Reflections in the sand: First impressions from Round 1

March 15, 2010

I suspect Mr E would have liked a bit more excitment from Round 1

So a few mysteries have been resolved and quite a few questions remain as to how things will shape up for 2010. Regarding drivers most of the number 1 vs number 2 groupings played out as expected – Alonso ahead of Massa (but not in qualifying), Vettel ahead of Webber, Hamilton ahead of Button, with the interesting exception (despite my predictions on the subject) of Rosberg both out-qualifying and out-racing Schumacher. It will be interesting to see how this shapes up over the next few races. Is Schumacher just happy to be an F1 driver once more, or is the will to win the same as before? If it is we can expect to see a reversal of this situation over the next few races, and in particular in the race rather than in qualifying. As Niki Lauda once remarked of his comeback at McLaren alongside a young new driver called Alan Prost – he knew he couldn’t win in terms of sheer speed, so did so on using his experience and a bit of cunning and guile – the next few races will be interesting at Mercedes.

The performance of the cars was interesting too. McLaren certainly didn’t seem to have an advantage in the straights with their driver’s knee operated rear wing stall system – perhaps it was all a ploy to divert the others away from other areas, remember the famous twin brake system that McLaren used in 1997? The Red Bull Racing exhaust system seems to be working well – by avoiding exhausting the hot gases over the rear of the car they have apparently created an aerodynamic advantage. It means a more complex exhaust system – they had thought that this was the cause of Vettel’s problem – but it turned out to be a spark plug. It will be interesting to see whether the other teams follow Red Bull in what would be a major redevelopment of their cars. But the most positive part of Bahrain for me was the pace of the Virgin Racing car which, with Timo Glock at the wheel out-qualified all the other new teams. Although neither car finished, they are clearly ‘new team’ fast and so have destroyed the myth that you can only build a fast car with a wind tunnel – well done to Nick Wirth and his team at Wirth Research. The next question is whether they can develop the car as fast as the wind-tunnel teams through the season.

And although there were some interesting factors related to the drivers and the cars – the same could not be said of the actual race! It was all a bit processional and if Vettel hadn’t had his problem, it would have been even less exciting. The tyres seemed to hold up pretty well and so we didn’t see the variations in speed that had been anticipated between full and light fuel loads. Perhaps the drivers and teams were feeling their way a bit and being over-cautious? It was certainly a very dignified start with everyone falling into the train pretty quickly – with the exception of a little duet from Kubica and Sutil. So let’s hope things liven up a bit in Australia, it would be a shame if the most exciting part of the 2010 season actually happened before it started!

2 Responses to “Reflections in the sand: First impressions from Round 1”

  1. thepak Says:

    I’m a big fan of your blog, I am an American F1 fan/law student with his own blog dedicated to F1. Your recurring point about the Virgin outfit representing an innovative trailblazer in the F1 universe is a valid one, but in the end, isn’t it about results? Granted the season just commenced, and Virgin will undoubtedly improve as it progresses, but the hydraulic issues that plagued the cars throughout testing and in Bahrain seems to be a chronic problem that the team hasn’t solved. Granted I’m not an automotive or aerodynamic engineer, but I wonder if Virgin’s all-CFD approach is overlooking some critical mechanical pheonmena. And Sir Richard Branson’s failure to commit financial backing for the entire season is an oddity, considering his comments indicate he has outlined a five year timeline for the team’s development. Of all the new teams, the Lotus team seems to have the strongest foundation of the bunch, and it will be interesting to see how they improve(or regress) as the season progresses.

    • Mark Says:

      Hi thepak

      Of course you’re right it is about results, and until the end of the season we won’t get a real picture of how Virgin Racing are really performing. However the CFD is being used here as a 100% replacement for the wind tunnel which focuses on aerodynamic performance (as opposed to mechanical issues), and so their performance in qualifying, and in the race – as far as it went – suggests that they do not have a disadvantage from using CFD, so far, although as I mentioned the interesting question now is whether Lotus can develop their car faster and thereby overtake Virgin, it’s going to be an interesting battle

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