Technical update: How Ferrari and McLaren closed the gap and Red Bull are reacting
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Paolo Filisetti
Posted By: James Allen  |  04 Aug 2011   |  10:23 am GMT  |  169 comments

It’s now August and although they lead both championships comfortably, Red Bull’s last race victory was in Valencia in June. They have maintained their 100% record in qualifying, but on race day they no longer have the fastest car.

In Budapest we saw a reaction with Red Bull mechanics using up one of their four curfew free nights of the season on Friday to work into the small hours on the car to get it right for qualifying and the race. This involved changing the specification of the car from what they had intended to run, with modifications to the rear suspension and bodywork – quite a significant amount of work.


One of the more noticeable things on the Red Bull was a new front wing configuration, a refinement of the layout seen at Nurburgring. The idea here was to reduce pitch sensitivity, as the engineers believe that this could be causing them higher tyre wear with certain set ups. Certainly the Red Bull has been a little harder on its tyres than its rivals and this gives them less margin on race strategy to run longer stints if necessary and Hungary is famously hard on front tyres. Some observers think that this work was more about problem solving than a development step forward.


The reason for all this furious work is that Ferrari and McLaren have been pushing hard. Ferrari has found a second on its car in the last month, with a variety of updates; a change of rear suspension and rear bodywork phased in over several races but first raced at Silverstone, modifications to the exhausts to improve the blown diffuser, a succession of new front and rear wings. In Hungary they tried new front and rear wings including a rear wing modification that looks destined for Spa. It has a curved main plane, where the previous one used in Germany was straight, with only three gills in the endplate, and different positioning of the planes relative to the endplate. It was run in a high downforce configuration for Hungary, but Italian sources suggest it was designed for Spa, where it would work well in terms of reducing the drag on the long straights, even when using medium to steep angles for the flap. Alonso also said that the team has targetted Monza for an all out assault “to please the tifosi”. Last year they got it spot on with a Monza special F Duct rear wing and no doubt they’ll be the team to beat this year.


Meanwhile McLaren, which has now won the last two races, has done work on visible things like wings and brakeducts, but one of the keys to their success lately has been working with the rake of the car and the exhaust blown diffuser, both in terms of engine mapping and the diffuser design itself. As maps have to be the same for qualifying and race, there has been a lot of work on getting the best compromise. The result is more rear end downforce and stability. They got it wrong on Button’s car in Germany and that’s one of the reasons he was strangely off the pace.

Red Bull’s car runs at quite a steep rake (height of rear of car relative to the front. As over 45% of the downforce of a car comes from underneath and around 35% from the rear, this is a crucial area to get right. Force India have made great progress in this area too, hence their step forward.

But it’s not just a case of raising the ride height; work has to be done on bodywork, floor and exhausts to get the maximum.

Sebastian Vettel is 88 points clear of Lewis Hamilton in the championship and 89 ahead of Alonso, while Red Bull is 103 points clear of McLaren with Ferrari 168 adrift.

There are only eight races to go and with both Red Bull drivers scoring well it’s hard to imagine they will be caught in the Constructors’ Championship.

The drivers’ championship is also a stretch. No one contender has emerged to challenge Vettel, with three other drivers winning races and four different drivers finishing second to him when he wins.

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169 Comments
  1. Merlinghnd says:

    Hello james,

    This time last year all we heard about was the Red Bull flexible front wing which kept on passing every FIA test thrown at it. We do not hear about this now, has it gone away or have the other teams caught up with it? If it has gone away was it because of a quiet word from Charlie Whiting or have things moved on.

    1. wayne says:

      You can bet the other teams are ‘at it’ as well if tghey are not protesting!

      1. Rich says:

        ————-

        Off topic guys, but if you live in the UK please sign this to keep F1 free to air on BBC!

        http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/57

        ————-

      2. wayne says:

        If you signed this:
        http://www.petitionbuzz.com/petitions/keepf1onthebbc

        please sign the petition Rich has linked above. The petition Rich has linked is much more significant but has only a fraction of the 30,000 signatures!

    2. Jeb Hoge says:

      It looks to me as if it’s gone away. I’ve had an eye open for it the past few races and haven’t noticed anything.

      1. Rich says:

        Agreed – you could really see it through the fast Turn 4 at Hungaroring last year – despite Red Bull and Ferrari’s protestations. The wings were much more rigid this time around.

  2. Ben G says:

    Perhaps Ferrari should ask the FIA to put Monza earlier in the year…

    1. DJR says:

      This wouldn’t be a bad idea, as they would HAVE to produce a good car earlier in the season to appease the Tifosi, and therefore be more competitive in the earlier races as a result.

      I also wouldn’t mind seeing the current top three produce a car as close as we currently have at the beginning of the season, to ensure that we don’t have a runaway champion in the early season ala ’09 and ’11.

      We have had an absolute vintage this year for on track action, amazing battles between cars and an incredible amount of overtaking, but one critical thing missing is the driver championship drama, so in that sense 2010 by comparison was a more nail biting affair.

      1. wayne says:

        Doesn’t work like that – a good car for Monza is not necessarily a good car for Hungry which in turn is not necessaily a good car for Valencia…….. They can go all out to produce a Monza specific variation of their car to please the Tifosi but they will not use many of those parts again!

      2. markdartj says:

        Don’t think for a minute that the teams produce a substandard car at the beginning of the season. Nobody is slacking off. They start with the best they can produce. The only way to measure how good your car really is, is to race. Development is all relative to what the other teams are doing. Nobody shows all their cards in pre season testing, and usually if the car lacks pace in the winter, it’s already too late for the first few races, since the leading team doesn’t slack off either.

      3. Gondo says:

        I disgree, in my view Monza is a one off type of circuit that requires a special low downforce package. A good car at Monza is not necessarily a good car at the rest of the circuits so if they were to geer their pre-season testing to win Monza and please the Tifosi, it would certainly backfire spectaculally for the rest of the season.

    2. Galapago555 says:

      I’ve read that they produce a specific rear wing that works especially well in the long straights of Monza – and only there.

      1. I like that. I miss seeing the super-slim wings at Hockenheim and Monza. They looked so cool.

  3. wayne says:

    Great article, James, simply excellent information, presentation and delivery. Thank you.

    I say again that McLaren should drop this business about parity between drivers and launch an all out assault on the title with One driver backed by the other. It’s not how I want to see any team racing but why deliberately disadvantage yourself against competition who seize every possible opportunity to drive one driver forward?

    1. James Allen says:

      Would make sense, but it’s not their way – how to sell that to JB and the public?

      1. Iwan says:

        Funny how he didn’t say it, but we’re all thinking JB!

        Second to LH in points, I know, but there is a clear distinction between them on race day.

      2. Ben G says:

        But for the wheel falling off at Silverstone and the retirement at Germany, wouldn’t JB have more points?

      3. wayne says:

        Lewis’ mistakes aside, yes there is often a clear difference.

      4. Kristiane says:

        Agree with James. JB won’t take that for anything, he’d rather quit as he once said last year and if I recall right, also in 2009 too.

        For Wayne’s way of racing, I guess you’d be better off to follow Ferrari or to a lesser extent (though it’s been increasingly obvious lately) Red Bull where they clearly support one driver over the other for the sake of championship.

      5. wayne says:

        It’s not ‘my’ way of racing. As I said I would rather all the teams allowed open warefare between their team mates. But the fact is they do not and McLaren has to be realistic in those circumstances.

      6. Kristiane says:

        Since McLaren’s approach to racing is equal opportunity for both drivers to drive and win the races for themselves, that’s clearly in contrast to the way you mentioned, which makes it “your way”, isn’t it? That’s just your opinion on how McLaren should do it but not one they’d take. You value open warfare, they value their drivers equality, and don’t care as long as it’s good and clean racing. Maybe you can stand in their shoes and think from their perspective?

      7. Michael P says:

        Do McLaren fans have short memmories? I recall the fight Jenson was giving Hamilton in the Turkish GP in 2010 and was then told to back off under the pretense of “preserving fuel”. Please stop thinking McLaren is riding this high horse of morality and every other team is evil because they impose driver orders. Red Bull tried to play the high horse card too last year that blew up in their face too… at least Ferrari doesn’t hide behind a cloud of illusion.

      8. Stephen F says:

        @Michael P

        That had a lot to do with the Red Bull drivers coming together a few laps earlier and completely ruining the race for the team, imagine how much critisism McLaren would have got if Lewis and Jenson did the exact same thing. It wasn’t favouring one driver over another, it was a case of protecting the gift Red Bull had handed them, which would have been stupid to throw away at the time.

        “Ferrari doesn’t hide behind a cloud of illusion.” I believe after the race last year in Germany when Ferrari personnel were being interviewed there was a chorus of “there’s no team orders” after they blatantly broke the rules. If they don’t hide behind a cloud of illusion then why did they bother lying?

      9. wayne says:

        Kristiane, Noooo! It is Ferrari’s way of racing and that is my WHOLE point. If one team is getting this advantage surely they all should!

      10. sebsronnie says:

        @Michael P – are you sure they genuinely didn’t fear he’d run out of fuel if he continued pushing too hard? Haven’t we see such scenarios (including Lewis and Alonso this year)?

      11. devilsadvocate says:

        Right everybody is ok with Jenson being told to hold position to save the gift result for mclaren in turkey 2010, but out to crucify Horner and company for telling mark to hold it in the closing laps of Silverstone saying they prefer to see the drivers in the fences as opposed to being slapped in the faces as fans with team orders…. This annoying piece of logic and facts is going to be ignored so not sure why I bother posting, but think about it, what if mclaren had told Lewis to save fuel when he was trying to retake the position he lost to button the lap before in turkey 2010? He did after all almost cause a crash going into turn 1 if memory serves right, people would be calling for whitmarsh’s head on a stake. What if Vettel had been told to hold off on mark in silverstone in 2011? Not feeling like it’s a stretch saying most of you lot would be ok with that. I would even go so far as to say most people would have been happy if RBR had told Seb to cede to mark in Japan and brazil even if it meant they would have choked in the run in for the WDC.
        And don’t even start with the whole bs about Vettel not being able to overtake without crashing, he’s done it cleanly on more than one occasion, just not often because he doesn’t need to. Something to be said for being fast enough to have the luxury of starting from the front all the time. Webber Alonso Hamilton et al have all binned it overtaking others, some more than others, from here on out let’s at least pretend we aren’t giving a freebie to the hometeam, it gets old for us English speakers not from the empire.

      12. Adrian J says:

        How to sell it to JB? Easy, tell him that he’s the lead driver and LH will be backing him up!! ;-)

      13. jmv says:

        Hahaha!

        I can’t see Jenson wanting that… he is too much of a gentleman racer!

        Or hang on… I mixed up DC and JB.

      14. Foz says:

        James,

        Great article yet again.

        I am a button fan and would accept him in a number two driver role to try and bring the drivers title back to the UK. If the McLaren drivers could show some sort of open team work it could put a positive spin on the whole team orders issue.

        I wouldnt expect Jenson to go for this though, he has made his feelings clear about team orders in the past. Unless perhaps the title becomes mathematically impossible for him…

      15. Stephen F says:

        I’m a Button fan myself but why should Jenson be the number two driver? Lewis this season has thrown away decent results through faults of his own and hasn’t done anything more than Jenson to prove he’s worthy of being the number one driver in the team.

        McLaren’s problem is that Jenson blows hot and cold, one race he’s quick and the next he’s not and Lewis is brilliant when he’s on form but he’s always prone to making big mistakes that ruin his race. Both are seriously inconsistent so the choice of who’s number one and number two is almost impossible to make.

      16. Foz says:

        Stephen F

        I agree with your points, only justification at this stage is that Button is further behind Vettel points wise at the moment. This is mainly down to the two recent retirements he had recently. Form wise I would say both McLaren drivers are equally matched. What Jenson loses in qualifying form Hamilton loses in racing errors. It is looking like they are both starting to put that behind them though so it should be a good remainder of the season for both sets of fans.

      17. Paulinho says:

        They could sell it the same way as Redbull pretend not to?

        Although I wouldn’t want to see this myself, I would sooner see a team battle for wins, even if it was with itself.

      18. wayne says:

        I know. It just hurts to see ‘my’ team hold themselves back on a matter of principle which other teams do not concern themselves with. They are not allowing themselves a level playing field. If, and it’s a big if, Lewis can keep his head he is surely the fastest of the two drivers and the most likely to win any given race (guys I am a JB convert since his time at McLaren and have massive, new respect but Lewis IS faster, every possible stat points to this) so back him this year and see what’s what at the half way mark next year.

        Sell it to the public by telling us they are forced to follow Ferrari and RBR if they are ever to win a wdc again! We’re intelligent, we’ll understand! Blame Ferrari – that usually works in the UK ;).

        If Ferrari develop a great car out of the blocks next year and back Alonso form the start they simply stand a better chance than anyone of winning. RBR will drop their pretence of equality once Webber retires and is no longer there to hold them to account and will be on the same footing as Ferrari (which in reality they already are).

        Team spend millions for tenths but throw away entire wdc’s on a point of principle? If you cannot beat them for heaven’s sake join them!

      19. Scott says:

        I certainly do not watch F1 to see teammates conceding positions to each other unless it is mathmatically impossible for one to win the championship. Having one driver teams is against the spirit of competition and I applaud any team brave enough to let their drivers race, even if it ultimately costs them the team/drivers championship. Why should the viewing public miss out on the likes of LH and JB going wheel to wheel? That is what racing is all about.

      20. Duane says:

        Been watching F1 & IndyCar for 30+ years. Team orders are part of racing. That’s why teams run more than one car. I think its ludicrous not to have team orders. I know I’m in the minority but I like team orders!

      21. markdartj says:

        What nobody has mentioned in this debate over McLaren’s policy is that their resources are immense. They can afford to make two of everything, and so they can give both drivers equal cars, and they take that as a matter of pride. You wouldn’t see them taking the new wing off of JB’s car to give to LH, like Red Bull did last year. The company may not be as big as they were when the MP4-18 was made, due to the resource restriction agreement, but since moving into their new facility, I believe they are much more efficient in working with what they have, and they still have a huge budget.

      22. john says:

        Fact remains. McL’s drivers are more evenly matched than Ferrari’s or RBR’s. Which one do you back?

      23. unoc12 says:

        NOOOOO Jamess!!!! You’ve just queued the but Button is more ahead if you take away the DNF’s.

        THat is obviously the best plan, and something that Ferrari have done with Alonso and Massa the past couple of years.

        btw I think Buttonhas a ‘ye shall get all that he gets’ in his contract so Button as you said would have to be convinced.

      24. James Allen says:

        What does your first sentence mean. I don’t seriously suggest they should favour one driver. Mind you, this looks like a good topic for a post!

      25. unoc12 says:

        Haha, sorry for that. I’ll explain for simply and without rushing out.

        1) As seen with Massa and Alonso last year and with Hamilton and Kova in 08 and somewhat 09, focusing on one driver provides the best outcomes for the WDC. Ferrari have also done this is 07 and 08 with some success. Given the numbers of points behind Vettel they are and the number of points between 1 and 2 (25 vs 18) it would be painful to see Hamilton or Alonso get within 13 points of Vettel after SV finally has a DNF or two and some bad luck AFTER Button led Hamilton home 1-2 twice or Massa beat Alonso… or if Hamilton got a worse stratergy or didn’t get the best parts.

        I’m not a Hamilton or ALonso fan, I just don’t want to see Vettel win and I’d prefer to see a great competition over the year rather than a fight for 2nd like we have currently (and during the 00-04 Ferrari years. Most wouldn’t say 04 was that exciting. 88 and 89 yes, 2010 yes, but 2011 so far no. ANd 09 not really either. 07 and 08 were great).

        2) Wayne said in his original post that McLaren should drop the parity/equality between drivers and put all their eggs in one basket as it’s 1 chance is better than 0 chances. You then said that doing that (i.e. “this business about parity between drivers”) would make sense and conferred that you thought Button would be the one told to back Hamilton (“how to sell that to JB and the public?”).

        Obviously it isn’t hard to sell the idea to a driver that they get everyone, it’s harder to tell them to back the teammate. And that’s why I said what I said

        Hamilton with 1 DNF (arguably not fault) 146
        Button with 2 DNFs (not fault on either) 134

        I, being a bit of a forumer, was worried that by mentiong that Button would be told to back Hamilton, you had presented the opportune moment for all Button fanatics to point out that Button would be higher points but for his extra DNF that wasn’t his fault. Then would then be hit back by those saying that is because of Hamiltons mistakes and Hamilton is indeed faster and has better prospects, followed by etc etc…

        People are started a Button vs Hamilton comment fest above and below including AdrainP, Stephen F etc…

        If you didn’t mean that Button shouldn’t be suggested to back Hamilton given that’s McLarens best chance right now, what did you mean by the statement (or was it just in jest)?

      26. AdrianP says:

        or how to sell that to LH and the public?

      27. wayne says:

        Adrian, cold hard facts state that you would back Lewis at this point. He is consistently quicker and outscores Button (regardless of how close it is). There will not be enough rain affected races left this year for JB to win the title ;)

        Seriously, with Hamilton in your team you would not back anyone else unless perhaps you had Alonso and then it would be a close run thing. I know this angers Button fans but there is just no getting away from it.

        However if, next year, Button opened up a sizable lead over Hamilton I would expect Hamilton to do the right thing as well.

        The team is the EMPLOYER and the most important entity in F1 and some of us McLaren fans want to see some more titles for the UK! Either Lewis or Jenson would fulfil that.

      28. Stephen F says:

        @wayne

        Lewis would be a contender if he cut out his stupid mistakes, it makes no difference if you’re named the number one driver in the team if you’re the cause of your own downfall time and time again. If Jenson was taking points from Lewis which where damaging his title chances then you could see a point in asking Button to take a step back, but the fact is he’s not, Lewis Hamilton is taking points away from himself.

      29. AdrianP says:

        My comment was intended to be flippant/provocative, especially given the cold hard reality that Hamilton has more points than Button. However, I myself think there is a strong case to be made that Button has outperformed Hamilton this season. But for Button’s two DNFs, Button would be ahead of Hamilton on points. I know one can always say ‘but for X, Y, or Z, A would be ahead’ but these two DNFs were completely unrelated to anything Button did. From recollection, I don’t think Hamilton has dropped points from mechanical failure / problems this season.

        There is also an interesting nuance: a lot of Hamilton’s advantage has been in qualifying – Button has managed to keep in contact with Hamilton points wise, despite more often than not starting some distance down the grid. If we imagine a situation where Mclaren have enough pace to dominate qualifying such that Hamilton and Button are regularly on the front row together, their points scoring will more directly relate to their race performances only, which is where Button has had the advantage.

        There’s no doubt that the current tyre situation suits Button and does not suit Hamilton. That is to say, if we were back in the days of invincible tyres, Hamilton’s pace over a race distance would, I suspect, be better relative to Button.

      30. F1_Badger says:

        It’s great reading all the differing opinions and points of view. I don’t think the mclaren drivers have really been in a position this year where team orders overly apply. I personally think they have a system in place to deal with this issue. A lot of the big points LG
        LH and JB win are often when the other isn’t that close, its been a funny season for that. I think mc laren will make the big calls like any other team and that includes orders where required. I just think they have a higher threshold, meaning they perhaps wouldn’t use them so readily.
        On LH, I think he’s an amazing driver (button fan btw). I think his mistakes this year will help him grow and make better decisions and ultimately make him a better
        and more rounded driver. He is so much younger than button and Alonso and its easy to forget that. Making mistakes is part of the process.
        I’m also a LH, NH, MW, JA and KC fan. That’s what I love about F1, can follow ten different races per GP

      31. AdrianP says:

        Some more observations to throw into the Button-Hamilton mix:

        (1) If I remember right, Button when talking about his first lap said something like when he went side-by-side with Hamilton, he would have expected to be off the track if it was anyone other than his teammate. That stuck out as by general repute, Hamilton wouldn’t think twice about putting *anyone* off the track when defending a position.

        There’s an interesting point about what it means to have a bit of extra circumspection when racing your teammate – and it seemed that Button was laying down a marker to the effect that if he was behind, he would take it as an invitation to make even *more* ambitious overtaking manouevres. The back story, presumably, is to redress Button’s perception that Hamilton in the past has tried his luck on Button expecting him to jump out of the way because their teammates (China (I think) and Canada). So this was Button saying, ‘OK if that’s the game, then I’ll have a bit of it as well’.

        (2) The other bit of needle was the message that Button put out that he was being kind on his tyres *and fuel* at the beginning of his stints in Hungary (and he put out a similar message after Silverstone to the effect that he unlike Hamilton running fine fuelwise). I.e. the message here was ‘You might think that you were able to pull away, but I had you covered at all times’.

        (3) The last point is how Hamilton took a leaf out of Button’s book with his breezy acceptance that he came off second-best in Hungary rather than showing any frustration – i.e. ‘OK you beat me today but I don’t give a monkey’s (I know I’ll have you)’ – the sort of response that Villeneuve says he found so annoying when Button used to do the same to him.

      32. Ben says:

        While it would make sense from a Championship point of view the inter-team battles on track for such an established team make great viewing and their cars get a lot of time on TV – that’s going to please the sponsors.

        They also earn a lot of respect from the F1 community which really helps them recover from Spygate.

      33. wayne says:

        By F1 community you mean…..who? You think their compettitors respect them more for spending millions on a couple of tenths but throwing away whole titles on a principle? If I was Horner or Domenicali I would be laughing my backside off behind closed doors and thanking whatever God I believed in for the free advantage!

      34. Dan says:

        Why assume JB would be the #2? :p He’s only 12 points behind!

      35. john says:

        JB is no 2. He’s not as good as Hamilton. Fact.

      36. Nando says:

        I’m a big Mclaren supporter but seeing the two drivers going at it has been one of the highlights of the season if that philsophy costs them a WDC then so be it.
        Mclaren are the only one of the top three with driver neutral sponsors and that must play a major role in their stance.

      37. wayne says:

        This despite Whitmarsh’s favourite saying ‘we exist to win’………..

      38. Brian Morrison says:

        Entirely agree, but from the point of view of a supporter of motor racing I wonder why sponsors think that they should be supporting only one driver in a team. If they’re a team sponsor then they should play the equality card, if they want to sponsor one driver and gerrymander the support that is given then they should go and find something else to do with their money.

      39. CJM says:

        Everyone’s assuming that JB will be No. 2!

        Statistically, when you look at the mean avg points scored, both LH and JB are the same (15 pts). If you throw LH’s mistake at Canada into the mix – and argue all you like, HE made the mistake and took himself out – then JB is leading 15 to 13.

        Belive it or not I’m not having a pop at Lewis here – he’s a superb driver – I just think, this year, Jenson is doing a better job (and that’s without comparing great drives – which JB wins too).

      40. James Allen says:

        JB has had two retirements in last 3 races

      41. wayne says:

        CJM, you can use stats to prove anything you like but no-one in their right mind would have Hamilton in their team and back anyone else. Seriously…… you are at the start of a new year and you have to put your child’s college fund on either Button or Hamilton….. Everyone chooses Hamilton surely? He is the driver that is going to pull it out of the bag against Alonso in the years to come. He is the one that can drive around a poorly set-up car whereas Button needs perfection. He is also the fastest driver. Plus there will not be enough wet races for Button to win the title each year will there ;)

      42. Tim Parry says:

        I think Button’s performance over the past 2 years have surprised McLaren as much as anybody. I get the impression they were expecting him to play the proper #2 driver for the #1 team. And while Hamilton has shown himself to have more talent, Button has proven to have the temperament to win races. He seems to be enjoying himself more than ever. Drive on, JB! Drive on.

      43. Ben G says:

        Hear hear

      44. CJM says:

        True James, but I was comparing driver results: neither of JB’s last two retirements were down to him (wheel nut and hydraulics respectively).

      45. CJM says:

        Wayne, read Tim’s reply :-)

        BTW: Not using the stats to prove anything, they are what they are (and unmanipulated).

      46. wayne says:

        CJM,here are last years stats and they too are what they are and unmanipulated: Qualy: Lewis 13 Jenson 6. Race: Lewis 12, Jenson 7. This despite yet more of Lewis’ hot head moments in the later half of the season. This year will be a similar pattern. I do agree with other posters though that Lewis can be his own worst enemy. Cut out the ‘hot head’ moments and he would decimate Button. I am no ones fanboi, I just refuse to deny what is instinctively obvious. Lewis is faster and will always outscore JB over a season in the same car (by a long way if he cuts out the errors or by a shorter margin if he does not).

      47. Martin,UK says:

        Tim.

        I think you’re wrong. I don’t think Button surprised McLaren at all, they knew they were getting someone who was competitive, who would push Lewis and who would bring strong results.

        The people who Button surprised was the fans, I must admit I didn’t think he was all that great a driver until he arrived at McLaren but he’s shown his class against Hamilton

        The combo definately improves both drivers, Lewis has noticed how Jensons use of strategy and stretching out tyre wear can give decent results. Button gets a benchmark of how fast the car is capable of going on the limit.

        Indeed I think Lewis’s spin maybe came down to trying to make his soft tyres last until the end of the race, the kind of tactic you’d usually expect from Jenson (lap times before/after pitstops support this theory but guess we’ll never know).

      48. MISTER says:

        Come on James! I was expecting more from you!
        What do you mean “selling this to JB” ? Are you actually backing the idea of having one lead driver in a team rather then see fights like we saw in Hungary. Martin B, DC and the TV coverage director could not even keep up with the overtakes between LH and JB. That was pure racing with equal cars and great drivers who knew to push hard and be fair with the other driver in the same time.
        I didn’t like what RedBull did couple of races ago. There was nothing than a lack of trust in their drivers..and to think that about the current Champion Team and driver is sad in Formula 1. They are supposed to be the top drivers in the world. If their team doesn’t trust them to leave them battle on the track, then they don’t deserve me as their fan. I don’t want to see cars going round and round and overtake on command. What’s the point in that?

        I would like to see someone take the battle to SV, but not by depriving us of some awesome overtakes and battles between drivers like JB, LH, SV and MW.

        I can see you’re not very keen on JB, but I would rather watch a driver like him who can think and make clever decissions then one like SV who can’t even admit when he clearly crashes into his team mate.

        Cheers!

      49. James Allen says:

        Of course not! But I was engaging him on the subject. McLaren letting them go at it is one of their most positive features

      50. MISTER says:

        OK, thanks for clearing that up. I misunderstood you!

      51. wayne says:

        MISTER, one of the most positive things about this site is that a recognisable and respected presenter, author and journalist actually ENGAGES with his audience. If we start to jump around and scream the minute he does so, declareing our dissapointment, the engagement is likly to stop and we all loose out. I for one WANT to hear James’ opinion on more issues rather than just reporting the facts. Besides I have no idea what you read but it did not sound like you read the same JA comment I did where he used a question to highlight a flaw in my reasoning.

      52. MISTER says:

        Wayne, my post and my dissapointment was not directed to james because he engaged with us, but because I thought he actually is backing the idea of teams backing one driver..this meaning also that we support team orders being used more often.
        I want to hear James’s opinion also. From his articles so far, James didn’t give the impression that he agrees on team orders thingy. That’s why I was surprised by his question in response to your comment.
        I hope is clear now.

      53. monktonnik says:

        It wouldn’t necessarily make sense in terms of the constructors championship though as Ferrari are finding out.

      54. wayne says:

        I totally agree, but then they have not won a constrcutors championship for 12 years so their current stance does not work either (for them).

      55. Shane says:

        Why JB? If not for the premature release at Silverstone and the hydraulic failure at the ‘Ring, JB would have more points that LH at this point wouldn’t he? JB is down 12 points right now, he certainly lost that much at Silverstone and the ‘Ring.

    2. Rob Haswell says:

      Wayne, I think you misspelt “Ferrari” there

      1. andrew.cocos says:

        What a brand new joke, you definitely have talent.

    3. Martin,UK says:

      I would say of the 2 championships. McLaren have more chance of making a fightback in the constructors championship than they have in the drivers championship and the best way of doing that is having 2 fast drivers competing for wins finishing 1st & 2nd. Start giving 1 driver preference and you end up with one of your drivers underperforming, look at Massa and Webber.

      The other point is, what if Button hadn’t been chasing Lewis down hard last week, the poor tyre strategy would have probably handed the win to Vettel again.

      1. iceman says:

        And of course the prize money is for the constructors’ championship. You’ve made an excellent point there Martin, I think that’s a very strong argument for giving drivers equal treatment. If you want to win the WCC, you need both your drivers to be aiming to win. That’s assuming you can trust them not to crash into each other of course, at least most of the time!

        Your surname’s not Whitmarsh, is it? ;)

      2. wayne says:

        Guys! McLaren have not won a constructors for over a decade so their current plan does not work either – therefore why not change it up?

      3. Martin,UK says:

        Haha. Lets put it this way, if that was my surname, Sky wouldn’t be showing F1 next year.

    4. Michael S says:

      Then Red Bull should only back Vettel…. Does not make sense for them to let Webber race to take points from Vettel on the rare occasion when we already know Massa is not allowed to race, and you are saying Macca should back one guy as well.

      1. wayne says:

        They do but say they don’t.

      2. bmg says:

        Well they have not let them race. Mclaren have been a great this year. Last year i supported RB, but they have become borring, to german in there racing.

    5. Dom Jones says:

      I think that having such a strategy would make McLaren worried about putting off the top drivers. Which of today’s top drivers would have gone to Ferrari when Schumacher was there?

      Imagine potentially going to McLaren and having a shot at the title, but the contract says something like “the driver with the most points half way through the season will be supported for the championship.”

      I reckon all the best drivers would worry about ‘Well, what if I’ve had a couple of engine blow outs?” “What if I’ve been pushed off the circuit by someone and had a crash” . . .

      However, I do agree with you that they should support one driver. I used to rate Raikkonen quite highly and was initially pleased when he won the WDC. But after his lacklustre performance the next year – being outperformed by Massa(!), I wish it had gone to Lewis or Alonso. Either of them could have won it if one driver was supported (and with two races left that year, the support should have gone to Lewis.)

      The policy may keep things sweet (Coulthard would disagree), but it keeps the WDC trophy cabinet bare.

    6. wayne says:

      Can’t believe this has degenerated largely into a Button Vs Hamilton thread. The Fact is that Hamilton outperforms JB in every statistic that matters including points over a season (no matter how close it is) and we all know down where we keep things we don’t like to admit that he always will. So yes, if McLaren were to back any of the two they would back Hamilton, especially as he is leading – is it just that simple. Button is a very good driver indeed but he is not as Good as either Hamilton or Alonso. We all know this do we not? Judging by what JB has said recently he even knows Lewis is the faster of the two. If Hamilton cut out a few of his ‘wild’ races he would decimate Button well and truly.

      Sorry, James, I won’t bring this up again and hijack another of your outstanding stories but I do think the whole ‘let them race at a disadvantage’ thing is a naive inconvenience that should be dropped sooner rather than later. I want to see them win WDCs for the UK. It’s not popular but it is realistic for a company that exists to win World Championships in competition with top teams who have the solid advantage of number 1 drivers.

      Personally I’d love to see all the team mates race each other but we all know that is not going to happen so McLaren need to compete on a level playing field. Thanks for you patience in moding these posts, James, I’ll give you a break and not post any more on the matter!

      1. Peter C says:

        Thank God!

      2. wayne says:

        You are welcome, Peter.

      3. Peter C says:

        Always the last word, I’ve noticed.

    7. P1 says:

      Besides sportsmanship and probably contractual obligations, there might be other considerations in McLaren’s thinking. Backing one driver from the start is not without risks, see Ferrari in 1999. Plus, there are actually very few clear situations along a championship where number 2 can actually provide some points for number 1. Have we had any of them so far this year? How many points has Massa “created” for Alonso as a number 2 driver?

      McLaren has two drivers capable of winning the championship and can afford to provide them with the same material, therefore I don’t see it as that much of a wild thing to let them race and see how things develop. Surely if one of them drops out of championship contention early the other one should (and I believe would) adopt a supporting role.

    8. Craig D says:

      So you’d be happy for Lewis to have to back Jenson then?

    9. Craig D says:

      Also, when would this proposal make any difference? How many times has it been that Jenson has been running one position ahead of Lewis towards the end of a race, for McLaren to ask Jenson to move over? And don’t suggest you mean a preference in terms of strategy because they both get as good a chance to win. If Lewis’s strategy falls apart it isn’t because of a preference having been made to his team mate.

      So in short, I don’t believe any preference situation would have made a difference to results.

    10. James Hobson says:

      I can see where you’re coming from with your comments but you mention “the title” obviously in reference to the driver’s title. Surely the Constructor’s Championship is the focus for a constructor, especially this season whereby if both JB and Lewis finish with podiums, it is more likely that they can eat into the lead of Red Bull more than one of their drivers catching Vettel.

      1. Peter C says:

        Yes JH, you spotted it. The cult of personality ( sad people wishing they were famous & on the telly) has taken over many blogs. It is not about LH & JB totally, McLaren need to win a constructors title after so many years, as far as the team goes that is essential.
        But fans insist that their favourite driver should be favoured by the Team to enable him to win the WDC.
        The fact that there is a Constructor’s Championship indicates that this is more a Team sport, but it’s a natural human reaction to support a preferred driver, sometimes to the point of rudeness & mild hysteria.
        Let’s hope McL keep as they are instead of introducing the falseness some teams employ.

      2. wayne says:

        For goodness sake, the constructors has not been won by McLaren for better than 10 years (as I have said over and over again) so the driver parity system does not work for them does it? They do not win the driver’s title and neither do they win the constructors by employing their current stance. I ask again, why not chane it up and try something new?

    11. Drama Queen says:

      McLaren arent near the level of Red Bull.
      I think it would be a very big mistake to back one driver.
      Neither driver due to car or whatever is able to go alone up against Red Bull. At least not this year.

      1. wayne says:

        But maybe they can as of now considering the last 3 races?

    12. Rishi says:

      Belated entry but I’m sorry this one is an absolute non-starter for me – unless one driver establishes a sufficient lead over his team-mate at least.

      The reason why team-orders and a designated number one and number two wouldn’t work for McLaren here is that the two drivers have been too closely matched. Granted, Lewis has been faster on outright speed and after the Spanish GP if he’d kicked on he may have created a scenario whereby, as Vettel’s main contender, McLaren may have had to back him eventually.

      As it is, he had some tough rounds and Jenson had a good run (Monaco & Canada). Then vice-versa (Britain & Germany) – but on the whole, both have been closely matched (as stated) and their good/bad runs have all-but-cancelled each other out such that they’re very close to each other in terms of WDC points.

      By contrast the reason why Red Bull & Ferrari have nudged towards one driver this season is that in both cases one driver has been visibly faster than the other and has, in the process, notched up a points lead over their team-mate – forcing their team’s hand on this issue (to an extent; Webber is still 2nd in the WDC so it’d be foolish for RBR to blank him out completely).

      Additionally, success stories derived from a team backing one driver have come from this circumstance (in 1986 Alain Prost beat two in-fighting Williams drivers but was well ahead of his own team-mate Keke Rosberg; late-season reliability woes meant Massa had to back Kimi Raikkonen when he beat in-fighting McLaren drivers in 2007).

      So the circumstance of the team backing one driver over another can work if one driver has a big enough points lead over his team-mate. But when the drivers are quite close in the points, the opposite can also work. In battling each other, Hamilton & Button could both take points off Vettel – would that be a given if one was demotivated at being given the No2 role (see Montoya 2005 as an example)?

      It was also cited in a previous post how Red Bull had gambled by allowing Vettel to chase the 2010 title when it appeared, after the Korean GP, that Webber was the only guy with a realistic chance. In fact, it turned out to be precisely their decision to let both drivers fight for the title that (in its own, unplanned way) helped bring them the title. In the season finale at Abu Dhabi Webber pitted after his tyres went off and Alonso – caught between rock (Webber) and hard place (Vettel/Hamilton) – opted to pit to cover him. This lead to the scenario whereby Alonso got stuck behind Vitaly Petrov’s Renault while, up ahead, Vettel rode out the tyres’ graining phase, pitted much later and went on to take victory and championship – something he wouldn’t have been able to do had the team put all its eggs in Webber’s basket.

  4. Sean mahoney says:

    Button, Hamilton, and Alonso at Spa and Alonso, Hamilton and Button at Monza and it’s game on!

  5. Kristiane says:

    Not being mean to Vettel or anything, but I wish he’d have a few DNFs to close up the gap a little so we can have a thrilling championship battle between the three giant teams and 5 top class drivers rather a runaway.

    1. Allan says:

      That’s what happened last year! Three DNFs for Vettel from solid, race-leading positions certainly made 2010 a closer championship.

      Of course, many were calling him a car-breaker at that point!

    2. Craig D says:

      I agree. If only Piquet was still on the grid! He’d be happy to ‘take one for the team’ and have a couple of ‘collisions’ with Vettel…

      What, too soon?!

      1. Alex W says:

        bring back Piquet!

  6. Andy Carr says:

    I have to say James that I think there is a very good chance that McLaren could still win the Constructor’s title, but I feel the Driver’s Title is out of reach.

    There is just 103 points between RBR and McLaren. And McLaren gained 9 points on RBR in the last race. It could of been a comfortable 1-2 for McLaren if it wasn’t for a couple of bad strategy calls. So McLaren could of gained 18 points in just one race. It won’t be easy, but it’s very doable :-)

  7. goferet says:

    OMG!!! What a confusing bunch of information. No doubt, I could never cut it as an F1 engineer.

    Lets see, if Newey could have been tempted out of retirement, maybe Mclaren can do the same thing with Ferrari’s Rory Byrne for all this playing catch-up just won’t do because Red Bull don’t have to improve their car any more to bag both championships.

    But fair play to Ferrari & Mclaren for not giving up & concentrating on the 2012 car, it would be so satisfying for Mclaren & Ferrari if Vettel didn’t win any other race in the second half of the season for that would just pour cold water on his first half achievements.

    Can’t wait for Spa where the Red Bull aren’t expected to perform well.

    Okay, off to re-watch China 2011 to try and calm my F1 withdrawal symptoms

    1. jmv says:

      I see Red Bull going for podiums, reliability, consistency and minimizing development…. concentrating on the 2012 Monster!

      I see McLaren and Ferrari wasting precious resources in the hope to reach the final race with a WDC WCC win possibility.

      Vettel is too smart and too consistent to throw it all away!

      Therefore I see the first half of 2012 as complete domination by Red Bull.

      There is a pattern.

      1. Phil R says:

        Good point JMV, is there any word on how Red Bull are spreading their resources re 2011/2012 cars?

    2. Craig D says:

      Heh, that’s funny cos for some silly reason I always imagine everyone here being technically minded simply due to science being such a significant component to F1. But it’s a good reminder that not everyone has done a Mechanical Engineering degree like myself, so that I bear it in mind if I ever post on a techy subject!

    3. Phil says:

      I don’t get this ‘Spa is not a Red Bull friendly track’ nonsense.
      Look at the last two years.
      2009, RBR (SV) finished 3rd ahead of both McLarens
      2010: RBR (MW) on Poll (SV 4) McLaren won, but RBR in 2nd

      This isn’t a gimmie track to McLaren of Ferrari by any stretch.

  8. Roddy says:

    Seems likely there will be rain at some point on race day at both spa and monza. Are Ferrari now better able to get heat into their tyres in the damp?
    I would like to see Vet win Spa, still probably the most demanding of driver ability followed by Suzuka

  9. gondokmg says:

    Red Bull must be that the biggest threat to them at the moment is Mclaren and not Ferrari. There is already very little if any chance of anyone catching Vettel and Mclaren have zero chance of catching him with both their drivers are their policy requires.

    Ferrari do not have the same problem as they have a clear number 1 driver, if they were to have a better car than the Red Bulls they would be a more potent threat to Vettel.

    Mclaren have either given up on the WDC or they feel that one of their drivers is normally quick enough to beat the other anyway (unless it’s a wet/ dry race) in which case they are being smart. They did the same last season and Jenson fell out of the race on his own.

    My prediction for the season is; WDC – Vettel, WCC – close call between Mclaren and Red Bull.

  10. unoc12 says:

    I don’t think the WDC is too far out of their reach.

    Alonsio is 89 behind
    Hamilton is 88 behind

    Also note that over the last half of lsat season Alonso outscored everybody and Red Bull for the majority had the best car or at worst 2nd, with Monza the only time time they didn’t.

    There are 8 races left. If Vettel finally has a DNF this season or a major tech failuer (say no KERS at the start or in Quali) then he could easily lose 15 points or 25 if he DNF’ed (presuming one of Hamilton or Alonso win… which isn’t hard to imagine).

    If Alonso can win a race, with Hamilton, Button and Webber behind then that’s another 13 points lost by Vettel. Even if he finishes 3rd behind 2 of Alonso/Webber/Hamilton/Button/Massa then he loses 10.

    Surely it isn’t likely, but noticing that Vettel has had 100% perfect reliability in all critical times and never a DNF this season he is due. Webber, Hamilton and Alonso have all had problems.

    Good article by the way!

    1. Moo says:

      Vettel had many problems too with KERS and brakes and engine which hampered his races. In fact he had more than Hamilton/Alonso/Button/Massa. Only Webber ahd a few more.

      1. unoc12 says:

        Nothing at crucial stages.

        It’s one thing to not have KERS off the line, try to compensate by taking a risk and ending up in 10th from the front row of the grid, and another thing to be 15 seconds in the lead and then have a KERS problem for part of the race.

        The positons lost, which need to be overtaken are minimal.

        Vettel has had 1 problem is Quali. Spain, taking 2nd.

        Vettel has had 0 problems at the start of races.

        His only problems have been at the best time to have problems, well in advance

    2. iceman says:

      The trouble is Vettel really needs about 3 DNFs now for the championship to open up.

      1. Kristiane says:

        Probably two or three finishes in 8th-10th is enough =)

      2. Gondo says:

        I would say one DNF plus a couple of finishes outside the podium would do it; i.e. 25 + 13 + 13 = 51 points lost, provided a consistant challenger emerges to win those three races.

        Spar and Monza could give us the two non
        podium finishes and then who knows.

        If that gap was cut to about 40 with 4 or so races left, then Vettel will know that he is one DNF, KERS issue, etc away from trouble and that would make it interesting because he would no longer be able to take it easy. Anything can happen when there is pressure being applied.

      3. unoc12 says:

        True.

        If you remember back to last year Alonso was truley epic in the final half, from Monza onwards.

        Vettel hasn’t done well ta Spa or Monza in the past, Webber has easily outqualified him BOTH times.

    3. Kimster says:

      Anyone can win as many races as they want for the rest of the year. Even if Vettel is 3rd in every race he is still WDC. He can even afford to get of the podium once ;)

  11. Jarv027 says:

    Red bull will still take both championships (Just). They’ll struggle at Spa and Monza as usual but they’ll be back at singapore.

    1. jay harte says:

      i agree with this
      red bull will be 4th and 5th at next two races
      then will be strong again come singapore and suzuka .
      james who do you fancy for the win at spa ?

      1. James Allen says:

        Hamilton or Alonso

      2. Jon says:

        And if it’s raining?

    2. Jason C says:

      I agree, though my hope is that McLaren and Ferrari have both surpassed RB with their cars and so will finish 1-2-3-4 from now on, closing the fight up.

      Some hope.

  12. irish con says:

    james can you not use your super powers and make the fia drop the seasons first 6 races or so. what a championship we would then have lol.

    in all seriousness i think mclaren will win the races that are slower corners in colder temps and ferrari will win the races with faster corners and higher temps. mclaren do seem to be having great success with the off throttle over run. redbull is struggling as can be seen in the gaps getting smaller and smaller to them on the saturdays. i reckon alonso and hamilton will get the gap down to aroud 30 or 40 points at the end of the season but vettel is too smart to throw away points in trying to prove to his doubters that he can race. that argument is how desparate some people are to not give him credit were credits due.

    1. Damian J says:

      Ask Bernie to install track side heaters instead of water sprays as a way to spice up the racing! :)

  13. Moo says:

    I think RBR started working on their 2012 car after the Monaco, is why they are not the fastest anymore, lol.

    Also, it is not a coincidence that right after the engine mapping change and the change of tyres, suddenly McLaren and Ferrari found a second. You don’t gain that by adjusting your wing a bit.

    Manipulated season. RBR will still win both obviously, but still, they manipulated the championship.

    1. Jason C says:

      If anyone has manipulated the season, it’s the FIA, not Red Bull. Red Bull have just made the quickest car they can and it’s proven to be quicker than their opposition.

  14. Tyler says:

    Cool article as always James. I would like to hear more clarification on just what the mechanics are modifying. It seems that most mods are new parts, so are the mechanics up late simply bolting on a different group of parts for a different set up or is there some actually grinding or cutting or altering going on? All of the above?

    1. Trent says:

      Yep me too.
      Exactly what can they do at the circuit?

      Everything seems so meticulously planned back at the factory, it’s hard to imagine what they can do ‘on the run’ when they’re actually at the track to improve performance.

  15. Steve JR says:

    James, why is the paddock no longer buzzing about the flexible wing any more? Did the other teams catch up with their flexible wings or did the FIA iron it out?

  16. Douglas says:

    What’s the story with the negative camber angles on the different cars? In Hungary the RB’s seemed to have very steep NC on the front wheels, the McL’s slightly less and other teams down the grid almost none, as in the sidewalls of the tires were almost completely vertical. Was I seeing things, or does the NC change with more downforce applied and how does this affect the driveability of the car in and out of corners?

    1. More negative camber increases grip in the corners, but reduces the braking grip (or acceleration if you add camber to the rear tires). You need to find a good balance between the two, also keeping in mind the balance of grip from front to rear.

      The suspension would have some camber gain when compressed (i.e. the more the suspension is compressed, the more negative camber the wheels will have); however, there is very little suspension travel, so this is virtually negligible.

      Therefore, static camber matters more than the camber curve (increases in camber due to suspension movement). Static camber is just whatever you set the camber to be when the car is at rest.

      The team uses more front camber? Chances are they don’t have enough front grip and don’t mind giving away a little bit of braking in order to make their car handle. The team has very little camber on the front wheels? They might have a very stiff car that doesn’t have enough rear grip, and they don’t want to add rear camber otherwise it won’t put the power down; that means the only option is to take out front camber to maintain a balance of grip… this could also be a good strategy for a car further back in the grid, as it would improve braking, which is where most passing takes place.

      There’s a lot of strategy involved, but you have to keep in mind that you need to keep the car balanced.

      Take Red Bull for example: they hardly ever have to pass cars, so they can focus on setting the car up to be fastest over a lap. That means a lot of front camber for them. They don’t mind that it hurts their braking a bit, because they’re usually up front. McLaren is sometimes a bit further back, so they need to make sure that if they have to pass, their camber isn’t so extreme that they’d lock up in every braking zone when passing. If you look at Sauber (I haven’t, so this is a guess), they need to pass a lot of cars over the course of the race to do well, so it would benefit them more to hurt cornering performance a little, but have the best braking ability so Kobayashi could pull off his amazing moves.

      But really, you’d have to talk to each engineer to see what they are focusing on when the decide what camber to set the car at.

      1. Douglas says:

        Wow, great answer Malcolm, thanks for taking the time – really appreciate that.

      2. James Allen says:

        Second that. Malcolm’s contributions are very much appreciated

  17. Omsk 2 (Mytram Zynom) says:

    Four Months

    Pushing through the paddock gate
    So many journos sighing:
    News had just come over -
    We had four months left to cry in.

    BBC guy wept and told us –
    F1 was really dying;
    Cried so much his face was wet,
    Then I knew he was not lying.

    I heard mobile phones, Leyton House, V8 melodies;
    Saw boy with toys, pneumatic valves and TVs,
    My brain hurt like a cockpit,
    It had no ducts to spare,
    I had to cram so many things to store
    Everything in there:

    And all the fat-skinny drivers;
    And all the tall-short drivers;
    And all the nobody drivers;
    And all the somebody drivers;
    I never thought I’d need so many drivers…

    A girl Pinkham’s age went off her head,
    Hit the tiny Heidfeld.
    If Petrov hadn’t a-pulled her off,
    I think she would have killed Nick.

    A marshal with a broken flag
    Fixed his stare to the wheels of an HRT;
    Charlie knelt and kissed the feet of Jean Todt
    And Horner threw up at the sight of that.

    I think I saw you in the Red Bull station
    Drinking energy drinks cold and long,
    Smiling and waving and looking so fine…
    Don’t think you knew you were in this schlong.

    And it was cold and it rained
    So I felt like a steward
    And I thought of McNish
    And of how he just blew it
    Your pace, your race, the way that you drive,
    I bless you, you’re wonderkid, I want you to thrive!

    We got four months, stuck in P1;
    We got four months, you’re number 1.
    We got four months, but no 600 quid!
    We got four months, that’s why I quit!
    Four months…

    PS My last post here. Grat blog, great articles. But I’m off to follow other series.

    1. James Allen says:

      Our loss is poetry’s gain…

    2. Kristiane says:

      *yawn…*

  18. mo kahn says:

    While the entire world concentrates on Ferrari n’ Mclaren closing the gap on Redbull… Adrian Newey scribbles away his genius quietly somewhere during the summer break… If anyone here thinks Redbull will take this lying down… they think wrong :)

    1. tim. says:

      Not a question of taking it lying down…no one thinks they will …that notwithstanding …Ferrari and McLaren are catching up quicker the RB is figuring out how to stay in front…

    2. TheGreatCornholio says:

      I’ll share a comment i heard one of the BBC team come out with last weekend when they were speaking about Red Bull’s current situation “when a car is as good as the Red Bull is, what more can you do to improve it?”. Bit of a nonsensical comment until you remember that the basic underlying design concept of the RB7 is now in its 3rd year as it started with the RB5 which was then a totally clean sheet design. The RB7 is a development of the RB6 which in turn was a development of the RB5. McLaren are still learning how best to utilise the MP4-26 so there’s plenty of potential to be released there yet. Similar situation with the Ferrari! I’m not saying its impossible for Red Bull to drag more performance from their package but its gonna be tough even for the uber genius that is Adrian Newey.

  19. Raymond says:

    James, do you think Newey’s shifted focus to the RB8, and that could be why the McL and Ferrari have been closing massively? Also, the Newey design is a 3-year lineage. Wouldn’t it be close to its ultimate potential?

    Do you think Vettel will have a 2009-like cruise to the title, or will he bounce back and win one or more of the remaining races?

    1. James Allen says:

      No. The rules aren’t that different next season so no reason to do that, especially with a championship there for the taking

  20. Obster says:

    As a Button fan, I would certainly do something else with my viewing time if I knew he did not have a chance to win.
    He is a real “wild card” in the field, especially in changeable weather, but also with these tires this season.
    Makes it very enjoyable to watch races.

  21. Mohammed Al-Momen says:

    James,

    Can you please tell us why can’t Mclaren and Ferrari start the season this strong? Is it because they are copyin some of Redbull’s ideas? I know Ferrari had an issue with the tunnel but last year they also started bad and developed well Mid season.

    1. Stephen F says:

      I don’t think they have their cars set up similar enough to make it as simple as just copying Red Bull’s ideas and I don’t think it’s simple enough to just copy ideas anyway. What works for Red Bull might not work for McLaren and Ferrari. It’s more a case of them just developing and updating their cars as the season progresses while Red Bull seem to get it right early on but have some trouble improving on what they already have. When you’re at the top it’s much harder to vastly improve than it is if you’re second or third with a clear target in front of you.

  22. type056 says:

    Great article James.
    Continue in this way.

  23. F1 dude says:

    http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/57

    Sign up to hit 100,000

    Thank you…

    1. Rich says:

      Done.

      James, maybe you could have a link to this official petition on your site? If you do believe that F1 should be kept free to air in the UK…

      http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/57

      Rich

  24. Chris says:

    I must be missing something! With eight GPs to go, one driver has to win them all and SV has to finish outside the top three in them all for SV not to be champion this year. This does not appear possible. I think RB are already running a high risk qualifying strategy and a low risk race strategy; it’s a strategy designed to maximise points in both championships. The strategy plays other drivers off against each other. It does not matter by how much you win the championship, just as long as you win it. SV’s closest rival (for the WDC)is LH and while I admire LH’s speed, he makes too many errors…both this year and last..these errors cost him dearly.

    1. Lexus says:

      I think everyone is forgetting why LH is making more mistakes. He is pushing much harder than JB. He is pushing harder in qualifying and he is pushing harder in the race.

      JB sits back and WAIT for opportunities to present itself to him, whilst LH try to MAKE those opportunities.

      Now if LH did not make those mistakes where would he have been now.

      One of LH problems is his team mate. JB has raised his game by having a team mate as LH to measure himself, but LH does not have a tam mate to use as a bench mark.

      I have been in situations where I have raised my game because I am compoeting with someone with a very high standard and when that competition is not there my game is a bit lower.

      It may seem ridiculous but Alonso was the perfect team makte to bring the best out of LH. If LH saw Alonso do something with the car that he never know could be done, he would just go out there and do it too. This is what is making JB raise his game but LH does not have that bench mark to follow.

      On the other point if any team wants to beat Schumachers drivers championship record they will have to back one driver. To make the sport a level playing field all teams should back a driver or all teams should have equality between drivers.

      I am a McLaren team fan and a LH drivers fan and right now I am very frustrated. This is not helped by the fact that I also support Arsenal. While we may be very entertaining throughout the year we have no victory march as we do not bring home the trophy. Though it pains me to say so we need to get rid of Whitmarsh and we need to get rid of Wenger. We need real killer instincts out there and people who are prepared to do what it takes to bring the trophy home.

      What we are destined to get for the forseeable future are entertaining racs but no bragging rights at the end of the season.

  25. Janis says:

    Somehow I feel this discussion has gone the wrong way – the same old tired No 1 driver vs. equal treatment thing.
    What really in interesting is – how McLaren and Ferrari are able to bring in so many serious updates without violating the resources restriction agreement. Some pretty clever accounting must be involved!
    It has been said the Mercedes’ problems this season are caused by reading the RRA too literally. Now they have realized their mistake and instead of protesting (what good will it do, anyway) are hiring more people, including (possibly) some big names. But – this season is essentially gone for them.
    So, are we in for another spending arms race? Just a more devious one because of the need to formally go with the RRA?

  26. markdartj says:

    This has been the most enjoyable thread to read this year. What one has to consider, too, is that maybe the drivers get equal cars, but the car is better suited to LH’s style of driving than JB’s. That would obviously put JB at a disadvantage.

  27. giorgio ch. says:

    every cloud has a silver lining, if Renault engine would = to Merc aggregate, then one could be consider much boring races, with conclusion – RB all at top. Perhaps engine difference makes case at SPA and Monza for RBR.

  28. Olivier says:

    Sorry James Allen, it is a bit off topic but could you give us an update on Kubica’s recovery? How is it going? And will he be able to race in 2012?

    1. James Allen says:

      Rehabilitation is coming along well, I’m told. He is using his damaged hand to do texting!

      1. edmillington says:

        Latest news is he has regained full motion to his thumb, so I guess he is preparing to test drive soon.

  29. Lez Martin says:

    I know I am a layman, but in my mind it seems to me, that if Red Bull run at a steeper rake angle, then this would create more rear down force, and also more drag?….More rear down force, would this explain the harder use of tyres situation?
    Team mates may have the same cars, in essence, but set ups tend to be different, giving a driver one advantage in one area, but the other driver an advantage in another,(for example, maybe Hamilton more speed, but using more fuel, though Button would have less tyre degredation, whilst using less fuel?) its just getting the balance right. I saw something once regarding Senna, that explained why he seemed to have an advantage, that explained his ‘feathering’ of the accelerator, and also driving like a rally driver by using the ‘heal/toe’ method on the brake and accelerator.
    At the end of the day though, do the engineers and aerodynamicists have to work differently to suit each driver?

    1. Senna’s advantage was that he’d play with the throttle even under braking to keep the turbo spooled. Of course, after turbos were banned, that advantage was gone (though I bet he still used the technique to balance the car if need be).

      I think a steeper rake angle would actually generate more downforce across the entire floor, front to back. Because of the higher rear end, there is a greater area where the air leaves the diffuser. This ends up drawing more air under the car… more air = faster air, and faster air = thinner air (Bernoulli!), which ends up making more downforce.

      On an F1 car, there are two main suction peaks. One is at the leading edge of the floor (this is the one that Renault seeks to improve with their front exit exhaust), and the other is at the leading edge of the diffuser (which every other team seeks to improve with their blown diffusers).

      Basically, whenever air curves around a solid object, it reduces the pressure against that solid (Coanda effect). When the air goes under the car, it curves quite a bit at the leading edge, thus lowering the pressure. When the air curves up into the diffuser from the floor, it lowers the pressure again. Like I said before, more air flow = more downforce.

      Simply put, I doubt there would be a gain in downforce at the rear of the car without a corresponding gain at the front of the floor as well; however, since the floor is positioned toward the rear of the car, it could potentially provide more rear downforce overall, if you focus solely on what the floor generates.

      Keep in mind that the rake is also responsible for the front wing being so close to the ground. This ends up increasing front downforce considerably, which would balance that rear downforce increase due to the increased diffuser exit area.

      I hope I didn’t get too techy in my explanation…

      1. Lez Martin says:

        Cheers Malcolm, I think I understand, roughly, where you are coming from, its many years since I did basic engineering at college, and I think ive actually forgot more than I learned, mind you, i never studied in the context of aerodynamics, which seems a fascinating science, but mind boggling at times….

      2. Peter C says:

        Malcolm

        If you raise the rear end (effectively dropping the front in relation to it), does it not raise the CofG at the rear?

        If so, how does it affect the handling? I mean just from the suspension point of view. Would you need more downforce to get the rear end to grip, if so what about chicanes & slowish corners wher airflow is at a minimum?

        It used to be that a higher rear end (more rake) made a car very oversteery, but of course that was before the high science & wind tunnels etc.

        I hope you may have a view.

      3. Yep, it’ll raise the CG in the rear. That will make the rear end of the car want to roll more and it will shift a little bit of weight forward, which in a non-aero car would make it tend to oversteer (when I say non-aero car, I mean one that doesn’t make any noticeable downforce from the floor).

        However, the game changes once you run a flat-bottom close to the ground. Then you end up creating a venturi effect under the car by running rake. The little increase in front weight bias is now strongly overcome by the increased downforce.

        Then you tune other elements of the suspension to attain the mechanical grip properties you need, basically working around the inherent mechanical disadvantage of high rear ride height to achieve the aerodynamic advantage you are seeking.

        Basically, the small mechanical loss results in a large aerodynamic gain.

        F1 cars are designed primarily around aero these days. It used to be that you’d pick your engine, and design your suspension, and then you would make your chassis meet all of those pick-up points. Now, if you are Newey, you design the shape that will work best through the air, with a little consideration for where the engine will have to go… then you redesign everything else to fit in/to that aero shape. Look how weird the front suspension is these days, where the A-arms angle up at close to 15 degrees… that’s a terrible set up for a non-aero car, but the gains you get from the aero make the mechanical losses pale in comparison.

  30. Gondo says:

    JAmes, would it not be better and maybe easier to design a car for two drivers with similar driving styles than two drivers with totally different driving styles like what Mclaren have?

    Does it not affect their development pace when they bring a new component to the car, one driver says it feels great while the other is mourning about it all day or does it all come down to set up?

  31. Raymond says:

    Hey James. How do you see the rest of 2011 panning out? Will Sebastian clinch 3/4 races from the end? Will he win any more races, or have a 2009-like cruise to victory?

    1. James Allen says:

      I think he’ll have a fight on his hands to win races, but he will win the title because different drivers will challenge him, not one single challenger.

  32. Regarding the rake, it depends on a trend that has come to the fore in the past few years, that of having decoupled the ride and the roll in the suspension.

    This is done with just using one heave spring. If there was no anti-roll bar (or sway bar), then the rear suspension would flop all over the place as it would not have any resistance to roll. Basically, the anti-roll bar is the only thing that resists roll, and does not affect ride. The heave spring affects ride, but not roll.

    For a few years, Nascar teams have found it desirable to have the “soft spring, big bar” set up, where heave is very soft, but roll is very stiff. Red Bull needs the opposite of this in the rear of their car to run a high rake, which is impossible with an older, conventional suspension; however, with the decoupled ride and roll, it’s now possible.

    Red Bull needs that stiff rear ride rate in order to keep the rake very consistent. With a conventional set-up, this would result in a really twitchy car as increasing the ride rate would also affect the roll rate; you can’t increase ride without increasing roll as well.

    With the new set-up, it’s as easy as tossing in a very stiff heave spring, and then a very soft anti-roll bar, as the two are independent of each other. This allows the stiff ride needed to maintain the rake, but provides a very soft roll so that they can balance the mechanical grip without a massively stiff front suspension.

    For those that know the landscape of F1 suspension, they basically just have a spring between the two bell-cranks where the pull-rods or push-rods connect. F1 cars have had these for a few years (it was this spring that came off Barrichello’s car and hit Massa), but it was only to augment the other springs to increase the ride rate without affecting roll. This trend naturally led to fully removing the side springs in order to allow complete freedom between roll and ride settings.

    Good evidence of this was Korea last year, where they were testing the limits of it on Mark’s car. It was lifting the inside front wheel everywhere, but they were very coy when someone asked if they broke a sway-bar (they said “something like that”). It wasn’t broken – just very very soft to see what they could get away with. Stiff ride, soft roll, hence the front tire lifting way up in the air through most corners.

    This also allows them to the reverse on the front. I think they have a very high rebound damping level on the front, that keeps the nose low. Then they have a relatively soft ride with a stiff anti-roll bar. This combination has the same effect of the rear, albeit in reverse, where they want the soft front to compress due to the downforce, but they use a stiff sway bar to maintain the mechanical grip balance front-to-rear.

    Once that nose is compressed by the aero, the braking makes it compress a little more, and then going through the corner, the stiff rebound damping keeps the nose low just long enough to get the car onto the straight and producing sufficient downforce to keep that nose low again. Then they come into the pits, the nose slowly rises, and passes the ride-height tests. Also since the car runs such massive rake, the “reference plane” comes very close to the ground, or may even extend into it. Therefore, the reference that they use to measure the height of the front wing is so low that it allows the wing to be super low as well.

    Of course, that rake ends up raising the rear of the car. The floor and diffuser need to be designed to take advantage of this, especially with the blowing of the diffuser. The exhaust not only adds energy to the diffuser, but since it is blowing in from the side, it may also create a bit of a skirt.

    The magic of the Red Bull is not in one flexible wing, or simply jacking up the rake, but it’s the addition of several little integrated set-up features that need each other to work well.

    Of course, adding all of these features takes a lot of work to get right, so McLaren can’t just say they want to do it, and go ahead and make their car a Red Bull beater. They need to redesign a lot of little details, find out the optimum ride and roll rates for the front and the rear, determine how much damping they can get away with on the front, and tune their blown diffuser to work well at a higher rear ride height, but allow for a little more roll without losing downforce. It’s a lot of tricky work that Newey has had a few years to perfect on the Red Bull.

    1. Mike J says:

      Thanks for that assessment and post here and earlier malcolm, very interesting. much appreciated your input. good to get off the earlier theads.
      Its all about the ‘package’ and how the drivers style makes it work!. McLaren and Ferrari have clearly made theirs work better off however it would have been interesting to see how they all performed if OTBD were banned after silverstone and how teams reacted.

      1. Definitely. I think we might have seen some 2010-Mercedes-style wheel-base changes, and certainly some major set-up changes… although, we wouldn’t have known how much they’d change the springs, J-dampers, dampers and anti-roll bars (easy to hide those changes!).

  33. Peter C says:

    Sorry, Malcolm. I asked a question to your 29 response, but you’ve pretty well answered it here.

    I must say, I really appreciate your technical input, it makes such a welcome change from all the personality-based stuff that has appeared earlier in this thread & many of the others.

    Those are all opinions, it’s much better to deal in facts. Thanks.

    1. No worries!

      Thanks… well, I can’t say I am a huge fan of anyone specifically. I usually just cheer for the underdog, or whoever I think deserves it (that can change race-to-race for me). That results in me having very little to say when it comes to speculating on whether Hamilton is the next Senna, or a petulant child. ;-)

  34. Alan says:

    Very interesting how Alonso bitchily remarks that Ferrari are making a big push to please their Tifosi, the Italians in Italy.

    Remember how he used to run very light in practice to give the Spanish fans something to cheer about. He once qualified amazingly well there, but as suspected, pitted very soon after, utterly ruining a race.

    Clearly he is rattled that he and his precious self image are not priority numero uno at Maranello. This is just the start, there is no love lost between the Italians and the Spanish and it will all end in tears.

    1. James Allen says:

      You sound like the Scots fella from Dads Army, “Doomed, I say”

    2. john says:

      Doubt it. Best driver, best team……

  35. Richard says:

    I must say I do not like team orders in any form. I’m all for letting the drivers race each other, and let the naturally faster guy win on the track. In that way it makes racing more enjoyable for the spectators. – What’s more I’m dam sure the drivers don’t like it either. As long as it’s clean, and they avoid each other most of the time what’s the problem. The idea of giving a driver preferential parts or track position is anathema to me. Lewis Hamilton has lost out on several wins due to team strategy this year as I think had things played out correctly he would have been further ahead of Jenson Button than he curently is. Lewis’s wins are through racing whereas Jenson’s have come about due to strategy.

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