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28 August 2015
27 August 2015
The blame game

Pirelli, are the marmite of Formula One, although it seems that most want to blame them for all of the sports ill's.  Just like the goalkeeper nothing is mentioned of the good work they do until something goes wrong.  And, just like the goalkeeper they are not always to blame, he has 10 other players in front of him all of which have given the opposition the chance to score.  In this, perhaps tenuous analogy Formula One teams are much the same, they're the outfield players looking for someone to blame when the chips are down.

Sebastian Vettel's rant to the BBC in the bull pen after the race once again divided opinion, there are those of us who believe that Pirelli get far too much flack for providing a product to the specification that the regulatory body asked for.  Meanwhile, you have the Ferrari and Vettel supporters who are angered by the fact their driver lost out on a podium.

So, lets be pragmatic and try to understand what happened and more importantly why.  Firstly what did Sebastian actually say, for those that missed it or have only heard selective elements of the interview, note the quote I have highlighted in yellow for post interview reading:

Lee McKenzie: "Sebastian, do you think Ferrari were being a little too greedy in the end, do you think?"
Sebastian: "No"
Lee McKenzie: "So you were happy with the decision and you wanted to stay out? You could have got to the end you felt?"
Sebastian: "Well how many laps I was missing, not many and things like that are not allowed to happen, full stop.  If it happens 200 metres earlier, I'm not standing here now, I'm with 300 stuck in Eau Rouge, so I don't know what else needs to happen, ermmmm, yea."
Lee McKenzie: "So in that case then you're obviously upset that the tyre went that way, but you'd run it for 27.."
Sebastian: "I'll tell you what is upsetting, upsetting is that one thing is the result, you know this is racing, for sure we deserved to finish on the podium but the other thing as I said is this happens earlier, you know, I don't you know [sighs and doesn't commit to the rest of the comment].  I think it's a sort of theme that keeps going around, no-one is mentioning but it's unacceptable."
Lee McKenzie: "You were one of the drivers that stated their concerns to Charlie Whiting in the drivers briefing.  Was that taken seriously?" (referring to the Rosberg tyre incident during FP2)
Sebastian: "Well I think it was, but what's the answer? Same as everytime, yea well there was cut / debris, there maybe something wrong with the bodywork, the driver went wide bullshit, if Nico tells us he didn't go off the track, he didn't go off the track.  Why should he lie to us? It's the same with me I didn't go off the track, it's just out of the blue, the tyre explodes and as I said if this happens earlier I'm in shit."
Lee McKenzie: "But you drivers must be the ones in the power seat, so what do you do now before Monza?"
Sebastian: "I think we need to speak to each other (the drivers), it's probably not as bad as it was in Silverstone some years ago, but it's not acceptable."

Now I'm sorry Sebastian, I have the utmost respect for you as a driver and have often defended you when others have called into question your ability but, as you did I call bullshit too.  You were clearly off the circuit on numerous occasions as we can see below...

Lap 31 - We'll start here as everyone can call out Sebastian for being off the circuit at Raidillon but here at Stavelot the Ferrari driver frequently exceeded the track limits.
On lap 33 the BBC cut to a slow motion replay provided by FOM of one of Sebastian's off track excursions at Raidillon.  The arrow points to the location of a sausage kerb that was removed after FP2 as the drivers aired their concerns over safety.  I completely understand their logic a raised element there is asking for a disaster IF a driver gets his line wrong.  The problem with its removal is that it allowed drivers to overstep the track limits.
Same picture but I wanted you to also note the dynamic platform of the car at this stage, take a look at the right rear wheel.  It is completely airborn, as the car takes off over the kerbing, rotating at full engine speed, the tyre impacts with ground in the next image
The tyre has now come to rest on the ground, a peak loading placed on the tyre in doing so will not only aggressively heat the surface of the tyre but send a shockwave through its carcase.
Vettel isn't just over the track limits here, he has all four wheels almost a tyres width off the circuit

You'll note that the forces placed on the tyres carcase means the sidewall of the tyre is about to bulge
Out of shape you can now see the tyre lifting away from the outer wheel lip
Actually now in the apex of the off his off circuit exploration the platform of the car is fairly stable again
However, that's not the end of the problem as the kerb has a transition in its surface as you round the corner, not a problem if your on the correct side of it but Sebastian is not.  He's about to exert force on the tyre again, just after the last episode and this time in a short, sharp stab.
As we can see the outer juncture where the tread platform meets with the sidewall takes the hit, deforming the sidewall.
The tyre once again undergoes a deformation, with the tyre moving away from the wheel lip.  Furthermore the car is destabilised meaning the car is scrabbling for traction at a point when Sebastian is trying to apply as much throttle as possible (full).
The tyre is now completely warped, creating a sort of wrinkle, wherby the tyre is trying to catch up with itself.  The structure being pulled both longitudally and laterally.
Still warped....
Still warped, starting to settle..
Back to its natural state but the amount of energy that has been put through the tyre has been huge
As we continue to follow Sebastian on lap 34 he's wide again through Stavelot
This time through Eau Rouge we're onboard with the thermal imaging camera, he doesn't step fully over the kerb this time, probably knowing a repeat infringement will have Charlie on the blower with a warning
Lap 36 at Malmedy and Sebastian is again playing with the track limits, in an attempt to lower the aggravation to the tread platform

Lap 36 down at Stavelot again...
Lap 42 - Just before the tyre let go and Sebastian is once again all over the kerbing at Raidillon
Lap 42 mid corner and Sebastian is clearly trying to cut as much of the corner as possible in order that he doesn't get caught by the chasing Lotus who'll also have DRS assistance along the Kemmel straight.
As he leaves the corner the car is once again off balance having clipped the exit kerbing, with the tyre trying to make its escape from the outer lip
In fairness to Sebastian as Romain tries to catch the Ferrari driver he too cuts the corner at the top of Radillion

Track Limits

As we can see the tyre 'explosion' on Sebastian's car was aggravated by a constant abuse of track limits.  Had the sausage kerbing not been removed from the circuit at Raidillon (at the driver's request) I don't think we'd have seen the issue at all, furthermore I think Ferrari would have been forced to two stop.

With the sausage kerbing in play during FP2 Sebastian was much more reluctant to stay left over the crest
The kerbing forces the driver to take a tighter line up through Eau Rouge as touching the sausage kerb on the left would not only slow and unbalance the car but if repeatedly undertaken likely result in suspension damage.

This is a source of great frustration to many people, for the drivers we may aswell take their machinary to Santa Pod and see who's is the quickest in a straight line, as it appears that no corner or obstacle is sacred in their desire to make their own lives easier. It's Eau Rouge for Christ's sake, a corner you should dare to drive, whilst on Sunday its challenge was lessened as the drivers (not only Vettel) straight lined Raidillon with the sausage kerb being removed on safety grounds.  They would argue that they gained no lasting advantage by straight lining the corner and the data would probably support that, but that is because a) they were all at it, making any advantage null and void and b) the advantage was not supposed to be a direct consequence of laptime but rather them stressing the tyres less over the stint length, increasing its longevity.  The drivers also know that for Race Control to issue a warning and/or penalty for track limits there needs to a) be a serious breach that has led to a lap time gain, b) constant abuse of the limits, something you could argue Sebastian was guilty of, although he did take car not to straight line Eau Rouge every lap and c) consistency: the drivers know that if they're all doing it, very little can be done, as a penalty to every driver simply retains the status quo.

Radio communique

Did Sebastian question the strategy? We got the following audio around lap 29, just when FOM were starting to concentrate on the battle between Sebastian and Romain, although it's likely it came a lap or so earlier. 

Sebastian: Think about the next stop, make sense?
Engineer: Ok, we are looking into it... Tyres from the data looks pretty good, to go to the end

I think the statement can be taken one of two ways, considering the way teams try to bluff one another.  Personally I think it was a call by Sebastian to insinuate he was thinking about a stop, as Lotus would then undoubtedly reign in Romain, thinking he wouldn't need to make the pass on track.  This would invariably give the German a little breathing room and continue to run the pre meditated one stop strategy work.

But didn't Hembrey say the tyres should be able to do 40 laps around Spa?

In a post GP interview with Ted Kravitz, Paul Hembrey did concede that they were targeting a maximum of 40 laps for the Prime (Medium) tyre around Spa.

Ted Kravitz: "So what did you estimate the wear life to be and he did 27 I think laps on them"
Paul Hembery: "28, we thought the strategy was going to be based 2/3 stops as you saw the majority did, but they felt, clearly they could make it work on the one stop. The wear life was indicated at around 40 laps but that's an indication, you know, race conditions can change that and some factors involved in racing mean that sometimes that is not a precise datum and other teams were clearly taking another direction."

Now, whilst most jumped on this an opportunity to jump down the throats of the beleagured tyre supplier I find myself in their corner again once again.  Firstly note Paul's cavaet that seems to have alluded everyones attention 'around' 40 laps, ie not 40 laps.  In any case the only teams I could foresee doing 40 laps on the Medium around Spa would be Manor and McLaren, given their lack of pace compared with the rest of the field.  It was clearly a two-stopper, but Ferrari thought otherwise and in fairness to them they would have had a Pirelli engineer with them suggesting that it's possible.

This is part of a larger, more worrying issue that I have mentioned before, the teams are driving as slow as possible in order that they make less stops.  After all there is a time loss during a pit stop which can be offset by time lost on track by not stopping.  In the case of Spa, that pitlane delta is +/- 22.5 seconds (depending on the time in box) meaning you can do 22 laps at a second a lap slower than your opponent who's stopping once more all whilst retaining track position.  Nothing can really be done about this for 2015 as the difference in time between the two compounds just isn't large enough.  However, Pirelli will surely be evaluating the situation and is one of the prime reasons the teams want free choice on tyre compounds, giving those who can't make the tyres last an offset that works for them with one additional stop.

Returning to the 40 lap prediction we must also remember that this is based on the guidelines set forth by the supplier and since the 2013 debacle enforced by the FIA.  This covers but is not limited to minimum/maximum pressures, camber settings and tyres to be mounted in the correct orientation.  Tyres are an area that can offer a huge performance advantage over a rival and so it's obvious that the teams will run close to the margins to achieve the best performance, in doing so AND trying to increase tyre longevity you'll clearly run into issues.  The 40 lap prediction can therefore only be seen as a best case scenario, not a target to be aimed at.  Furthermore, given the simulation work used to predict this lifespan it's clearly void by the mere fact that the track was changed.  Sebastian's excursions outside of those limits aside the stint length would clearly be less than the 40 laps quoted by Paul Hembery, owing to the extra load going through the tyres at Radillion and their consequential deformation as speeds were increased down Kemmel straight.

Just as the teams were culpable for the problems we saw in 2013, I think in this instance the same can be said for Sebastian Vettel and his approach to the race.  No-one wants to see a failure, however, when you continuously push something beyond its tolerances it is bound to fail.  I just hope that everyone see's sense this time around, rather than chase Pirelli around with pitchforks insisting they change something.

EDIT 28/08/15 - Vettel aside here is a slideshow of other drivers etiquete through Eau Rouge and over Raidillon, of which Perez and Kvyat are the worst offenders - Slideshow

Furthermore, it would seem although others clearly took the short cut at Radillion the effects on the rear tyre were not as severe as those already highlighted on Vettel's SF15-T, most likely due to how rigid or softly sprung each car is.  In the example below of when Maldonado runs wide during FP3 his right rear unloads, coming down without such a sharp deformation and/or twisting force on the tyre.  Now we don't have speeds to see if they are travelling through there at similar velocities but we can see that post kerb hop the car is unsettled so much that the front wing collides with ground, suggesting a very different damping arrangement than the Ferrari.

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26 August 2015
Where now for Renault?

The total and absolute breakdown of relationship between Red Bull and Renault has already been somewhat of a drawn out saga.  However, with all their eggs in the energy drink basket, Renault must either find a new partner, return to the world of team ownership or for the short term at least, wave goodbye to Formula One.

Having sold their 'works' team over a two year period to Gennii Capital, they not only formed a new relationship with Red Bull but invested in larger facilities at Viry, sacrificing parking space (yea who needs that) for a larger dyno room etc, with an eye on the change in regulations abound.

By their own admission that wasn't enough though, continuing to support Red Bull in the dying embers of the V8 era they dropped the ball, concentrating far too much effort on the outgoing engine, rather than the incoming Powerunits.
Having allowed Red Bull to infiltrate Viry when the chips were down in 2014, allow them to compromise this years PU and be openly berated by what is supposed to be a partner, the time has come where the relationship is now untenable.

Red Bull are reportedly in talks with Mercedes to supply them as early as 2016, meaning they'll have to come to a financial agreement with Renault on the last year of their contract. To put themselves even further in a financial hole they'll also lose their Infiniti sponsorship and have to pay for the Mercedes units too.  Meanwhile, Toro Rosso seem to have been forgotten, the distant cousin no-one wants to speak to at the Christmas party, means either another Mercedes PU, Red Bull going with their tail between their legs back to Ferrari for supply or rubbing shoulders with Honda for their Powerunits.

So what of Renault? Well they're in talks with Lotus and Force India 'apparently' and in fairness both could do with a substantial financial injection. Renault clearly know the Entsone setup well as they're the ones who last provided the financial stability it so desperately requires now, whilst Force India is a different story... 

Having purchased the team from the contentious little Irish man who now plies his trade with the BBC, Force India have continued to live in Jordan's shadow. A make do attitude to their on site facilities at Silverstone has finally made way as the team use the wind tunnel facilities in Cologne, whilst an update to 60% tooling and the model should be completed in time for the 2016, further improving the teams ability to run with the grids elite.

Continuity of Powerunit supplier for Force India meant they started their 2015 campaign with last years car and only ran the VJM08 later in the season. Meanwhile, it's clear the E23 has had little development this season, Lotus had to build a new car, as they changed from the Renault to Mercedes power.  So on the face of it their overall development is similar, it's just been achieved differently.

Whilst neither have been mentioned Sauber and Manor also offer Renault an alternative and could also do with investment.  Sauber would offer a similar solution to Lotus whilst Manor would be a considerable challenge but would offer a more mailable solution over a sustained period.  The purchase of Lotus, Force India or Sauber would also mean buying them out of their respective Mercedes or Ferrari contracts, which again elevates the cost, whilst Manor are most likely running on a year-to-year contract.

Whilst the purchase of the teams is being digested Renault could also do the unthinkable and take a years sabbatical from engine supply, giving them time to not only assess which option suits them best but also come back re-invigorated for the proposed 2017 rule shake up (which I a. Don't believe is necessary and b. If it happens will actually be put back to 2018).  
This would be bad news for F1 though, with Mercedes then responsible for supplying just over half of the grid (6 teams if Toro Rosso have Mercedes PU's too) especially as the Mercedes 'works team can use ways to retain their advantage over the teams they supply.  (Ron Dennis has certainly been vocal over this, with McLaren renewing their alliance with Honda as a way of besting Mercedes in the long run).
Given the success that Red Bull and Renault shared during 2010 and 2013 it is difficult to swallow how Red Bull have openly berated Renault.  Renault have clearly made mistakes and will rise back to the top in due course, Red Bull however, would do well to remember that Formula One is cylic, no-one rules the roost forever, instead those who seize on regulation changes tend to make the best of it for several seasons.

Even if contracts are honoured between the Red Bull teams and Renault it could be all change just in-time for the regulation revolution in 2017, in which case it'd be a shame if Renault put things right just as Red Bull departed....
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20 August 2015
2015 Belgian GP technical image gallery

A selection of the best technical images from the Belgian GP courtesy of Sutton Images that will be updated throughout the weekend.

Red Bull RB11 front brake duct detail
Red Bull RB11 low downforce rear wing, note much shallower angle of attack
Red Bull RB11 rear wing being tested to make sure radius' meet the requirements

Red Bull RB11 rear wing being tested to make sure radius' meet the requirements
Mercedes W06 rear brake duct detail
Mercedes W06 front brake duct detail, note the upper crossover pipe in place which dispenses airflow out of the wheel face taken in by the scoop.
Mercedes W06 bulkhead detail
Red Bull RB11 rear brake duct detail
Red Bull RB11 low downforce rear wing
Red Bull RB11 sidepod detail during build up
Sauber C34 front wing
Williams FW37 chassis and floor detail
Mercedes W06 'spoon' style rear wing.  Last seen used by Sauber in 2013 this style of rear wing tries to leverage as much downforce as possible, whilst reducing drag through the reduction of tip vortices.  You'll note the team have also installed the less complex Y100 winglet (Monkey Seat) we first saw in Hungary (but not raced) which helps with flow attachment along the centreline.  The leading edge slots have also been extruded inwards to allow more airflow inboard, once again changing how the vortex is created at the tip juncture.
Mercedes W06 rear wing, see above for more detailed analysis
Mercedes W06 rear wing endplate detail
Mercedes W06 new 'spoon' rear wing from behind
Williams FW37 front wing from behind
Mercedes W06 diffuser detail
Mercedes W06 diffuser detail
Mercedes W06 serrated windscreen, most likely Nico Rosberg's as he runs this spec continuously, however, Lewis has dabbled with it.
Mercedes W06 simpler Y100 Winglet (Monkey Seat)

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