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11 Jul 2020
Trumpet's race review - Round 1 Austria

Matt 'Trumpets' Ragsdale retells the events that unfolded in the first race of the season in his own inimitable style.
Ambient 24° Track 49° Humidity 34.9% Wind 1.4 m/s

Prelude

Brutal heat radiated off the track as the relentless Styrian sun rained down on the paddock, but it was Red Bull who brought the real thunder, appealing the yellow flag decision that cleared Hamilton yesterday and gaining a 3 place penalty for the reigning world champion. Now the grid will feature Bottas with the soft tyre on pole, Verstappen P2 on the medium tyre and a remarkable P3 start for Lando Norris, who has shown a certain flair at race starts for not letting the leaders disappear into the distance. Hamilton will start P5, from which he will surely recover quickly, however, Mercedes Plan A of having the trailing driver create a buffer for the leading driver (c'mon you have to admit that's ALWAYS the plan when they lockout the front row) has been circular filed and if Max can hang on till his tyres come up to temperature in his pointy and challenging to driver car, then perhaps there will be a multi-manufacturer race for the top spot after all. Add to that fact that Mercedes' troubles last year all stemmed from cooling issues and it will be even hotter today than yesterday and you have all the ingredients for a potentially entertaining race.

Brutal stat for Ferrari yesterday in that they were nearly a second slower than last year, which is a truly Williams' level of performance. The double whammy of losing their totally not cheating but most certainly illegal if it could be proved PU along with a lately discovered correlation issue with their wind tunnel has really put them behind the eight ball. That said, Mercedes' race pace was nearly 6 seconds off it's quali pace, and with their high levels of DF, it may be that Ferrari will be kinder to their tyres in the high temps and less bothered by the power deficit if other teams are more limited by their tyres. So an opening may exist, though Lord knows it will require their strategy department to get it right, always a risky gambit if one is a fan of the Scuderia.

Of course the biggest fight is likely to be Renault/Racing Point/McLaren and it will certainly be the hope for Macca fans that the fight behind springs Norris on those opening laps and gives him a gap, as the general consensus of the race pace analysts was that Racing Point had a slight edge. And worth considering that of all the midfield drivers, Perez has that magical touch with tyre degradation. And in a surprise to no one, P11 on down all rocked up to the grid on the Mediums as the first race of the year made it's last, frantic preparation before the lights went on...

Summary

Lights Out!!!! Great Start by Verstappen, but Bottas held the place as it was Norris, hammering Verstappen over P2 as Hamilton had a go at Albon. Up the hill they went and it was Hamilton, again on the outside, into T4 being taken wide and very nearly losing a place to the Racing point of Perez behind. All said, a remarkably composed start without the usual crashy bits. Into the final turn it was Leclerc, putting the pressure on Perez, who with a robust defense, managed for the moment to keep the Ferrari behind.

By the start of the second lap, Verstappen's tyres had come up to temperature and he was beginning to gap Norris and make inroads into the 2.5 seconds Bottas had earned on the first lap. Norris, meanwhile, looked to have been a bit ambitious and possibly overheated his tyres, as first Albon and then Hamilton easily rocked by him. Verstappen purpled his lap and as the race began to unfold it was Hamilton and Verstappen looking to be fastest as Albon, still ahead of the Mercedes of Lewis, was looking to become a mobile chicane and buy Verstappen some time and space.

By lap 7 all the midfield save Perez were into the 1:10s, and yes, Ferrari fans, that includes Ferrari. The Racing Point of Perez, continued to billow smoke out the back at random intervals, to the great irritation of the drivers behind. Verstappen looked to have backed off and within the next 2 laps had dropped back to 3.3 seconds as Albon, job done, finally yielded to Hamilton, but only after putting the Mercedes nearly 7.5 seconds off the lead.

Slightly farther back, Perez had finally crept into DRS range on Norris. Disaster!!! The Red Bull of Verstappen suddenly slowed and he rolled to a halt at the exit of turn 3, shouting for a new setting as the race left him behind on lap 11. There was a setting he said he was unable to change and he complained that it was kicking him into anti-stall. Down to 17th and into the pits, likely done for...the team changed the tyres annndddd out of the car he went. Day done. Ooooof.

So now the final podium spot fell to Albon, who had now had 57 laps to manage for his first time to ascend the steps. During the drama, Norris continued to successfully defend against Perez and on lap 15 the gap had gone out to 1.5 seconds as Sergio looked to have settled back and Racing Point likely going for the undercut, which he was well placed to employ. Further back, it was Vettel and Ricciardo, up a position and the pair of them stuck in a Stroll train, as Lance complained of a lack of power. Ricciardo's teammate was making 0.6 seconds a lap on the HAAS of Magnussen and then it was Renault's turn for tragedy, as Ricky Danny appeared to suffer a PU failure and out he went. Stroll's issues continued and Vettel sailed by as Lance dropped down the order. Ocon was into DRS on Magnussen as lap 20 rolled into the books and back at the front, Hamilton had nibbled the gap down to 6.5 seconds, roughly 0.1-0.3 seconds a lap faster, but not likely to get close enough in his first stint to make things interesting.

Lap 21 and Grosjean had a bit of a an off to remain on brand as the Ocon/Magnussen batttle remained the most interesting thing on track. Grosjean was in for a set of the Hards at the end of that lap and another second disappeared at the front as it looked like Bottas had finally cooked his tyres. Stroll was in as well, but it was day done for the Racing Point driver.

By lap 25 Hamilton was within 4 seconds of Bottas and both cars had run long enough to switch to the Hard and run to the end of the race. Ocon finally got round Magnussen and that indignity came with a big helping of spin for the HAAS, possibly indicative of brake problems on the car. Grosjean had already suffered a brake issue in free practice and Kmag was being coached about them on the team radio. This brought out the safety car and it was time for pickup sticks with the strategy.

Double stack for the Mercs and a tight release for Racing Point as they tried to get their driver out just ahead of Norris. Ooooh and it was a juicy one, though the commentariat was disagreeing about whether the release was unsafe. Slow stop for Macca, rear tyre, caused the situation, and perhaps the most interesting thing was Perez onto the Medium tyre, whilst Norris opted for the Hard, a big advantage at the start but a potential liability in the higher temps near the end of the race. Grosjean elected to stay out, with his tyres only a few laps old, and on replay it was a clear failure of the brakes that put K-mag out of the race.

With the Safety Car still out on lap 29, Mercedes were told to use DAS to help maintain and it was cooling issues that put Ricciardo out. The following lap, and the Safety Car was coming in and it was a thoroughly average restart for Bottas, and the door was open for Hamilton. Further back it was Sainz all over Leclerc, pushing hard to gain an advantage over the Ferrari. Vettel had a spin then, attacking Sainz after he was rebuffed, painfully on brand after an ill though out look up the inside and once again the inside of the apex claimed him. Sainz claimed a touch from the Ferrari, but regardless it was an amateur effort at best. Ahhh on replay it was clear he got the braking all wrong into the turn and was lucky to keep from ending Sainz' race.

All this distracted from the fact that Norris was indeed able to defend from Perez, who had the tyre advantage. But not for long as lap 34 Perez rode his tyre advantage neatly around Norris and left him in the clutches of a surging Leclerc. At the front, it was Mercedes stage managing their drivers, as first, they rebuffed Hamilton's call for the Mediums, ala Perez, and then after he requested to use more engine, he was told that they would be turning down the engine mode soon. This did not please Hamilton, who was going to take advantage of whatever tools he had and he continued to rock around well inside DRS on Bottas and running fastest laps as he pursued the first win of the season.

The next chase was Perez, in the Racing Point, doing his best to haul in Albon, 5 seconds up the road while his Medium tyres were still in good shape. Ocon, now in the top 10, was in DRS on Kvyat and as lap 39 rolled on, it was a train behind the Alpha Tauri driver. Norris continued to hold at 1.5 seconds ahead of Leclerc as Mercedes was quick to clarify, that their drivers were able to fight, but would do so at reduced engine modes. Perez was making no inroads into Albon as Bottas was told to urgently chassis default, and both Mercs were warned to stay off the kerbs...

Lap 43 and it was a renewed push from Lewis inside half a second oh so close into Turn 4 but Valterri eeking ahead. Told to mind the kerbs due to sensor issues, Lewis replied that it was not him using lots of kerb. Well, looking further back, Russell was properly on pace and maybe looking at a point if things fell his way. Lap 45 and Hamilton had let the gap go, back to 1.5 seconds as it was the gearbox sensor that was causing all the trouble. Bottas being told they were in worse shape than Hamilton's car and in all the radio craziness, Perez, who looked to have been done, had quietly closed the gap to Albon, and was 2.2 seconds back of the sole remaining Red Bull.

Lap 50 and Russell was the next one done, as Grosjean again found himself on the escape road and the Williams pulled off at Turn 4 and once again, the Safety Car was called into service... So a 12ish lap sprint to the end and Albon was first into the pits and out with a set of Softs. Leclerc was onto the Mediums whilst Perez chose track position.... IDK but that may have been a strategic miscue, unless Racing Point were out of Softs.

And considering the gaps collapsed by the Safety Car, the Mercs having to stay off the kerbs due to gearbox issues and suddenly the race was on. Sainz stopped a lap late for a set of Mediums and dropped to P9, behind Ocon and Gasly who stayed out. Kvyat was in for a set of Softs and down to P11 and oh my, life was getting busy in the strategy department.

And they were off, Bottas doing just enough to stay ahead of Hamilton as Albon was all over the gearbox of Perez but into Turn 3 Sergio locked it up and by Albon went by as the wheels, well wheel, of Raikkonen came off (he'd been in for a set of Softs) and sent him right into the wall as he headed down the main straight. On replay, the tyre came off between the last 2 turns and there was no tether visible, indicating the wheel was never properly attached. Scary stuff for Vettel, directly behind, and then the only issue was whether Albon was by Perez before the Safety Car was deployed as just 13 cars remained. Wow... bit of rust after all as with 7 retirements it was a match for last year's Hockenheim in terms of retirements. More fiddling with the order as Sainz was now wondering if he had completed his overtake of Ocon before the Safety Car was out and the FIA was duly being consulted. Lap 59 and an 11 lap sprint loomed. The entire field had been through the pits with the latest Safety Car as Albon was told he had earned the position and swapped with Perez just before the Safety Car was in.

Restart and Albon was all over Hamilton. Into Turn 4 and as Hamilton had taken the inside, with Albon going round the outside and it was Hamilton, just a bit wide and putting Albon into the gravel trap, tapping his right rear as Albon was all but done with the move. On replay it very much looked that it was on Hamilton and the incident was spirited away to the stewards even as Albon had been demoted to the end of the race...

Hamilton was told he had the gearbox issue as well and the fight was now Norris v Perez until Leclerc took advantage of a minor lockup by Norris and whisked by, a sniff of the podium all that was necessary for the Monagasque to drag his Ferrari forward with remarkable speed, given their odious quali pace.

Lap 65 and Hamilton was over 2 seconds back. Leclerc made very short work of Perez and then word came down, 5 second penalty for Hamilton which put him net P6 on the road. And then Perez got dinged for speeding in the pitlane, another 5 second penalty as Albon's PU gave up the ghost, luckily able to make the pitlane with his issue. Lap 69 and Norris smashed by Perez, with Norris complaining that Perez turned in on him, as there was contact as the pass was made. Oh no, and then it was the Alpha Tauri of Kvyat off with a puncture, thankfully in a safe place so no Safety Car.

And it was onto the final lap, and as they crossed the line, it was Bottas, Hamilton and Leclerc, followed by Norris and Sainz. And with the 5 second penalty applied, it was Norris, by a mere 0.2 seconds, promoted to P3 and a podium for McLaren, along with another point for fastest lap. Whooo. That's a lot to umpack but here we go.

Not the best of days for Mercedes, despite the race win, as with Kallenius, the big boss in attendance, not only did they have major reliability issues, but only 66% of their engines were able to complete a race distance, even though it was presumably a sensor issue and perhaps solvable for next week's effort. Add in the clumsy penalty for Hamilton and it would be a stretch to call the day a success for the Silver Arrows, though no doubt Bottas appreciated his lead in the WDC over his nearest rival just that little extra bit. Remarkable result for Ferrari, well, Leclerc, given all of their issues, however with only 11 finishers, it was hard to deny a stupid amount of luck was necessary in order for them to have a podium finish. The real star of the show, however, had to be McLaren, with a well earned podium for Norris, who, not only had to make the pass on Perez but also had to run the fastest lap of the race. And with Sainz in P5 it was a huge boost in the WCC, as with Stroll out of the race Macca is now sitting pretty on a nice lead, never mind having given both their drivers podiums in the last year. Norris also the 3rd youngest podium finisher, so there's that, too...

Lot's of 50/50 results with Gasly P7, but Alpha Tauri losing Kvyat in the very last laps of the race, and of course, Vettel finishing P10 after his error is cold comfort at best, and perhaps makes Ferrari's move look a bit more justified, unfortunately for the 4 time world champion. Renault were cheered by the race pace of Ocon, but Ricciardo's retirement and Ocon's poor quali kept the weekend from being celebrated, though at least they walked away with some points in their inaugural effort. Williams losing Russell hurt, though Latifi did hang on for a P11. Unattached wheel for Alfa Romeo but a P9 for Giovinazzi continued the string of glass half full/empty results...

Full moan for Red Bull, losing Verstappen early and Albon late, and looking likely to win the race. Racing Point also fully failed to convert their promise, with the speeding penalty for Perez salt in the proverbial wound after Stroll's retirement, though P6 is hardly chopped liver, relative to the podium they might have had it had to have left a bitter taste. HAAS as well, with massive brake issues ruining their day, couldn't be happy with a double retirement after an early and reasonable showing for Magnussen...
The good news is redemption lies less than a week away for all the afflicted and with dubious reliability across the board, we are unlikely to witness a carbon copy of this race...


Discuss!!!

And remember to play nice in the comments!!


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4 Jul 2020
Trumpets qualifying notebook - Round 1 Austria


Matt 'Trumpets' Ragsdale gives us a rundown of the events that unfolded during qualifying for the Austrian GP.
Ambient 24.8° Track 53.8° Humidity 34.6% Wind 1.9 m/s

Prelude

Well, that was quite the off season. Ferrari ditching Vettel, Team Xerox tilting for the top 3, Red Bull doth protest a wee bit too much and somehow, not remarkably, Mercedes look to be driving off into the distance yet again, an era of (mostly) unprecedented dominance that will no doubt be much discussed with asterisks and caveats. Yeah, and the whole pandemic thing. And yet, the more one looked, the more the song remained the same, Ferrari in disarray, Renault looking to make a big step, Red Bull to be on pace with Mercedes, tight midfield battles and Ted calling the entire front half of the car a bargeboard, comforting, familiar rituals in these strange times.

That said, both HAAS and Ferrari admitted up front they had no development to bring (even Williams brought some) and even worse for the tifosi, they admitted that their entire aero direction was incorrect and after suffering correlation issues to boot, they were changing course and were bringing a new concept to Hungary, leaving them defenseless at the start of the season from the Mercedes juggernaut and potentially adrift in the midfield. In general, a new concept after the season starts is a white flag for the team so it falls to Red Bull to tame their pointy car to provide something that vaguely resembles competition for the Silver Arrows. The juniors in the midfield were perhaps the most exciting feature of the weekend, as FP3 indicated it was going to be an extremely fraught struggle between them for ascendancy and Williams, perhaps, has brought enough to the table to quibble at the back.

Summary

Green Light!! Latifi was first off the mark, to make up for his sins in FP3 (he crashed), along with Alfa (not Alpha) in the form of Raikkonen and Giovinazzi. Russell was next out along with Stroll, as Giovinazzi rocked in a 1:05.478 with Raikkonen a tenth behind. Latifi limped across with a 1:07.208 as Russell looked to continue his easy qualifying dominance over his teammate. Nothing but green sectors for the Williams driver as he went P3, for the moment with a 1:05.592. Latifi's second run was a bit tidier, a half second back of Russell as the track, with 10 minutes left had quickly filled with the rest of the teams, save Mercedes and Renault.

AS the times rolled in it was Norris outpointing Stroll, Verstappen to the top and Sainz P2, ahead of Perez. Albon was a bit of a disappointment in P6 and even worse, Leclerc in P9 with Vettel P4 were rapidly dashing any hopes the tifosi may have harbored. A neat P6 for Gasly, ahead of Albon, continued his streak of quietly demonstrating that perhaps RBR may have been hasty with last season's decision. Ooooh, Hamilton to P12 and Bottas P4 meant a bit of work left for Mercedes and with 6 minutes left and the last times rolling in it was Raikkonen, Magnussen, Russell, Grosjean and Latifi
on the outside looking in, with K-Mag complaining of being balked by Leclerc. Hamilton wound up all the way down in P14 so it was going to be a less than ideal 2nd lap, which he clocked with just around 4 minutes left, bouncing up to P2 but still a less than ideal time.

As the last runners headed to the pits to get ready for their last chance to escape the purge, perhaps some steering issues for Hamilton from the team radio. Russell up to P15 as they hit the 2 minute mark, with Stroll rocking a fairly quick lap and to the top he went, with Leclerc rolling out for another go as the clock ticked ever closer to the end of the session. And FOMO ruled, as only Albon remained in the pits with everyone else electing to have another go. Grosjean on a better lap to his first effort stuck the knife into Russell, putting him out of Q1. Verstappen bounced Stroll to P2 and it was a wet blanket for K-Mag, unable to get out of Q1.

So, it was Magnussen, Russell, Giovinazzi, Raikkonen and Latifi going no further, off in search of some spaetzle as the rest turned it round for the glories of Q2. Verstappen, Bottas and Hamilton at the front, as one might expect, but Stroll P4 seemed a bit unexpected and Russell just a tenth out of Q2 had to be rated as a genuine improvement for Williams, which looked to finally be making some inroads into their disaster of a car. Albon damaged his wing, explaining his non-participation in the sorting lottery, and the question about Hamilton's steering remained unpursued as Q2 loomed.

Q2 opened with a whole lot of nothing, as the waiting game was now being played, and the only issue to be settled was which teams were going to bet on getting through to Q3 with the Medium tyre. 12 minutes left and all was still a mystery, with the track empty and the commentators beginning to reach for material.

At last, with 11 minutes left Mercedes got the party started, and with that the dam was broken and the pitlane filled with anxious drivers, fighting in slow motion for the ideal place in the slipstream, without being too close to spoil their aero. Bottas, Hamilton, Sainz, Stroll, Norris, Vettel, Leclerc all in a bunch then Kvyat Grosjean and Gasly. Verstappen, the sole Medium tyre runner, then Gasly and it all got messy as the hot laps kicked off. 1:03.325 for Hamilton, 1:03.53 for Bottas, then Norris, Stroll and Perez. Ricciardo managed a P6 and it was Verstappen, P7 on the Mediums, then Sainz and Vettel rounding out the top 10. Albon was running on his own and a big twitch ruined his lap, leaving him P13 in what was increasingly looking like a very hard to driver RBR. Verstappen managed to improve to P6 on his lap, but ooooh, would they stand with that hand? Enquiring minds wanted to know, but were going to have to wait as the teams rolled in to make their last, desperate adjustments for the last shout at the hallowed ground of Q3. Gasly, Kvyat, Albon, Ocon and Grosjean had it all to do as the seconds ticked down.

2:30 to go and Stroll led the way, Ocon next and then the deluge as all the runners were back out and Verstappen on the Softs, to the surprise of no one, dead last with the ability to bail should his time stay in the top 10. Ocon was the first off to try and save himself, he had run a 1:04 dead in FP3 and was nearly a second off that with his first run. It was not to be and he was locked into P14 a disappointment indeed as Hamilton took another 0.3 off his time and was then outdone by Bottas, and with Leclerc and Vettel in P9 and P10 respectively, in the bottom spots it was Albon, making up for his earlier mistakes, rocking up to P3 and brutally putting Vettel out of Q3. Wow.... That said, from Albon in P3 to Leclerc in P10 there was just 0.3 seconds in it and the midfield battle was looking lit for tomorrow's race. Verstappen through on the Mediums was also a thing and all that remained was the final tilt for the palmares. Going no further and off in search of some weissbier were Vettel, Gasly, Kvyat, Ocon, and Grosjean with Norris best of the rest heading into Q3 as the battle with Racing Point was hotting up tremendously.

Q3 again kicked off with criclets as no one wanted to be first out of the gate and making a slipstream for their competitors. 9 minutes to go before anyone deigned to turn a wheel and it was Mercedes, apparently unconcerned, well, who are we kidding, utterly unconcerned rolling to the end of the pitlane followed by the rest of the field in short order. Norris, Sainz, Perez and Leclerc trailed closely, then Verstappen as the Merc battle kicked off. Hamilton, crushing S1 as Bottas purpled S2 and then S3 and it was Bottas, with a 1:02.939 and Hamilton, unable to better him slotting into P2 on what was ostensibly their banker runs. Verstappen into P3 and Albon P4 as the expected order began to reassert itself. Sainz, Perez and Leclerc filled the next 3 spots, and Norris, Stroll and Ricciardo elected to bet it all on a single run, a lack of tyres cutting short their chances in the final battle.

Stroll took advantage of the interval to roll out for his effort, and as he kicked off his hot lap, the rest of the runners emerged from the pits to have their final go for all the marbles. P6 for Stroll set the mark for Perez, who was just on his outlap. Macca traffic jam in pits as confusion reigned over who was going to lead, throwing everyone behind into disarray as they loitered side by side and leaving Norris at the back of a long train when it finally got sorted. Yellows suddenly flashed up as Bottas took an unplanned trip through the gravel which did no favours for Hamilton (tinfoil time perhaps, did he Rosberg Hamilton?), but Lewis kept on it and was through with a 1:02.951, 0.012 seconds short of pole and it was Bottas, taking the first pole position of the year. 

Verstappen improved his time a bit and then it was Norris, splitting the Bulls and perhaps the story of the day, as Team Xerox was expected to be playing that role, and not McLaren. P6 for Perez, followed by Leclerc, Sainz, Stroll, and Ricciardo, who surprisingly did not improve on his Q2 effort. Waiting to see how the yellows affected the laps behind and it was hard to overlook just how poorly the Ferrari powered cars had done relative to their last year's performance, with all of them being slower than last year in relative sessions, whilst their competitors had all improved. Sure enough, Ricciardo reported yellows for his run, so there's an explanation for Renault fans, but Hamilton said it hadn't affected his lap as he was apparently close enough behind to not catch them...

Tomorrow's race is decidedly setting up to be 3 different races, an epic midfield battle with 0.4 seconds covering P4-P10, Hamilton versus Bottas and the Medium tyre, played by Max Verstappen, versus the rest of the field, played mostly by Mercedes. Which should be enough for some thoroughly entertaining battles punctuated by tense tyre and fuel management periods (well, tense if you're glued to sector times to be fair). Ferrari will be searching for redemption in the form of race pace, and Vettel, at least with a free choice of tyres to even up the strategies will be eying how far up the top 10 he can reach. Of course, last year's race was fairly compromised by cooling issues for Mercedes, so if it's hot enough perhaps that extra wrinkle might appear, but given Mercedes' penchant for sorting these details out... Fingers crossed!!!

Discuss!!

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28 May 2020
Taking a look at the changes for 2021

It's that time of the year again - new regulations means more restrictions but what's changed and how will it have an impact on what we see out on track and for the designers? Let's take a bit of a deepdive...

Firstly, the biggest talking point is that the new 'ground effect' style cars have officially been put on the backburner until 2022, owing to the fact that the 2020 cars will have barely been used. The FIA, FOM and the teams have agreed that the sensible thing to do is to carryover as much from 2020 as is possible to '21 in an attempt to keep costs lower. This means that for the first time there's an extensive list of components that are considered homologated, with their specification being frozen after two key dates in the 2020 calendar. 

The homologated components include the survival cell and roll structures, the plank, front and rear suspension and brake assemblies, fuel, hydraulic and engine systems (including radiators, intercoolers and chargecooling systems), electrical systems and looms, onboard fire extinguishers, drinks system and track equipment, such as guns, jacks and gantry equipment.

So, essentially this means the core asset of the car will remain unchanged, however one component listed under the aerodynamic section might well have an impact on the design of the rear wing. The teams will only be able to homologate 2 different options for the rear wing adjuster, although different linkages are permitted.

The only other change that locks in development from an aerodynamic perspective is the wheel rims, with only one specification allowed for 2021.

Aerodynamics

The same freedoms in terms of aerodynamic development for 2021 exist as they have before, with one minor and one major exception - the design of the floor and wind tunnel time. 


In order that Pirelli don't have to make a concerted effort to deliver a new tyre for 2021, given they're still expected to develop the 18" tyre for '22 onwards, the decision has been made to try and cut some downforce from the cars. This will be achieved by trimming the edge of the floor to give it more of a boat tail effect, which in-turn reduces the scope for managing tyre-squirt created by the rear tyre and which is damaging to the performance of the diffuser.

On top of this, a regulatory mishap from the changes made in 2017 is finally being dealt with too. Since 2017 there's been a development war being waged over the outer 100mm of the floor, with a plethora of fully enclosed holes deployed there to try and help 'seal' the edge of the floor from the ingress of wake turbulence created by the front tyre. 

The end goal, in this case, is to improve flow under the car and increase the effectiveness of the diffuser. However, the dimensions relating to floor continuity that were left 'as is' for 2017 have been fixed for 2021, meaning no more fully enclosed holes. That's not to say we won't see a return to slots, just as we had prior to 2017 but, their effectiveness is slightly dulled when compared to a hole.

In order that teams simply don't try and make up these losses through aero elasticity there's been alterations to the amount of deflection (may not deflect more than 8mm, rather than 10mm) and the point at which measurements will be taken (650mm from the car centre plane, rather than 600mm) during flex tests too.

Aerodynamic handicapping

For the first time Formula One will use a weighted system, whereby championship order will dictate how much wind tunnel time a team is allowed to use.

In recent years each team has been able to do 65 runs per week with a maximum tunnel occupancy of 60 hours.

From the 1st of June 2021 the teams will now have to adhere to a new structure though, with the amount of runs, wind on time and tunnel occupancy based on the position their team finished the previous season in. Finishing in first, for example, means you'll only get 90% of the allotted runs/time from the given baseline, whilst those finishing last will get 112.5% 

The baseline is as follows:

Runs: 320
Wind on time: 80 hours
Tunnel Occupancy: 400 hours

The problem with this weighting system compared with the old way of doing things is that the FIA have complicated matters by using different ATP periods. Meaning that there isn't a one size fits all run, wind on time or occupancy number either. As such I've created this spreadsheet to try and simplify the numbers.

In the interest of our example lets say that Mercedes wins the 2020 championship and Williams finish last, just as they both did in 2019 (I've added colours relative to the teams to try and make identifying them in their 2019 order easier for the sake of this example). 

That would mean that Mercedes would be able to do 36 runs per week, over the course of 45 hours in a 8 week ATP period. Meanwhile, Williams could do 45 runs per week over the course of 56 hours.

Weight

Once again the minimum weight is on the up, being raised from 746kg to 749kg, whilst the minimum weight of the powerunit is also increasing from 145kg to 150kg.

Powerunits

Whilst on the topic of powerunits there's a couple of interesting alterations to speak of, the first in relation to the design of the valves. Article 5.17.6 previously stated that 'Hollow Stems' were permitted but the wording has been changed to 'Hollow Valves', meaning that the valve heads can now also be hollowed, meaning they can either be filled with sodium, or similar for cooling purposes 3D printing used to create an intricate but lighter weight cavity.

Exhausts are now covered within the same limitations as the ICE, MGU-H-, MGU-K, Turbocharger, ES and CE, with only 8 sets (defined as a pair of exhausts for the left and right bank) to be used during the season, with the same punitive measures applied should they exceed that limit. The inclusion of this within the sporting regulations suggests that a practice had become common for teams to exploit lighter materials or with less fatigue resistance that would boost performance but need to be replaced more regularly. In fact, as they were technically unrestricted in regards to numbers I guess you could replace the exhausts as often as your saw fit.

The FIA have also moved to clarify a contentious issue with regard to the number and position of the mounting studs that are used when installing the gearbox case to the powerunit. The wording loosely suggested six studs were required but in fact as few as four could be used if mounted in the correct positions, something that Ferrari have done in the past and Mercedes have for 2020. In both cases this was done in order to better package the exhausts, as they take up the space ordinarily occupied by the the bolts. This comes with its own challenges in terms of torsional and rotational rigidity but obviously not insurmountable ones...

The powerunit manufacturers are also affected, firstly by bench testing, which for the first time sees restrictions on the number of test benches that can be used and for how long and through a gentle glide toward a total powerunit freeze. For 2020 the specification used for the first race will have to be carried throughout the entire season, with exceptions allowed on the grounds of cost savings, reliability or supply issues. A new specification will be allowed for the start of 2021 and one update will be allowed during that season. For the start of 2022 a new specification can be introduced once more but then fall under a freeze until the end of the season. 

This will continue to be the development cycle until 2024, when the specification raced at the start of that season will be the same as the one used throughout 2023.

In summary 

The changes made, both technical and sporting, have been done with a modicum of common sense and inline with the cost cap that will also feature from 2021 onwards. I still believe that the introduction of the new cars for 2022 is optimistic at best and now that teams have agreed to fall in line in terms of homologation, spending and development that sticking with the current car until at least 2023 is a far more favourable outcome.
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13 Mar 2020
Beyond Sport


It should go without saying that the Formula One community made its best effort to go racing and start the season as normal in Melbourne. 

However, we face an extraordinary and unprecedented global situation that outweighs any single, let alone seasonal sporting event.

Following the news that a member of the McLaren team had contracted COVID-19 and their subsequent withdrawal from the race it was only a matter of time that the rest of the dominoes would fall.

Navigating the various pitfalls to the point of cancellation was not an easy one and whilst there seemed to be an unacceptable communication latency, where no official word was conveyed by either the governing body or commercial rights holder, it was for good reason.

First and foremost the Australian governments guidelines for dealing with COVID-19 hadn’t yet precluded large gatherings, obviously an essential factor when attendance was expected to exceed 300,000 over the course of the weekend.

Put simply, if F1 had said ahead of time it wasn’t going to arrive in Melbourne, they’d have been undermining government advice and put them on dubious footing not only with the Australian authorities but also many others around the world- A difficult tightrope to walk.

The WHO categorization of this virus as a pandemic leading upto everyone’s arrival clearly changed the complexion of the threat but, with the sports entire traveling contingency now in transit it was a little difficult to imagine them turning tail.

However, in the wake of the McLaren withdrawal a meeting, which involved representatives from the teams, FIA and FOM, was conducted and reportedly concluded in 50% of the teams admitting that they too wanted to withdraw from the event.

Of course, this left the FIA and FOM in an a position where it must now take a decision that would go directly against government advice but arguably one they should have made earlier, in order to safeguard everyone involved.

The lack of communication from the FIA and FOM during this phase was the single most annoying factor. 

Over 10 hours passed between McLaren’s announcement and the official cancellation confirmation. This is not acceptable! Even if they’d only issued a release to allay fears, explaining that they were in a consultation phase, but no, nothing.

I have friends and colleagues in the paddock and none of them knew what was going on and became reliant on their inner sources. This is a situation that led to conflicting stories emerging in the British media. 

Whilst I’d been told by several of my own sources that the race was off, SKY sports ran with an opposing narrative. 

Shortly after the BBC ran a story that the race was off and led to a groundswell of disdain on social media platforms, as they took aim at the media for rushing to report.

In an age where information can spread quicker than the virus itself, the FIA and FOM’s communication vacuum was far from ideal and perhaps lessons can be learned here*.

Understandably the lines of communication have since eased and we now know that Vietnam is officially postponed (although I already understood this to be the case, but all parties had decided to wait until the first race was over to announce it) and Bahrain, which was already to be raced behind closed doors now has a postponed status too.

This puts Zandvoort at the head of the queue for the season opener, but there’s question marks over whether that will even be possible at this stage. It’s a very fluid situation, one that has various moving variables and whilst FOM do their best to manage the situation and placate the various teams, drivers, circuits and even fans, there’s still more questions than answers.

Formula One is not on its own in this regard, most of the sporting world is now on an a hiatus, as we try to limit human interaction on larger scales.

And, whilst there are those that don’t believe in the threat level of this virus, it must be at least obvious that our expansive use of global travel has been a factor in the spread of COVID-19.

*It is an interesting aside that FOM’s head of motorsport press office - Luca Colajanni, has recently left his post and returned to Ferrari
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