A Daily Round up of Formula One news, inside whispers, opinion and comment. Today,
Bizarre bad luck for Räikkönen
The former world champion ended the final free practice session 8 tenths of a second behind his team mate, because the team had plugged a laptop in that was infected with the “D’Oh” virus which left his ERS configured in a state that made it impossible to fully load the ERS storage.
But the best was yet to come. After a not quite so brilliant banker lap in the first attempt in Q3, the Iceman’s hopes were riding on the one fresh set of options he had left for his final run – except he hadn’t. A malfunction in one of the tyre warmers overheated and destroyed one of the four tyres forcing Räikkönen to make the decisive final attempt on used options. The Finn finished one second down on his team mate in seventh place.
The incident caused the Iceman to lose his temper and launch into an uncharacteristically long rant. “Those things happen.”
New clutch to improve Mercedes starts
The Circuit de Catalunya is one of those tracks, where the start is a little bit more important than normal, because with 730 meters to the first corner, there is an awful lot of time for other cars to pass you if you’ve graduated from the Mark Webber School of F1 Starts. Only in Mexico the run to the first lap is longer than in Barcelona.
The starts of the Mercedes cars have so far been solid, but nothing to instil the fear of god into the opposition, which is why Mercedes have installed a new clutch to optimize their starts. Other than the start, Mercedes will also hope they won’t repeat the tyre fiasco from two years ago. In 2013 the two silver cars locked out the front row, but in the race they fell back due to catastrophic tyre wear, making them desperate enough to hook up with Pirelli for the infamous illegal tyre test two days later.
Theoretically that shouldn’t be a problem, because of the resilience of the primes, but the time differences have shown that the preferable tyre is the option.
Renault still in the dark about piston problems
Renault’s Remi Taffin has admitted to Auto Motor & Sport that the French manufacturer has still not found the reason for their PU’s tendency to have its own pistons for lunch. “We have identified and understood all problems, except this one.”
Until then Renault customers have to run with substantially reduced power. The Red Bull cars were lacking 15 kph in top speed, putting them in Manor GP country.
With both Red Bull cars already using the last available power unit, the team will break the record for most grid penalties in a single season and the Austrian team have downgraded their ambitions to making it past Monaco without incurring a ten place drop. In the principality such a penalty would be catastrophic.
Ferrari: Wing Gate 2.0?
When Sky announced yesterday that Sebastian Vettel was using the upgraded Ferrari, while Kimi’s car had been reversed almost to Bahrain specification, I was wondering how long it would take for someone to mention Silverstone 2010. While the usual suspects in our own comment section showed unusual restraint, the rabid crowd on Autosport did not disappoint – it took exactly three minutes.
The reasons for that change are much more mundane however. The changing wind conditions in free practice two made it almost impossible for the team to gather any viable data to work out whether or not the package really is better or not, since, according to Mercedes’ Toto Wolff “Ferrari changed half the car, and you run the risk running into a dead-end.”
Räikkönnen, who was particularly unhappy with the B-spec SF15-T asked the team to go back to the old specification and the team decided to accommodate him and use the race for a long-term comparison and gather the necessary data.
As it turns out, the new spec was much faster on Saturday when the wind was more predictable, but as we already established, there were also other influencing factors on Kimi’s poor day. The race will provide the ultimate answer if Ferrari’s large upgrade was a success or not.
Good News in the midfield
For two midfield teams there were good news on Saturday. McLaren managed to get both cars into Q2, which is not too shabby considering their catastrophic start to the season. Lotus had reason to be upbeat as well. Even though running only one attempt each in Q1 and Q2, the two black cars qualified 11th and 12th and have therefore saved tyres for the race. Especially the two Red Bulls might want to look into their rear view mirrors today.
On a completely unrelated note
In many parts of the world, today is Mother’s day. So please be a good son or daughter and buy her a bottle of Vodka. After all, you’re the reason she’s drinking.