Thursday, April 23, 2009

Formula 1: Bits and pieces before Bahrain

Ferrari: Already into round 4 of FIA Formula 1 World Championship and yet there is still no prancing horse in sight. The Italian team, winner of countless Constructors’ trophy has already missed three chances to be in the podium in the 2009 season. Hounded by reliability problems lately, Ferrari has also been remiss in its aerodynamic package. You wouldn’t expect that in an outfit whose development team is bigger than the whole Red Bull F1 team. If Ferrari fails to deliver this weekend in the upcoming Bahrain Grand Prix, this will be their worst start in decades. What a waste!

MacLaren-Mercedes: Inch by inch, as Lewis Hamilton’s car was fitted with his new double-decker diffuser, was how I describe the Briton’s climb into podium finishes. The British team, embarrassed by Brawn’s success with the same Mercedes engine as theirs, has been in the limelight again lately for having Hamilton admittedly lying to race stewards in an investigation after the Australian GP-- a bad way to start the show, ladies and gentlemen. But clearly it has not deterred MacLaren. The car has improved its pace from 1.2 seconds behind the nearest Brawn GP car to two hundreds of a second when new diffusers were installed.

Brawn GP: Basking in the glory that shines through the brilliance of Ross Brawn, British driver Jenson Button and Brazilian teammate Rubens Barrichello, couldn’t help but smirk at the way things are going out for them—leading in the Constructors’ points and both drivers in the top 5 of the Driver’s points. What could be better than that! But alas, a weakness for wet tracks was revealed last week as both cars were outpaced by a double-diffuser-less Red Bull’s RB5.

Toyota and Williams Toyota: Both teams initially showed pace by having double-decker diffusers in their design in the opening of the 2009 season. But what Toyota converted to podium finishes, Williams could only do so well in practice sessions. German driver Nico Rosberg wows timesheets during practice but fails miserably during qualifying where grid position matters the most. Now the rest of the teams are redesigning their own diffusers and it looks like tough competition looms ahead.

Renault: The French team was excited to try their own version of split diffusers in double World Champion Fernando Alonso’s car and it really showed pace in qualifying during the Chinese Grand Prix but Alonso’s strategy that day proved to be difficult for the team as rain and safety car battled down the Spaniard’s chances when he pitted for fuel and reentered the race on last place. What a day!

Red Bull Renault: I may have posted negatively in my earlier write-ups about the appearance of today’s F1 cars but now I change my mind. Perhaps the finest looking car F1 ever produced to date is Red Bull’s RB5. With an aerodynamic package designed by the expertise of Adrian Newey, F1’s erstwhile technical guru, and powered by a 2.4-liter Renault V8, the young team showed pace and reliability despite having single diffusers by finishing a 1-2 in the Chinese GP last week. Newey concedes that a double-decker diffuser would be a great addition to the car but hints that such a design would have to be postponed until after Monaco as the RB5’s suspension is fully integrated into the current diffuser and replacing one would take weeks. Now that’s a car I can’t wait to see—an RB5 with a split diffuser leaving competition behind! Let’s wait and see.

Coming up: Bahrain.

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