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18 Jul 2013

The teams (with the obvious exception of Mercedes) have descended once more on the old airfield in Northamptonshire, Silverstone.  The Young Drivers Test (YDT) has obviously been changed by the option of race drivers being able to join the youngsters on track to assess the new Pirelli tyres.  Each team is allowed to use 1 day of testing with their race drivers (Either one driver for a whole day or a day split between 2 drivers)

Many people asked me before the test about race drivers assessing upgrades and although it would appear the newest draft of the Sporting Regulations make no mention of it many corners of the media insist race drivers should not be testing new parts.
"One three or four day young driver training test carried out on a date and site approved by the FIA following consultation with all teams. Any driver who has competed in more than two F1 World Championship races may take part in this test provided that the purpose of him doing so is to test tyres for the appointed tyre supplier and all drivers must be in possession of an International A Licence."
The statement that 'the purpose of him doing so is to test tyres' does not specifically or categorically outlaw the team from placing new components on the car.  What the FIA however were seemingly insisting is that the schedule or programme completed by the race drivers would be done without interruption (bar any failures or offs) meaning Pirelli were conducting the test and the team could not make setup changes, run aero test rigs etc or make aerodynamic changes. The FIA have sent their own personnel to the test in order to make sure when race drivers are being used they are only conducting the programme specified by Pirelli.

The reason for me bringing this up will come later as many are now suggesting that one team could be in hot water (although I strongly disagree)

Day 1

The first day of the YDT consisted of teams up and down the paddock using pitot tube arrays to assess how their 2013 exhaust packages reacted to the change back to a 2012 tyre construction as I talked about here:
How much can changing the construction of the tyres make?

Toro Rosso STR8 Pitot Tube array ahead of the rear wheel, measures the effects of the airflow around the rear wheel.  This is crucial in understanding any changes that may be needed with the tyres reverting to the 2012 construction.

Sauber C32 - Another Pitot Tube array, this time placed on the downwash area of the Sidepod assessing the airflow coming over and around the Sidepod and how it may impinge on the flow structure above heading toward the Rear Wing

McLaren MP4-Yet another Pitot Tube Array this time placed at the leading edge of the floor and ahead of the Sidepod with the intention of seeing how the front tyres change impacts the airflow into this region.  This is an area of specific interest to McLaren who have already alluded to the 2013 tyre construction causing the team issues in this area.

 Toro Rosso STR8 - a more expansive view of the array previously pictured above

Red Bull RB9 - here the team have a singular probe placed near the tailpipe measuring exhaust velocity rather than pressure
Lotus E21 - the team have applied a huge array behind the front wheel of the car here to fully assess how the tyres characteristics have changed the airflow around the Sidepod and Floor of the car.  (The last time I remember seeing an array this size was last season placed in the downwash section of the RB9)

Ferrari F138 - A little difficult to see from this image but the team were also using a Pitot Tube Array ahead of the rear wheel (left side of the image) to assess the airflow around the rear wheel

McLaren MP4-28 - it seems McLaren blinked first with the team making a revision straight out the blocks that has remained on the car throughout the first 2 days of testing.  The team initially started the season with horizontal blades across the top of the Sidepod inlet, used to enhance the downwash to the exhaust.  When McLaren realised they had made an error in their assesement of the 2013 tyres the reverted to the Vertical Vortex Generators we see in this image.  Up until now however the team have used 2 VG's and like many other teams framed the Sidepod by arcing the Airflow Conditioner over onto the shoulder of the Sidepod.  It would seem that McLaren pre-empting a return to the 2012 tyre construction devised this upgrade to cater for the new airflow characteristics.  As a known quantity to them from the MP4-27 modeling the older tyre construction with these exhaust/downforce enhancing Sidepod additions should give them a much needed boost.
Sauber C32 - Toward the end of day 1, perhaps the surprise of the test so far was Sauber's application of a Red Bull-esque downwash exhaust ramp and cross-under tunnel.  It's not the first time however we have seen the Swiss team don a downwash ramp exhaust with the team utilising it early and then again later in the 2012 season.  As we can see from the scorch marks above the exhaust channel it's a work in progress and is obviously more difficult to accomplish when you run a Sidepod as narrow as what Sauber do.  The cross-under section of the bodwork though however should have more space to work with as the Sauber (due to the longitudinal packaging of the C32) has a much wider coke bottle region than it's counterparts.  As we can see in this picture the team are also utilising a Pitot Tube Array ahead of the rear wheel to assess the airflow in that region.

Day 2

Lotus E21 - With Davide Valsecchi behind the wheel the team applied DRD once more.  A small modification however was the inclusion of a hanger bracket mounted off the Rear Wings Mainplane.  This mounts to the Periscope and prevents it moving around under load, perhaps increasing it's efficiency
McLaren MP4-28 - Meanwhile the boys from Woking started the day off with a return to their older specification Rear Wing (no leading edge tyre wake hole in the Endplate) whilst mounted to it was a thermal imaging camera looking at the goings on of the rear tyre.

Ferrari F138 - The Marenello boys also keen to assess the rear tyres (but in a different way) utilised a temperature sensor to monitor the Sidewall of the new tyres.

Toro Rosso STR8 - the Italian arm of Red Bull seemingly trialled their own version of a DRD (Drag Reduction Device) during day 2.  It very much echoes the design trialled by Red Bull at the YDT last year in Abu Dhabi with the team having no apparent need for additional inlets around the Airbox (Unlike Lotus and Mercedes) 

 Sauber C32 - You know how I mentioned earlier about a team being in hot water? Well anyone wanting to create a story or buzz about getting Sauber getting a ban could use this image as ammunition.  Nico Hulkenberg is at the helm of the car but we can clearly see the new exhaust tested during the end of day 1 and early stages of day 2 is mounted on the C32 whilst Nico assess the new Pirelli's.  Are Sauber contravening any rules? I don't think so but we'll let the rest of the media jump on this one later....

Sauber C32 - Here's a detailed picture of the new downwash ramp and cross-under tunnel exhaust configuration this time without the aero array on it.  This allows us to see more clearly the team are intending to acheive the same sort of results we have seen Red Bull, Lotus and Toro Rosso achieve with similar designs. It's also clear here that Sauber are employing tyre squirt slots ahead of the rear wheels too.

Day 3

Sauber C32 - Having installed their new exhaust configuration at the end of day 1, Sauber continued to use the setup throughout days 2 and 3 confirming it's greater potentialIn this image the team have once again installed a Pitot Tube Array ahead of the rear wheel to further confirm their findings under differing setups and track conditions

Sauber C32 - As we can see in this image (and the one above) the team are once again trying out the Spoon style Rear Wing they commenced the season with.  The team abandoned it several races into 2013 as the drivers struggled with aerodynamic balance.  With the Diffuser seemingly now yielding more downforce from a combination of their new exhaust layout and a return to 2012 construction tyres the team are looking to shed some of the unwanted drag that can be generated at the Rear Wing.

Sauber C32 - Sauber also trialed a variant of DRD (Drag Reduction Device) during 2012 and early in 2013.  Their aerodynamic issues with the early 2013 tyres meant the team had to revert to a more standard specification car before once again re-assessing their options.  So just like the Spoon Wing shown in the previous images, Sauber were keen to also evaluate DRD.

As the car wasn't equipped with the rest of the DRD system when the photo above was taken I have sketched out how this looks on the C32.  The DRD Periscope (much like the inlets by the airbox) is much smaller in the Sauber system.  That's not to say it's any less effective, just that Sauber have found a different way to integrate theirs.  This allows for them to return the much larger Engine Cover outlet and makes way for a standard Y75 Winglet/Monkey Seat to be applied to the Beam Wing

Lotus E21 - The Lotus boys once again utilised their Kistler RoaDyn apparatus during day 3 with the sensors attached to all 4 wheels.  This piece of equipment measures the dynamic load of the Wheel/Tyre and so enables the team to further understand what the 2012 construction tyre will do on their car.

Toro Rosso STR8 - Not only is it important to undertand the load generated through the tyres but also the way the tyres generate and sustain heat.  Toro Rosso are another team using Infra Red imaging camera's to record their findings, this time placed on the Front Wing's Endplate looking back at the tyre.

McLaren MP4-28 - The above image is courtesy of @McLaren themselves with them posting it to their twitter feed after the test.  What we can see from this is further evidence of McLaren utilising elements they abandoned after they understood their mistake with the 2013 tyres.  Under the chassis of the MP4-28 you will see a set of Triple element Turning Vanes, these were removed from the MP4-28 after the pre season tests and a set of very basic Vanes has hung from the chassis of the car since.  I've often remarked throughout the season that these or a similar upgrade may be used by McLaren as refinement but now with the 2012 construction tyres back it seems the team may once again use them.  Their purpose is simple when compared to the singular element they set up an airflow regime that is much stronger and aimed at the leading edge of the floor / Sidepod.  The softer Sidewall of the 2013 construction tyres meant the airflow recieved by the Triple element Turning Vanes was inconsistent and led to the wrong airflow regime for the Floor / Sidepod.  I suspect this in conjunction with the amendments mentioned earlier in the article around the Sidepod will enable McLaren to generate much more downforce from the Diffuser, raising the competitiveness of the team.  (As already mentioned the team have seemingly dropped the holes in the leading edge of the Rear Wing which dealt with the wake from the tyre.  With the 2012 construction tyre it appears they are no longer needed)


As we already know times achieved during testing are not indicative of real world performance, the application of new or old parts on a car does not indicate that one team will suddenly run away with the Championship either. It does however lay down markers, indicating who may benefit most from the change in tyre construction and the additional running from this test.  I've already been fairly vocal in regard to the change in tyres causing a shake up, up and down the grid, but it will be the midfield where this is noticed the most.  Red Bull will of course be very happy with the change and we will likely see them pull slightly clear in terms of peak performance.  Ferrari already made retrospective changes to the F138 in Nurburgring, ditching parts they had already used in the preceeding races.  This of course as we know could have been down to them giving no performance advantage at that circuit but as they weren't used at the YDT when they had been previously at the British GP the signs point toward those parts being development parts for the early 2013 tyres.  All is not lost though, the data and knowledge gained for those parts may still bear fruit further into the season as the team look to gain more performance.

The problem not just for Ferrari though is the development path they have been on this season has been about maximising the aerodynamic performance around the organic nature of the 2013 tyres, with these now abandoned teams will not only have to reset their programmes but will have a plethora of updates, parts and data coming through that won't be of any advantage.  The second half of the season will simply be a race to see who can adjust and react the quickest.

Lotus completed 2012 with a Semi-Coanda exhaust layout but made the switch to the Red Bull-esque downwash ramp layout for 2013, with the same engine partner as Red Bull their approach will likely stay the same.  Changes that the team made around the rear of the car including the floor, diffuser and brake ducts may revert backwards to further balance the change back to 2012 construction tyres but I don't expect wide sweeping changes from Lotus.  Their overall package has been great on tyres both this and the preceeding season so I see no reason for that to change and will likely keep them in contention going forward.

Red Bull, Ferrari and Lotus are really on the cusp, looking for tiny margins to enable more performance and sometimes the track and conditions turn out to be the differentiator.  This is why I feel Lotus may have continued their assessment of DRD.  The performance due to it's passive nature may not be huge but when the margins are now so tight it could prove to give them that small edge they want to challenge the others.

Mercedes weren't at the YDT for obvious reasons but it's worth mentioning them here as part of the look ahead.  Also looking at DRD the team have perhaps concluded that they too are chasing smaller margins and with their tyre issues still eating away at them they need something to give them that step in performance.

Force India have perhaps shocked many this season with some great results, however they may rue missed opportunities at some GP's early in the season, as the season progresses and their closest rivals may play catch up.  The VJM06 from the outset looked very similar to last years car and it's true that the concept remained roughly the same but the car itself is a well thought example of taking elements that weren't fully integrated and going one step further from the outset.  Lest we forget that the nose/chassis height of the VJM05 were slightly lower and that car didn't start the season with the Semi-Coanda exhaust.

McLaren have been a little off colour since the start of this season and whilst they have been making efforts to rectify issues that car inherently had from birth it's like sticking a 2" plaster on a 8" cut.  The change of tyre construction from Pirelli however will have been music to their ears with the team having made some errors in the design of the car based on the shaping and deformation of this years tyres.  As I've already mentioned the team have taken the car back to a specification similar to the launch car which I'm quite sure will bear fruit going forward.  The problem now faced by McLaren though is, if in Hungary they suddenly find themselves much closer to the likes of Red Bull, Lotus and Ferrari do they still abandon 2013?  The team have already said they will continue to bring updates but their focus now rests on 2014 this admission of failure could prove costly with half the season still to run and the opportunity to rescue at least 4th place in the constructors championship.

Toro Rosso have this season really mixed it with some of the more midfield teams and broken away from the depths they usually circulate in.  Whether this is driven by Ricciardo and JEV wanting impress themselves upon the powers that be, and put them in the frame for the Red Bull 2014 drive I don't know.  I however think it has much more to do with the technicality of the STR8 over it's predecessors.  The Toro Rosso lineage of cars since 09 have always been fairly impressive in the wet which you can attribute to a decent mechanical setup.  This season however they seem to have caught up on the aero side with several larger design decisions.  James Key joining the Faenza fold as Technical Director will likely attribute in some way to this with him acting on some of the key upgrade decisions.   The original intention of the Toro Rosso team may come to fruition over the next few seasons especially as the team are now allied with the same engine partner as IRBR. Their intention of course was to have a team capable of running in close proximity to the Red Bull team, not only acting as a 'wing man' and helping to take points off their close rivals but to give the feeder drivers a genuine chance of driving an audition car.  Red Bull may not be the force they have been over the last few years in 2014 but I have a feeling under Keys guidance Toro Rosso could be much closer.

Sauber like McLaren have struggled immensely with the C32 but arrived at the YDT with fresh vigor and the new and old parts to test. I suspect like McLaren they will find the car now has a better balance and will allow them to score better results going forward.

Williams however still don't seem overly impressed with the FW35 and will now surely switch almost all their focus to 2014 especially as they will once again change engine partners to Mercedes.  Interestingly just ahead of the YDT, Williams announced that they were parting company with Technical Director Mike Coughlan but had wooed Pat Symonds into the fold to fulfill the role but will not be called a Technical Director due to his Spygate ban.

Marussia have now put pen to paper on a deal that will see them run a Ferrari rear end, that's not only their engine, ERS and gearbox but suspension too.  That partnership will see the team enjoy a similar level of support Caterham have been afforded by Renault / Red Bull over the last few seasons and so it will be interesting to see if they can make a step forward.  For the YDT the team took the opportunity to assess two young drivers and their race lineup, Bianchi is a shoe in for one of the seats next season due to his Ferrari connections I'd imagine but Chilton could only be considered as good as his last race.  Money is very much a differentiator for a team like Marussia and so unfortunately money could always win out over talent.  With a budget and facilities like Marussia's I'd almost suggest the team will now (if not already) move development to 2014.  The loss of Symonds will also likely be a blow for the small team who had seemed to turn a corner under his guidance.

Caterham have been running their 2013 developments for a little while now on the CT-03 but like Marussia they may well be looking to turn their attention to 2014.  The team interestgly did the most mileage of any team during the YDT clocking over 1700KM's.  An interesting comment from Alexander Rossi came through too, insinuating that they had tested with a FRIC style system in advance of their plans for the 2014 challenger with him heaping praise on it.

Going forward then I expect that the midfield battle will become more intense as Force India and Toro Rosso try to sustain the challenge they have already mounted whilst McLaren and Sauber use the good fortune of a change back to 2012 tyres as a savior to their campaign.  Red Bull, Ferrari and Lotus will continue to battle at the top with the quickest to re-develop their challenger gaining early ground.  Tyres will continue to be a topic of conversation, centred around the development curve they will now generate but as a known quantity they shouldn't represent a huge challenge for the teams here on in.  The battle for 10th place between Marussia and Caterham will likely once again go to the wire with both teams vying for the car injection it rewards.


  1. So I suppose Pirrelli asked the relevant teams to assemble pitot tube arrays and give the results straight to them and not study them themselves?!!! It seems to me that the FIA should have been more specific - was this is a young driver test, a tyre test or a car test? If existing F1 team drivers were testing, were they allowed to test parts and aero effects, or just tyres?

    1. Hi Ted

      Whilst the race drivers were in the cars the arrays, camera's etc were not allowed on the cars. Once a race driver took the helm of the car it was considered to be in the equivalent of Parc Ferme conditions (ie no changes, unless specified by Pirelli)

  2. All very confusing, but interesting nevertheless. Thanks for an informative round-up of the testing which explains the process and the outcomes well, plus interesting and detailed photos of the various testing equipment.

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