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13 Aug 2018
Energy Recovery System fundamentals and taking a look at Ferrari’s gains

If you’re a fan of my long rambling posts then you’re in for a treat, as this is going to be just that. However, what I’ll try to do is segment it off in order that you can take it in, in smaller, more digestible chunks.
  • ERS Explainer
  • Ferrari’s twin battery
  • Free energy tricks & Extra Harvest mode
  • Free load mode / Supercharger mode
  • Potential rear wing ‘stall’
The main idea behind this post is to clarify some of the details and inaccuracies I’ve noted in regard to Ferrari’s alleged powerunit gains. Seeing and being part of various discussions it has become painfully obvious to me that there is somewhat of a knowledge vacuum when it comes to people’s understanding of even the fundamental parts and operation of the Energy Recovery System (ERS).

It’s a failing of the sport, the FIA, the promoters, the teams and the media as they’re not able to elegantly portray the various machinations of the regulations at hand.

I have over the years looked to make these things more understandable with various articles debunking myths that have cropped up and also created a video in 2014 explaining some of the energy flow situations.

I’m a small voice in a very large void though and so I’d urge anyone that’s a fan of the sport, that knows another fan of the sport to read this article, as I attempt to simplify the way in which the ERS works.

Let’s start with the hardware, as understanding the role each of these devices play is fundamental in understanding the overall system.

The MGUK is an electric motor attached to the engines crankshaft and can either recover energy under braking or increase the engines output under acceleration. It has a total output of 120kw (roughly 160bhp).

The MGUH is another electric motor, but this one is paired with the turbocharger in order that energy can be recovered (harvested) when the turbo is spun too hard for the load required of it, or it can be used to spin the turbo to keep it in the optimum speed range.

The Energy Store (ES) is a battery pack housed beneath the driver and offers storage for energy recovered by the the two MGU’s.

At this point I’m going to ask that you forget the fairytales that you’ve read/heard in the past and try to focus on this as if you’ve never even heard of the ERS, as frankly the 4MJ limit and 33.33 seconds of energy usage I continue to read/hear/see are nonsense (and have covered previously).
Let’s take a look at the energy flow diagram from the regulations, as this gives us an accurate picture of what can be done. I’ll start with the basics and then we’ll move onto the more complex energy avenues later.

The MGUK can expend energy up to a rate of 120kw (roughly 160bhp) and unlike KERS, which was a simple power boost, is used as part of the powerunits overall output and mapped alongside the pedal map to produce power as requested by the driver via the accelerator pedal. It can spend 4MJ of energy that’s been stored in the ES per lap (this is where the 33.33 second misnomer came from) but can also draw an unlimited supply of energy from the MGUH through the MGU CONTROL UNIT. However, it can only recover and store 2MJ of energy per lap in the ES.

Perhaps the easiest way to understand the MGUK is that the team and moreover the driver will want the full 120kw/160bhp at their disposal for as much of the lap that is possible (as long as they’re not traction limited) as without it they’re a sitting duck. In order to get that 120kw they will demand it from the ES and MGUH, both of which are programmed to supply energy in a way that is beneficial to the laps overall energy landscape.

That means that although the MGUK is being fed 120kw it could be getting 60kw from the ES and 60kw from the MGUH (or 40/80kw, or any other ratio for that matter). The more energy that can instantaneously be transferred to the MGUK by the MGUH the better, as this extends the depletion ratio from the ES, extending the generally accepted 4MJ/33.33 second figures.

By now you should have realised just how important the MGUH is in the overall energy scheme, as it’s responsible for the ‘infill’ of energy that the MGUK is limited by. Furthermore, the hardware is of little significance when compared with the software, which has to be programmed with various (many of which might seem counter-intuitive) scenarios in mind.

So, let’s play out a scenario in order to explain how the components interact with one another.

Braking into and accelerating out of a slow speed corner/hairpin

  • As the car slows into the corner the MGUK will recover energy, sending some of it to the ES for use later in the lap and the rest directly to the MGUH to keep the turbocharger spooled and in the optimum window for the acceleration phase.
  • Accelerating out of the corner (once no longer traction limited) the MGUK will request the full 120kw to help propel the car forward. The MGU-H, having already kept the turbocharger ‘alive’, will start to recover some energy and send it directly to the MGUK, whilst energy is deployed from the ES to supplement it.
  • As the car accelerates out onto the straight the MGUH will continue to recover energy and feed it to both the MGUK and ES, topping up the latter for use elsewhere around the lap.
As you can see in this fairly innocuous example there is a lot going on, all of which requires the two MGU’s to perpetually feed energy around the system so it performs as expected around the entirety of a lap. In fact it’s the transitional phases throughout a lap that make all of this seem like somewhat of a ‘dark art’, as it’s not a simple and binary energy recovery and deployment tool likes KERS used to be.

As an aside there are a couple of these transitional moments that I’d like to cover in order that you might be able to understand just how pivotal ERS is in the overall powerunit scheme.

It may be strategically advantageous (both from an energy point of view and overall car performance) to recover energy via the MGUK in traction zones, and before you say it, no, it’s not traction control, rather a way of limiting the powerunits overall output and affording the MGUK an opportunity to feed the MGUH and/or ES energy.

Lifting and coasting, whilst normally associated with fuel saving, is another avenue where energy can be recovered by the MGUK and passed to the MGUH for instantaneous use or sent to the ES for later deployment.

Overcoming the cars aerodynamic drag is pivotal in delivering lap time during qualifying, meaning the powerunit will be run at full tilt, but during a race the team/driver will usually opt for a different strategy, forsaking absolute vMax. This often leads to partial throttle being used in order to save fuel and energy (similar to a lift and coast but with more nuance).

On the flip side of these scenarios, the driver can find himself in a position where he doesn’t have enough total energy for the desired demand. Perhaps he’s been running in an incorrect mode or mounted a sustained attack on another driver that has expended more energy than is desirable from the ES’s allocation. Failure to make up this ‘lost’ energy may result in a phenomenon you may have heard before but not fully understood - Derating or a Derate

This is when the driver is requesting the full 120kw energy allotment from the MGUK but the ES and/or MGUH are unable to supply it for the entire time it’s being requested, as explained by Andy Cowell from Mercedes HPP below.

Each circuit will provide an entirely different challenge for the drivers and engineers as they strive to find the perfect way around a lap. Oftentimes it will require sacrifice in one corner or straight in order that the laps overall energy strategy is not compromised, which brings me to another misunderstood concept - SoC.

The other issue that has perhaps led to the assumption that drivers only have 4MJ of energy at their disposal per lap is the SoC (State of Charge) statement relating to energy in and out of the battery pack (ES) per lap.

“The difference between the maximum and minimum state of charge of the ES may not exceed 4MJ at any time the car is on track”.

This simply means that if you started at zero on lap 1 you can’t have more than 4MJ in the ES, but the energy can fluctuate between those figures throughout the course of a lap/race. Think of it like a bank account - you can keep depositing smaller amounts and spending different amounts as long as the sum total does not exceed 4MJ.

This means the amount of energy passing through the ES per lap is only limited by the MGUH’s ability to recover energy, as the MGUK can only recover and store 2MJ (through conventional methods, we’ll get to this interesting caveat shortly).

For 2018 drivers can only use two ES’s per season before being penalized, which puts even more emphasis on their reliability. The ES is a densely packed, liquid-cooled lithium-ion battery made up by a number of cells which will degrade over a period of time and become less or totally ineffective (dead cells), meaning the strategy for using these cells is imperative. The manufacturer will clearly spec the battery pack well beyond the 4MJ hard limit that many associate with the ES, with the overall pack weight really the deciding factor in how much storage can be crammed in there.  

Ferrari’s twin battery layout

From Ferrari’s point of view they’ve opted (since 2014) to run what is known as a twin battery arrangement, but recently, having made large strides up the grid, the team have seen everything they do put under the microscope.
Ferrari's energy store, which ordinarily resides under the driver, was captured here by Craig Scarborough in Abu Dhabi last season, Craig kindly allowed me to use the image
Physically the battery is still only one unit but it’s my understanding that it’s viewed as two ‘virtual’ batteries by the software, potentially improving energy and heat management between it and the two MGU’s.

As such, clarification was sought by various teams and powerunit manufacturers over the use of this battery layout after it was suggested that Ferrari had found a way to exceed the MGUK’s maximum 120kw deployment rate, with a 20bhp figure being put on it. That would require the MGUK to be supplied 135kw, which is clearly beyond the scope of the regulations and something that Ferrari have since been cleared of.

This all came about because the data collected by other teams suggests they’re doing something counterintuitive and not occuring every lap but seems to arise in the secondary phase of acceleration out of a corner.

‘Free energy tricks’

Ferrari, having been cleared of any excessive energy deployment via the MGUK by the FIA have still been the subject of much debate. Nico Rosberg was next in line to throw mud at Ferrari, suggesting he had some ‘insider information’ about a ‘free energy trick’ being employed by the Scuderia ( that was giving them an advantage over Mercedes.

Technically nothing is for free, it just means that Ferrari have found a way to operate the physical hardware within the regulations in a different, or perhaps counterintuitively, when compared to their rivals. But, in short he’s talking about the advantage that can be gained from the MGUH, as it passes energy directly to the MGUK. It’s nothing that at a base level that’s not already understood but that doesn’t mean you can’t get better at it...

It got me to thinking about a less than obvious energy trick that Honda dragged out into the light in 2016 - Extra Harvest Mode. This little nugget of information came via Motor Fan illustrated (a Japanese publication) and showed that if you don’t explicitly write something down in the regulations the teams and manufacturers will exploit it.
It’s a concept that all the manufacturers are believed to be using and that Honda developed and implemented during 2016. Whilst its effect has lessened since (less time on the brakes for harvesting, due to the increase in downforce) it shows that the energy flow diagram can be overcome.

The idea is that you defeat the MGUK’s 2MJ recovery and storage limit to the ES by cycling it through the MGUH, as it both simultaneously deploys and recovers energy (quickly switching between recovery and deployment (ON>OFF) in order to maintain boost pressure and recover energy).

In the example Honda suggest an extra 1MJ of energy is recovered by the MGUK, sent directly to the MGUH for use but immediately recovered and sent to the ES for storage. This trick would only be limited by the amount of energy that can be recovered by the MGUK in the course of a lap and the efficiency and ability of the MGUH to transfer that energy to the ES (which would also have to stay within the SoC limit).

The use of this ‘extra harvest mode’ also opens up the possibility of turning the energy flow in the opposite direction, cycling energy from the ES via the MGUH (OFF>ON) to the MGUK, thus exceeding the Max 4MJ from ES to MGUK.

These methods make a mockery of the regulations designed to constrain the MGUK’s interaction with the ES but have inadvertently led the manufacturers to find ways in which to improve the efficiency of the MGUH and ERS system as a whole.

It’s worth bearing in mind that the ability to recover and store any energy, but particularly this ‘extra’ energy, will fluctuate at each circuit due to the time in corners or on a straight. It’s also affected by other factors, including but not limited to - individual driving style, current fuel targets/ICE operation/modes, car weight and traffic.

Free load mode / Electric supercharger mode

Another area of interest for me is the way in which the wastegate is opened, allowing the turbocharger to be driven electrically by the MGUH, which reduces back pressure and improves the ICE’s output. It’s a strategy we see employed more often during qualifying, as energy management is less critical but often see’s drivers having to do a charge up lap either after a flier or preparing the car during the out lap.

It’s a little more nuanced than simply driving the turbo with the MGUH permanently, with an energy strategy devised that will give the driver the best potential lap time. When you hear the teams or media talk about “Qualifying mode” or “Party mode” this is a key factor in those modes, with fuel and energy maximised for a full on assault.  

You’ll note an audible difference when the wastegates are opened as the exhaust gasses are now escaping in a different way, whilst the turbo is being driven more linearly by the MGUH. It’s become apparent that Ferrari have started to use this mode in short bursts during race situations too, which often see’s their drivers topping the speed traps. Clearly this is advantageous from an overall laptime perspective but it comes at the expense of energy management, meaning it cannot be done lap after lap (at this stage at least). It may come with some minor advantages in terms of fuel economy and/or reliability too but essentially everything that’s done with these powerunits is a trade off.
The audible difference is not something that isn’t ordinarily picked up by the broadcast camera’s / microphones but in the following trackside footage you can hear the difference.

In this great video by Bozzy (he’s definitely worth subscribing to if you don’t already) it can be heard numerous times. But as some quick reference points watch and more importantly listen at 1:02 and 3.55.

This more recent video (from Hungary) also has the audible note change at around 0.17 onwards.

Blown or stalled rear wing

I feel that explaining free load / electric supercharger / qualifying mode was an important task in its own right but, the other reason I did this was to enforce an idea that I’ve already put out there - using the wastegates to ‘stall’ the rear wing. The article kind of of explains the premise but I’d like to add some more thoughts here whilst we are at it.

Again, I’ll also reiterate that this is speculative in nature, others have condemned the idea and I can understand that too, it’s just that the swing toward using the wastegate in the opening phase of the straight at least for me makes it plausible.
This speed plot from Tobi Gruner of AMuS gives us a snapshot of where Ferrari are reportedly faster and got me to thinking about how you could gain top speed, but not directly from the powerunit which is everyone else's immediate leap.

My immediate thought was to turn to a reduction in drag, especially as the concept is still fresh in everyone's minds from the F-Duct and DRD used during the V8 era. However, with no additional/supplementary hardware present around the rear wing to cause a ‘stall’ it seemed unlikely. This did not deter me though (I can be stubborn) and so I tried to think about how using the engine as a pump you might be able to at least cause a destabilisation of the airflow that could lead to a stall.

Of course I had the example of DRD to work with and the fact that the ‘active’ version I’d proposed back in 2015, when the wastegate pipework was originally decoupled from the main exhaust outlet, was also possible, until it wasn’t.... In fact I have a copy of the technical directive that was issued to cover questions that Ferrari required clarification on, in which Charlie subsequently made the idea a non-starter.

What if you didn’t need the pipework though? what if you could cause enough hysteria in the local airflow that the rear wing would lose downforce and with it some of the drag penalty?

In short the exhaust, due to its placement, currently has an influence on the aerodynamic airflow structures it touches (rear wing and diffuser airflow structures ‘talk to one another’, creating an upwash behind the car). Renault use the exhaust to blow the underside of their rear wing, improving downforce at lower speeds, something they’ve tried to enhance by reducing its proximity to the mainplane (which also features heat protection to guard against the increased temperatures it might encounter).

The use of the exhaust flow to drive aerodynamic performance is something teams have been doing for decades, with the rules constantly in a state of flux in order to guard against the activity. Of course, the use of exhaust blown diffusers, during the latter stages of the V8 era is part of the reason why the FIA decided to fix the single exhaust position along the cars centreline, but that doesn’t stop teams trying to gain an advantage.

It’s why the FIA reduced the scope of monkey seat winglets this season, reducing how the localised airflow could be manipulated along with the plume / jet of air that is ejected from the exhaust to improve the diffuser and rear wings performance.

Ok, enough of blowing exhausts for downforce, as we’ve generally accepted that it’s possible, so let’s turn our attention back to stalling the rear wing. The first thing I’ll ask you to note is that whenever teams have looked to do this, they’ve also chosen to add more downforce/drag by running a more aggressive rear wing, as why wouldn’t you take the extra downforce for for little or no drag penalty?..

Ferrari appear to have been doing just that, running more aggressive wing angles than Mercedes, whilst conversely topping the speed traps. Of course, this can be explained away by a difference in overall chassis efficiency or simply more power but it was also that this performance doesn’t seem available lap-after-lap.

So, if we take what we’ve learnt about free load or electric supercharger mode and apply that logic to what’s happening with the wasted exhaust gases we can conclude that you could disturb the natural flow to the underside of the rear wing and potentially cause a reduction in downforce and drag.

Yup, before you say it, I’ve already considered that by virtue of everyone doing this, to some extent, during qualifying with a full-on free load mode use they’d all see the ‘stall’ benefit, but I’d argue that its potential would ordinarily be hampered by a reluctance to run higher rear wing angles of attack that would compromise them in race conditions.

Ferrari, if my assertions are correct have found a way to use more of the free load / electric supercharger mode during race conditions too, which means they’re actively sacrificing some electrical energy for an aerodynamic advantage.
Giorgio Piola captured the wastegate arrangement as the car was torn down after the test in FP1, note the lower wastegate pipe is merely there to comply with the regulations and isn't directly connected, rather merged with the upper pipe

Their yet unraced new rear wing and wastegate position could also add more smoke to this fire, with the wings central geometry less than conventional. You’ll note the leading edge of the mainplane is upturned in the image above, but it also features an odd camber on the underside shown in the image below (highlighted by the shape of the rear wings slot gap separator and marked in yellow by me). Both images were taken by Giorgio Piola when the design was installed on Sebastian Vettel’s car during FP1 at the German GP. 
A rear view of the wastegate setup (red arrow) and the oddly cambered mainplane (line added in yellow to define the surface change) was captured by Giorgio Piola
The general consensus at the time was that Ferrari were testing a high downforce configuration that could be run at a latter point in the season. However, I’d argue the opposite and that in fact we have more chance of seeing it (or a derivative thereof) used at the lower downforce circuits (Spa and Monza), as they mitigate the downforce gains from running the wing by being able to ‘stall’ - reduce downforce and drag through better placement of the wastegate pipes (now installed vertically above the exhaust, rather than either side of it).


I hope this article has been able to break down some of the barriers that have been forged over the years about what I would class as some of the more basic functions of the ERS, whilst also adding further depth on what can be achieved if you take a more sideways view of the regulations.

The gains made by Ferrari over the last few seasons have been astounding but rather than being considered 'cheats' they should be lauded for their brilliance and ingenuity. Afterall, we've all marvelled over Mercedes dominance between 2014-2016, so the Scuderia's resurgence should be admired too.

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2 Aug 2018
Planning and adapting for the perfect race through tactics and strategy

As we watch the drama of an F1 race unfold, we try to follow the narrative that’s defined by both strategic and tactical decisions made by the driver and the pitwall. Many watching at home will second guess decisions made by the team, on the pitwall and back at the factory, and see them as tactical rather than strategic, but how we tell the difference? And what do they see that we don’t?..

Some races are extremely straight forward and require only strategic thinking but the Hungarian GP conspired to give us tactical elements too, so, let’s delve into how the race unfolded and see what was done by the lead pair as they continue to fight tooth and nail for victories.

The first thing of note was that a wet qualifying session gave the teams and drivers more dry weather tyres to choose from and more importantly a free choice on the tyre compound that they started the race with.
Pirelli supply these infograhics ahead of each race in order that we know how many and what compound of tyres each driver has left in their allocation
Starting from the front, both Mercedes drivers opted for the Ultra Soft tyre, the grippiest but lower life tyre in the range. They did so as the tyre warms up quicker and drops into the tyres working range more efficiently (90-110o C), meaning that it should offer more purchase from the grid slot at the start and then offer more grip in the opening stint of the race. Of course this comes at the expense of longevity but we’ll see how that plays out in due course.

Ferrari made their first tactical decision at the start of the race, when they decided to use different tyre compounds for their drivers, outfitting Raikkonen (starting P3) on the Ultra Soft like the Mercedes, whilst Vettel was given the Soft tyre. The Soft tyre takes longer to warm up and has a higher working range (105-135o C), which means it degrades slower than the Ultra soft, giving the team and driver different strategic options overall.

Mercedes stayed on ‘Plan A’ for Hamilton, running as far as possible on the Ultra Soft (lap 25) before starting to lose pace relative to the chasing pack, followed by a long second stint on the Soft, assisted by running in free air, aside for when lapping traffic.

Raikkonen’s race was one defined by forceful tactical moves, the first being a relatively short stint on the Ultra Soft tyre, as the Finn headed for the pitlane at the end of lap 14. This was clearly a ploy by Ferrari to usurp Bottas and gain track position with the undercut (the undercut is when you stop earlier than your rival and use the fresh rubber to maximise laptime and be ahead of the them after their pitstop).

Raikkonen’s stop was slow though, as the team had to dislodge some rubber that had built up in one of the brake ducts (another reason for the early stop, as this may have pushed temperatures into the critical zones if he continued for too long).

Shadowing his stop, Valtteri Bottas stopped on lap 15, even though the team had considered running longer due to Raikkonen’s slow stop they covered it off, in case they took had a poor stop. Both drivers took the Soft tyre, which essentially consigned them to what at the time seemed like a 2-stop strategy, with the Soft tyre unexpected to make the 56/55 laps needed to make it to the end of the race.

The resultant pitstops freed Vettel, who’d been bottlenecked behind the two Finn’s as their tyre performance waned. Knowing that Vettel needed to run the quicker, but faster degrading Ultra Soft tyre in his last stint the team were obviously eager for him to run the Soft as far into the race as was possible, giving him less time on the quicker tyre but meaning he could extract his maximum each lap.
As Vettel crossed the line to start lap 32 he was still an adjusted pit stop* ahead of Bottas, whilst Hamilton, having stopped was 14.502 seconds behind, meaning pit stop adjusted he was currently around 6 seconds adrift of the Brit.

* The teams monitor the GPS position of their cars and others and using the adjusted pitstop loss (time it takes to enter the pitlane, complete an average pitstop (around 2.5 seconds) and return to the track) in order to judge when it’s best to feed their driver back in, limiting the traffic they’ll have to encounter as they exit. You’ll often hear this referred to as the ‘Pit Window’, if a driver is referred to as being outside of another's pit window they will not impact their strategy. However, if they’re in their window the driver needs to find pace or hope the other loses some.

This is where the wheels started to come off the German’s strategy though, as his long stint length meant he would come across and have to overtake a cluster of backmarkers, whilst maintaining the kind of pace that would keep Bottas out of his pit stop window. He actually made light work of it in the early part, passing Nico Hulkenberg on lap 32, Hartley on lap 33 and as he passed the Ferrari powered Haas of Grosjean on lap 35 the pit stop window had actually increased to just over 25 seconds. It was Sainz and Ocon then that did the most damage, as they were busy squabbling with each other.

By the time he’d passed Ocon on lap 38 the gap to Bottas had dropped to 22 seconds and Hamilton had eeked out his adjusted time to around 11 seconds. Of course, this is not all traffic related as you must realise that the Mercedes drivers now had the Soft tyres that were giving more performance than Vettel’s softer but more worn Softs. This is what we call the crossover - the point at which the rate of performance of one tyre exceeds the other.
Seeing the inevitable unfold in front of them Ferrari deployed another tactic on lap 38, calling in Kimi Raikkonen for another set of tyres and officially signalling a 2-stop race for him. What may have seemed odd about this is that they put the Finn on a set of used Soft tyres, rather than a set of Ultra’s. However, if we refer to the available sets at the start of the race (top) we can see that he only had a used set of Ultra Softs left in his allocation (albeit there is a mistake in that graphic, as the second set of Soft’s used by Kimi were also used, which is adjusted in the graphic above)

Putting Raikkonen on a newer set of tyres would make the Ferrari driver a different prospect on his final stint. But more importantly it was a ploy to make Mercedes respond with Bottas, clearing him out of Vettel’s pit window. With a roughly 20 second pit stop loss it would mean that if Mercedes didn’t fall for it he’d need to make up that time on track and clear Bottas who’d be struggling for grip at the end of the race.

Mercedes didn’t bite and played their own tactical shell game, staying out and opting for track position, safe in the knowledge that both Ferrari’s would have to make up time and pass their man on track. The roll of the dice though is that by the end of the race, Bottas would be on tyres that had done 55 laps, a figure beyond Pirelli’s expectations.

Vettel’s pre stop traffic and pace loss dramas were compounded when he made his stop on lap 39 for the Ultra Soft tyre, as he too had a slow pitstop, with the front left slow to go on his stationary time was 4.2 seconds, making what would have been a very close battle into turn one an easier proposition for Bottas, who regained second place.

Vettel decided at this early stage of his second stint that Hamilton, having checked out at the front, was now out of reach and he’d instead lay in wait for Bottas’ tyres to go off and pounce later in the stint.

Mercedes did have a window of opportunity at the end of lap (51) to pit Bottas to make a second stop, as a VSC (Virtual Safety Car) period was called to clear Vandorne’s stricken McLaren. A VSC period offers an interesting opportunity for the teams and drivers as the time lost in the pit lane is negated by cars traveling at pitlane speeds out on track*.

This means the only real loss is the stationary time whilst the car is serviced, which can be made up to some extent by an aggressive pit entry and exit, as these are strictly classified as being on track.

Mercedes once again made a tactical decision, opting to stay out on worn tyres and retain track position. Had Bottas have pitted they felt they’d relinquish the chance of a 1-2 finish, as they too would be stuck behind the Ferrari pairing of Vettel and Raikkonen even on much fresher tyres (referring to the tyre allocation chart they’d have only had worn tyres to choose from though).

* The caveat here is that if the driver makes a stop and the VSC period ends during that stop he will inevitably lose time. As such, Mercedes were monitoring the recovery of the stricken McLaren and their GPS data to ensure that they weren’t caught out by this.
As we can see, the wouldn’t have been, as the McLaren still wasn’t cleared off the track by the time they passed around and so we were still under a VSC.

The rest as they say is history now, as the ensuing changes for position were made on track as part of a tactical battle between the drivers, which of course Bottas lost out in, having seen his tyres reach their performance cliff.

I hope this article has helped anyone that has perhaps struggled to understand the difference between overall race strategy and tactical decisions made during a race, whilst also giving some insight into adjusted pit stop losses, pit windows and VSC periods that affect the aforementioned.

As always if you want to support my work you can do so like my other Patrons for as little as $1 per month -

As a side note an easy way to work out whether a driver is in anothers 'pit window' is to use the driver interval board and work out the culmative gap. Let's say that the pit time loss is a hard 20 seconds it would mean that if Vettel pitted he'd come out 6 or so seconds behind Hamilton, meaning he's in his window (marked in red). Whilst Bottas is 24.491 seconds behind, giving Vettel some margin to stop and remain in front of the Finn (marked in green). You can make this visual assumption very quickly for all drivers up and down the field if you have a rough idea of the pit stop loss.
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31 Jul 2018
2019 front wings - a first look?..

We still don't have a defined set of regulations out in the open for 2019, which is particularly frustrating given the changes that the FIA are set to impose for next season.

Fortunately we have seen snippets of what these regulatory changes will affect - The 2019 regulatory shakeup, the main one being a change in how the design of the front wing will be governed, altering the design concept quite significantly.

The intent of these particular changes are to limit the outwash potential of the wing in order that the cars overall wake profile be altered. The hope here is that by containing the wake envelope it'll make it easier for the trailing car to live in the turbulence behind.

From the limited information available it would appear that the wing will be wider, potentially taller, have a narrower box region in which the endplate can occupy and have only five flapped elements that cannot overlap one another, meaning the various cascade elements (highlighted in red) cannot sit atop the wing either.

The latest in-season test, in Hungary, has seen some of the teams make a concerted effort to test some 2019 style designs. As Force India (main image) and Williams trial the much less complex front wings.

Williams will certainly be keen to study the effects of the new regulations having just seen the upswing in performance and stability that a new front wing design has afforded them (They ran a new front wing design for the first time in Germany, which featured less complexity).

They ran several differents correlation tests with the front wing in place during the morning's test session -

They mounted a large kiel probe array behind the front left wheel to assess how flow was disturbed downstream.

They placed chequered stickers on the endplates which can be filmed with a hi-speed camera to detect how the wing performs under load.

They also plastered the front wing (and some of the surrounding suspension elements, less complex front brake duct etc) in flo-viz to get a read on how they all performed, aerodynamically, with one another.
A front wing tested by Red Bull confused many as it was missing the cluster of upper cascade elements, but crucially still featured 9 outer elements and wasn't any wider than the current wing. However, I'm going to classify it as a hybrid wing, as the overall height of the flaps and endplate do appear to be higher than current spec...

So, there we have it, the first look at what the front wings could look like in 2019, although I'm convinced that they'll still be more complex...
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30 Jul 2018
'Trumpets' race report - Hungary

Matt 'Trumpets' Ragsdale - @mattpt55
Ambient 34° Track 57° Humidity 34% Wind 0.5 m/s


"I'm melting" -Wicked Witch of the West/Mercedes rear tyres

Once again the oppressive heat of the European summer descended upon the paddock, after the chaotic storms of yesterday's qualifying saw a number of runners out of place for todays race. Notably, Daniel Ricciardo in P12 and Max Verstappen in P7 should make things interesting, if nothing else. Carlos Sainz in P5 along with Gasly P6 and Hartley P8 could also make things challenging for those wanting to move forward at one of THE most difficult tracks to overtake, 3rd hardest in terms of delta required for overtake according to the man himself, Lewis Hamilton, who very much hopes to be driving the bus once they clear T1 for the first time.

In an interview yesterday, post qualifying, he suggested that even though Mercedes had serious issues with the rear tyres overheating on the Ultras, they would likely start on them despite having free choice of tyre compound (thanks to the wet quali) so as not to yield the advantage to Ferrari early on, and then just park it to keep them behind till they can bail on the compound. Obviously, from Ferrari's point of view, the best of all scenarios is for them to get ahead of Mercedes at the start, and the layout of the track will certainly aid them in that there's room around the outside in T3 if they get close enough  and the decided advantage off the line they've shown over Mercedes makes it quite likely for a white knuckle start for fans of both teams. Beyond that, Ferrari will hope that they're ability to run long on the Ultras, as shown by Vettel in FP2, will gain them a pitstop over the Mercedes. So if they wind up behind after the start, look for them to push Mercedes hard enough to make them need 2 stops, then manage their own pace so as to need only 1. 

Likewise, the best of the rest battle will absolutely hinge on the same factors, tyre management and minimising pit stops. Lance Stroll, having destroyed his only copy of the new Williams front wing, has been relegated to the pitlane as he had to change wing specification back to the old one, as it's the only spare they had. Also worth noting that Ricciardo starts in what's colloquially known as the carbon fibre zone, where the melee tends to be fiercest and the chance of collision (and damage) highest...

As lights out approached, and the blankets came off, it was Mercedes on the Ultras, as predicted, and Vettel and Sainz, interestingly, the only cars in the top 10 to rock the Softs. Pirelli chimed in that Ultra/Medium 1 stop was the choice, with the first stop between lap 12 and lap 20. Let the games begin....


Lights Out!!!! Good start from Lewis, excellent from Sainz, on Vettel and almost by, as Bottas blocked off Raikkonen as he tried to make the move around T1. Sainz lost out, going down 4 places as Verstappen steamed up the inside, kissed wheels and took him wide, seizing control of P5. Vettel took advantage of Raikkonen's loss of momentum from Bottas and went round Kimi for P3. Sainz down to P8, and Verstappen up to P5, having gone inside Carlos and then taken him to the outside. Ricciardo lost 4 places with contact as Ericsson plowed into him, hemmed in on either side, and was down to P16 as his torrid weekend continued apace. But it was even worse news for Leclerc, out after contact with the  Force India of Perez.

K-Mag made the jump up to P7 off the start, another benificiary of Verstappen's move, and was giving Gasly a hard time as they headed off to lap 3 while both Toro Rossos had managed to stay in the top 10, though Hartley was down a spot. Lap 5 and Ricciardo reported a large vibration from the side where contact was made as the race began to settle.

BOOM!!! The following lap and Verstappen radioed in a total loss of power, just as Ricciardo continued his march forward, back up to his original starting position. That brought forth the Virtual Safety Car the following lap, and looking at the number of purple sectors being tossed up by Hamilton, it was clear that Mercedes plan appeared to be go fast as possible at the beginning to build a gap. Bottas hovered roughly 4 seconds back, and whether that was by design or driver preference, the end result was Vettel 7 seconds back of the lead.

With the VSC lifted, RoGro, who lost a place at the start to Alonso, took it back, with Alonso radioing in that he felt the HAAS driver went early off the VSC.Given the lack of penalty, it might just have been down to a rare moment of inattention from the McLaren driver. Ricciardo was next up on the Spaniard's gearbox, and it took just a bit of effort for the Red Bull driver, down the straight to T1, with Danny Ricky getting it done out of T2 on lap 9.

2 laps later, and there was a long, confusing radio communication between Ferrari and Raikkonen, the end result of which was it turned out Ferrari hadn't connected Kimi's drink bottle. Kind of an oopsie given the brutal heat, it has to be admitted. Raikkonen's concern was that the drink was emptying out somewhere and the team was just telling him to not hit the button and it wouldn't be a problem. Any port in a storm for entertainment.

Lap 13 and Ricciardo continued to be the show, nabbing Hulkenberg to go P9. RoGro called in with overheating tyres and a bit of complaining about Ricciardo's tight move up the inside of T1. Two laps later Raikkonen kicked off the pitstop cascade, but it was disastrous, going long with a sticky left rear lug nut, 5 seconds in all for a new set of Softs. This put him out behind Kmag and pretty much ruined their strategy. Hamilton responded with fast lap as Mercedes brought Bottas in to cover, kicking him out on the Soft tyre, same as Raikkonen. The gap between the leaders then was almost 9 seconds, with Bottas no longer in the way.

Lap 17 saw Raikkonen finally by Magnussen, and the question of whether Bottas was pitted to defend Raikkonen or pressure Vettel was open. Or possibly both. Ricciardo had continued his magnificent drive, and with a neat move on Carlos Sainz, who wasn't going to argue too seriously in any event, was into P7 and aiming at Kmag just up the road.

Lap 20 was the crossover point at the top, with Vettel finally matching Hamilton's laptime on the slower tyre compound, though the gap was not changing in any significant way as the following lap ticked over. Thanks to the slow Raikkonen pitstop, Gasly was now running solidly in P4 as a multi-lap duel between Kmag and Ricky Danny unfolded. Ricciardo started out by making a number of feints up the inside, with Kmag covering them off. Into lap 21 he did the same, then crossed over and stuck it round the outside of T3 as Kmag left him room on the initial apex.

During that battle, Hamilton's laptimes were undergoing a drastic inflation, and lap 23 saw Lewis lose 1.5 seconds, although a chunk of that was due to having to lap Ericsson, with Stroll up next. Vettel locked up and chucked it wide into T12 on lap 24, costing him about a second. Still, Vettel was 0.6 seconds faster and the lead with down to 6.5 seconds. Raikkonen, too, had finally done the business on Gasly to retake P4, but it was costly indeed.

Lap 26 and Hamilton was in, out on the Soft tyre, ahead of Bottas. Mercedes called the stop due to the fact that the upcoming lapped traffic in front of Lewis would drag his laptimes down and put him into Vettel's grasp. Bottas also seemed to be under pressure, as his early pitstop meant he was running times that put him behind Vettel on the road, with a long stint on the Softs to manage. Vettel was running roughly 0.5 seconds a lap faster and with a switch to the Ultras ahead, it was suddenly looking good for the Ferrari driver to take P2 and have a go at Hamilton at the conclusion of the race. Ricciardo made another, late lunge on the brakes the following lap to continue his race of redemption, by Gasly and into P5, making up not only for his poor qualifying but carrying the banner for Red Bull after the loss of Verstappen, whose sweary retirement mirrored the frustration expressed by Horner over the utter unreliability of the Renault powerplant.

As Vettel continued to extend his stint, the possibility of a Safety Car, or Virtual Safety Car became a strategic hinge. Given the gap to Lewis, around 14 seconds, either would enable the Ferrari driver to be gifted a roughly free stop and almost certainly leave him in the lead. And yes, it's possibly a minor note of desperation that I'm writing this as the race continued, with all the runners basically holding station.

Kmag was in lap 30 and out P9, with a slow stop but it was Raikkonen who had rowed into DRS of Bottas, who seemed to not be enjoying his time on the Softs all that much or was engaged in a tremendous bout of tyre managemet. Hamilton continued to match Vettel's times, at a gap of 14 seconds meaning when Vettel finally boxed, he would have roughly a 6 second gap to make up. The bigger question for Mercedes was what to do about Bottas if Raikkonen, now making better time than Valterri, got by him.

Lap 35 and Gasly was in and out, back into P6 and best of the rest for Toro Rosso. Traffic was causing the gap to yo-yo between the top 2 runners, and for HAAS it was a bit of a disaster, as RoGro's stop had stuck him back out behind the long running Sainz-Ocon battle, and out of the points. Lap 37 and it was Vettel calling for blue flags, this time for Sainz and a certain note of hurry in his voice as Lewis had begun to chunk time out of him in rather larger pieces, 10 seconds between them and at the conclusion of the following lap, down to 9 as Lewis caught the train that had delayed Vettel.

Lap 39 and Ferrari changed course, bringing Raikkonen in for another stop for a set of Softs and Bottas responded by putting a fast lap in and taking advantage of the lapped traffic, into Vettel's pit window, ignoring the provocation. In came Vettel, in a desperate attempt to head off this disaster, but it was just a lap too late, and he was out on the Ultras but crucially BEHIND Bottas. A sticky front left was the cause of the slightly slow stop, but the real culprit was the lapped traffic.

Lap 41 and Vettel was into DRS on Bottas, and having a serious go and the possibility that Raikkonen's stop was an attempt to bait Mercedes into 2 stopping Bottas looked to be a plausible explanation, in order to keep him out of Vettel's window. Vettel continued to yo-yo on Bottas, trying to manage his tyres to make the end whilst seeing his race disappear up the road as Hamilton continued to outpace the Mercedes, behind whom he was stuck.

Lap 44 and Vettel was back into DRS and the gap from Bottas to Hamilton was, quel surprise, going right back out, up to 8 seconds and growing rapidly. Ricciardo was in the following lap, and out on a set of Ultras with Raikkonen 12 seconds up the road and 26 laps for him to find the time. Alonso and Vandoorne, meanwhile had FINALLY pitted, and they were out P8 and P9 respectively, having gained several places by going long as Ocon held up their competition behind. The stop also promoted Kmag to P7 and the midfield was set for the run to the end.

By lap 49, Hamilton had cleared the big mass of lapped traffic and was rolling in clear air, with the Bottas/Vettel group partway through and just approaching the McLaren duo. Grosjean had closed up to within 2 seconds of Sainz on lap 51 when disaster struck Mclaren. Vandoorne's car suddenly, and perhaps not unexpectedly, gave up the ghost and brought out the Virtual Safety Car. With a 10 plus second gap, Mercedes rolled out to the pitlane, but Hamilton went by without a second thought as the evidence on track indicated the risk wasn't worth the gain, given Vettel on brand new Ultras couldn't get by Bottas on ancient Softs. Bottas rolled by as well and the die was cast for the finale of the race. Hulkenberg was the only runner to try to take advantage, looking to make hay from P13 and rock by Ocon with fresh rubber.

IT was a gearbox failure for McLaren that caused the momentary excitement, and with that retirement Grosjean moved into the last points paying position as Vettel wound it back up for another go, just about into DRS as lap 55 approached. Even if Vettel were to get by, it was a 14 second gap to Hamilton, looking virtually unbridgeable with 15 laps left to run.

DRS for Vettel and small lockups from Bottas began to show the age of his tyres, but the Mercedes managed to grab DRS from lapped traffic and the battle was extended for another lap. Bottas was now beginning to seriously lose the rears, as Vettel kept the pressure up and the spectre of Raikkonen, who was continuing to close at more than a second a lap, was suddenly the other end of keeping Bottas out and not covering Ferrari's 2 stopper.

Lap 59 and finally Vettel had whittled it down, but in the interim Raikkonen was now just 1 second back of Vettel making it even more curious for the Scuderia. 10 laps to go, and the battle for P2-P4 was hotting up as Lewis was off to an 18 second lead. The following lap, Bottas hit the predicted stint life of the Soft tyre and Vettel dialed it in even closer, down the straight inching his way toward the gearbox of the Mercedes. Ferrari then asked Vettel how fast he was in free air, ostensibly to guage whether to let Raikkonen have a go, but, yeah, good luck with getting Sebastian to move over.

Lap 64 and it continued to go sideways for Vettel, as he was still, frustratingly, unable to pierce the stout defense of the Finn. The following lap it all changed, as Bottas picked up some wheelspin out of T14 letting Vettel gain that precious extra tenth he needed for a serious effort. Down into T1 he went and around the outside  as Bottas defended the inside line, but with better traction on braking thanks to his tyres Vettel then took the switchback into T2 as Bottas struggled with degradation induced understeer, up the inside and the move looked done.

Bottas wasn't finished, though and as he tried to stick his nose up the inside into T3 and fight back, Vettel made a firm move to the apex that led the Mercedes to lock up and smash across Vettels rear, losing huge chunks of his front wing in the process. Remarkably, no puncture for Vettel and the contact also let Raikkonen by as well and put Bottas into serious danger from Ricciardo who was flying on his new tyres.

Taking the bit firmly into hand, as the last laps unspooled, Danny Rick managed to close the distance and a lap later he was the one making the move, again into T1 and this time, Bottas just whanged into Ricciardo with a massive understeer thanks to his mangled front wing. Ricciardo left ample room for an undamaged car, but at that point, Valterri's car was anything but. Adding some sauce to the mix, the stewards vowed to investigate the incident after the race (10 seconds and 2 points as it turned out, no change in the finishing order).

At the front, Hamilton swanned blithely towards the checquers, his teammate's defense having created an unassailable gap for him. Mercedes meanwhile, told Bottas unequivocally that he needed to yield the position to Ricciardo, since the Red Bull had been sent wide from the contact in T1, allowing Valterri to maintain the position even though the Red Bull had the clear advantage. Bottas, not surprisingly, was firmly not with that plan, arguing that he was ahead of Ricciardo when the contact occurred. Regardless of the radio conversation on the final lap it was Ricciardo sailing by and taking P4 through final sector of the race... Hamilton, Vettel, Raikkonen, Ricciardo and then the wounded Bottas across the line then as the checquers flew and then the inspiring, and frankly, reasonably boring drive from Gasly for P6, followed by Magnussen, Alonso, Sainz and Grosjean. Happy days for McLaren to have such a strategically successful race, jumping about 4 cars from where they would've finished had they run a more conventional race, but sad days as Vandoorne looked to finish right behind them and given them a boost in the WCC, before his gearbox munched itself.

Red Bull were in a similar state, with the catastrophic failure of Verstappen's PU weighing down the fantastic finish of Ricciardo. No definitive word as to the exact cause, but Red Bull were clearly all about blaming Renault for it. Disappointment for Sainz, whose race was effectively ended when Verstappen bulled him to the outside, costing him 4 places when all was said and done and leaving Kmag to effectively take his place.

The retirement of Vandoorne let RoGro back into the points, meaning a fortunate double haul for the HAAS team after it all looked to have come undone when Grosjean's stop saw him stuck out of the points behind Sainz/Ocon. Bonus break for them as well, as they head off into the break a bit early, as they are skipping the upcoming test at the Hungaroring, unlike all the other teams. They are also up to P5 as it was a points free race for Force India, putting them down to P6, 7 points back as larger questions linger about their immediate future, namely, who their new owner will be and (natch) what the team will be named under new ownership.

Lots of questions about impact on the driver market too, with Stroll, Ocon and Sainz all being shuffled about in various configurations by the pundits as they await the dust to settle around Force India. Hamilton is off to vacation with a 24 point lead in the WDC and half the season left for Vettel and Ferrari to claw it back. It's much closer on the WCC side, with Mercedes just clinging to a 10 point lead and what's shaping up to be an epic fight to the end of the season amongst the constructors...


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