Brought to you by TheJudge13 Technical Analyst Lorenzo De Luca
Sepang: Mercedes and Red Bull, two-horse race for the championship?
As I said after the Australian Grand Prix, the Malaysian race would provide us with more honest answers about the real performances of the cars – and so it was. No significant surprises, that’s for sure, but Sepang gave us an idea on what were the strengths of each team. Therefore it was not unexpected seeing Mercedes cars securing the first two places on the podium, but there was quite interesting data coming from the places just behind them.
Thanks to the layout of the track, for the first time, we had the opportunity to appreciate the true level – from an aerodynamics point of view – of the new cars. It should not be any surprise that the winners – Mercedes – have maintained their advantage which was gained in the original design phase. The W05 has proven to have not merely a good power unit, but also great aerodynamic efficiency, downforce and shows a gentle use of the new Pirelli tires – a real weakness of the past few seasons.
Torque delivery, downforce and fuel consumption
The charts above, show us many interesting stats. The first is that the Mercedes power unit burns, on average, less fuel. The second thing concerns the relationship between downforce/aero efficiency. To make it clear – let’s make a comparison between the sector times and percentage of fuel burnt by Red Bull and Williams.
The RB10, thanks to the huge downforce level it achieves is the fastest car behind Mercedes. As you can see, Vettel’s times are very competitive but there is a downside – this level of downforce increases the drag, thereby producing a lower top speed and most importantly requiring more fuel to be burnt to achieve this level of performance.
By contrast we have a FW36, which is capable of burning less fuel than any other car on track. This is mostly down to its excellent aero efficiency – however this does not repay in terms of lap times.
So, downforce or a better fuel management? Well Mercedes have shown us that you need both of them to be fast. Indeed Hamilton’s W05 was the fastest in all 3 sectors, despite a lower top speed. The sector times/top speed chart also give us the opportunity to roughly calculate the downforce level and efficiency of the various cars.
The first sector which is rather linear and anonymous, shows clearly that the differences in terms of raw power is almost close to zero. Apart from the aerodynamic choices, the gaps were very close, it is really only the weakest teams that recorded significant delays here.
But it is in the 2nd and 3rd sector where we can see the most interesting things.
Looking at the times and always taking into account the top speed in each sector we can say without fear of contradiction that on a chassis/aero level Red Bull and Mercedes are on equal terms. The other teams are lagging significantly behind the leading two teams.
Starting with Ferrari, the problems do not appear to be aero related but rather an issue with the torque delivery. More precisely, on the exit of corners, it was clear from the onboard cameras that the drivers were struggling when the turbo began to push.
The Ferrari powered cars leave Sepang with broken bones, because if Renault have shown huge advances with power and reliability, the same cannot be said for teams running with the 059/3. The F14-T still shows a deficit of +0.6 tenths per lap to the Mercedes and Red Bull which are already near the top again. The shadow of another poor season beckons for Maranello.
There were few new updates brought by teams to Sepang. The most interesting is the new nose introduced by Mclaren. In the image (courtesy of AMuS), we can see how they introduced a step to allow a greater height from the ground, and thus increase the amount of airflow that is channeled below the chassis.
The support pylons have also been changed with a shape to favour the Venturi effect.
In addition, a new duct had been fitted on the floor. This was inspired by Lotus to help the cooling of some of the PU components.
The Sauber team brought a few little upgrades for their C33, which introduced a new rear wing which differs from the old one by a new slot on the end plate. The aim of which is to reduce the drag.
Two inlets have also been introduced to assist the cooling of both the driver and various electrical components.
Mercedes upgrades featured a new profile to better manage the airflows under the car.
The profile now has a bigger surface and the support pylon has been moved further back. Also new were the profiles added on the rear diffuser gurney flap, in order to increase extraction of air from the bottom of the car.
Interesting as always was the Lotus F1 Team, the E22 keeping true to its asymmetric design route. Indeed during free practice, Pastor’ s E22 featured a gurney flap on the side pod rear edge.
What await us in Bahrain
Tomorrow, F1 will be back on track again. Teams have already run in Sahkir during pre season testing which makes it unlikely that after such a short break – from last Sunday – we will see any of the statistical data change that much.
Due to the layout of the track and it’s tarmac surface, cars with good traction and good torque delivery should see a bigger advantage than at the previous tracks this season.
The data gathered here during the winter tests could help the struggling teams but don’t expect to see a change on the values shown up to this point.