#F1 Forensics: Melbourne provides some answers – but reliability is not enough.

Brought to you by TheJudge13 Technical Analyst Lorenzo De Luca

So the first race of the new era has been handed over to the archives. From the first race the first verdicts arise; some of them very interesting and unexpected. In the case of Red Bull, after a winter studded with mechanical failures and practically non-existent reliability, in Melbourne we saw a very fast car – as expected  – but most of all better reliability than ever before.  No surprise seeing Mercedes powered cars dominating the field – the PU106 has impressed for reliability and power delivery since the first pre-season test in Jerez.

Reliability is not enough

Just viewing the Mercedes and Renault powered cars perfomances give us the chance to draw the first conclusion: reliability is not enough. During the pre-season test, it was said that reliability would have played a key role during the season and although it’s true that without it you do not finish races, it must be said that without performance you do not win races.

The Red Bull advances show us how competitive the world of F1 is. Their reaction to the problems suffered during the pre season caught many insiders unprepared given that it was feared that almost 60% of the grid would not have seen the chequered flag. Reliability is not enough and teams like Ferrari proved this on their own – the team from Maranello had repeatedly said that reliability was the goal to achieve as soon as possible – at the expense of pure performance.

The result of this choice was a non-competitive car, at least not enough to fight for first positions. Only a safety car, Vettel’s and Hamilton’s failures and Kobayashi’s crash prevented the Maranello drivers ending the race further away from the leader.


Very challenging projects

It has been said many times, that the new cars were highly complicated. Just to give you an idea, the new cars have something like 30km of wiring, 15 control units – each of which control a different key area of the car; almost like having different brains which do not comunicate between themselves.

To this must be added the new ERS which comprises a new battery pack and two electric motor generators. And just the MGU-H seems to be the Achilles’ heel for some teams. Indeed Ferrari chose to put the MGU-H below the turbine of the turbocharger, where very high temperatures are attained (almost 900° c) compared to the “only” 200° c which may be tolerated by the electric motors.

Obviously each of these new components needs a specific cooling system with associated pumps, radiators etc. It is easy to deduce that being able to operate  electric motors in perfect harmony with the internal combustion engine is the key to achieving victories, but those who expect a “race to power” should think again, as with new fuel consumption restricions, there will be no significant increase in power in the search for the limit.

Indeed, due to the nature of a turbocharged engine, the power curve flattens out from a certain rotation speed then on. This explains why most of the drivers have never reached the 15.000 rpm limit, but instead shifted gear well before that limit in order to let the MGU-H recharge and give power to the MGU-K. It goes without saying that running with an underpowered ERS ( as it was rumoured for Ferrari powered cars) means almost certainly giving up a large part of the competitiveness of the car.

Development and aerodynamics

The aim of the new rules was to reduce the impact that aerodynamics had on F1 cars and switch emphasis back to the days when engines still played an important role on the behavior of the cars. Even if there is no denying that new power units have helped to mix the values in the field, it is obvious that aerodynamics will return to play a major role even in this new era for Formula 1.

In fact, once all the engine manufacturers have finally fixed all their issues it will be aerodynamics, once again, that will determine who is going to win and who is not. Indeed the cars which performed best in Melbourne were also the cars which had brought new aero updates to Australia

So let’s start analyzing the winner of the race, the W05.

Mercedes brought a new front wing and this new wing differs from the old one with a different end plate which presents only one more tilted outward slot to increase the outwash and for new airflow conditioners on the main plate.


Confirmed are the two “ears” placed on the airbox sides, to cool down the gearbox radiator

Merc ears

It has kept the extremely interesting profile under the nose to better manage airflow in such a crucial area.
Also confirmed is the profile in the central section of the diffuser to increase extraction of air from beneath the car


A further modification was the two strakes on the floor ahead of the rear tires to help the sealing of the diffuser

merc floor
Now let’s talk about the most discussed car of the field, the Red Bull RB10. As mentioned before, the Red Bull impressed everyone for the progress done by Milton Keynes. The car seen in Melbourne was not only fast but very stable in the corners, thanks to it’s very refined aerodynamics and featured very interesting updates, including a new nosecone which incorporated a bump to hide the camera

RB nose
The side pods intakes have been revised and are now bigger in their size to increase cooling efficiency of the power unit

rb sidepods
There was also a novel design with regards to the front wing. in search of greater dowforce Red Bull introduced a new 6 tier front wing , which comes with a revised upper flap section ( now with 3 elements and a new airflow conditioners ) and in the main plate.

rb fw comp
Interesting changes have been made at the rear of the car, specially on the rear diffuser, where now we can see vortex generators with the aim of stabilizing the airflows and thus increasing the efficency of the rear diffuser.

rb diffuser
Further changes were also noted in the front brakes duct, where two new winglets have been added to help the airflow be channeled around the keel

rb brake duct

Finally Mclaren introduced some little updates on the MP4/29, the first one on the front wing, which comes with physically bigger upperflap in order to create an upwash (which channels the airflow over the front tires)

mc fw

New also are the T-vanes – now with 3 elements to divert the flow of air, in a neuralgic area of the car, in the areas most congenial to increase the overall aerodynamic load of the car.

The Season Starts Now

As always, the results of the first race should be taken with the tongs. First because it was the start of a new technical era in F1 and also because Albert Park is an atypical track. The data gathered by engineers during the race and free practice will boost the knowledge of these new power unit, so expect to see some surprises in Malaysia; which is a more reliable track to judge cars behaviour and performances.

16 responses to “#F1 Forensics: Melbourne provides some answers – but reliability is not enough.

  1. Mercedes didn’t use their new front wing in qualifying or the race – I believe this is because their new nose that they intended to bring failed its crash test (again), as it was intended for the final bahrain test. I’m guessing the new front wing is meant to work with the new nose.

  2. I guess the end platea generated too much drag, noto sure they’ll bring it in Sepang

  3. An addition to the Red Bull aero updates:

    Their rear wing endplate now feature 3 slots/holes but I am not sure what the purpose is. Maybe they decrease drag as high pressure air is lead to the room between the endplates, thereby decreasing drag. This must come with a slight penalty in corners though but I am not sure. Link:


  4. Excellent piece! Yet another reason why the judge has become my go to website! Keep it up. I enjoyed it a lot…

    • Gap that should ne closed in Malaysia where Ferrari will bring software update to better exploit the MGU-H . Indeed in Melbourne it didn’t worked properly during the race which prevented drivers from running in “fuel saving mode” (could ne noticed when red lights are flashing)

      • The BBC commenter did say that the rear lights mean the electric powertrain is not working, which makes the car decelerate. But I read another explanation : that the system is harnessing energy (which makes the car decelerate). Which is it?

  5. An excellent piece Lorenzo, I will take it “with the tongs” absolutely 😉 (the Internet says that idiom translates to “take with a pinch of salt”…

    You teach us a lot, I teach you a little bit! I look forward to your next analysis. (thanks TJ13)

  6. I think “…take it with the tongs…” has a subtle additional meaning – I like it…
    But, Lorenzo, your opening, interesting-looking, graph is impossible to read. I took it out to use PhotoShop to blow it up but your resolution is way to small. Shame. But liked the rest, as usual.

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