Testing conclusions – making 2+2 = 5

The first week of testing is always a exciting time, both for the teams and interested onlookers keen to take home any crumbs of information that might give an early indication of form. At the same time every single person involved knows that drawing concrete conclusions is completely pointless and often misleading.

So with that in mind let’s take a look at the things we have learned this week.

 

Mercedes

It will come as no surprise to anyone that the new W07 from Brackley was the package of envy up and down the paddock. The team had such ominous confidence in their new car to go straight to long runs with faultless reliability, just like last year. They have had to split the workload on the drivers between the morning and afternoon sessions to prevent fatigue. You have not seen them obliterating the time sheets just yet as they have not needed to show their ultimate pace, not running low fuel or soft tyres in the first week as a result.

Motor Racing - Formula One Testing - Test One - Day 4 -  Barcelona, Spain

One area of interest was their new nose structure, which holds on to the front wing by a tiny portion of the struts. This is designed to push the wing as far forward as possible, minimising the airflow disturbance to the front of the floor and over the rest of the car. It also incorporates their version of the “s-duct”, a device to divert turbulent air from under the nosecone through a tube to create a smooth laminar flow on top of the chassis. Their design is also unique in that it is much longer than seen with other teams, which stretches the S shape. The less acute angles will make their device much more efficient.

mercedes1

The airbox scoop is much larger than last year to incorporate the “ears” either side, and has been divided quite far forward to split the airflow between the cooling of the PU components. This creates a larger frontal profile, but must provide a necessary cooking benefit. The airbox has been tilted rearward slightly to reduce this detrimental effect.

Felipe Massa summed up the situation perfectly “what they’re doing on track definitely shows they’re going to be very, very strong again.” Lewis even had time to zip around the paddock on his motorised unicycle with pooch Roscoe eagerly in tow.

 

Ferrari

This week Ferrari have demonstrated that they will once again be the strongest hope of taking the fight to Mercedes this year. Noises from the drivers have been cautiously positive, even the usually stoic Kimi has been heard talking in long sentences and rumours of a smile have percolated through the paddock. “It’s where we want it to be, and I’m sure we can improve it some more.” – gushing praise indeed.

There have been some reliability niggles creeping into the Ferrari stable, with some fuel system issues curtailing running. Over the four days they only managed just over half of the total number of laps managed by Mercedes.

ferrari1

The car itself has seen a reasonably large philosophy change. The long platypus nose from last year has been ditched in favour of the ultra short thumb nose as seen on the Williams. This allows a greater mass of clean flowing air over the car that should provide an aerodynamic benefit. They have also returned to push rod front suspension, which makes for easier setup changes without a dramatic increase in drag. Time will tell if this shift in direction provides further upward momentum.

 

Williams

Many believe that Williams have achieved an incredible feat in maintaining third in the constructors championship and without manufacturer backing are realistically unlikely to be able to topple their competitors from Maranello or Brackley. They have been pushing very hard over the winter to keep that position safe from the clutches of Red Bull, Toro Rosso and a resurgent Force India.

williams1

The Williams cars struggled in low speed mechanical grip reliant conditions last year, such as slow street circuits and in the rain. Silverstone was a perfect example, where they could battle with the Mercedes in the dry, but as soon as the rain came they tumbled down the order. In an attempt to alleviate these weaknesses, the front suspension mountings have been lowered in to try generate more front end grip, keeping heat in the tyres during low friction running. The rear of the car is much more aggressively packaged this year to clean up the wash produced by the car, making it even more slippery than before. You can still expect them to be topping the speed trap figures again this year.

The drivers have not been as forthcoming with praise for the new car as others have been, possibly reigning in hopes that they can maintain their position until other teams start to show their hand.

 

Force India

At this point last year Force India were in big trouble and many, including myself, had written off their chances of even boarding the plane to Australia. Even so they managed to struggle on with a poorly developed 2015 car (which was essentially an upgraded 2014 chassis) before releasing the b-spec 2015 car half way through the year, at which point their fortunes turned and points came in abundance.

forceindia1

They have made a much better start to 2016, with the new car proving to be reasonably reliable so far and some headline pace from Hulkenberg. However, smaller teams do tend to run lighter and on softer rubber in testing in order to attract interest and sponsorship, but the drivers seem confident. Nico confirmed this feeling by saying “it does feel like we are moving in the right direction. The important thing is that we are getting lots of laps under our belt at this early stage”.

The 2016 car is an evolution of the b-spec car from 2015, rather than a whole new philosophy. Technical director Andrew Green explained this choice by saying “with the regulations likely to change for 2017, it didn’t really seem like an efficient use of our resources to start from scratch on a project that would have such a limited lifetime”. Expect Force India to start the season strongly, but they might reach the end of their development curve earlier than it’s close competitors.

 

A summary of the rest of the teams from the first week of testing will follow over the weekend.

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23 responses to “Testing conclusions – making 2+2 = 5

  1. @ CatmanF1, Top Notch article – well done. Just to add a little,
    The Mercedes S-duct has plusses and minuses. The open nose features an added surface for down force and more cooling, however the system, as yet, is not optimized. It seems to have adverse effects in traffic, namely, adding heat and stalls airflow at the highest speeds.
    The Ferrari has gained in the slippery aero and went back to Kimi’s style of “Front-End-Feel.” If that “Feel” can be tuned to Kimi and Seb, individually, they will be consistent pole contenders.
    I don’t predict a mid-field/back-markers delegation this season. all seem to be quite competent to compete for fifth on the starting grid.
    Those are my observations so far. As all things are fluid … I am hoping for an interesting 2016 F1 Season.

    • Where did you get the information from that ‘the system has an adverse effect mainly in traffic’?…. If that’s the case won’t all the teams that run it have the same problem as they all work on the same principle?

      There has been no reports anywhere stating the information you have just presented, so that’s some very ballsy claim.

    • It seems at the start of every season since 2012, we’ve heard about some change that will finally allow Kimi to get the best out of the car – with the implicit assumption his performance has been hampered in previous seasons.

      I simply do not share this optimism. I like Kimi for all the obvious reasons, but I’m not a blinkered fanboy. Even when Kimi won his WDC in 2007 he didn’t seem to drive as consistently impressively as he did when he was at the top of his game, back during the McLaren years.

      Yet it seems there is a constant flow of excuses that imply Kimi’s often very average performances are due to issues with the car. I don’t think this is the case. Unfortunately Kimi has consistently demonstrated in recent years that he is simply not in the very top tier of drivers on the grid. Quite frankly I think he’s very lucky to still be driving. Had LdM not panicked towards the end of 2013, I suspect he would have retired from F1 after an awful 2014 season with Lotus … which assumes that team could have afforded to continue paying his salary, in which case he might have retired even earlier.

      I like having Kimi in the sport, but if you gauged his salary vs points scored since moving back to Ferrari – I strongly suspect he would be shown as the most expensive driver on the grid.

      If Lewis Hamilton’s performance had dipped in the same way Kimi’s has – would there be such a big clamoring Hamfosi making excuses on his behalf? I doubt it. That said, it would be nice if Kimi really did manage to up his game, and drive a brilliant swansong season before he inevitably retires!

        • My point was he only got the Ferrari drive because LdM was scared Alonso might have left that season, and he was the best big name available.

          I was just imagining that he likely would have remained at Lotus in 2014 (unless he just retired), hence the woeful car probably would have caused him to choose to retire.

  2. Re-read the article 3 times (carefully on the last) and I still don’t get the “2+2=5” inference. I have been told I can be too literal, and the wife calls me “Thick” sometimes, but can you spell (count) it out for me? What am I missing?

    • Don’t worry – It was my somewhat lame attempt to comically ridicule those who read too much in to testing times… “At the same time every single person involved knows that drawing concrete conclusions is completely pointless and often misleading.”

      No mathematical skills required 😀 But thanks for reading my article so carefully!!

  3. No picture to compare all the size 0? That’s the thing this year. Apart from no color and ugly noses.

  4. The Sky TV video that I saw of Lewis on ‘hoverboard’ with his dog showed it to be Coco not Roscoe (Coco has all- white front legs) though Sky TV woman got it wrong too. I hope that journalistic standards are not slipping! Disclaimer – I’m not a Hamfosi :-} I Am looking forward to the second article where I hope to get some insight into how McLAren failed to fix a water leak in a whole day. Couldn’t they has just put nd egg in the radiator or something!

    • That was hardly the worst thing Sky F1 did during the first test. I appreciate it hasn’t been a particularly exciting 4 days – but the coverage on Sky F1 channel has been exceptionally poor value for the absurd money they charge. Where were the decent camera shots of cars on the track? All that I saw were just panning towards or away from Ted, and really not good angles to allow us to see the performance differences between the cars.

    • McLaren installed a new engine for FA’s friday test. Considering the coolant leak occurred following an installation, on the balance of probability, one of the engineers made a small faux-pas and missed out or damaged a seal. Contaminating the cooling system with ‘an egg or something’ would not be very constructive or effective.
      Corrective action required removal and re-installation of the PU – unfortunately they did not call for your express assistance!
      I hope the technical standards of the posters are not slipping!

        • In my student days I had reasonable results with Barrs and also with Holts ‘Radweld’. The Barrs seemed more plausible as it was a bit gooier than than the Holts. Seriously I reckon that either might have got Alonso out for a few laps unless the cooling systems are highly pressurised and I am guessing that they are all using the modern low pressure coolant that boils at 180 degrees or so but perhaps ‘Engineer’ could comment on this. Oh, and thanks for confirming my guess about them installing the new PU for Friday and I bet it was the last one they had with them. I would like to have been a fly on the motorhome wall when they told Ron and Alonso!

    • Hmm… from my ownership of an ageing Austin 1100 back in the days of my youth, I recall that mashed banana is the perfect fix for a leaky radiator hose. Seals, then bakes hard in minutes. Mind you, that was in about 1974 and I suspect F1 may well have higher tech solutions available these days.

      • Only things you need in engineering are duct tape and WD40. If it moves and it shouldn’t, use duct tape. If it doesn’t move but it should, use WD40.

        Where’s my technical director job then?!

        • The tape used for aeronautical applications is referred to as ‘speed tape’ – it has an aluminium backing for more rigidity and reduced probability of detachment.
          If you look carefully at the new front wing tested by Merc (photo above), you can see the tracks of sensor wires (look like protruding welds) eliminating from the back of the pillars and traversing across the upper surface to sensors mounted between the upper turning vanes, encased in a speed tape variant!

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