Archive for February, 2012

New theme!

Posted: February 28, 2012 in Various

….Hope you like it.

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In our previous blog entry, we analyzed the race simulation that Rosberg did. How does it compare to the real thing, though, i.e. the amount of time it took Vettel to complete the race distance in 2011? Let’s examine that:

Vettel finished the race in 01:39:03.301 hours. This, however, included four (4) pistops: Lap 9, Lap 18, Lap 34 and Lap 48. Thanks to F1 Fanatic, we know that Red Bull’s average pit stop time was around 20 seconds, we can therefore safely assume that the clear race time is 01:39:03.301 – (4 x 20 seconds) = 01:37:43.301. This, over a period of 66 laps, would give an average laptime of 01:28.838.

Let’s see how this compares to Mercedes’ race simulation. Nico did 65 laps, at an average lap time of 01:28.127. Over a 66 laps race, this would equate to a total race time of 01:36:56.382, i.e. 47 seconds faster than Red Bull in 2011. Before we get too excited about that, let’s not forget that the temperatures in testing are (traditionally) significantly lower. This has an effect in performance, both in terms of engine and aerodynamics (cooler air = denser air). Mercedes best lap time in Barcelona pre-season testing was 1:21.218, whereas their best quali lap was 1:22.569, i.e. a difference of +1.5%.

By adding 1.5%, finally, we get a total race simulation time of 01:38.23.628. How does that compare to Vettel’s 2011 race? It’s about 41 seconds slower. Admittedly, this is a very risky comparison because (a) we don’t know how hard Nico was pushing, (b) although we know Nico was using hard tyres for his stints, we don’t know their condition (Vettel was used 3 sets of softs and 2 sets of hards in 2011), (c) we don’t know if Merc were running the car at full blast (engine settings, KERS settings, etc) (d) Vettel did 5 stints whereas Nico did 4 stints to cover the same distance. Lots of disclaimers then.

We can, however, be confident enough to say that Mercedes, at this moment, are a little bit behind of where Red Bull were at the start of their 2011 season, with the exhaust blow diffusers. That’s a very good step for the team. Vettel has already admitted that the RB8 is sliding more in fast corners than the RB7. From this, we cannot surmise how much downforce / performance exactly they have lost from the previous season. If it’s around 1.5 seconds (which is approximately the time that they have found between Spain 2011 and Brazil 2011), then Mercedes should be reasonably close to them. Let us also not forget that from now until the first race, the cars will be heavily updated and worked on; we should not expect big gains in terms of seconds, but a 0.3-0.4 seconds gain from the start of Barcelona pre-season testing to Melbourne should be expected for the top teams. All in all, Mercedes seem to have made the necessary leap to bring them into the Red Bull “territory” and I believe that we are going to see differences of less than 0.5-0.7 seconds between Red Bull and Mercedes at the start of the year (last year, I remind you, was around 1.3 seconds). 0.6 seconds over 66 laps translates to 40 seconds difference at the end…

Now, it’s interesting to examine what some of the “smaller” teams were doing on Friday, Williams and Sauber more specifically. They both (Maldonado and Kobayashi respectively) embarked on what looked like race simulations. Kobayashi completed 58 laps (including in and out laps) and Maldonado completed 69 laps; you can see their runs in the diagram below:

 

Kobayashi’s runs are a little bit short of a race distance. As you can see in the table below, his average lap time was 01:29.802. This translates to a race distance (again, disregarding the pitstops) of 01:38:46.932. By adding the 1.5% percentage that we discussed above, then it translated to 01:40:15.836, which is about 1:52 minutes slower than Mercedes and 2:30 minutes slower than the 2011 Spain GP Red Bull. If that was indeed a race sim, Sauber would have been lapped quite comfortably.

Williams, on the other hand, look much more racy. Maldonado’s average lap time over 69 laps was 01:28.516, which translates to a race time of 01:37:22.056. Again, using the 1.5% addition, we get a final race time of 01:38:49.687. That’s barely 26 seconds slower than Mercedes’ race simulation (0.4 seconds per lap), which (possibly) shows that (a) Williams are in a much better shape than they were in 2011 and (b) the gap in the midfield is going to be very tight in 2012. People should not be surprised with Williams’ testing performance. In the Silverstone GP (2011) they were the team who gained the most from the temporary ban on engine mapping to blow the diffuser, therefore it was expected that they had the most to gain from this change of rules. In Silverstone qualifying, Williams were able to almost match McLaren’s pace

So, you naturally ask, is it safe to draw any conclusions at this moment? The answer is no. We can get a general “idea” of things. Mercedes have upped their game. By how much? Only time will tell. The midfield will be very tight this season… By how much? No one knows – we have yet to see what Lotus can do, for instance, and we have yet to evaluate Force India’s race simulations (none so far). We have also yet to see what Ferrari are capable of. Rumours have it that they have unlocked certain areas of the car – perhaps people were far too quick to rule them out. All in all, provided it’s not another Red Bull whitewash, we should be in for a thrilling 2012… I can’t wait for the next and final Barcelona tests….

Today was the final day of testing @ Barcelona for this week, and most teams were focused on full race simulations, completing many miles in the process. Testing resumes at Barcelona on Thursday, where we are (not really) expecting to see the new HRT and Marussia cars. Ferrari and Red Bull have decided to skip Thursday and run, instead, on Monday, alone. Today’s test provides some interesting insights in what the teams are doing. Let’s go…

Mercedes

Mercedes did a full race simulation again, although unlike yesterday they chose to run in the morning, when conditions are more favorable in terms of temperatures and grip. Rosberg was able to do a 65 lap race simulation, however it’s really interesting to compare it with yesterday’s race simulation by Schumacher, in the drawing below:

Full race simulation Schumacher (23/02) Vs Rosberg (24/02)

As we can see, Nico’s run was considerably faster than Michael’s. In a hypothetical scenario, they would have finished the race 73 seconds apart, i.e. Nico would have theoretically almost lapped Michael. Naturally, this is not a reflection of the drivers’ relative ability, but it bodes with Ross Brawn’s statement that Mercedes did a full race run yesterday to get the reliability checked and to establish a good baseline, and that they would be focusing on performance from now on. It’s clear that Mercedes are feeling more comfortable with the reliability of the car, and are starting to work on setup optimization. This is clear in the laptimes:

Schumacher Vs Rosberg lap times

After this long run, Mercedes focused on 12 lap stints, working on tyre degradation and setup optimization. From the way Nico was sometimes pushing and sometimes holding back a little at the beginning of each stint, we can tell that Mercedes were looking at the best way of managing their tyres throughout a stint, as well as setup options that were going to help the driver in this situation. You can see the graph of Nico’s runs below:

Rosberg stints (1 in lap, 1 out lap, 10 timed laps)

Red Bull

Red Bull focused on shorter stints, apparently working on setup optimization and different solutions. Later during the day, they did a couple of long stints (pictured below), where you can see that they had very good results in terms of tyre degradation. Of course, these runs could be steady-pace runs, so it’s difficult to draw any conclusion at the moment. In general, Red Bull are keeping the cards close to their chest, even though I am sure McLaren, Ferrari and Mercedes know exactly the fuel loads Red Bull are running, from sonar analysis and clever reading of the sector times. I’m afraid such analysis is unavailable to us.

Webber long(ish) stints at the end of the day

McLaren

McLaren focused on long stints as well, working mainly with tyre degradation and setup work. Button embarked on 6 long stints (pictured below):

Button tyre degradation / setup optimization runs

The 3 first stints seem to be steady-pace stints, a la Webber (that we discussed above). Let us focus on the last 3 stints, which seem to be more performance-oriented. As you can see, Button did 3 stints, each of which consisted of 15 timed laps (+1 in lap / +1 out lap). He averaged 01:28.690 on the first stint, and suffered a degradation of 2.637 seconds. On the second stint, McLaren were able to improve the degradation dramatically (1.990 seconds) and keep the same level of performance (01:28.632). Finally, on the last stint, McLaren were able to maintain the degradation levels in check (2.081 seconds) and improve the overall performance (01:28.457). I am sure they have lots of nice, juicy data to go on with, but it’s hard to put these numbers in comparison with what the other teams are doing.

Button's lap times and lap time degradation

The rest

Ferrari once more focused on long(ish) runs, geared towards data acquisition and setup work. At this stage, it’s very risky to compare lap times and we won’t do it. In general, they were testing softer compounds today, hence the improvement in the overall lap times. There is a very interesting comment made by Peter Windsor on Episode 58 of the Flying Lap. It appears that Fernando Alonso has reverted back to his old “whack-the-steering-wheel” driving style. For those who don’t know exactly what I am referring to, they can refresh their memory with this very good example… Maybe this is a way for Alonso to deal with the new pull-rod suspension characteristics and/or the squarer profiled Pirelli tyres, or it may be just his way of testing things, from a driver’s perspective, ahead of the new season. It’s going to be really interesting to see what comes out of it…

For the rest of the teams (Williams, Toro Rosso, Force India and Sauber) I will be posting tomorrow. Thanks for taking the time to visit this blog, and for all your kind comments so far…

 

…stay tuned…

 

Maldonado’s Williams topped the time sheets today, with a laptime of 1:22.3, which is further proof that (a) we should not pay attention to it and (b) we expect the top teams to be able to go possibly into the 1:20’s. Today, however, saw Michael Schumacher and Jenson Button embark on a full-race simulation, Schumacher completing 67 laps and Button 66 (typical Barcelona race is 66 laps long). Mark Webber was also on a similar program, however he did not do a full race distance (50 laps in total, including in and out laps). We have isolated these runs and present them to you in the following figure (as always, you can click on it to enlarge):

Long stints today for Mark Webber, Michael Schumacher and Jenson Button

Let’s focus on the McLaren Vs Mercedes stint for an instant, because they seem quite comparable. Both completed the same number of laps and both did 4 stints (actually JB’s first stint was cut in half, but we’ll consider it as one). The data are in the table below. The laps include the in and out laps of course, and the average laptimes disregard the peaks (which may represent either the driver easing up or facing traffic).

Comparison between Schumacher's and Button's race simulations

As we can see above, it seems that Mercedes are quite close to McLaren’s pace, although we can’t tell who’s ahead at the moment. We don’t have solid information of the tyres used (we believe that MS started on softs and moved on to the hard option, whereas JB started on the medium), and we don’t know the condition of the tyres (where they used, scrubbed in, brand new, etc). We also don’t know exactly how much the drivers were pushing, and whether they were using KERS (I presume they were, since KERS reliability is something that also needs to be tested). All in all, however, Mercedes’ long stints are much better in comparison to their 2011 pre-season testing, and let’s not forget that the other teams had one extra week in Jerez to get their cars dialed-in. An interesting observation has to do with tyre degradation; with the exception of the last stint, Button’s McLaren seemed to keep its tyres in better shape throughout the stints than Schumi’s Mercedes and Mark’s Red Bull. Again, it could be a factor of how hard the drivers were pushing, but overall we can see that Mercedes are there or thereabouts.

Red Bull’s pace, on the other hand, is a bit more difficult to decipher. Theirs was not a full-race simulation, therefore if Mark’s 3 stints are compared to MS’ and JB’s 1st, 2nd and 3rd stint, then Red Bull was massively faster today. If, however, they are to be compared with MS’ and JB’s 2nd, 3rd and 4th stint (which is what I believe), then we have the following picture:

Schumacher Vs Button Vs Webber

As you can see in the average lap times for the 2nd, 3rd and 4th stint, Mercedes is a bit faster. Of course, that’s not a conclusion; it’s not even an observation. But it’s an indication that Mercedes are not far off the pace (if at all). I am afraid, once more, we cannot decipher Ferrari’s lap times, because they were on completely different testing schedule, doing shorter runs and focusing, again, in data acquisition. Hopefully we’ll get more from them tomorrow.

Stay tuned…

No explanations required…

  • “We don’t know what fuel loads others are running” – We do know, down to the liter, and we are quite worried
  • “There is room for improvement” – I don’t see us making Q2 this season
  • “I feel comfortable in the car” – I am not afraid it’s going to kill me
  • “The car gives me a good feeling” – Those engine vibrations tingle me down there
  • “We have some work to do to ride kerbs better” – I lost two fillings and bit off a chunk off my tongue
  • “McLaren look strong” – But we are stronger
  • “It’s a long season ahead” – Which we will be starting from the 7th row of the grid
  • “The engineers have worked really hard over the winter” – And that was the best they could come up with…
  • “We are focusing on data collection” – Because we cannot focus on performance
  • “We had a minor overheating issue” – We are shipping in an extra supply of power drills
  • “Lap times mean nothing at this stage” – Poker face, poker face, poker face…
  • “We will finalize our aero package in Melbourne” – And start working on the 2013 car immediately after
  • “We may not be the fastest, but we are not the slowest either” -This is “ree-dee-koo-loos

 

I have toyed with the idea of not posting anything regarding the tests that are ongoing in Barcelona, because most people tend to focus on the headline laptimes, which is a really funny way of understanding who’s fast and who’s not. If one had followed the headline laptimes from 2011 pre-season testing, for instance, one would have deducted that the 2011 championship would be a straight battle between Williams and Mercedes. And that McLaren would struggle to make it to Q2.

Having said that, I believe the following diagram paints a very interesting picture of today’s testing times. I have not included Ferrari, because they were focused on shorter runs and data acquisition, but we have some interesting “semi-conclusions” to draw anyway (click on the image to enlarge):

Barcelona 2012 pre-season testing - Day 2 - 22/02/2012 lap times

It’s clear that Red Bull and McLaren tried a few quali-style laps at the beginning of the session (with considerable fuel onboard though, at least 40-50kg) and then focused in long-runs, race simulations. We know that both teams are conservative during testing, so we can assume that they were carrying fuel worth at least 1 – 1.5 seconds / lap for their quali runs. Besides, last year’s benchmark from testing was Schumacher’s 1:21.2 laptime, and we are positive that this will be eclipsed during this winter pre-season tests, as was eclipsed the similar Jerez benchmark (set by Rubens Barrichello in 2011), and by quite a margin.

From the looks of it, it seems that Red Bull may have a slight edge on McLaren, both in terms of single-lap pace and race pace, but it’s very close to call either way. You can see that the Red Bull diagrams in their long runs are, on average, seated a bit lower than McLaren’s. Red Bull, however, were doing a race simulation today, and one can see that in the decreasing lap times of every stint; on the other hand McLaren seem to have been working with comparable fuel loads from stint to stint, and we can’t therefore draw a solid conclusion. Tomorrow’s and Friday’s test will help clear up the picture a bit more.

Mercedes’ pace is encouraging. They were able to post good laptimes at the start of their stints. Nico’s last stint, in particular, was quite good. He started with a 1:24.750, and did a total of 20 laps, averaging 1:26.769 (disregarding the peaks, which represent a driver taking it easy for a lap). Assuming that the car had at least 22 laps of fuel in it (a safe margin of 2 laps), then assuming a consumption of 2.65kg/lap and a time penalty of 0.35 sec/10 kgs, it’s easy to calculate that the car had at least 58kg of fuel onboard, i.e. it suffered a time penalty of minimum 0.35 x 58 / 10 = 2.03 seconds, i.e. an “empty” tanks run would be around the 1:22.7 mark. Since we expect the times to drop to 1:21.0 dead, then it’s reasonable to assume that Mercedes were actually carrying a lot more fuel than 58kgs for this stint. All in all, Mercedes’ first showing is encouraging and we hope they can get some more mileage tomorrow, so we can have a better picture.

As the testing days go by, we will be able to get a clearer picture, comparing the laptimes and also comparing the trends (for example, you can tell a lot of how quickly the tyres are degrading from the laptime deterioration slope). I do get the feeling that Mercedes are holding back a little bit at the moment, and they will continue to hold back this week. As I said, let’s not read anything into headline laptimes because they are completely misleading. Force India were fast today, but they were focusing on very short stints, and they were clearly doing setup optimization work…

Williams look to have fallen in the clutches of Caterham, by the by…

It appears that HRT have published a 3D computer generated model of their 2012 car in their website. The car has already failed some of its crash tests, which means that HRT face a race against time to have it ready for the 2nd (and final) Barcelona tests.

3D model of the HRT F112

 Edit (a few hours later): Andrew Benson is reporting that he contacted HRT and this is the old car (2011). It appears that HRT amuse themselves by building pages for the new car, naming it F112, and then putting pictures of the old one (since, apparently, very few people are actually busy with building a new car for the 2012 season). Unless they are planning to race the old car, in which case this is both the F111 and the F112, all rolled into one. Seriously, what are these guys thinking?

A big thanks….

Posted: February 21, 2012 in Various

We have just reached 20,000+ views in this website, which is very nice and unexpected considering that the site was only created a month and a half ago… So, I would like to thank, from the bottom of my heart, everybody who has taken the time to pay us a visit, to comment, to re-post, to re-blog or to re-tweet my blogs. This is not something I do for the money (ha!) or the fame (the what?); it’s just a way to communicate with other F1 fans.

Again, a big thank you to all… 🙂

Mercedes officially revealed today their 2012 challenger, the W03. We now have the time to take a slightly closer look at it, and some of its detailing.

W03 in Barcelona, 2012 pre-season testing

The front wing is a complete redesign (1). Mercedes have produced this three-element front wing (which is the first time they are adopting the concept), which has all these intricate and elaborate details, with very pronounced cascades and turning vanes under the nose. The nose itself (2) represents a slightly extreme interpretation of the rules, with the side bulges rising very high in comparison to the height of the nose. The smoothed 3-D surfaces between the bulges look very well thought-out and designed. It definitely looks to be more efficient and less draggy than, say, Ferrari’s or Sauber’s solutions. Behind the air intake for the engine (which, as we have already said, has 2 exposed structural members) we can see an additional air intake (3) for gearbox / hydraulics cooling. The front suspension (4) utilises pushrod architecture. Finally, if rumours about their front F-duct are correct, this (5) is the entrance of the air going into the air valve that we described in our previous blog posts.

W03 - Barcelona launch 2012 - overhead view

The exhausts (6), as we have already explained, are situated quite far forward, but this is not expected to be the final solution. As you can see in the picture below, the car was running yesterday (20/02) during filming with additional gills right next to the exhaust outlets, so we expect to see similar solutions from Mercedes during testing. The rear beam wing is supported by a swan-neck mount (7), similar to other solutions already seen this year. The rear suspension (8) features a pullrod (like all other 2012 contenders) and heat shields. Finally, as you can see (9), the DRS mechanism is not apparent. It seems that all hydraulics are directed via the endplates and they will be using a step motor to operate the rear wing upper element.

Cooling exits by the exhausts during W03 filming, yesterday

All in all, this seems to be a very contemporary and elegant interpretation of the rules, with a lot of scope for development. Provided that the basics of the car are OK, then Mercedes should be able to take the next step and challenge the top 3 teams with a bit more credibility and consistency.

Another spy shot of the Mercedes W03 was revealed today, from their private testing in Barcelona. The car, which is due to be “officially” launched tomorrow @ 8:20CET, features extremely slim sidepods, as you can see in the photo below, just like we had noticed in the 1st spy shot revealed late last week. It seems that the W03 is extremely tightly packaged at the back – tighter than any other 2012 car we have seen so far, including Red Bull, and by quite a margin. Apparently Mercedes have used their packaging knowledge from 2011, when they had to work with the shorter wheelbase of all 2011 cars, and put it to good use in 2012. It all bonds well for the season ahead, provided the car is reliable…

Mercedes W03 in Barcelona - Extremely slim and low sidepods

….and a few hours later, even more photos prop up – better ones…

Mercedes W03 spy shot - During filming (a)

Mercedes W03 spy shot - During filming (b)

The sidepods are amazing. Not only they are non-existant at the back, they also feature a heavy undercut under the air inlets, making them, arguably, the tiniest and slimest sidepods I’ve ever seen in a modern F1 car. Some say that it’s aerodynamicists who rule the game in F1, but I’m ready to argue that it’s still mechanical engineers. Without them, this tight packaging (and all the nice aero benefit that comes with it) wouldn’t have been possible.