Raunchy attention-grabbing title aside, the rear of the cars has been a big talking point of the winter testing so far in 2016. As we move further down the grid with our evaluation at the half-way point of pre-season testing, exciting developments are occurring that may spring some surprises.
Describing Red Bull as “further down the grid” might provoke some reaction, but despite all of their technical innovation, this year is likely to be even more painful than 2015. Their stablemate Toro Rosso, running last year’s Ferrari engine with a very cleverly engineered car and two very hungry drivers, might actually be able to regularly beat the senior team.
Don’t be fooled by the new Tag Heuer branding on Red Bull’s engine, it’s mostly still a Renault with some tweaks by Ilmor, and the complaints are still likely to come thick and fast. Ricciardo said in conversation with Autosport “It pretty much feels like we ended last season…” finishing with “We are still not on race trim, in terms of power…”
As always, Red Bull have heavily developed their aerodynamic package, with a mightily complex front wing. There is also an interesting small winglet on the front edge of the floor, that helps to divert the airflow underneath and either side of the leading edge of the chassis.
They have employed a curved upper wishbone that angles rearwards near the attachment of the wheel, helping to divert the air away from the tyre and back towards the aerodynamic surfaces. Other teams (such as Mercedes) have done this, but not to the same extent as the Red Bull.
The matte livery looks really good in the Barcelona sun, with a retro feel to the simplicity of the logos. Some have speculated that the matte finish might convey some hydrophilic properties to make the car more slippery through the air, but we have seen no sound proof that this is the case. This concept has been worked on by Williams previously, but how much of a benefit it would convey is at this stage unknown.
The politics surrounding the Red Bull and Renault fiasco put a significant delay in deciding which engine Toro Rosso were going to use this year. Ferrari power unit supply was confirmed in November, but major design philosophy decisions had to be taken in August. Having to make an educated guess about key components, particularly the cooling requirements, the team have made a spectacular effort to produce such a well packaged car in a short space of time. “Normally you spend months on that but we did it in two weeks so that was really where we have succeeded” according to technical director James Key.
Still, they seem to have done a fantastic job. You can see from the comparison picture above (tweeted by @f1writers compiled from images from motorsport.com) the rear end of the new Toro Rosso tapers off very quickly, even more than the works Ferrari and the “size zero” McLaren. This will keep the airflow around the rear wing relatively undisturbed and allow the diffuser to work more efficiently. The compromise for this is that the area of bodywork directly behind the driver’s head is slightly more bulky, but the elegant rear end may pay dividends.
Toro Rosso also ran with excellent reliability, managing a total of 447 laps, or nearly 7 Spanish Grand Prix race distances (6.7 to be precise) between their two drivers. That was second only to the all conquering works Mercedes team. After such a marathon week you’d expect Carlos to need a lie down, but he looked very fresh straight after jumping out of the car. “I’m feeling great. Obviously to do so many laps – over two race distances – after two months without driving is a lot for the body, but the good thing is that I managed to do them and that I am fit. All in all, a very productive day, the team is doing a great job and we just need to carry on like this.”
I hope they keep their fantastic raging bull motif on the car when the new livery is launched on Tuesday, it is one of the few designs at the moment that has dynamism and conveys excitement – it would be a shame to lose such a beautiful work of art to the greyscale land of tedium that is the current trend.
The dramatic redemption of the Lotus F1 team from the brink of destruction by the saviours at Renault has been well documented and it is a pleasure to see the manufacturer committed to the future of Formula One, despite all of the public ribbing they received from Red Bull last year.
The fallout from the delays in the decision being finalised and the lengthy court proceedings meant that for most of last year there were simply no funds being released for development, which meant that this year’s car was bound to suffer. As a result it is relatively aerodynamically simple and quite lumpy compared to the other works outfits. The chunky airbox ears, combined with a less refined rear end are both excellent examples of this.
Unfortunately for them the car also suffers from poor reliability at this stage, with Palmer only being able to run 79 laps over two days, first with a software issue then a turbo failure. K-Mag on the other hand was able to complete a good handful (264) to give a beacon of hope to the hard-working people from Enstone. Everybody in the team is expecting 2016 to be a difficult transition year as the fallout from a turbulent acquisition settles, but the future should be happier for them.
All is not well at McLaren. Honda motorsport boss Yasuhisa Arai has seemingly fallen on his sword (if you don’t buy the retirement story) after rifts between him and the senior McLaren management.
Fernando Alonso was keen to put politics behind him and step into the car to gauge process, although I’m sure he was wearing a pair of insulating underwear after his experiences in testing last year. Unfortunately on this front reliability seems to still be an issue. Initial signs were encouraging, getting more laps in on one day than the whole of the 2015 testing season, but the smiles were soon wiped from faces when a coolant issue sidelined Fernando’s running. They only covered 257 laps over the course of the four days, just three more than Manor and rather embarrassingly fewer than new team Haas (281).
The new package also still seems to lack straight line speed, with Alonso’s maximum 324 kph comparing poorly to Rosberg’s 339. The advantage that the size zero concept conveys (which formed the backbone of optimism when Honda finally make a decent power unit) is quickly being eroded as other teams take lessons and develop a simliar direction. Honda need to improve quickly in order to avoid another depressingly poor season.
The new team from across the pond have already done themselves proud. Their first attempt at an F1 car looks absolutely the business, with great attention to detail showing they are not content to trundle around at the back of the pack.
The influence from the Ferrari design studio is immediately apparent when looking at the features of the car and a lot of the fine detail is uncannily similar to the Scuderia, just less intricately refined. They are the only two teams running a small winglet just behind the airbox and both cars use a similar philosophy of placing the majority of the power unit cooling ducts beside the driver. Their front nosecone is very reminiscent of the platypus nose used by Ferrari last year.
The car was reasonably reliable (bar a few niggles to be expected of a brand new outfit) and showed good pace out of the box) and they have made by far the best start for new team of recent tender process. The team have stated the aim of Q2 in Melbourne and 7th in constructors, meaning they would have to beat the likes of Sauber, Manor, McLaren and Renault. A lofty aim in their first year, but right now it is not hard to start believing them.
With new ownership comes a new vibrant livery, with the blue sidepods glinting in the setting Spanish sun. With the only significant sponsor on show being Shazam, I wonder what would come up on the app if you used it trackside?
Two new drivers take to the stage with the highly rated chosen son of Mercedes Pascal Wehrlein partnering the first ever Indonesian driver Rio Haryanto. Pascal impressed on his first outings, with consistent stints and reasonably good pace. Rio however has a mountain to climb after two off track excursions, the last of which cost the team a significant amount of time to repair the car.
They can ill afford the time as they need all they can get to bring their new package up to speed with the latest Mercedes power unit technology. The team may be minnows but are aiming high, with some decent innovation (particularly around the top surface of the car) and clean lines showing that they mean business. Many expect them to be finally able to challenge the midfield, especially if the established teams like of Mclaren and Sauber falter.
Sauber have not yet launched their 2016 challenger, blaming the late timetable change for scuppering their plans. This just shows how much of a challenge the short off-season is, even if Manor managed to make it on time. They have tried to make the most use of the test with their 2015 car by evaluating the new tyres, set-up work and procedural efficiency. Felipe Nasr was bring optimistic “We all wish the new car was ready before, but areas we didn’t have time to explore last year we did it now”. With half of pre-season testing already completed, it will be a mammoth task to be prepared for Melbourne in time with their new car.