Turbos, tactics and technology

2

As the F1 season winds down with only four more races to go, it couldn’t get more exciting. Lewis Hamilton recently made a career challenging move to leave McLaren – a team he’d been with since the age of 13 – to replace the legend; Michael Schumacher at Mercedes.

Why exactly is Hamilton leaving a team synonymously associated with winning to race for a team that has only been able to claim three podiums this season? For the challenge, apparently. Lewis Hamilton was quoted saying “It is now time for me to take on a fresh challenge and I am very excited to begin a new chapter”, Hamilton is by no means oblivious to the fact that Mercedes is much slower than McLaren, but that doesn’t seem to bother the 2008 World Champion. Hamilton believes that he along his new teammate Rosberg will be able to rise to the challenge and re-establish Mercedes as a genuine winning team.

Nico and Lewis will make a very eccentric team to say the least, both are by no means subtle drivers, as we’ve seen in the last few races. Hamilton’s brilliant battle with Kimi Raikkonen in the Korean GP not only showed that he is not just an aggressive driver who will defend his spot with all he has, but also captured the difference between experienced drivers such as himself and Kimi and the not-so experienced. When drivers such as Hamilton and Kimi compete for a place, there is rarely contact or crashes, however, when less experienced drivers, say, Maldonado, Perez or Grosjean, challenge each other, there is almost always contact.

Perez the new McLaren driver has this seasons showed significant improvements, taking three podiums, but the recklessness is still there. The Suzuka Grand Prix saw Perez drive like a madman possessed, resulting in ambitious overtakes and challenges, but ultimately a inane mistake that saw him spin out.

Whether or not McLaren will be able to harness and mould the talent that Perez has remains to be seen.

I can’t help but to think that perhaps Hamilton’s move to Mercedes was somewhat tactical. With the new 2014 engine regulations coming to play, with smaller 1.6 litre V6 engines replacing the V8’s, turbo-charging will come and play a more cruicial role. McLaren was notorious in the late 80’s for its partnership with Honda and their ability to turbo-charge winning race engines. However, now that Honda is long-gone, I believe Mercedes are best equipped to take on the challenge of how to configure the most out of the new regulations. Perhaps Lewis’s move was more of a pre-emptive strike; a short-term loss but a long-term gain.

Mercedes may be looking solid for the 2014 season with its massive R&D capabilities, but they lack one resource; the F1 savant Adrian Newey. I believe Redbull will come away with this season, Vettel taking his third consecutive F1 Championship, and a lot of it will have to be credited to the virtuoso that is Newey.

It has taken most of the season (13 races to be specific) for Redbull to find their pace and consistency, but the last three races have seen an almost new Redbull. The linear domination of Vettel is back.

A lot of this has to do with the new ‘double DRS’ system that was developed by Adrien Newey for the Singapore GP. However, the double DRS isn’t the only Newey novelty. He has also been creative with the side ducts of the car, building a new airflow management system that in combination with the rear-diffuser and double DRS ends up reducing drag and increasing V-max. The result is seen directly in the Redbull qualification and lap-times.

So, now it us up to Alonso to shake things up, and here’s hoping for another four more great races, especially the US Grand Prix in the brand new Austin, Texas track. Can’t wait to see how Texans react to the sound of 24 screaming V8’s around their neck of the woods.

2 COMMENTS

  1. Agree Lewis moved to Mercedes because of the rule change (although Bernie’s comments on this are worrying), but also because it seems unthinkable that Ferrari would ever undervalue Alonso, Red Bull undervalue Vettel etc. Lewis was pretty much told that he wasn’t worth the money that he is – regardless of McLaren now having to buy engines from Merc, they’re hardly poor – and the Ron Dennis contract squabbles of Senna fame have seriously compromised their driver line up next year. Perez seems to have been a “pick your best sponsored option” given his Telmex credentials and I can’t believe Whitmarsh is now sat there thinking “Thank God we didn’t sign Hulkenberg.” Their next number 1 driver was overtaken today by the 2 people on the grid that I’d pay anything for – a sure sign that, since 2007, they’ve made some bad choices. It will be interesting to see Nico against Lewis and I think it’ll give us a clearer picture of how good/bad Schumacher was on his return, and how good/bad Jenson really is (beating Rubens in a car that much better than everyone else means nothing, in my opinion.)

    Schumacher proved that moving to an average team that you can make your own can pay off – I hope it does for Lewis because other than last year, the mistakes and missed opportunities have largely come from the team, not him.

    Mercedes may come through on the engine front, as a general rule I believe that involving Niki Lauda in anything can only bring good results, but don’t forget Renault and Ferrari…Ferrari especially. Ferrari in 2014 will be extremely interesting because of how closely connected all elements of the operation are. Mercedes are almost the pockets of an F1 team, not it’s guiding force, and Renault are more market-led and therefore may have different motivation. The fact that Ferrari are pretty much one Italian town doing everything on 458 Italias and the F2012 all at once should make for an interesting competitor – and, like Merc, they also have large, self made company coffers to plunder in this chance at reinvention. And Fiat. And Luca de Montezemolo. And Fernando Alonso. But no wind tunnel, apparently. And no Adrian Newey – although if the engine fight becomes as big as the aero fight, this may prove to be not as big a deal as it is now.

    On a side note, I can’t believe The Saint has some F1 stuff 🙂 good to read. I’m going to Brazil in a few weeks if you want any news/comments/photos. (Er..yes, I am a student… 😉

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