Drafting the Circuits
Formula 1 Report
Car Release and Testing
By Steve Aibel
No doubt about it, I love this time of year.
The excitement of racing around the corner is palpable and as the 2015 F1 contenders emerge from their factories, the first pages of another season begin to be written in pencil.
F1 has been on hiatus since the final Abu Dhabi round of the championship in November. We have all eagerly been waiting to see the car reveals for 2015 and now they are here!
The 2014 Mercedes W05 was perhaps the most dominant F1 entry in history winning 16 of 19 races and capturing 18 pole positions. Most teams wanted to address three primary issues, which would hopefully reduce the large lead of the W05 and satisfy the 2015 changes to the regulations.
- Changes to the nose and front of the car
- Refine packaging of the side pods and rear end
- Increase horsepower, especially for Renault and Ferrari
All of the new 2015 design reveals featured new noses, which met the rules addressing improved safety and the eliminated of the “ugly noses” of 2014. Solutions such as the twin tusked Lotus and the fingerlike extensions of the Force India and Toro Rosso are gone. Given that the nose is critical to the aerodynamic flow of design, it was a major focus to get this right.
The second overwhelming theme of the 2015 cars is repackaging the side pods and rear end. In 2014, the teams acquired a better understanding of the cooling needs of their powerunits. The 2015 tendency has been toward a narrower sidepod profile and packaging the rear end so that it is more effective at channeling the all-important air flow which regulates downforce.
The final element where teams are able to make some gains is in engine performance. Both Renault and Ferrari lacked overall horsepower when compared to Mercedes. Red Bull estimated that the Renault powerunits were down 60 horsepower to Mercedes. Both Ferrari and Renault have fully committed to overhauling their powerunits and we will see the fruits of their labors in the tests that take place in Spain during the month of February.
The opening test in Jerez, Spain is currently underway and the first day of testing complete. Sebastian Vettel topped the time sheet in his Ferrari debut and although lap times matter little in these early tests, the Scuderia must be very pleased with their initial pace. Other than some telemetry issues, which kept Vettel garaged for most of the morning, Ferrari’s day was smooth. It will be interesting to see how the SF15-T fits the driving style of Kimi Raikkonen, when he takes the wheel on Tuesday.
Mercedes debut of the W06 was extremely impressive as Nico Rosberg ran 157 laps without any hiccups. Running twice the number of laps as any other team, Mercedes focused on long runs, reliability, and pitstops on day one. With a new car, this is a strong position to be in on opening day. I got the impression, Mercedes did not focus on pace and had a lot of speed which we may not see until the later tests in Barcelona.
McLaren, and Fernando Alonso, experienced a slow day as the new Honda powerunit continues to work itself into the McLaren package. Most of the Jerez test will focus on many of the same integration and reliability issues the other engine suppliers dealt with last year…so don’t expect to see the true potential of the McLaren/Honda until the second or third test in Barcelona.
Lotus was again absent, however, the E23 was fired up in Enstone (not JerezJ) on January 31st. The car was shipped to the track when Sunday testing began. Technical Director Nick Chester expects to finish assembly in Jerez and have significant running on Tuesday. Red Bull Racing also went with a late build, however, they had their car ready to go dressed in a black and white camouflage design. A steady 35 laps by Daniel Ricciardo was a significant improvement compared to the disasterous debut in 2014.
With three more days of testing this week, stories will emerge that will tell us where each of the teams stand in the pre-season pecking order. Stay tuned as we take you through the entire season at Drafting the Circuits.
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