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I'm Matthew Somerfield, a freelance journalist focused on the technical elements of Formula One. It has been a pleasure to provide content via this site for the last 5 years, which has led me to several paid freelancing jobs along the way. I'm currently plying my trade with Motorsport.com and working alongside the legend that is Giorgio Piola.

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22 Oct 2017
Trumpets race report - United States


Ambient 24° 
Track 34° 
Humidity 57% 
Wind 3.1 m/s

Prelude

They call it the devil's wind in Texas, and it was howling through the paddock after a massive thunderstorm, strong enough to wake the sleepiest of jet lagged telly commentators snug in their hotel beds, rocked through the Austin area mere hours before the start of the race. Actually, they don't really call it that in Texas, but they should because HOW AWESOME WOULD THAT BE!! Nevermind, the reality is that with gusts of up to 45 kph, the shark-finned prima donnas of F1 were going to have their hands full, as Daniel Ricciardo demonstrated yesterday, having to bail on a lap thanks to an inopportune gust. And don't even get me started on HAAS, which seems excessively temperamental in exactly the sorts of conditions facing the teams today.

Penalties, more than a few, today. Start with Vandoorne, getting a new engine thanks to a suspicious fire up. Verstappen as well and of course Hartley. Not to mention Hulkenberg and then the duo of Stroll and Magnussen for various bits of naughtiness during qualifying.

Pirelli tyre strategy argued a 2 stopper all the way, with Ultra-Ultra-Super being the preferred option. Given low degradation, they allowed as how a 1 stopper might be OK but it should be interesting to watch how that plays out.

Also entertaining was a bit of whining by Cyril Abiteboul, as it turned out that Mercedes, unlike say the FIA, tended to lock up their high value personnel with excessively long gardening leaves. Sauce for the goose and all that but the real vocal brilliance was the pre race announcing by famed boxing announcer Micheal Buffer, who borrowed "Gentleman, start your engines!!" from Indy, as Liberty was looking to showcase the showbiz they are planning to bring to the sport worldwide.

AS far as actual racing, Ocon and Perez had to be at the top of any list, with Sainz and Hulkenberg not far behind. Though they do get extra points for the pink #Aerocats on their sidepod airflow conditioners this weekend. Hartley, too, looked to be an interesting experiment against Kvyat, who would provide a reasonable marker, assuming he and his car made the finish...

Summary

Lights Out!!!! It was a banging start by Vettel a Hamilton can't close door and the Ferrari claims first out of T1. Ocon too had a magnificent launch and was up to P5 ahead of Raikkonen, less than good news for Perez. Alonso in front of Sainz as well as the first lap rapidly ticked over.

Ricciardo was applying pressure and in the second lap he made his move into T1. Bottas refused to yield and in a replay of much of their junior careers the battle continued, into T2 and T3 before finally Valterri prevailed and Danny Ric backed off to bide his time for another go.

Verstappen from the back was already up to a rather astonishing P11 while Raikkonen had undone the damage of his start, getting back round Ocon to take P5. At the front, Hamilton loitered a second off the keel of Vettel, clearly itching to make a move and retake the lead of the race. Discretion, valor and tyres kept him menacingly close for the moment.

Lap 4 and again Ricciardo was on the attack through T1, and again Bottas was able to defend, but at the expense of losing massive chunks of time to the leading duo, nearly a second lap. Ricciardo's second go was up the inside and he was unable to get the car stopped quickly enough, going wide and allowing Bottas to get back inside and maintain his position. Hulkenberg called it a day on lap 5, depriving us of what should have been an excellent marker for Carlos Sainz. And possibly does provide a marker for Renault, who was running some updates on his engine.

Up to the lead and Lewis, quite happy with his pace on the radio, was closing in and as lap 6 unfolded, he took maximum advantage of DRS and was wheel to wheel with Vettel. Up the inside at the end of the straight and he held the lead with Vettel trying to fight back with different lines, showing Hamilton his front wing but to no avail as they streaked up to T1 and the start of the seventh lap.

Speaking of 7's, Verstappen having kept his foot well in it was up to P7, by Alonso like he was peddling a bike. Magnussen was in and out of the pits with an early change thanks to a racing incident with Wehrlein. Less fortunate was Wehrlein, day done with suspension damage from the contact.

Two laps more and Hartley was in for TR, back out on the Supers and at the tail of the field. At the front, Raikkonen was beginning to reel in Ricciardo and Verstappen, continuing his ascent, rocked on by Ocon who, rather than endanger his 4 second cushion to Alonso, let the Red Bull by fairly unchallenged.

Lap 11 and Stroll was in and out for a pair of Softs. Massa had gradually sunk down the order and was running P10, gradually losing time to Sainz just ahead. Ricciardo was in at the end of lap 13 after Raikkonen just about made it by the Red Bull, tyres done from his early combat with Bottas. Vettel, meanwhile, had receded to nearly 4 seconds adrift of Hamilton.

Ricciardo was out in P8 with a spanking new set of Supers to play with. His first lap saw purple sectors and Alonso looked to be a sitting duck, no surprise really. Into the pits then, along with ocon at the tail end of lap 15. 1:40.102 for Ricciardo, nearly a second up on the leaders and fast lap of the race for the moment

And then it was over, Ricciardo pulled off lap 16 in the middle of the second sector with no engine. Crushing blow for the Aussie as confirmation from Hulkenberg it was an oil pressure issue responsible for his retirement.

Under yellows into the pits went Vettel, end of lap 16, and out on Softs, P5 as the race resumed in earnest. Contra Sebastian, Hamilton was happy to extend the stint, increasing his tyre offset. The pitwall would be looking at laptimes though, as they would be nervous about keeping the freshly shod Vettel out of Hamilton's pit window.

End of 18, in came Bottas as Lewis flashed serenely by. That wasn't going to last as Vettel was nearly 1.5 seconds faster than Lewis on his first full lap with his shiny new tyres. Indeed end of 19 and in came the leader. It was tight and as Lewis emerged on the softs, they were side by side, a bit of dicing before Lewis emptied the battery and put himself just ahead of Vettel.

Sloppy exit of T20 robbed Vettel of a shot under DRS and as lap 21 headed for the books, it was Max Verstappen, on a set of Supers, cavorting about in the lead of the race as Raikkonen had bailed for a set of new tyres. At that moment, Verstappen's pit window looked back to P5, a huge gap between Raikkonen and Massa giving him ample room to drop back into.

Lap 23 and Hamilton had caught up with the frolicking Verstappen, and with almost surgical precision, despatched the Dutchman, who put up a brave front as Lewis grabbed the cutback into T12 and kept the pressure on till Max was forced to yield. And then it was clear exactly how much the Red Bull was holding him back as Lewis went on to set fast lap the following go round, at the bottom of the 1:39's.

Verstappen onto the Softs lap 25 as Alonso radioed in, quel surprise, an engine problem. Told to back off and pit, it looked to be curtains for the McLaren. In the thick of the midfield, it was Sainz, chasing Perez, who set a personal best and cut the gap down to less than 2 seconds. Massa, meanwhile, was losing chunks of time to Ocon, himself looking to keep Perez out of DRS.  

The 2 HAAS cars loitered just outside the points, with Grosjean on point, about 7 seconds behind the last points paying position, held by the Toro Rosso of Kvyat. Lap 29 and Ocon was well into DRS, 0.5 seconds off the tail of the eternally slowing Massa, who still had yet to pit and was driving Perez to moan yet again on the radio.

Almost through the T12-T13-T14 complex Ocon was by with Perez penned in by team rules. And then Massa spoiled the fun by finally pitting at the end of lap 30. Released, Ocon was off to try and ditch his teammate whilst Massa was out in P12, surprisingly on a pair of Ultras as Williams generally not known for their gentle treatment of tyres.

Vandoorne, who had pitted some laps ago, had managed to work his way by the Hartley/Stroll scrum as Perez pointed out to his team that Sainz was filling his mirrors and he had more pace. He was even perfectly happy to give the place back, he said, in a thoroughly believable fashion. The teams's reply was more forthright, Ocon was doing conservation and they needed the same from Perez.

Outside T16 went Carlos, keeping the attack through T17 and T18,  finally through T19 Sainz sealed the deal with a fantastic duel, at least for those who weren't Perez fans. Ocon took advantage to create a bit of a cushion, but freed from the threat of Perez, Sainz was slowly chewing through the gap.

Verstappen continued to close in on Raikkonen, who was in the midst of trying to pick Bottas off under DRS. Just half a second separated them, but the Mercedes extra grunt out of the corners was keeping Bottas ahead for the moment, though at the rate he was locking up his tyres, sooner or later Raikkonen would have the advantage.

Red Bull also brought Verstapppen in and back out on a set of Supers he went, 18 laps and 20 seconds. But it wasn't Raikkonen, but Vettel who answered, in and out with a set of Supers as well and less than a second ahead of the charging Dutchman.

Raikkonen stayed out to continue to pressure Bottas and he sailed past the pit entrance, heedless of Verstappen behind on fresh tyres. Fast lap by Verstappen lap 41 nearly 2 seconds faster than Hamilton made this a dangerous choice indeed. Vettel responded with a personal best and joined young Max at the bottom of the 1:38's.

That appeared to be more of a personal choice as the following lap Lewis purpled S1 and tasted the bottom of the 1:39's, as Vettel rolled well up into his pit window, the strategy battle poised to roll onto the end of the race. Raikkonen, meanwhile, had finally done the business on Bottas' tyres and swept by the defenseless Merc lap 42, launched into P2 with 13 laps to go and his team leader chasing ferociously.

10 seconds to Bottas and 12 seconds to Kimi with 12 laps to go was the scene as Carlos Sainz had finally got to grips with Ocon, well into DRS and gradually ramping up the pressure. Lewis was starting to get a bit hinky on the radio, concerned about the gap to Raikkonen and the speed of Vettel. But the Maths argued otherwise, as Hamilton was 0.6 seconds faster than Raikonnen per lap and at 20 seconds, Vettel was well out of laps to catch the front running Mercedes, his gap per lap hovering around a second or less.  

Lap 46 and Grosjean was on the radio, worried about his tyre which he seemed to think he was out of rubber. Raikkonen meanwhile was entertainingly told to switch settings to save fuel, and he replied swearingly, saying the new settings made the car run bad and forcing his engineer to backtrack. Magnussen and Ericsson then had a bit of a coming together, lap 45, leaving some carbon fibre on the track as Ericsson took advantage of K-Mag having to let Vettel by, the HAAS punted into a spin as the finale to that pas de deux.

Lap 49 and Ocon was putting paid to Perez' complaint, continuing to keep the Spaniard at bay. Vettel had rocked up to Bottas and was in DRS with 5 laps to go. The stewards, invogorated by the active pace of the race, meanwhile, had announced they were investigating the Ericsson-K-Mag incident.

Vettel, outside Bottas T1 and into P3 with a beautiful move threading the needle between Bottas and Vandoorne, who was just about to be lapped. This left Verstappen in the catbird seat, as Valterri was desperate to struggle home with his tyres.

As Verstappen relentlessly pursued Bottas, the stewards announced rather amazingly, that Ericsson was at fault in the incident with Magnussen. This puts Marcus into rare territory indeed, possibly the only driver in F1 who could manage to get himself penalised against Magnussen.

Unlike Vettel, Verstappen made a bit of a hash of his attempt the following lap, Bottas locking up and going well into the run off. Verstappen yielded for the moment and into the following turns, easily took advantage and was by. This forced Mercedes to drag the Finn in for a set of Ultras, but far too little and late, the podium positions fast disappearing on the Texas horizon.

Staggeringly, Vettel, with his foot in it, managed to catch the gas saving, old tyre running Raikkonen and get by him for P2, just in time for the final lap. A development that no one, absolutely no one saw coming.

This put him into the wheelhouse of Verstappen, who was all over the gearbox of the tired Ferrari. The first go in Sector 1 was well defended by Raikkonen but going into the final complex, Max just shoved his way up the tiny gap left to the inside and as Hamilton crossed the line, the Red Bull took the final podium position by the horns (yes, I really did just do that) and that's how they crossed the line, with Raikkonen in a bitterly disappointed 4th, sacrificed yet again for Vettel's championship hopes.

Further back, the impenetrable defense of Ocon had prevailed over the offense of Sainz, with Perez and his speed rocking in nearly 13 seconds adrift of the battling duo.


And then, suddenly, it was not so over as the stewards announced that Verstappen had indeed, left the track and gained an advantage. Plus 5 seconds, and it was Raikkonen's podium after all.

Of course, no difference at all for Bottas, who finished P5 after his uber late stop, and generally had a torrid time of it, Mercedes having bet on him being able to make the tyres last to the end, despite the plentiful evidence to the contrary that he was likely to struggle mightily to make that happen, unlike Lewis.

Perez, Massa and Kvyat rounded out the points paying position, with Kvyat possibly gaining a reprieve to the end of the year on the back of his strong performance. Perez, on the other hand, has given away the game with his inability to defend against Sainz. Even less likely for him to be given a pass in the future, given Ocon's subsequent performance. Though one could accuse the wily junior of perhaps purposefully running Perez into the meatgrinder of Sainz.

But the show was Mercedes, sending Allison to the podium as they took home the WCC. Usain Bolt conducted the podium interviews, but as brilliant as Vettel's drive was, Sainz' overtake of Perez had to put him into contention for move of the race, along with the crushing drive of Verstappen, penalty or no.

P13 for Hartley, but at 31 seconds back of Kvyat, clearly a price to pay for being a total n00b in F1. The double podium a mild sop to Ferrari's ego after the disaster of the last 3 Grand Prixs, but the reality is without another race win in their pocket they have been well and truly beaten by Mercedes this season, even when Mercedes haven't had the best car at every race. But kudos indeed due Ferrari as well, for extending the season and providing proper battling at the front, after what seems 7 long years in the wilderness. And if the rumours about the supposed rake change for Mercedes come to pass, next season could be a corker indeed for the WCC.

AS for the WDC, one inexorable step closer for Hamilton with his serene victory, with a chance to stick the knife in Vettel's hopes for good at the next Grand Prix. But Ferrari's chase for redemption will go all the way to the last lap turned in anger, regardless of the championship points.


Thanks, as always, for stopping by.

Discuss!!!

And remember to play nice in the comments!!
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Trumpets qualifying report - United States


Ambient 31° 
Track 39° 
Humidity 45% 
Wind 2.6 m/s

Prelude

The winds of change howled through the Austin paddock, along with just about every combination of weather possible during the 3 Free Practices, settling on gloriously sunny and dry, the epic backdrop to what has become a much beloved stop on the F1 circus. It was a headline writer's dream once again as not only has AMuS disclosed that Liberty are thinking of a $100 million cap on F1 budgets, along with a monitor to make sure no one is naughty, but the sneaky little corporate types have also not only done a deal with Netflix to carry content (F1 and chill, anyone?), but are planning their own, live, over-the-top content because, according to Bratches, viewers deserve to be able to watch however and whenever they choose. Be still, my beating heart.

Mercedes and Ferrari seem to be less than pleased with the budget handcuffs (surprise, surprise and if you never watched Gomer Pyle, you won't entirely get it but that's OK) but it would seem to be Pierre Gasly who has to have the winning hand in losing weekends. After being forced to abandon his Toro Rosso ride for COTA to finish out the Super Formula championship for Honda at their home track in Suzuka (who will be providing engines next year for TR) he was looking to console himself with a proper shot at another championship. AT least until the typhoon showed up, and they cancelled the race with Gasly 0.5 points behind. Ouch indeed!! And to their credit, Super Formula showed more sense than certain other series that shall not be named and the cancellation probably not at all related to the fact that the young Japanese driver, Hiroaki Ishiura, will now be champion.

On track Carlos Sainz had been making the most of his new Renault mount, consistently there or thereabouts with his new teammate, and at the same time sticking a fork in whatever chances Palmer might've once had with Williams (somewhere between slim and none). Brendan Hartley managed to finish a respectable P15 without hitting a single thing, whilst Kvyat, you guessed it, managed only 6 laps due to unspecified car problems. Of course, Hartley already faces a grid penalty thanks to inheriting the car Kvyat broke LAST time he went racing and no word yet as to what Kvyat might be looking at.

Verstappen, too faces a massive 15 spot penalty for installing a new PU so it will be up to Ricciardo to put the pressure on for RB in the race, though at the end of FP3 it looked to be a bit of a gap from RB to the sharp end. Danny Ric had the unfortunate experience of catching a gust that ran him wide and cost him his shot at a fast lap so all on him, moreso as Verstappen managed to extend his Red Bull until 2020 during the run up to the Grand Prix.

The sharp end of FP3 looked rather familiar, with Hamilton edging Vettel (and his new chassis) by just under a tenth, neither driver having a satisfactory Friday despite Lewis topping both sessions, followed by the Finnish duo of Bottas and Raikkonen a more pedestrian several tenths back. Massa continues to fight for his gig, finishing FP3 just a little more than two tenths off Verstappen and bringing a little bit of good news to Williams, which has been sorely lacking in that department lately.

Although the duel between Hamilton and Vettel looks to be epic yet again, the reality of the Mercedes qualifying advantage gives Lewis the upper hand, barring the odd errant gust or self-inflicted wound.

Summary

Green Light!! Kvyat, Wehrlein, Ericsson and Hartley led the way as the track opened for the first qualifying session. It was a slow boil for the rest of the field as they had completed their full warm up lap before there was a hint of action from the rest. By 14:30 the track was getting busy and the wind was picking up.

Kvyat was first out the door on a hot lap, a broken suspension having put paid to his FP3 efforts. P2 out of the first quartet, which was ruled by Wehrlein as the big boys got it into gear.

Vandoorne took it to the top with 11 minutes to go as the top teams were using the SuperSoft tyres, as compared to the UltraSofts for the rest of the field.

Average effort for Hamilton and it showed, as Bottas was to the top with Vettel slotting roughly a tenth ahead of him. Ocon on the Ultras was P2 as Red Bull came out to play. Ultras for them saw Ricciardo P3 with Verstappen on the way, for the second time.

Verstappen had bailed with just under 10 minutes, having gotten thoroughly out of shape with traffic and as he came round for his hot lap, Hamilton was in the midst of cleaning up his mess, going 1:34.822 on the Supers as Verstappen followed him home for P2, 0.077 seconds off, albeit on the Ultras.

Lance Stroll had gave Grosjean a quite exciting moment as he lingered on the racing line, and having caught a glimpse of the flying Frenchman he jinked right, unfortunately the exact same direction Romain had chosen. Off into the grass went the HAAS driver, to the accompaniment of the Drivers Lament in the key of moan minor.

It was Magnussen impeding Perez that was getting the attention as the teams got ready for their final go. With all the work to do were Wehrlein, Grosjean, Ericsson, Hartley and Magnussen. 2 minutes to go and back to the track they went, Wehrlein leading the way, then Kvyat and Vandoorne.

Hartley to P15 first over the line, Wehrlein and Magnussen had messy laps, Vandoorne to P12!! Sainz, who'd gone out for a second bite was up to P5!! Stroll with an engine issue stayed P17 with Grosjean just making it into Q2, going P15.

Off to the BBQ were Ericsson, Stroll, Hartley, Wehrlein and Magnussen, while the rest turned it around to vie for glory in Q2. Uh oh, Hulkenberg in the media pen says he's done for the day as well, despite a P9 during the first session. Strategy, given his looming grid penalty and expected qualifying placement.

Off they went for Q2!! or not as is frequently the case. 45 seconds later, Mercedes was first to stick their front wing out, Hamilton leading the way, Bottas his tailgunner.

A full lap later, Kvyat emerged from the pits as Lewis lit the track purple (pink?) let's say magenta. Behind him Bottas was cracking off personal bests as the track was filling rapidly, the rest of the runners eager to get their piece of tarmac.

Bottas turned the tables in S2 as Lewis set the bar at 1:33.560 across the line. Valterri hit the line 0.233 seconds slower as it was Verstappen on the Supers, strategy for his 15 spot grid penalty no doubt. Ricciardo on the Ultras went P3 as the Ferraris took their sweet time to make their Q2 appearance.

Embarrassingly, it was around 0.8 seconds slower for Vettel, which was not what they were wanting to see. P9 for Sainz, as the field retired to reset for the last tilt at the ultimate glory of Q3. Alonso, Vandoorne, Grosjean, Kvyat and Hulkenberg had it all to do as time ticked relentlessly off the clock. Mercedes look fast, but hardly nailed on and Ferrari seem utterly adrift as the vanishing point of Q3 approached.

Back out, with Kvyat and Grosjean leading the way, even Mercedes and Ferrari choosing to participate. Only Red Bull spoiled the party, hanging about in the garage and staring at the timing screens.

Under a minute to go and Sainz and the Ferraris headed for the line with Perez the last to go before the checquers fell.

Kvyat P12, Grosjean P14 and then Alonso through the last corner to P7 to knock out Massa. Vandoorne P13 as Massa went P9 and sent Perez to the bubble. Sainz to P7 for a hot second till Perez took it away, dooming Massa to the ignominy of P11. And that was that, with Massa, Kvyat, Vandoorne, Grosjean and Hulkenberg off in search of Rip Your Face Off IPA whilst the rest turned it around to tilt for the ultimate prize. Alonso's pace was exemplary, but the gap to Vandoorne also was due to a new front wing, one that Stoffel did not have.

Ocon, Hamilton, Bottas were the lead trio for Q3 with Alonso and Ricciardo playing a duet, trailing behind. Verstappen, Vettel, Perez and Raikkonen finished the ensemble and as they got things up to temperature, Ocon started the cascade of purples across the timing screen, before Hamilton took it away between turns 6 and 7. Bottas surpassed his effort as Lewis went purple for S2, a feat the Finn couldn't match.

Bang, 1:33.108 and Hamilton had provisional pole as Raikkonen was looking fighty. P3 for Ricciardo till Vettel took it away. P3 for Kimi, and it was an ominous looking front row as the cars rolled back to the garage to get ready for their last shot at glory. Terrifyingly, Hamilton suffered a derate on his lap, meaning if Mercedes could get it sorted there was some time left for him to find on the last go round.


Alonso led the way for the last run followed by Sainz and Ocon. Vettel then Ricciardo were next up, then Verstappen followed by a gap to Raikkonen. Hamilton and Bottas were set up to be the last across the line and it was Hamilton again with the purples in S1, already 0.25 up. Bottas bottled it however and Vettel improved, enough for P2. Ricciardo for P4, then Raikkonen and Verstappen. Bottas continued to go slower and it was a loss of 0.2 seconds over his penultimate lap, and Hamilton as well failed to improve. Not at all what Lewis wanted, but great news for everyone hoping to see something other than the battle for P10 on telly during the race.

For the midfield battles it was Ocon, best of the rest, followed by Sainz, crushing his debut at Renault. Magnificently, Alonso managed to outqualify Perez and Ricciardo had the exact same time as Raikkonen, but because he set it first he got P4. Penalties for Verstappen, Hulkenberg, Vandoorne and Hartley also promise a bit of excitement no matter what happens at the sharp end.

Still, T1 promises to be more than a little bit of fun tomorrow, but sadly the chance of rain seems to have gone the way of Palmer's career. Fortunately, however, the wind will be even gustier than today and it's far from a guarantee that Mercedes will ride off into the sunset.

Discuss!!

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18 Oct 2017
Is it time for a change at Mercedes?

In a recent article by Michael Schmidt over at Auto Motor und Sport the German poses the question about Mercedes aerodynamic philosophy, suggesting that the Silver Arrows might have got to the point where their long wheel base, low rake philosophy has come close to the point of only relenquishing the smallest of returns, requiring a rethink at Brackley that will undoubtedly bring a smile to the face of their counterparts in Maranello and Milton Keynes.

Toto Wolff has often quipped about the taming of their ‘diva’, the W08 being the most difficult of the lead cars to wrangle into a suitable setup window, making everyone's life a misery as even the smallest of temperature fluctuations can make the car throw a fit. Life has been made more difficult this season by the resurgence of Ferrari, able to find performance from the SF70H under a much wider range of circumstances, something that’s likely linked to their uncanny ability to maximise the tyres operating window.

Lest we forget that it was Ferrari who have seemingly made the most of the 2017 tyre development programme conducted by Pirelli, not only in terms of the design of their ‘mule’ car but also the use of their current drivers. This tangible grasp on the behaviour of the 2017 rubber extends not only to their mechanical effect but has likely played a significant role in each team's aerodynamic development this season too, with the wider tyre not only changing the shape of the wake being generated but the platform itself moving around in a different way as it deforms.

Looking back at Mercedes development since they arrived back in the sport in 2010 it has followed a very linear path, firstly improving their relationship with Pirelli’s offering - which at the behest of the FIA changed the dynamic of the sport from its predecessor Bridgestone, putting more emphasis on the tyres to improve the spectacle and widening the strategy window.

Resolving these issue, which often revolved around a loss of performance at the rear of the car - as the tyre overheated, culminated in a breakthrough toward the end of 2012, as Mercedes began to understand how best to manipulate the car's platform to extract both mechanical and aerodynamic performance.

For them, empowered at the time by blown diffuser technology and a less mature version of FRIC (their Front-to-Rear-InterConnected suspension) they found ways to make downforce with a low rake philosophy, something that has continued throughout. However, in order to continue to find similar levels of performance relative to their counterparts they've had to make their designs overtly complex and up until the FIA put their footdown at the start of 2017 enjoyed a huge amount of chassis compliance from their complicated hydraulic suspension system.

Aerodynamically this allowed them to use designs such as their enlarged vortex tunnel on the outboard section of the front wing - used to influence front tyre wake, since copied by numerous teams (note they're ones trapped somewhere between the low rake philosophy of Mercedes and the high rake of Red Bull)

The ‘W-Floor’ introduced as part of a complex package of updates for the W07 (pictured) was an advanced evolution of an idea that had already started to become commonplace up and down the grid, with numerous teams using vertical serrations in the bargeboards surface to improve their performance in yaw as pressure bleeds from one surface to another, effectively maintaining the overall surface size no matter the angle.

Perhaps the most innovative part of this design and one that has only recently been copied by Red Bull albeit in a slightly different way are the pointed extensions upon which the serrated bargeboards sit. These extensions are used to break up the turbulence created by the front wheels wake, something that is particularly useful in yaw as it offers performance benefits to the rest of the floor and diffuser.

The W08 features a very similar design to its predecessor in this regard but with the area ahead of the sidepods and with an ability to upturn the leading edge of the floor now possible in the 2017 regulations others are making gains in this area of the car without the need for this level of complexity (like Red Bull, who've added the three strakes to their upturned floor).

Red Bull commenced the last aero era (2009-2016) with an aggressively raked stance and have continued, like Mercedes, to extract performance from that philosophy through evolution, rather than having to revolutionize things. That's 8 years of working on and refining a concept, bringing into question Mercedes ability to work with a completely different concept and standstill, let alone make gains.

However, having resisted the urge to make the switch to a higher raked car in previous seasons perhaps it's worth noting that Ferrari have made it work for them in 2017, the SF70H notably more raked than its predecessors, bringing them much closer to Mercedes than anyone has been since the hybrid era commenced. It's also worth noting then that albeit at a distance, considering his departure from the Scuderia, James Allison has insight into how to deal with the transition from one philosophy to the other.

Now part of the technical team that decides the overall design path of the W09 he’ll have undoubtedly have been pivotal in helping Geoff Willis, Aldo Costa and a laundry list of others make the difficult decision on whether the concept they've been following for the best part of 8-9 years has entered a cul-de-sac because the rules no longer support that methodology.

Is a rake switch worth the gamble? Have Mercedes really got to the point of no return and/or is their tunnel already giving them better numbers with a shorter, high rake car? These are all questions known internally already and it'll be fascinating to see how fast they can adapt if they do make the switch.
The pressure is on though and Hamilton has been left counting his blessings so far this season, as Ferrari failed to capitalise on the W08’s weaknesses when they were most exposed - Singapore and Malaysia, something that might not occur again in 2018, especially as Red Bull are expected to continue their ascent too.

Whatever Mercedes decide to do for 2018 they must overcome their issues with the rear tyres, just as they did toward the end of the V8 era, as this has severely stunted their progress this year, a conundrum if not solved could actually add to the issues of making a raked car work.
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Somers on Missed Apex - Tech Time 16/10/17

Somers joined Autosport junior, Chris Stevens and tech cohort Matt 'Trumpets' Ragsdale for a news and tech time show on Missed Apex last Sunday, you can either listen or watch the show below. There is also a special treat as Spanners interviews ex-McLaren mechanic turned broadcaster Marc Priestley about the forthcoming release of his new book whilst giving some insight into his career.

Don't forget to subscribe to Missed Apex's page on YouTube and you'll get a notification every time they go live, where you can join in with the live chat room.





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