Brought to you by TheJudge13 Technical Analyst Lorenzo De Luca
The first Bahrain test session is over, and while all eyes were focused on how Red Bull and Renault would react to the problems experienced in Jerez and on the first “real” appearance of the new Lotus E22, most of the other teams have been able to confirm the impressions they had during the Jerez test.
There was no surprise seeing the Mercedes powered cars on top of the time sheets, showing the well-established reliability of the German power unit. It must be said however that not all the teams were looking for outright pace and lap times yet. Indeed the Bahrain track is a good test bench for aerodynamics as its layout is more similar to the tracks teams will visit during the season therefore most teams used this opportunity to bring new aero parts to test.
So after the dominance showed in Jerez, Mercedes power unit did it again. Indeed, on each of the four days of testing, a Mercedes powered car finished on top of the chart. Obviously, we should take into account that this is just testing, but while Renault is in severely delayed, the Mercedes power unit seems to be, at the moment, the most reliable and best performing engine.
To prove this, we just have to look at time charts over the four testing day in Bahrain, Mercedes powered cars were topping the time sheets with ease from the beginning of the test.
Yet these are just tests, so each team has its own plan to follow, and as mentioned by TJ13 today, Ferrari never looked for lap times, but just focused on aerodynamics studies and collecting data from the new Pirelli tires. In this sense, this week’s final testing session will really show us the true pecking order.
Both Red Bull and Lotus were under scrutiny for different reasons. The world champions for their lack of reliability, the E22 for its unique design. During the break between the first test in Jerez and the second one in Bahrain, there were suggestions that Newey had redesigned the RB10 to better adapt it to the Renault V6 cooling needs, nothing could be more wrong.
Indeed the RB10 which showed in Sakhir, was basically the same we saw in Jerez, those who expected to see a “blown-up” rear end would had been disappointed as Newey kept the same aggressive coke bottle design, clearly not wanting to give up to RB10 efficiency aerodynamic.
To see how much more aggressive Red Bull design is, we can compare its rear end with another Renault powered car, the Lotus E22:
From the picture above it’s easy to see the reason that the RB10 lack of reliability does not only lie with the Renault V6 design, but is in part caused by very aggressive Newey packaging. Some improvements have clearly been made, but it’s not enough , especially if we consider that Melbourne is less than 3 weeks away and after February 28, engines will be homologated and Renault will not be able to make any additional changes. It’s a race against time, Renault engineers are working very hard at Viry Chatillon to fix the issues but will surely fall foul of the clock.
Even though Red Bull again didn’t maximise their time on track, there were some telling photographs shot that demonstrate Newey’s attempting to regain downforce. His S-Duct system, birthed on the RB9 has now been adapted for the RB10.
As we can see, the duct conveys air from the top of the nosecone to channel it beneath the chassis, trying to limit the effects of the lower airflow rate under the chassis due to new FIA regulations. But how does it work?
This solution, channeling air below the chassis, stops the detachment of the airflow, no thickening of the boundary layer and less turbulence and thus a cleaner airflow channeled towards the rear diffuser, but not only that! Indeed the air channeled in the duct also reduces the drag on the top of the nosecone, improving its own efficiency.
Let’s now look at the new car from Enstone, the Lotus E22. It has aroused much curiosity because of its asymmetrical nose and finally, in Bahrain, we had the opportunity to see it live.
Aside from the nosecone, we also notice that Enstone engineers have been engineering some clever solutions, such as the front wing for example. As can be seen in the photo there is a very aggressive design, especially on the end plate (bent outward) in order to maximize the outwash.
There’s also been some highly have sophisticated developments to the brake duct system. It has some interesting vanes to channel air towards the side pods. Clearly the team believe its most important to properly manage the airflow in this area.
Further, we see a new design concept at the rear of the car as the engine cover bends upward, taking the shape of an airfoil (maybe to channel air below the rear wing helping with the creation of an upwash). Also note the rear suspension design. Where, unlike all other teams, they are not exploited as aerodynamics devices.
Then we have the exhaust pipe exit design as asymetrical, almost creating an “S” before exiting the engine cover. I have yet to work out why this is happening.
Very active in Bahrain was the Sauber F1 Team. The team from Hinwil brought a whole new aero package which included a new front wing, new brake ducts, new side-pod vanes and little updates on the engine cover to improve the cooling of the power unit, inevitable given the high temperatures of Bahrain.
The new front wing has more slots in the main plate, as well as a new shape, now more squared in order to increase the downforce. Little change has been made to the upper flap behind the cascade section. However, Sauber brought a much simpler version of the end plate than the one we saw in Jerez.
Important changes have also been introduced in the rear brake system. The ducts now have more airfoils to manage airflow between rear tires and the external zone of the diffuser.
Sauber also introduced a new monkey seat for Bahrain in order to increase the downforce at rear end. There are also small updates on the engine cover, where we can now see a new duct to maximize the cooling of the turbocharger.
There were even changes in the side-pod area as now visible is a vertical vane and a horizontal profile over the side pod to better manage the airflows channelled into the coke bottle area.
Let’s now take a look at the most dominant car so far, the Mercedes W05, always very fast and very reliable. The team focused on putting not only good mileage on its engine and studying the airflows, but they also tried (for the first time) to run with a very low amount of fuel.
By the way there are rumours that Mercedes is running with only seven gears at present, indeed during the practice start it seemed that drivers were using 2nd gear. Maybe AMG has opted for longer gear ratios, planning to not use the 8th gear for now. This could explain the sudden drop in Rpm during braking and the delay in changing gear during the first phase of acceleration unlike the Ferrari and Renault.
Mercedes were also trying comparative aero components as they clearly tested two different engine covers in their quest of improving aerodynamic efficiency.
Different also were the cooling ducts near the cockpit, and the slot on the rear wing end plate. Note also the fin, even here were changes, with the aim off improving the airflow channeled towards the monkey seat.
Even McLaren chose to focus on aero evaluation and therefore postponing new updates until the final test this week. The MP4/29 showed just some little tweaks in the rear suspension area, as the nolders on the two big air vent at the end of the engine cover, done in order to increase downforce without sacrificing efficiency too much.
Finally a few words on the new Williams FW36. The car comes with a very clean design, and some interesting solutions, most of all the lower wing profile which acts like a double diffuser.
In Bahrain the team did not bring any significant updates. Aside from small changes at the rear diffuser, the car showed good speed and like all the Mercedes powered car, good reliability. It remains to be seen if Pat Symonds & Co will be able maintain the advantage and develop the car during the season.
For this week’s final test we will see most teams bring new aero packages again, notably McLaren and Ferrari. We can also expect them to start revealing their true potential… no more time to sandbagging! Issues must be fixed and once again all of the eyes will be on Red Bull to see if their problems will come to an end. We will also see what the Ferrari’s true potential is and if Mercedes will end the winter testing as the most likely to take the 1st pole of the season and most probably the first win of the season in Melbourne.