  6. Red5 says:

    McLaren look to be in a bit of a no-man’s land at the moment.

    If they fail to match Ferrari’s development pace I get the feeling their drivers will fail to make top in championship.

    How soon before we find out if Lewis has a ‘performance’ clause in his contract that lets him walk if McLaren cannot deliver a race winning car.

    1. David McVey says:

      We already know this. Lewis can walk at the end of this season if he is not WDC or the team is not WCC.

    2. wayne says:

      Where would Lewis go? I think even Lewis has realised he has nowhere to go recently as his whole attitude has changed to McLaren. Two weeks ago he was constantly bullying McLaren in the media, then Horner came out and put a stop to Hamilton using RBR as a bargaining chip in his negociations with McLaren and he has changed his tune somewhat.

      It feels as though Lewis’ decision to go with that giant global management company was designed to make him a world-wide mega/rock-star personality when he really should just be worrying about winning F1 World Championships. That’s what he says is important to him is it not? He said he would take a paycut for a competitive car did he not?

      (Before I am pigeon-holed as a Hamilton hater – I adore the man’s tallent and enthusiasm and have supported him above all other drivers since his last year in GP2. For me he is everything a F1 driver should be on track)

    3. Jo Torrent says:

      He has a clause allowing him to leave a year earlier if the team doesn’t grab either driver or constructor title. But he has nowhere to go.

      1. Damian J says:

        Is Webber making positive comments about how much Alonso deserved the win at Silverstone to find favour within the team to claim Massa’s seat next year?

      2. irish con says:

        ive noticed that over the years that webber has always spoke of alonso in a very high way. lots of respect both ways there i think.

      3. James Allen says:

        You are correct, lot of respect there on both sides, goes back to Renault days

      4. mtb says:

        Perhaps you should recall that the two drivers have been on good terms for over a decade.

    4. Will says:

      I think he does, there were rumours a few weeks ago that he had a performance clause in his contract that if Mclaren don’t win either championship this year he was free to talk to other teams.

    5. unoc12 says:

      Where will he go though?

      In all seriousness, sure Hamilton is a great driver and top of the field, probably with Alonso, but he has nowhere to go, and the sensible money says stay.

      Hamilton’s options:
      RBR – Don’t want him right now. They have Newey to produce fast cars and Vettel and Webber are fast enough to drive them. The percentage that of it being car/driver doesn’t matter as the results are their and the team says NO
      Ferrari – Only other top team currently. Quite different to McLaren. Team Order do apply. A big family. Seems to fit with Alonso VERY well. Alonso didn’t work with McLaren but does very well with Ferrari. I don’t think Hamilton who is very straight minded work and then rest and do the job to the best would work with Ferrari. Ferrari are more than a team, they at the top end where decisions are made are a community who care about each other over public opinion. If Team order are required then it is done. The top guys ate together during the Schumacher years and Massa is well embeded in the family along with Alonso.
      Hamilto could replace Massa if Massa doesn’t continue to bounce back. Hamilton I don’t think would fit with the team.

      Renault and Mercedes – Not near the top and a couple of stellar years are needed to certify for any top driver that they aren’t wasting their time
      Williams – Needs to show progress
      Sauber, FI etc.. – Middle of midfield
      Lotus, Marussia Virgin, HRT – too far back

      So that’s it. His options are
      McLaren – staying
      Ferrari – completely different ‘team’ with a ? at best

      And lets put it this way, if he is at Ferrari next year and the 2012 Ferrari is class of the field he has Alonso to beat on pure pace (and it’s Alonsos team [see JA's previous posts]). Goingwould be tough but doable. If the 2012 McLaren is the best then he has Button. Button vs Alonso, I think the hoice is obvious.

      Prost asked Williams not to sign Senna for ’93. Sure Prost could have beaten him, he did on points before, but it was going to be harder and less certain than whoever else, who happened to be Hill.

      If Hamilton is serious about wanting several titles then I think his best bet is to stay with McLaren help it as much as possible like Schumacher with Ferrari. And use it to get titles. If McLaren produce, Hamilton wins.

    6. cjf says:

      Lewis needs to consider his own performance rather than that of the team.

      His season so far this year has been characterised by multiple “racing incidents” and repeated public criticism of his team, as a result it appears that the door is not open for him at Redbull/Ferrari. Button is currently level with him on points and may well beat him this year.

      I suspect that if for example Vettel was on the market this year, Lewis might be pushed before he could jump.

    7. Dave C says:

      Yeah but Redbull don’t want him and Ferrari had a ‘number 2′ seat available, does he want that? doubt it, so it leaves just Renault, FI, Sauber or Williams, is he willing to do go to the midfield?

    8. san says:

      Lewis has the best team and team mate he can imagine. Year after year they are up there with the best (last year 2nd car, this year 2nd car until now) and Button can show him how to win a race with intelligent management instead of pure rushes of speed. It would be really dumb to leave his home were the whole team is around him and go somewhere else where he is a foreigner.

      And when you think McLaren MUST deliver for Hamilton, think of other top drivers:

      - Alonso: started in 2001 in a Minardi. Had a very good car in 2005 but not the fastest, the best in first half of 2006 and the best in 2007 (with the team against him, which also counts!). Apart from that, he has been driving rather bad cars (2009′s Renault was a real dog!)except in 2010 when he had the 3rd car…

      - Kubica: until now, clearly one of the best drivers and has only had something similar to a good car in 2008 (3rd car maybe during the first half of the year). His team preferred to concentrate in Heidfield’s championship.

      - Rosberg: the best car he has driven is a Mercedes, roughly the fourth car. Still making good points almost every race!

      So, I think Hamilton should consider himself privileged, focus on his work and help his team to be the best, not starting going around to find another seat which is better. There is no better seat!

      1. JohnBt says:

        ‘in 2007 (with the team against him, which also counts!’

        “We are racing Alonso”….historic.

    9. gondokmg says:

      The problem for Mclaren, at least in the last two years is this; having both Jenson and Lewis does not work, no matter how well they get along or how good they are in the car. Lewis and Jenson are different drivers in terms of how they want the car to behave and both want to win. How can Mclaren hope to develop a championship winning car that suits the two different driving styles?

      It won’t happen and they just cannot afford to continue like that while their competition (Red Bull and Ferrari) clearly have their preferred driver. The Ferrari is developed around Alonso and the Red Bull around Vettel yet Mclaren are sitting on the fence and winning nothing.

      Mclaren must have the balls to choose between their two drivers and develop the car around that driver. If it was my decision I would let Jenson go at the end of this season, focus car development around Hamilton (if he stays) and get a proper number two driver capable of delivering decent points and even race wins once in a while. Someone like Di Resta or Trulli comes to mind for me. Don’t get me wrong. I think Jenson is a fantastic driver, but Mclaren cannot develop a car in two directions. Its like insisting on playing Gerrard and Lampard in the same team just because they are both great players even though the combination does not work and the team wins nothing.

      Its better to have Heikki for a team mate and win the championship that have Lewis and someone like Alonso or Jenson as teammates and win nothing (though for the constructors you may want better than Heikki).

      1. Randy Torres says:

        gondokmg how dare you put Lampard in the same sentence as Gerrard?! Go Reds!! I predict Luis Suarez will be the top scorer in the Premiership next season…now back to Formula 1. Hamilton won’t leave big Mac, certainly not for Ferrari where he doesn’t fit, RBR is out, Horner made that clear. What’s left? Mercedes and Renault are even further behind in car development than McLaren. As for the rest of the field, I’m sure most would love to have him, but can they afford him or more importantly can Hamilton afford them? Best option for Lewis is to tone down that ego, man up and drive!

  7. zed says:

    James,
    Is there any truth in Martin Whimarsh being asked to step down from his position as a result of the recent poor performances and lack of direction?

    1. Gondo says:

      Martin needs to decide who his lead driver will be, get rid of the other and focus all the team efforts on designing and developing the fastest car they can possibly give that driver.

  8. efBir says:

    It’s quite intriguing why Ferrar couldn’t manage to start F1 seasons for two consecutive years with a competitive car instead improve it over the course. That doesn’t help to start a year with a slow car as the point difference until you get it right might already do the damage.

    Ferrari needs to start the next season with a strong car to have a chance to have a go for the championship. For a change. Otherwise, season becomes a chase.

    1. ETM says:

      Didn’t Ferrari open 2010 with a 1-2 finish in Bahrain?

      1. Damian J says:

        There’s the crown for being also able to develop a new car in Winter testing that has been overloked in a rush to crown Ferrari as the kings of development, which would seemingly only apply mid season after the the WCC and WDC are almost lost.

  9. Here's Johnny says:

    Hi James. Good article but I don’t think Ferrari would have struggled with the hard tyre and I think the assumption that the regulation aided them is overblown. (Pun intended)

    Here is a good analysis.

    http://www.theracedriver.com/2011/07/full-british-grand-prix-race-analysis/

    Prior to Silverstone, I recall Fernando Alonso stating that some development, to be introduced at Silverstone, was in the pipeline that would hopefully see him challenge the Red Bull’s. I pretty sure Ferrari have turned their season around all be it a little late.

  10. Jon says:

    Ferrari’s development in season has been good, this year; but it could have been even better if they’d not had issues with the windtunnel. They would have been matching/beating Red Bull earlier in the season, without the windtunnel issues.

    McLaren on the other hand seem to be struggling with the developments, and often bring items that don’t work, or don’t work as well as they’d hoped. They need to sort this out, or their drivers will probably be seeking alternative employment.

    Ferrari, need to design a car that is fast at the begining of the season, and then develop at the same rate, to challenge for both titles. The Ferrari in the last 2 seasons has looked pretty good in Pre-Season testing, only to be slow at the races, fix this issue, and we’d have closer racing.

  11. Gondo says:

    The problem for Mclaren in the last two years is this; having both Jenson and Lewis does not work, no matter how well they get along or how good they are in the car. Lewis and Jenson are different drivers in terms of how they want the car to behave and both want to win. How can Mclaren hope to develop a championship winning car that suits the two different driving styles?

    It won’t happen and they just cannot afford to continue like that while their competition (Red Bull and Ferrari) clearly have their preferred driver. The Ferrari is developed around Alonso and the Red Bull around Vettel yet Mclaren are sitting on the fence and winning nothing. Mclaren must have the balls to choose between their two drivers and develop the car around that driver.

    If it was my decision I would let Jenson go at the end of this season, focus car development around Hamilton (if he stays) and get a proper number two driver capable of delivering decent points and even race wins once in a while. Someone like Di Resta comes to mind for me. Don’t get me wrong. I think Jenson is a fantastic driver, but Mclaren cannot develop a car in two directions. It’s like insisting on playing Gerrard and Lampard in the same team just because they are both great players even though the combination does not work and the team wins nothing.

    It’s better to have Heikki for a team mate and win the championship that have Lewis and someone like Alonso or Jenson as teammates and win nothing (though for the constructors’ you may want better than Heikki).

  12. Richard Mee says:

    Can’t help thinking McLaren are placing too much faith in their simulator to the extent that it is now too dominant in the car development ‘package’. A simulator is obviously a vital part of the overall mix – the McLaren system is probably the envy of the field by some distance…. but it cannot do everything can it! Regardless of how many millions are thrown at it. I fear my favourite team – following it’s core ethos of bringing technical brilliance to the fore – has reached the point now where the extreme level of investment dictates an unhealthy emphasis on the simulator that is actually limiting their development effectiveness.

    Look at me; I even tried to use some of my own Ron-speak in this post!

    My solution is simple; scour the entire earth for some special HUMAN talent. Someone born with the strange ability to ‘see’ how air works (like Newey can). And give them as much air-time as the simulator crew.

    R

    1. Richard Mee says:

      I’ll briefly add; no simulator ever came up with an idea.

  13. Coefficient says:

    We already know this info. Lewis can walk at the end of this season if he is not WDC or the team is not WDC. Both of which are unlikely hey?

    1. Coefficient says:

      Sorry, team is not WCC. Typos! Grrrr!

  14. AuraF1 says:

    Ferrari seemed determined to start this year with a basic car and planned to win the upgrade war. Problem was RBR just plain built a car with immense downforce and primed to top qualifying.

    The Red Bull is hard on it’s tyres when following anyone. This is apparent for Webber as he’s rarely leading in clean air, but was invisible on Vettel since he blitzes quali so easily and even when he’s not been on pole he’s ended up leading most of this years laps.

    But watching Vettel behind at Silverstone, his tyres were dying as quick as Webber’s. He needed to constantly find puddles to aid cooling and overheated the hell out of them (probably ideal for getting that one-stop quali lap for pole). It’s a perfect circle for Vettel – fast heat – grab pole, stay ahead, conserve tyres. But as soon as he’s locked in behind, those tyres die.

    Someone should just prime their car for a pole winning blitz and force Vettel into a chasing mode and he’d be in the pits all day long, leading to more mistakes and more chances to catch them. Though I fear it’s too late, even for a resurgent Ferrari to do much.

    McLaren – well, during winter testing they were floundering, then the came up with half a second or so by risking a clone of the RBR exhaust and have won two races (admittedly one through strategy and one through Button’s career best changing conditions rally) so I don’t doubt they can get their act together in bursts. They need to take some risks.

    1. HansB says:

      I think Ferrari had a good car in wintertesting, however due to their windtunnel issues, it was developed in the wrong direction. By the time they found out about it, they were at least a month behind.
      How much it has hurt them nobody knows but the WDC would have been more interesting than it is now.

    2. Steven says:

      “Someone should just prime their car for a pole winning blitz and force Vettel into a chasing mode and he’d be in the pits all day long, leading to more mistakes and more chances to catch them.”

      I suggest you look at what happened at Barcelona this year for a an example of what Vettel would do, when after the first turn he was in 2nd place yet still won, after also having a faster car at that time on his tail for a fair chunk of the race – do not take Silverstone as an example of what Vettel has to do, as now he is simply in points scoring mode and was also not comfortable with the car after a front wing change at the poor stop, so decided not to go in to full attack mode v Hamilton.

    3. Tortoise and Hare strategy… it’s been around for years! It was big at Le Mans, where teams would instruct one car to push to try to raise the pace of the competitors, knowing they may sacrifice one of their cars to increase the chances of failure for a competitor.

      I would like to see it tried, however! Certainly would make for an exciting race.

  15. jmv says:

    Now if Ferrari are smart and sign up Webber for next year… imagine the loads of Red Bull Racing technical knowledge Pat Fry could extract from him.

  16. Dan says:

    Ferrari do make impressive mid-season improvements, much more so than McLaren, for example. The trouble is that Ferrari are never the innovators, they’re always adding things to their car retrospectively after seeing another team do it, like the f-duct or off-throttle blowing, meaning they rarely have a fully-integrated package, it’s all bolt-on pieces.

    This means they’re always playing catch-up in the championship. They should have won it last year but you feel that 92 points is too much this year, unless Vettel loses the plot or Red Bull suddenly have major reliability issues.

    Perhaps after the technical team revamp earlier this season, the ‘conservatism’ they talked about in the design office will disappear and Ferrari will be more aggressive in design and be competitive from the start of the season and have a better chance of winning the championship.

    Newey is a great designer but in my opinion his expertise is being magnified by the shortcomings of the others. Ferrari have proved that Adrian Newey is not the be all and end all of car design because they annihilated Newey cars with Rory Byrne, even when Newey was at McLaren, a team with a comparable budget to Ferrari.

  17. John Sinha says:

    Jarno Trulli is highly rated as a development driver, according to Mike Gascoyne. Maybe he could go to McLaren and help to set up Lewis’s car for him. He can’t have long left in the Lotus.

    1. Damian J says:

      There’s barely a role for development drivers in F1 under current testing rules unless in a racing seat.

      1. mtb says:

        In 2007, Ron Dennis told F1 Racing that Alonso’s presence in the McLaren team “[prevented] an F1 team from going down [time wasting] technical cul-de-sacs – and as a result, car-developmental progress becomes more linear.”

        F1 Racing, May 2007, pp. 48–56.

        Perhaps this is what McLaren has been missing as the season progressed both last year and this year.

      2. Damian J says:

        And perhaps not. Alonso could have been leading Ferrari down a cul de sac for the first half of the season!

        Perahps Ferrari are missing a deadly combination of two quality drivers instead of 1.5 drivers.

      3. mtb says:

        Given the praise that Ron lavished on Alonso, I find that unlikely. However, if he was leading Ferrari down a blind alley, he has certainly become aware of the situation and rectified matters, just as he did last year!

        It is a great shame that drivers in other teams haven’t done likewise as it would make the sport more interesting.

      4. Damian J says:

        Ferrari have managed to win only one race! LdM was sharpening his axe only a month ago.

        Not sure how one could ever assert that other teams have failed more than Ferrari whenthey themselves made a poor start to the season!

      5. mtb says:

        Ferrari may have only won one race, but the team has continually closed the gap to Red Bull.

        One driver (who races for neither Ferrari nor Red Bull) has been threatening to leave his team due to what he claims is a lack of competitiveness that it offers. Obviously this driver feels that his team is failing.

      6. Damian J says:

        Is it so terrible that Hamilton wants to win….and not come second or third whether that be driving in a McLaren or a Ferrari, both of which have not delivered although of the two teams McLaren has been more successful this year.

        We know you don’t like Hamilton but apart from that I don’t understand what point you are trying to make!

  18. Brendan says:

    It is becoming clear to me that the aerodynamic performance of a car seems more limited by the performance of the design tools* available to the teams, rather than a raft of different ideas on each car.

    * i.e. the fidelity of the team’s wind tunnel testing and the understanding the teams have of their tunnels. Their correlation from track, to tunnel, to CFD and how they perform numerical analyses, boundary conditions and so forth.

    Going out on a limb, I predict McLaren will unearth wind-tunnel problems within the next 12 months. They had to do a hotfix back in 2009 – the tunnel may need recalibration again.

  19. Alonso Fan says:

    James,

    Have any of you contacts at Ferria indicated how much time they think they gained becuase of the exhaust blown diffuser ban/non ban?

  20. Rich M says:

    Great stuff James, I love your technical posts.

    It was metioned in the article about DRS use in qualifying, I think it should be banned and left as an overtaking device in the race (where I think overall it has been a success). I can see no benefit to the show etc of unlimited use in qualifying and think it should be banned (at the end of the season). Does anybody know why it is allowed and if there are any plans to ban it?

    1. Matt says:

      I would like to see where the RBR’s qualify when they can not use the DRS all over the track.

      I understand that all teams do use it, but was it not at Turkey that the report came back that Vettel was using the DRS a whole apex earlier than everyone else in diabolico?

  21. Holly says:

    Wasn’t Alonso a second faster on average on S2?.

    If I remember well they tested a little the hard tyre on free practice and it worked very well.

    I hope Ferrari is up there with RB for the rest of the season, it’s on our own interest, I want exciting races till the end and inside the top 3 drivers, not Vettel running away from lap 1.

  22. Bill Day says:

    Thanks for explaining how Ferrari’s good showing at Silverstone was not handed to them by the FIA’s clumsy midseason rule-rewriting.

    Off topic, James: The new layout with all the loud graphics — it’s just NSFW! With the old layout it was much easier for me to sneak a peek during the day. Still, I love all you give us on your site, so thanks as always.

    1. Andrew Woodruff says:

      +1 (assuming NSFW means ‘not safe for work’!)

  23. Qiang says:

    This is exactly why I rate Alonso the best. He can offer team direction to work with when there is no Adrian Newey in their team. More importantly, he will deliver the good and expose the bad enginerring work.

    1. Matt says:

      To be honest, maybe this is why RBR wants to keep Webber (or did before that team order issue).

      Newey has always been behind Mark. Maybe he provides the better feedback than Vettel?

  24. Franko says:

    Mr Allen your thoughts.
    Would one be correct to assume Mr Pat Fry
    has lot to do with Ferrari performance, since
    him being in charge of shassis it did not take
    long to bear the fruit, in addition outside
    Shumi the next best man on the grid to develop
    a car is Allonso would you agree.

    1. James Allen says:

      Fry is in charge so he’s responsible, yes

  25. irish con says:

    god help everybody else in f1 if ferrari, alonso and newey ever get together. the records books would be rewrote.

    1. JohnBt says:

      Lethal Weapon. LOL.

  26. Damian J says:

    James,

    Do you think Redbull are likley to keep securing Vettel and Webber because they could pass a few winning technical ideas to other teams?

    1. mtb says:

      Employees tend to move around in F1 on a regular basis, so knowledge that is unique to one team generally becomes common knowledge in the paddock.

      1. Damian J says:

        “Employees tend to move around in F1 on a regular basis, so knowledge that is unique to one team generally becomes common knowledge in the paddock.”

        So much for Ferrari making a big fuss about the leaks from its own Nigel Stepney. More than a whiff of a fake scandal.

      2. mtb says:

        So much for McLaren making a big fuss about the actions of Phil Mackareth!

        When I consider the different noises that came out of Woking in the two cases, I am reminded of a comment made by the great Ron Dennis, which all who have viewed the Senna movie should remember: “Where is the consistency?”

  27. Matt Wil. says:

    Webber, Alonso, De La Rosa, Trulli, Schumacher… people on the pitlane who knows how to discuss with the enginers. Hamilton, Vettel, Raikonnen, people on the pitlane who have a seat on the car every sunday and driver as fast as they can on saturdays (very well, of course).

    I’m really impressed of seeing bad performances due to bad tuning in McLaren on free practices.

  28. Edward Valentine says:

    I enjoy the innovative and tech sides of F1 just as much as the on track action but would it not be better to standardise some of the aero parts on all the cars such as having the same front and rear wings or a standardised diffuser? This would surely level the field with enough margin to innovate other parts of the car.

  29. Werewolf says:

    Clearly, Ferrari’s development is to be applauded, as has McLaren’s in previous years.

    In order to challenge whoever is fastest out of the box, however, there needs either to be a better basic package or a faster pace of development.

    The former is probably set in stone by definition but the latter is variable and achievable, if timeous. The question, of course, is how. I can’t help but feel on-track testing is relevant here.

    So, I have to return to a view I expressed some months ago that limited testing has to be orgainised in such a way that it is not inaffordable, possibly by charging the public for entry to well attended sessions, perhaps with autograph sessions or whatever. On the basis the cost was considerably less than an actual GP, I would pay to attend such an event at a circuit within reasonable travel (for me Silverstone, Brands Hatch being sadly out of the question these days).

  30. JohnBt says:

    After Pat Fry joined Ferarri recently, the noticable increase in pace is evident from Alonso and Massa. A little late in the championships charge but as a fan it’ll be great for the upcoming races and hope McLaren will improve too.

    The best part in F1 is the pressure drivers impart to one another with neck to neck racing, makes it more bearable to watch than a runaway team, cruising to victory race after race.

    Let’s hope Vettel takes the WDC somewhere during the last two or three races. RBR is too reliable this year and any hopes for Vettel’s scoreless race will be rare this year although not impossible.

    Also wish Webber attain more points to keep his morale on the up. I have a soft spot for Mark sincerely. It does hurt being reminded he’s a number two.

    As for Massa I do wish he’ll do much better too. Being kept out of the pits repeatedly has been very painful for him, you don’t feel that with Lewis and Jenson.

  31. Mitchell says:

    I see no reason why Alonso can’t have a go at Vettel.

    We’re not even half way through the season yet and Ferrari appear to have emerged with the fastest car.

    All you need is a couple of wins by Alonso and a couple of stumbles by Vettel and its wide open again

  32. Hi James i totally agree with your coments regarding Ferraris development and in particular with the scenario if they had used hard tyres, then we could say they have improved. For example, at spain ferrari were good on the softs but struggled with the hards?. Mclaren seem to strugle and looks to be with their hot blown diffuser engine mapping restrictions. At Valencia, the engine mapping has to be the same as qualifying spec, but the Mclarens suffered from rear tyre issues, Mclaren have said they know what went wrong? and now FIA have decided to go back to Valencia settings in terms of engine mapping?. I cant wait for the German GP to see how the field ramps up. Mclaren needs to improve their development and to me looks like they got lost with the blown diffuser off throtle saga.

  33. Luca says:

    I know it’s early days and feelings may still be tender within the team, but I would be interested to have some insight into the changes that Pat Fry brought to this year’s development programme at Ferrari.

    At the time, Luca di Montezemolo made reference to unreliable data from the wind-tunnel testing, etc. But is it possible that the relatively recent re-org has had such a quick impact? Or were some of the improvements we noted this weekend already in the can?

    James: If you get a change to do another Domenicali Q&A …

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