VALENCIA, Spain — Eight of the 12 teams tested their new F-1 cars at Valencia’s Ricardo Tormo circuit last week. The 2011 Ferrari has already been covered by National Speed Sport News. Read on to discover some the technical highlights on the rest of the cars.
Red Bull RB7
Last year’s Red Bull Renault RB6 was stunningly quick. How do you improve upon perfection? National Speed Sport News put the question to the team’s design guru Adrian Newey, who oversaw the creation of the new RB7.
“The car is the third generation of a lineage,” he replied, “so starting with RB5 this is a further development of that family. We have had to adapt the car for the regulations, so putting KERS back on the car, going back to single diffuser, and of course the Pirelli tires. It is difficult to design the car for the Pirelli tires. We had a short test with them post-race in Abu Dhabi last year, but obviously the tires have developed since. So that is going to be a matter of learning as we go through the preseason tests.”
The RB7 definitely bears a family resemblance to its predecessors, but it does have a higher engine cover and nose, and it features a new concept rear wing. But what really makes it stand out from the previous models is the way the “Coke bottle” bodywork sweeps tightly around the engine and then tucks in along the gearbox in incredibly narrow fashion.
“We felt that with RB5 we had a good direction,” Newey continued, “and we didn’t therefore need to keep reinventing it. It was more sensible to take an evolutionary approach to the principles that were introduced to RB5.”
Mercedes MGP W02
“There is nothing on the car that really excites me or stands out,” a former F-1 technical director confided to National Speed Sport News after viewing the new Mercedes MGP W02.
The car is clean and tidy and carries a lot of cues from last year’s speedy Red Bull but it visually does not have anything very innovative. What it also doesn’t have, team boss Ross Brawn told NSSN, is many of the flaws of last year’s car.
“We definitely made progress on them,” he stated. “There are certain things that you can never have too much of. This car has a lower center of gravity than last year’s car, and that is an obvious thing a racing car has to have, but we did not do a very good job in that area last year. The foundations of this car are much better.”
Nico Rosberg, who got the first shot at driving the car, agrees.
“It was good,” he said. “The positive thing was I just felt at home straightaway; felt at one with the car. It didn’t feel like a different car that I don’t know: it feels very nice. It’s a very important to feel comfortable straight away.”
The new Renault R31 garnered a lot of attention when it made its debut because of its innovative exhaust system. Instead of the exhaust pipes feeding out of the rear of the car in the traditional format, they head forward through the sidepods and exit at the front in the undercut area of the sidepod. The idea is that the exhaust gases then flow under the car, increasing the volume and velocity of air that heads to the rear diffuser. In theory this will create more downforce than the “blown” diffuser that has the exhaust pipes fed directly into it.
Drawbacks could be overheating as the pipes pass by the radiators, and loss of horsepower because of that overheating plus the added time the exhaust gases have to travel in the extended pipes.
“We set out to try and conceive a car that was not just simply smaller, lighter, stiffer, etc.,” Renault’s Technical Director James Allison told National Speed Sport News. “We were fortunate to be encouraged by the owners of the company who said, ‘We are OK with you taking some risks.’ And that did give us the courage to have a go at something that is different.
“The risk is that the layout of a F-1 car has been settled for a long time. And it is quite tricky to package all the stuff you have to fit into a F-1 car in the space available. If you make much of a change to that layout you are venturing into virgin territory.”