#F1 Forensic: FRIC-less Mercedes still class of field

Brought to you by TheJudge13 Technical Analyst Lorenzo De Luca

Tight battle behind Mercedes and Williams

Many people wondered just how much performance would Mercedes lose without their FRIC system in relation to the other teams. It was not the least bit surprising that the W05 continued to dominate. Completing the podium, behind winner Rosberg, was the ever more convincing Williams and the other Mercedes driven by Hamilton ( 3 Mercedes powered cars in the first three places).

Of more interest is the tight battle between Red Bull, Ferrari, Force India and Mclaren. From a tires point of view, the race was characterized by the high tire wear of the super soft. This was due to high traction levels and graining with the soft compound due to an understeering set-up – required to increase the life of the rear tires during traction out of the hairpins.

Thanks to the great drop in temperatures of almost 20° on Sunday, teams had the opportunity to choose between a two stop or three stop strategy , with the soft compound having a performance decay after 12 laps, while the prime compound (the soft tires) capable of lasting well for at least 30 laps.

Strategy Report

Average lap time \ stint lap time & tire compounds (Legend : SS=SuperSoft – S=Soft – (N)=New – (U)=Old :

Top 12 race pace comparison


With an average lap time between Ferrari and Red Bull being so close, the race was decided by pit calls, and once again Ferrari made mistakes precisely at the crucial moments.

Vettel vs Alonso vs Ricciardo race pace comparison


From the chart above, we can see how Alonso (look around lap 50) remained on track with soft tires while both Red Bull pitted. During these laps, Alonso was starting to lose times (the gap between Alonso and Vettel was decreasing around 16 seconds, insufficient to allow Fernando to rejoin the track ahead of Sebastian) so much that he would not only lose ground to Vettel but he would return on track behind Ricciardo too.

The ensuing fight with the Aussie driver would cost him the chance to fight with Vettel. Another trio of drivers, whose races were decided by pit calls were those of: Magnussen, Perez and Raikkonen. Even here we had poor calls from the Ferrari pit wall, which left Raikkonen on track for too many laps on old tires (specially the Super Soft compound)

Magnussen vs Perez vs Raikkonen race pace comparison


From 20th place on the grid, Hamilton was the main protagonist of the German Grand Prix, but he may well have lost his chance to finish the race ahead of Bottas when he had his spectacular battles with Ricciardo and Raikkonen. Over the course of four laps he lost more than a second a lap to Bottas.

Rosberg vs Bottas vs Hamilton


Hockenheim also confirmed that Mercedes, Williams and Force India are the best cars at managing the tires. Rosberg, Bottas and Hulkenberg were each capable of making the Super soft compound last almost 20 laps during the first stint. For all the others, the best strategy was to get rid of the supersoft tires after just 10/12 laps.

FRIC-less Mercedes still unbeatable

The key word on everyone’s lips in Hockenheim was FRIC. A system that so far, helped the F1 cars to maintain a constant ride height, by reducing the effects of pitch and roll (with aero benefits). This system, was believed to be one of the Mercedes secrets, and that without it, opponents could have partially bridged the gap.

Obviously, it was not so, as Mercedes scored another easy win with Rosberg, and the ease with which Lewis advanced from the bottom of the grid was numbing. As it has been said here after the British Grand Prix, the only thing that could prevent Mercedes winning all the remaining races would be the tight fight between its drivers, which could undermine the reliability of a car which is otherwise virtually flawless.

Williams : chasing the first win

After a not so convincing start of the season, Williams Martini Racing seems to have succeeded in finding the performance the FW36 showed during the pre-season tests. Sir Frank Williams & Co. are clearly now the second force of the field, thanks to a better understanding of the car and to the fine aerodynamics work .

Williams FW36 louvred engine cover fin http://i.imgur.com/IKA1xRa.jpg

In Germany, on the FW36 we saw the return of the engine cover with louvres on the fin, this solution helps the cooling of the power unit without affecting the aero efficiency of the car. The FW36 confirmed its inherent qualities on the high speed sectors (Bottas scored the second highest top speed in Hockenheim with 340Km\h!) but also demonstrated progress with both the aero load and traction in the slow corners as confirmed by the times clocked during qualifying.

Sector times qualifying chart


Red Bull : no good signs from Renault

Red Bull has lost the role of being Mercedes’ main rival – they are left fighting for the role of third car on the grid. After the Canadian win scored by Ricciardo, Red Bull have lost ground both to Mercedes and Williams. Everyone knows that the Renault power unit is not as good as the Mercedes one but it has been noted that the RB10 has a poor management of tires compared to the W05 and the FW36, without mentioning the fuel consumption which is still very high (if not the highest) among the all teams.

No one doubt the aerodynamic qualities of the RB10, so the deficit is all to be located in the power unit supplied by Renault. Indeed, despite the latest updates introduced by Viry-Chatillon, the Renault powered cars are still suffering heavy reliability issues (Danii Kvyat’s car on fire is a clear example).

Ferrari : F14-T, the usual faults

A poor season so far for Ferrari, and the spectre of a season without a win becomes more and more possible. James Allison, the British aerospace engineer has cruelly listed all the shortcomings of the car driven by Alonso and Raikkonen: lack of downforce, traction, a very nervous car with a high wear on the tires, and obviously lack of power.

As if that was not enough, even the updates (which are tested for the 2015 design) do not seem to make any major changes to the behaviour of the car. As has been said, the work on the 2015 car (codename 666) has already started, and in Germany we saw part of these designs – like a new engine cover with a bigger outlet but always keeping the RedBull-esque shape to help the cooling of the power unit

New engine cover


Also used was the new higher side pods flow diverter.


Mclaren : the recovery continues

After the good results achieved in Silverstone, Mclaren continued its recovering phase on the MP4/29. The gap with Ferrari and Red Bull is now almost bridged and the development work done so far, looks promising for the next races.

Indeed the team from Woking was the most active team in this sense, which helped both drivers score some good points. In Hockeheneim we saw an innovative rear wing , with a wavy slot gap. Its aim was of “virtually” increasing the effect of the gap between the mainplane and the DRS flap to gain a higher top speed, and to delay the detachment of the airflow, thus improving the wing efficiency. Also note, the number of vortex generators on the endplate to channel the airflow upwards and improve the extraction of the air.

New Mp4/29 rear wing


Hungaroring : between reliability and the Mercedes hunting

Power unit components used so far by each driver :


The Hungarian Gp is just few days ahead with no time to rest for the teams, as they are already moving to Budapest whilst we’re writing. The Hungaroring is a high downforce track (the aero load is very similar to that of Monte Carlo) which combined with the high temperatures and the continuous succession of curves and the absence of long straights, will emphasize the reliability of power unit elements.

The Hungarian track is not demanding on power so the Red Bull could really have the chance to chase the Mercedes like never before this season. But reliability will be crucial with issues arising not only from the heat but also because of the severity to which the braking system will be subjected , so get ready to the first penalties.

20 responses to “#F1 Forensic: FRIC-less Mercedes still class of field

  1. Nice write up. Thank you LDL.

    McLaren Rear Wing:
    Pretty interesting treatment and it shows (rare) aerodynamic ingenuity in an area (rear wing) that is heavily regulated and tight. Maybe more than any part of the car. It makes me wonder what they have for next year. Perhaps Ron is ‘inspiring’ them to really start thinking.

    Ferrari Car:
    “lack of downforce, traction, a very nervous car with a high wear on the tires, and obviously lack of power.”

    What a nightmare! Every race would be a nightmare as a driver! Could you please link where James Allison listed these things. The interview must have been quite forthright.

    I think the lack of FRIC impact will be epic at Hungaroring. I think that is where, if anywhere, you’ll see which top teams really relied on FRIC to provide a flat, stable car. Monza too, but by then, it’s be sorted and engine will come into play. I am quietly, (on a public forum), tipping a Williams victory in Monza. I felt that way prior to Hockenheim. Hockenheim confirmed it for me…

    • “What a nightmare! Every race would be a nightmare as a driver!”

      Hmm, mayhaps we should ask Kimi how it feels driving this Ferrari-badged red-brick that Alonso helped develop. 🙂

      • Hah! Yeah Landroni. I’d be interested in that answer. I can’t remember such a disparity between such highly rated drivers. And I am a general fan of Kimi (among others), so it’s been a big shock to see.

        • Ironically, the lack of FRIC seems it’s helping a bit Kimi, indeed he now (according to his latest statement) feels better the front end. It could be that, without fric, he now feels much more better the roll of the car when cornering, while before the car was to stiff for him (due to the pull rod suspension ) . That’s why I suspect him doing much better in Hungaroring (even if it’s not a track that suits the F14-T)

          • I hope so, and that does make sense now you mention it. His strengths (as I understand them) are in the dynamic management of pitch, roll and keeping the car ‘flat’ throughout all phases of the corner. In a sense, a human FRIC. I look forward to seeing a stronger back half from Kimi.

          • I think he is the most “sensitive” driver on the grid, just think about when Lotus switched from a standard wheelbase to an extended wheelbase last year, his performance dropped all of a sudden …

          • I’d be skeptical of that view. Didn’t Lotus have FRIC very early? Yet he did good things at Lotus so maybe it is the fact the Ferrari system was poor rather than FRIC in itself.

          • Obviosuly, but we have to take into account that both E22 and E23, wre designed and developed around Kimi, while F14-T wasn’t. The F14-T is too stiff, while Kimi likes a soft suspension settings, so whithout FRIC , having more roll and pitch, Kimi feels more comfortable

          • This reminds me:
            – when Lewis was in 1st year with the Merc, some of his early troubles were attributed to him needing adapt to the sophisticated Merc FRIC (which Nico already was very comfortable with)
            – I vaguely remember that at one point on a debut of some kind in Monaco, Raikkonen had a traction-control failure (or similar) but kept on driving until the end of the race, and finished 5 laps down. According to the commentary I was reading back then, most other drivers would have simply put such a damaged car in the wall.

            So maybe a FRIC-less Kimi is a happy Kimi..

          • ..which reminds me:
            – We know how well Nico fares vs Lewis in a FRIC-ky Merc, which is pretty damn well. BUT,
            – We still don’t know how Nico fares vs Lewis in a FRIC-less Merc. Since in Hungary you never really have to brake as you swirl across the wavy track layout, there is hope that Lewis’ brakes will hold their own. And this sets us for a juicy weekend..

    • “I am quietly, (on a public forum), tipping a Williams victory in Monza.”

      Hmm, I’m not so sure. It seemed to me that Williams had more of an advantage in straight-line speed, and some lack in downforce. Even if Williams got closer and closer to upsetting the applecart thus far, I suspect that Hungaroring (or whatever its name these days) is going to highlight the Williams deficiencies, as well as Force India’s. And McLaren, with their half-dragon suspension still left, may yet have a fiery afternoon.

  2. Thanks, about Allison interview, I think it was on Autosport, but not sure…

    I do agree with you about the FRIC, it will be track by track, and the Hungaroring could be very tricky for some cars without FRIC, even in Germany we saw the first effect of its ban, with cars sparkling on the straights because of a different height

    • I’ll do an internet search re: Allison.

      Yes I did think Hockenheim would show the FRIC impact more than perhaps some thought. There is/was a sense that it was all about fast track/slow tracks. However that’s not the case. Indeed we did see the impact as you suggest. Stiffer, bouncy, jittery and bottoming out cars. But we didn’t see the form adjustment.

      However that doesn’t mean there wont be a ‘lack-of-FRIC-based’ form adjustment, it just means FRIC isn’t as critical to pure performance as we think on most tracks, for most teams. It just makes the performance package more consistent over a race from high fuel to low and from fresh tyres to used etc. The places I think we’ll see it is Monza (indeed the highest speed circuit) and Hungaroring (One of the lowest speed circuits).

    • Oh, like getting lapped by your own teammate in Canada, when the McLaren was obviously doing well. Or on several other occasions where Button’s McLaren was getting mysteriously out of points while Jenson was looking for balance, with Lewis keeping on playing with the big boys.. I think in this sense Kimi is less sensitive than Jenson.

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