Both Christian Horner and Adrian Newey have admitted that the 2013 chase for glory which saw Sebastian Vettel win the last nine races of the year, had utilised resource that should have been allocated to developing the 2014 car.
As TJ13 has reported on a number of occasions, when an F1 team finds itself behind the curve even just in terms of production, the catch up process can be tough and take weeks and months.
Noses take about 5 days from new design to completion, front wings around 10 days and gearboxes around 11 days – and where possible, the machines are running 24 hours a day.
Vettel started the Monaco GP weekend in 2014, knowing he had a patched up gearbox and no spare should it give up the ghost. This was caused by a series of unexpected gear box failures, the latest in the Barcelona test following the Spanish GP.
TJ13 also reported during the Jerez testing week, that Red Bull intended only to bring the RB11 proper for the start of the European season. The Zeb-Bull – whilst a great marketing ploy, was also used to disguise the fact that the car on display was not significantly different form the one which finished the 2014 season in Abu Dhabi.
This phenomenon of starting the year with just a modified 2014 car, only to launch the ‘all new’ version later in the season has been possible due to the relatively minor regulation changes in car design.
Both Manor F1 and Force India have adopted similar approached, though to some extent this has been forced upon them due to lack of finance, rather than from a strategic perspective.
The all new RB11 design hangs completely on a ‘short nose’ philosophy, and when revealed in Barcelona it will be around 80mm short than any other nose currently deployed on the grid.
It has been a long haul to get the most significant component for the RB11 ready for production. Red Bull Racing have FIA crash tested 62 short noses before finally version 63 provided them with a legal design to work with.
All this comes at a cost, and with noses estimated to cost no less than £50,000 – Red Bull has burned through £3m alone to get their critical design good to go.
However, TJ13 also suggested in early February, that this delay in the production of the RB11 would not be due to a new found organisational chaos in Milton Keynes where design and production deadlines were missed by not weeks but months.. Starting with the race in Barcelona, 7 races in just 11 weeks were scheduled before the summer break prior to the cancellation of the German GP.
This gives Red Bull’s competitors a tough time in copying ideas from the RB11 design and implementing them on their own cars before the summer break in August.
Many of the RB11 concepts are dependent on the aerodynamics of the short nose, and so Red Bull are expecting a one lap pace gain of between 0.75-1.0 seconds relative to the competition in Barcelona.
In Australia, Daniel Ricciardo was almost 2 seconds exactly slower than the pole position time of Lewis Hamilton. By Bahrain this had been reduced to 1.5 seconds.
However, if Mercedes are ‘managing’ their pace, it is more pertinent to compare this improvement to Red Bull’s other competitors. In Bahrain, Ricciardo was 0.9 seconds slower than second place qualifier Sebastian Vettel and 0.5 seconds than the lead Williams of Bottas.
Of course Ferrari and Mercedes will bring big upgrades for the Spanish Grand Prix, however Williams appear to be development shy at present and should Renault deliver some one lap pace improvement too – we could see a Red Bull/Ferrari battle for second place honours – at least during qualifying.
Meanwhile the secretive goings on in Red Bull’s new building 9, known as ‘Adrian’s Project’, continue apace – and staff are re-assured the team have alternative plans in place should Renault either fail to deliver or quit Formula One.