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Virgin Racing launch their VR-01

February 3, 2010


The VR-01 definately ticks the right boxes when it comes to livery

Virgin Racing has launched their 2010 hope after more than an hour of technical delay.

It won’t have been the great start the outfit were hoping for and surely must have been hugely frustrating to have their big day delayed by technical issues. The livery looks superb, perhaps a little less red would do but it has some very detailed design and is a beauty.

The RBR style nose is predictably there but it doesn’t seem as raised as many other cars. The long wheel base is standard now due to the large fuel tanks the cars need. They also join Ferrari’s design of not having the shark fin engine cover stretching to the rear wing like the majority of the cars unveiled so far.

The VR-01 has been designed by solely using CFD and has had no wind tunnel time. A conservative approach and more rounded one would be to also use the wind tunnel but it will be fascinating to see how this car performs after solely been created from data by CFD. It will have saved costs and if the car is in the mix with the new teams then they can have a laugh at being able to get results but with less financial strain. If it is very effective then we could enter an era where design is a lot more based on CFD and super computers but that will be some time off.

 However, the front wing looks rather simplistic to what we have seen so far and it could turn out that with the emphasis on aero then wind tunnel data is crucial meaning Virgin could suffer.

Virgin are also looking to achieve their goals on a minimalist budget. Many have scoffed at this but look at Toyota; they threw all the money they could at F1 but couldn’t get a victory. It isn’t how much you spend but rather how you use it so if Virgin is managed well then they could be setting an example for cost cutting in F1. As for sponsors they have managed to bag BMW’s FXPro sponsorship as well as Oxigen Investments and Carbon Green both of which are environmentally friendly. Getting all the green sponsors they can will win much support and make their cars appear more ‘relevant’.

Virgin Racing has a pretty strong line up too. Glock was highly rated after 08 and added to his podium collection twice in 2009. He can make a one-stop strategy work very well too which will be vital to a new team. Di Grassi has taken a while to get into F1 which doesn’t immediately impress and he has never won the GP2 title despite four attempts. He does have some talent and Virgin wouldn’t have promoted a rookie if they didn’t believe he had a chance. He has also enjoyed a comfortable relationship with Renault as their test driver so will have that experience of working with a big team. Virgin will be looking forward to the launch of Lotus to see how their main rivals have design their car. These two teams have the potential for an interesting battle ahead and Branson and Fernandes have agreed that whoever loses has to dress up as an air hostess on one of Branson’s flights.

Watch the launch here


Diffuser Row 2010?

February 2, 2010

Ferrari have allegedly seen enough

Another diffuser row could be brewing between the teams due to the regulations still not being clear (nor closed up).

This time it is Mclaren who are the centre of focus and rumours suggest it is Ferrari who is riled by Mclaren’s extreme diffuser.

Again this comes down to an interpretation of the rules and you have to wonder why there still is the potential for another squabble after last year’s debacle.

Ferrari has a reputation of complaining and asking for rule changes whenever they are caught out.

Ferrari has a lot to prove; the F60 was a very poor car and last year they were also amongst the teams who were found wrong footed in the diffuser row of 09 believe the DDDs to be illegal and left furious when they were in fact declared legal.

The spotlight is on the team and whether they have been caught short again.

Massa specifically commented upon the better levels of downforce showing an improvement and that there was a lot of work to come with the car.

I think everything went in a very good direction for the first day but it’s not enough. There’s still a lot to improve until the first race, which is the most important thing.”

It seems Ferrari aren’t going to be complacent and they may well have detailed plans in the wings but if Mclaren has found a way to best the squad then this row isn’t likely to go away.

Ferrari may have plans of their own regarding the issue. At the tail end of 2009 the Italian team hired Azzollini. Azzollini was a senior CFD engineer with Toyota who had developed their diffuser extremely well and Ferrari thought they would benefit from his expertise.

According to Allen, Azzollini was meant to have brought a radical design to the squad but it was too late in the day for Ferrari to develop it with the car without compromising their car design. This is reminiscent of last year when Ferrari developed the diffuser late and it was built into the car rather than being a fundamental part and the car being built around it.

There have been suggestions that Ferrari hasn’t been entirely satisfied with the F10 and that work has already begun on a B-spec car.  If so then this radically designed diffuser could make an appearance for Bahrain given there is enough time.

Ferrari did top the time sheets of the test yesterday and there does seem to be a big improvement from last year’s car. The problem with testing times is we rarely know what fuel every team has onboard, what parts they are using, their testing tactics and where they are with set up so although there has been an improvement it is impossible to know how much.

The situation is ambiguous to say the least and it’s a waiting game to see how things play out. Ferrari could complain, delay/inconvenience Mclaren and try to get their own way or they could just push on with developing a B-spec car. Neither of these is ideal and it does suggest that no matter where Ferrari are with pace, once again they are in a far from ideal situation regarding the diffuser. However this unfolds it is unlikely to be as big a mess as 2009 but they have to get on top of the F10 as there will be fierce competition this year and time could be of the essence

The STR5 is launched and tested

February 1, 2010
STR Ferrari going it alone

STR Ferrari going it alone

Toro Rosso has unveiled their 2010 car. It’s their first attempt at building their own chassis which could prove to be a tough task, particularly with the rule changes.

It’s pretty much along the same lines of the 2009 car, which isn’t surprising given the they had RBR’s and Newey’s help with last year’s car. The biggest change actually appears to be the livery but that isn’t exactly radical; there just seems to be a covering of red around the nose.

The Red Bull had the best handle on the new aero rules so Toro Rosso can take comfort and knowledge from the partnership the year before with the Milton Keynes based squad.

To cope with their new independence Toro Rosso have expanded their workforce but the day’s testing got off to a shaky start due to a gearbox issue which kept them busy off-track for over an hour.

Buemi eventually slapped out a time of 1:14.762 seconds after only 18 laps. It was just over two seconds off Massa’s time who was the quickest man out there.

The problem with testing is that nothing is for certain. We can never know what fuel load is being used; it is the first day so set ups will be all over the place – STR use two fairly inexperienced drivers so set up may take slightly longer than some other teams – and the track will eventually become quicker as more rubber is put down. Therefore, there are a lot of influencing factors on pace so fans should try not to read too much into the times.

Toro Rosso is unlikely to have a stunning year like 2008, this year needs to show them standing on their own feet and beginning to move forward rather than falling. Buemi can surely keep the team together on track while Jaime gets up to speed but Toro Rosso has to take charge behind the scenes.

An ironic point is that after all the controversy surrounding Jaime’s appointment to F1 without testing, this has actually been his first F1 test despite debuting over half a year ago.

To keep up-to-date with Toro Rosso news a recommended site is Forza Toro Rosso.

Here are some pictures from Toro Rosso’s time in Valencia (click to expand):

Images (C) Red Bull/Getty

Renault and Sauber launch their cars but the most radical change is livery

January 31, 2010
Looks like a bee goes like...?

Looks like a bee goes like...?

Renault and Sauber have launched their 2010 cars. We may be a while from Bahrain but this season has kicked off.

The Renault R30 doesn’t look much different from the R29, there isn’t even much to distinguish it is carrying a larger fuel tank.

The biggest change does seem to be the livery, which has reverted back to the traditional yellow and black (albeit with a splash of red, thanks to Total). It looks like a wasp frankly and hopefully it’ll drive with venom too and get the team back on the podium.

Petrov has finally been confirmed as the second driver. It’s well known the Russian has plenty of backing and this is probably what landed him a seat although Boullier has asserted it is talent which comes first.

Petrov did manage to finish 2nd in the standings in GP2 to Williams driver Hulkenberg last year but it did take him four seasons to do it. It would be nice to see Kubica challenged like he was by Heidfeld but that looks unlikely. However, Renault do have a good pairing here; Kubica can push the team moving and Petrov’s sponsorships can help financially secure the team.

Renault’s new and updated F1 site will go live today.

The name BMW Sauber is to stay for the time being. The C29 was also launched today. The livery is bland at best and it seems white is the new black. The teams maybe attempting ‘to do a Brawn’ but copying the white livery theme won’t help. The C29 doesn’t seem that radical either. I’m starting to wonder if the teams are hiding their cards a lot as I was expecting a lot more change.

The Sauber C29

The Sauber C29

One point to note is that most teams so far have gone for the shark-fin engine cover and it is right back to the rear wing. Ferrari hasn’t bothered with this so they have either missed something or they didn’t find it worth the trouble.

Ferrari launch 2010 car

January 28, 2010

 Ferrari has launched their 2010 challenger, the F10, and as predicted there seems to be a heavy influence from the RB5.

 The car appears to have quite a few changes including a longer wheel base than last year’s car which will be a result of the larger fuel tanks, the nose is sharp and taken from Newey’s Red Bull design and there has been substantial change to the sidepods.  However, we do not yet know what is underneath the shell of the car.

We won’t know where the car is with its pace until testing begins but this car appears to be a big break away from the previous season. This will be comforting to Ferrari fans as the squad was caught out with the aero rules and the diffuser issue last year. The F60 struggled throughout and could only manage one win at Spa (video below of that race), it was a big blow to Ferrari’s pride and reputation and they will be expecting a much better season for 2010.

Even if the car isn’t immediately at the top it is highly unlikely Ferrari will freeze development and go back to the drawing board again. This means that they can keep pushing forward with development and keep improving the car.

Massa was expected to give the car a shakedown at the Fiorano circuit but due to poor weather conditions this has been called off.

Here are some pictures of the car and video of the launch . What do you think of the F10? How will Ferrari do this season?

A completely new car

The F60 could only manage one win. Ferrari will be hoping for a lot more from the F10Look at the RB5 style nose, oh and the many Santander logosFerrari's campaign kicks off now

Adding more “Tilkeness” to the Tilkedrome?

January 25, 2010

Will the new loop have any effect on overtaking? Probably not...

This afternoon was announced that the Bahrain Grand Prix this year will be hosted under a different circuit layout, adding an existing loop to the circuit, which will now have 6.299 meters – 887 more than last year layout – making it the second longest circuit on the calendar, only behind Spa-Francorchamps and its mighty 7.004 meters.

But the question inside my head is: why?

The race bosses told the media that the decision was taken with the fact that Formula 1 will have 26 cars in mind, and that with 2010 rule changes it shall boost overtaking around the desert track.

I shall reserve judgement until the end of the first race this season, but just looking at the layout, you have to ask yourself how these changes are going to have an effect on overall overtaking, and it’s hard to see why you would need 800 extra meters of tarmac to accommodate more six cars.

The new loop is composed basically of turns (seven in total), making it almost straightless. It will join the original track again right before the ex-high-speed and tricky Turn 5 – everyone who played that on a racing simulator knows how challenging is to tackle those two turns at more than 200km/h. But now cars will be much slower around it, making it rather tedious and bureaucratic, but that could help packing the cars together so a driver behind could try to pass an unaware (or bored) competitor at the Turn 6 hairpin.

But the problem is that since races will be shorter (around 48/49 laps) we see less overtaking on places like that last and first corners, so all in all, overtaking opportunities around the circuit could stay the same, while we are forced to watch F1 cars driving around an ugly track.

There is no need to say, however, that the Sakhir track is not so short in overtaking when compared to others such as Yas Marina, Valencia or Singapore. The proof of what I’m saying? This video shows…

Laps times increased, but by how much?

Besides the number of laps, the most obvious change to the race will be the increase on lap times. It is quite hard to tell exactly by how much the lap times will increase, but we can get a vague idea by comparing the times from last season.

The fastest time that year was set by Sebastian Vettel during Q2, at 1:32.474, an average of 58,52 meters per second. Unfortunately for us, we can’t predict how average speeds will be around the new track layout – all we know is that it will surely be slower. But if we calculate the times for the new layout using Sebastian Vettel’s average speed from the 2009 season, we will find out that the lap time around the 6.299 meters circuit would be 1:47.630.

That’s a considerable 15 second difference between the two times, and when we put into the equation that fact that average speeds will be lower around the circuit this year, expect this time to increase between one and two seconds.

All in all, let’s hope that the new layout produces better racing, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the race turns out to be processional.

Toro Rosso put trust in continuity-for now

January 23, 2010

A solid fit for Toro Rosso or will he be bound for Red Bull?

It’s taken them long enough but Toro Rosso have finally confirmed Jaime. He didn’t get the benefit of testing but still made a solid job of the season. Only one retirement was his fault –Japan- but for the majority of his season he just got his head down and stayed out of trouble.

The Spaniard doesn’t have that flair or aggression that Kobayashi showed but he was impressive with his feedback, especially in his first practice. The FIA was roundly criticised for letting someone so young and without testing into a race environment but he was not the disaster everyone feared.

However, you have to wonder why Toro Rosso took so long and it must have unnerved the boy. It took time for Bourdais to be confirmed and look how long he lasted. Although, unless Toro Rosso have someone else lined up then Jaime should see out this season. It would be pointless putting in another young rookie midseason particularly if Buemi is heading to RBR in the near future. Red Bull’s plans will probably determine what the line up for the 2010 and 2011 seasons.

Alguersuari may have to fight to keep his seat for the full season

Jaime may just be inspired to work very hard this season to really hang onto his seat, a tough job when he is still learning the ropes. Toro Rosso also appear shaky with their drivers right now which could be a factor which influences just how well they do on their own this year.

Buemi enjoyed a successful first year; scoring on his debut and bringing in the team’s only points throughout the season. There were some rookie errors as expected i.e. Monaco when he crashed into Piquet (not that he can complain about crashing. Sorry, couldn’t resist) but he built on his promise and most crucially he beat his more experienced teammate Bourdais, which no one expected.

Buemi will continue to carry the team’s hopes of points while Jaime develops alongside him. It’s hard to tell if either will really score points as Toro Rosso are on the same footing as the new teams by that they will be building their own chassis. The plus is that they did have the bonus of running a car by Newey and aero will still be a crucial part.

If points are scored then they will be delivered by Buemi, who in my view has been one of the most underrated drivers of the year. He probably would have got the nod from fans for best rookie had it not been for Kobayashi instantly stealing their hearts. It was a solid debut season nonetheless but the pair of them will need to show maturity to get Toro Rosso through this season while they find their feet without RBR.