April 16, 2009

Ferrari Flinches, Double Diffuser Dishing

Things are going from "bad" to "oy" for the Red team.  They've announced that they've scrapped the KERS unit from their cars for this race and the next one in Bahrain due to a critical reliability problem... meaning "it blowed up, it done blowed up reeeeeeeal good."

Then, to make matters worse, they were so sure their appeal to have the Diffuser Three excommunicated would succeed that the team didn't work on their own version, and so will be racing without it.  It's gonna be a long weekend for the team from Maranello, I predict.  They intend to show up in Spain with a new "b-spec" car, presumably with the trick diffuser and a revamped KERS system... but, perhaps, we shouldn't hold our collective breaths for a huge performance upgrade.

There are some teams that were faster off the mark than Ferrari, however.  Renault is said to be running a double-level diffuser like the Diffuser Three have, while McLaren has an interim system on their cars that has a small winglet above the diffuser and below the crash structure, which would put it right below the lights in this picture:

It might have worked.  Lewis Hamilton was fastest in the first Friday Practice, by .116 over Jenson Button.  As I mentioned in the Australian Practice post, the McLarens seemed to have a problem with the rear of the car stepping out on them, a clear sign of a lack of downforce which leads to a lack of grip and a lack of acceleration (hard to make the car go fast when the wheels won't stick down).  If this winglet has done anything to increase the downforce, the car can't help but be improved.

Unlike Steven, however, I'm not entirely convinced that they're going to be better than the Brawns and the Toyotas this race.  Improved, yes... but remember, they were almost 1.5 seconds slower in Australia (we can't judge anything with Sepang, due to the completely awful weather there).  To think that a small piece of carbon fiber could speed them up by that amount is somewhat implausible.  I think it's time to bring out the old chestnut: "you can't judge anything from practice results."  It's just too likely that McLaren and Brawn were working on different things to say "aha" quite yet.

After all, due to the testing restrictions, this is the first time the Glare With Wheels has been on track with this new diffuser... and I mean, ever.  It only stands to reason that the team was going with a low fuel load and soft tires the entire practice, just to get as much data as possible.  That's conductive to low times, obviously.  Meanwhile, the Brawns turned fewer laps than the McLarens did... they don't need to tinker and fiddle.

I did some digging, and found out that the McLaren of Hamilton was actually slower than Rubens Barrichello's Brawn (who was third in Prac1) in the first two sectors of the track, but faster in sector three... which is, basically, turn 11 to the start/finish line, also known as the high-speed part of the track, where the diffuser would make the LEAST amount of difference for the most part.  It'll help on the exit of 13, so the McLarens can get the power on faster for the long straight, but they're still behind on the rest of the track.

So, again, don't judge anything by practice results.  We won't know much until after Quals on Saturday... but it'll be a ball finding out!

Posted by: Wonderduck at 11:19 PM | Comments (2) | Add Comment
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I'm beginning to get the feeling that the primary point of the rule changes this year is that the FIA is trying to make it so that a rich team cannot buy the championship.

In years past, McLaren and Ferrari were the dominant teams, and they also had the deepest pockets. Sounds like FIA is trying to even things up and make the sport competitive again.

If so, I fully approve. I'd like to see a race where, on any given day, any car on the track can win it. (Well, except maybe Force India.)

Posted by: Steven Den Beste at April 17, 2009 09:11 AM (+rSRq)


I feel for Ferrari -- but I can't quite reach, as the saying goes.

As far as KERS goes, it had seemed terribly dangerous since it was surrounded by all those cautions.

Looking forward to your qualifications post.




Posted by: Mallory at April 18, 2009 12:05 PM (WJ2qy)

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