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    • March 19, 2012 1:32 am

      Technical Rule Changes 2012

      Revised exhaust exits

      One of the biggest contentious issues that took place in 2011 was the introduction of blown diffusers. This was a method by which the exhaust gases continued to flow when the engine is on overrun, exiting ahead of the rear diffuser giving additional down force for the corner where there would normally be a minimal amount due to the reduced speed of the car.

      The FIA has in its rules for 2012 outlawed the use of blown diffusers and also has placed restrictions on the positioning of the exhaust with the last 100mm being straight and round in section and at an angle to the vertical between 10 and 30 degrees. This is to stop the spaghetti like exhausts of last year as well as some flattening the pipe to affect a wide discharge of the exhaust gases to create the down force over the diffuser. The rule also states that there should be only one exit on either side of the car and that it shall fall between certain points.

      It is interesting to see the designs that the different teams have made to minimise the loss of the down force and the results that will be seen in the first race. No matter how many hours of trials and tests in the simulator that the engineers and drivers have, as there is restricted testing on the track, there is nothing like the results from the physical battle of a race.

      The general consensus of the teams is to use the bodywork in such a way that the exhaust gases attaches to airflow and sticks to the body creating down force. This is known as the Coanda effect. As the surfaces curve away from the flow of air, low pressure builds, which in turn forces the air to stay attached and in contact with the surfaces, creating the desired down force. Some teams, Red Bull and McLaren have the airflow passing between the wheels and the diffuser whereas others, Ferrari, Lotus and Williams, direct the air towards the centre of the car and over the suspension to boost the rear down force.

      In addition to utilising the Coanda effect some teams have also modified their suspension components to be aerodynamically influenced by the airflow from the newly positioned exhausts. This system was utilised by Williams in the 1994 season but was subsequently banned. However, Red Bull has used the rules to best affect requiring no more than 3:5 section profiles of thickness to width. It will be interesting to see who has the best solution and who copies whom.

      Rule changes – lower nose

      The other major change to the cars in 2012 is the FIA requirement to reduce the height of the nose. This has been put in place primarily to lessen the chance of a car’s nose intruding into the cockpit of another in the event of a side-on collision.

      The height immediately ahead of the cockpit remains the same at 625mm above the plain but within 150mm it has to drop to 550mm. This means that several of the cars have used a step making them look a little like duck bills. McLaren seem to be the only manufacturer that has resorted to a smooth transition making their cars look more like the traditional racing car from other classes.

      Some of the cars have in their new design introduced ducts ostensibly to cool the driver, as per Red Bull and Sauber but others have chosen to question this as there could be an aerodynamic advantage. Perhaps there will be some challenges in the time to come, particularly if they seem to have a speed advantage. Mercedes has developed frontal intakes whereas Red Bull has it in the step perhaps to disguise the reason that directs air through channels to the front wing to speed up airflow beneath it, this creating an F duct-style down force generator. There have already been challenges made and complaints to the FIA with regards to Mercedes with no outcome at the moment.

      Other items

      The use of helium in wheel guns has been banned. This is for safety reasons as well as a cost cutting. The result is that the time taken with changing a wheel is slightly longer than previously.

      Tyre compounds have been changed by Pirelli to introduce a softer than soft compound in order to make it more difficult for the driver to keep the tyres operating efficiently and not losing grip. Pirelli believes that the result will be more pit stops. Pirelli has also increased the signage and density of the colours on the tyre to allow spectators to identify more easily which compound the driver is using. There had been some confusion with the colour white and colour silver on last year’s tyres.

      Drivers will now be only allowed to move once whilst defending their line into a corner and must also allow one car width on the inside of the corner. They also will be able to un-lap themselves whilst under a Safety Car. This allows the leaders to commence racing when the Safety Car goes in without any interference from back markers.

      We can look forwards to an interesting season and with the pre-season test results it may be closer than last year with Red Bull running away and everybody trying to catch up.

    • March 19, 2012 1:34 am

      Australian Qantas Melbourne F1 Grand Prix


      The beginning of a new season is always interesting and in particular for the past three years due to the ban on testing except for specific times, if the cars were not good, like McLaren last year, they are always in catch up mode.  The contenders had all redesigned cars due to the major changes in the height to the nose of the car and also the banning of the blown diffuser using exhaust gasses.

      With the first practice the new cars showed that there would be strong challenges to the Red Bull supremacy of last year, in particular the McLarens and Mercedes being strong. The first major casualty in Q1 was the 6th world champion in the event, Kimi Raikkonen in his Lotus. He had been caught out on the harder tyres and did not provide a quick enough time to get into Q2 or Q3 and ended in 17th place on the grid. Both the HRT’s were not allowed to start as they were not within 107 per cent of the pole.

      The McLarens were supreme in their strategy and took the front row with Hamilton first and Button in second spot. Third place was a surprise with Romain Grosjean in his Lotus which made it even more disappointing for Raikkonen’s mistake with tyres. The other major disappointment was the Ferrari team whose cars did not perform particularly well. Alonso managed only 12th and Massa 16th.

      With the rush to the first bend Button in 2nd place managed to outsprint his team mate and pulled away into the lead with Schumacher in his Mercedes in 3rd and Alonso having one of his demon starts and up into 8th place on the first lap. The concertina effect at the first corner caused contact with several cars and Hulkenberg in the Force India retiring. On the next lap Maldonado, who doing well from his 8th place at the start, came into contact with Grosjean finishing his race with broken suspension, a disappointment after such a great qualifying position.

      On lap 10 Vettel pushing hard on Schumacher made a mistake on the first bend running wide with Alonso catching. However he managed catch up and the very same bend on the next lap Schumacher had a gearbox problem causing him to go straight on allowing Vettel to pass. Returning to the pits he retired with gearbox problems. One of the other big gains was Raikkonen who was up into 6th place showing all his skills that made him world champion and getting fastest lap up to that point. If only he had started in a better qualifying position we could have had all 6 champions battling with each other.

      Pit stops started at the 12 lap stage with the Ferraris but the other main contenders pitted on lap 17. Webber on new rubber produced fastest lap passing back markers. The Caterhams and Marussias were keeping out of the way most of the time but the Saubers, Force Indias and Toro Rossos were mixing it and making things difficult whilst racing each other. Maldonado in the Williams was doing particularly well.


      On lap 35 Petrov had a steering problem bringing out the safety car to allow the Caterham to be cleared from the start finish line. The McLarens had pitted for new rubber but Vettel had not but was able to push and then to pit before the safety car was in position and thereby able to gain a place ahead of Hamilton. Button remained in first but had lost his buffer of 10sec. On recommencement he was able to pull away and everybody was jousting for their finishing places.

      Unfortunately Massa’s terrible weekend did not improve and he had to retire with accident damage on lap 46 after hitting Bruno Senna. He went wide on a corner and the two cars appeared to be locked together as the Ferrari pushed the Williams off the track. Massa retired and Senna was able to continue for a further six laps before retiring.

      The first Grand Prix of the year ended with Button in 1st followed by Vettel and Hamilton. Webber was able to finish a good 4th and Alonso was excellent in 5th as was Raikkonen in 7th after Kobayashi did one of his banzai moves to take 6th. Unfortunately Rosberg had to slow at the end with a loss of tyre pressure and finished 12th after being as high as 6th. Perez and Ricciardo both had outstanding drives for 8th and 9th but di Resta was disappointing in the Force India for the last point place, 10th. The last four were fighting hard crossing the line abreast. Unfortunately Maldonado had an accident on the last lap whilst running in 6th place after a great race.

      The season just begun is looking good and we shall see how they fair with the fast circuit in Malaysia next weekend.



    • November 28, 2011 2:52 pm

      Formula 1 Grande Premio Petrobas Do Brasil 2011 – Race Review

      The Interlagos Circuit at Sao Paulo, the largest city in the southern hemisphere, is the last race of an eventful season. Practice and qualifying was dry but the forecast for race day was wet, so the teams had a tricky time to get set up right for the race.

      Qualifying was quite special with Vettel maintaining his supremacy with his 15th pole of the season and beating the previous record held by Nigel Mansell. Webber was consistent with getting second followed by Button, outperforming his teammate Hamilton. Rosberg did well in 6th place just behind Alonso and outperforming his teammate, Michael Schumacher, yet again.

    F1 News — Page created on October 17, 2011 12:29 pm

    Formula 1 Korean Grand Prix, Seoul, October 2011

    Practice on Friday was wet and very wet so little was done for race setup and Saturday morning, although was not enough time for dry running. Qualifying became very frantic and the two Force India cars of di Resta and Sutil managed to get into Q3 with the Mercedes of Schumacher and the two Testa Rossa cars missing out. The front runners were frantic and it was like the old days of qualifying tyres with Button and Webber outgunned by their team mates. Hamilton ended up snatching pole from Vettel making this the first GP of the year that a Red Bull was not on pole. Due to the lack of dry weather practice and the lack of stats on the new Korean track created a problem for the teams in tyre management. Red Bull had saved their harder prime tyres expecting the option to not last so were working to a different plan to that of the other top teams.

    Hamilton led Vettel and Button into the first bend but Massa and Webber mugged Button on the third corner and he dropped back. In the meantime, Vettel pressed hard at the third corner and managed to slip stream and pass at the next bend when Hamilton left enough space on the inside of the corner. He then proceeded to pull away so at the end of the first lap it was Vettel, Hamilton, Webber, Massa, Alonso and Button struggling to hold on.

    On lap 8 it began to rain making the track slippery and the track temp had dropped to 25C from the normal 35C so the tyres were proving to be different from that expected. Button, who is a rain master, began to recover and coast up to the back of Alonso who was having a problem with his teammate. Although he appeared to be faster, Alonso was unable to pass Massa who was defending well. On lap 13 both Button and Rosberg pitted with the Mercedes crew beating McLaren in getting their car out ahead. The two of them were side by side down the pit road with Rosberg taking the lead then he out braked himself allowing Button to overtake into the first bend. However Rosberg was able to slipstream Button and use his DRS to overtake along the back straight.

    On lap 15 Webber, Massa and Schumacher pitted for new tyres and Button was able to pass Rosberg using his KERS and DRS. On lap 16 Hamilton and Alonso pit and when Alonso returned to the track he almost collided with Schumacher as the exit to the pits fed into the first bend which Schumacher was rounding at speed. A couple of bends later Petrov overtook Alonso using his KERS and DFS and arriving at turn 3 quicker than expected as he was worrying about Alonso, Schumacher happened to be negotiating the hairpin and Petrov collided with him putting them both out. Alonso also ran wide to avoid another car as well. The resulting debris necessitated the Safety Car coming out for 5 laps bunching everyone up. This played into the hands of McLaren whose cars had the softer option tyres whereas the Red Bulls where on prime tyres and Vettel’s buffer was now gone. Both the Red Bulls were able to hold off the challenge and Vettel sped away like a scalded cat when the safety car went in.

    On lap 22 Maldonado was given a drive through penalty for going the wrong way round a bollard into the pits and the incident with Schumacher and Petrov was to be looked at by the stewards after the race. By lap 28 Webber on the harder tyre was beginning to catch Hamilton on the softer tyres and on lap 33 Hamilton pitted. There appears to be a rare mistake by Red Bull as they called Webber in to change tyres. If he had stayed out for an extra couple of laps he may have been able to undercut Hamilton when he stopped, as he appeared to be faster, but instead he came out behind him. Over the next few laps there was a battle royal between the two with Webber overtaking Hamilton and then him retaking the position with them both running side by side through bends and also on the straights at very high speed. Quite exciting for those watching and giving high stress for both drivers who are both expert at these high speed and risk manoeuvres.

    Alonso began to circulate faster than anyone and for three laps running clocked the record on tyres that were nearly 20 laps old. He pitted on lap 38 and came out in front of his team mate  Massa into 5th place. Vettel was warned by his crew to save his tyres on lap 47 which was a ploy to slow him down as he was speeding along 12 secs ahead and remembering last year when his engine expired with 10 laps to go. Webber was still having goes at Hamilton and changed position several times whilst Button was cruising up behind with Alonso still flying as fastest on track.

    Vettel ended winning his 20th Grand Prix and the 10th for the season whilst taking fastest lap for the day on the last lap. With Webber in 3rd place splitting the McLarens of Hamilton and Button the Constructors points resulted in Red Bull winning the Championship for 2011, back to back, which is a tremendous feat.

    With three more Grand Prix to go there are still records to achieve and we look forward to the next race in India at a new track near Delhi in two weeks.

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