September 05, 2015
|5||Felipe Not Nasr Massa||Williams||1:25.184||1:23.983||1:23.940|
|7||Sergio Perez||Force India||1:24.801||1:24.379||1:24.626|
|9||Nico Hulkenberg||Force India||1:24.937||1:24.510||1:25.317|
|12||Felipe Not Massa Nasr||Sauber||1:25.121||1:24.898|
|13||Carlos Sainz||Toro Rosso||1:25.410||1:25.618|
|14||Kid Kvyat||Red Bull Racing||1:25.742||1:25.796|
|15||Daniel Ricciardo||Red Bull Racing||1:25.633||No Time
|NC||Embryo Verstappen||Toro Rosso||Whoopsie!
At first glance you'd say "well, nothing out of the ordinary", and you'd kind of be right. Or you'd be very very wrong. This is going to take a bit to explain, so get something to drink and find a comfy place in your chair... y'all set?
Even though the Power Unit rules are locked in stone, every team has a limited ability to change various pieces of it via a "token" system. See, when the F1 Tech Regs were written, they stated that the power units had to be finalized, or "homologated" for the 2015 season. After that date, they could no longer be fiddled with, no improvements or new ideas allowed. There was one teeny tiny little problem.
The FIA never actually wrote a date in the Tech Regs.
It was assumed that the start of the season was the homologation date, but multiple bright sparks pointed out that no, no, as the rules were written, the engines had to be frozen in 2015. Period. So much for the alleged cost-saving measures of the new P.U., unlimited development (and unlimited cash spending!) was about to be the rule of the day. Before chaos could break out, an agreement was reached allowing changes to be made on a 'token' system. An entire P.U. is broken down into 66 tokens, all with varying "weights" between 1 and 3, depending on the importance of the piece. Each engine manufacturer was given 32 tokens to play with during the 2015 season, except for Honda. As a new engine based off of the past few years of experience, they were given nine tokens. As planned, the three other engine makers used most of their tokens in the pre-season; Mercedes ended up with seven tokens.
While everybody else used theirs here and there, Mercedes didn't touch theirs at all... until the end of Spa. In the past two weeks, they used all seven of their tokens to upgrade this piece or that chunk. Their engine is now set, and they say that it is, essentially, the same as their 2016 P.U.. That's ominous, as they now get (in effect) the rest of this season to use as test sessions for next year. Obviously, they are quite confident in how 2015 will go on track, eh?
After Practice 1 was over, they had reason to be confident... Lewis Hamilton was 1.4 seconds faster than anybody not in a Silver Arrows. The domination continued until P3, when Nico Rosberg had some sort of problem and the team reverted him to the Spa-spec engine.
Ferrari was not sitting around after Spa, either: they used either three or four tokens to upgrade their power plant. So what did all this mean?
It meant that while Hamilton is on pole with is new-spec engine, the Ferrari powerplant now appears to be more powerful than the old-spec Merc engine. Rosberg never came close to his teammate's pace, even moreso that usual. This suggests that if it wasn't for the upgrades, Ferrari would be on pole at their home grand prix, and there would be happy rioting going on all over Italy.
Which may still happen. What happened to Rosberg's P.U. could happen to Hamilton's, whatever it was. In which case, there may be churchbells ringing all over Maranello tomorrow.
We'll find out then, won't we? See ya sometime thereafter!
Posted by: Ben at September 07, 2015 07:34 AM (S4UJw)
In a way, this makes sense. See, while the other teams were under severe restrictions the past couple of years as far as their engines went, Honda had none. They were able to find what they thought was the perfect combination of parts just by sticking the P.U. in the back of a test car and go pounding around their privately-owned test track.
You may have heard of this test track: Suzuka. Anyway, there was a very real fear that they'd come in with this godlike P.U. and just dominate everything and that giving them 32 tokens to work with would be like giving the Soviet Red Army tactical nuclear weapons in 1945.
As it turns out, they could have given Honda 128 tokens and it probably wouldn't have made a difference, but the FIA didn't know that at the time.
Posted by: Wonderduck at September 07, 2015 09:52 AM (jGQR+)
And then Mercedes blew everyone away anyway.
Posted by: Ben at September 07, 2015 10:36 AM (DRaH+)
Another thing that's slowed the cars down is that they're no longer permitted to refuel during a race. So the cars begin the race with enough fuel to finish, which of course is heavy.
That rule change was for safety reasons; there were a couple of refueling accidents which were pretty scary before the rule change.
Posted by: Steven Den Beste at September 07, 2015 04:05 PM (+rSRq)
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