Sauber working on qualifying weakness

F1 Fanatic round-up

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In the round-up: Sauber’s chief designer says “we are not qualifying where the pace of the car is”.


Top F1 links from the past 24 hours:

Sauber: Qualifying key to keeping form (Autosport)

Chief designer Matt Morris: “I think we have a better balance between qualifying and the race, but we still need to find more performance in qualifying because we are not qualifying where the pace of the car is. That is something that we accept and are concentrating on now.”

Button happy with life at McLaren (The Telegraph)

“People talk about Ferrari and them being very passionate, and they are. But I don’t think most people realise how passionate this team is, and how much they want to achieve.”

McLaren improve the MP4-27 (Sky)

Martin Whitmarsh: “We’re not complacent. We have to improve our car, we have to find performance improvements – and fortunately we have.”

Vettel confident of return to the top after winning outstanding achievement gong (Daily Mail)

“It’s a shame I didn’t get a point in Malaysia. There are a lot of races to come and we should be in good shape.”

Looking ahead to China (BBC)

“Apart from the well-known problems at Ferrari, Mercedes are the team who will perhaps be doing the most soul-searching.”
The Pit Stop: F1’s cookie cutter calendar (Unibet)

My latest column for Unibet.

Comment of the day

Matt is surprised teams are going to such lengths to copy – or ban – a design which does not appear to be producing results:

If Mercedes were pulling clean sweeps on Sunday, all right, I could see an argument there, but they’re not.

Qualifying isn’t what it used to be with the new tyres, with normal DRS, with set in stone gear ratios, and all the other changes that have gone on in the past decade. How many times in 2011 did a driver charge from way back in the grid to a top spot? I seem to remember some great charges from the likes of Kobayashi and the Torro Rosso boys, and we saw Kimi Raikkonen go from 18th to seventh in Australia.

Look at Mercedes now. Schumacher has been taken out of contention twice through extenuating circumstances, and Rosberg goes nowhere but backwards during a race. They have a single point to their name, and are in between the Toro Rosso team and Marussia. If Red Bull took the hint the second, or even third time the system was declared legal, they could already have a working ‘Front wing F-duct’ on their car, and any qualifying advantage would be nullified.

But no. They seem perfectly content to pull a Ferrari and hope to get Charlie and co. to ban everything that they can’t quickly duplicate or improve upon.

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On this day in F1

Niki Lauda scored the first Grand Prix win of his comeback 30 years ago today in the United States Grand Prix West at Long Beach.

The McLaren driver passed pole sitter Andrea de Cesaris to win. Keke Rosberg was second for Williams.

Gilles Villeneuve was third on the road for Ferrari but disqualified for a technical infringement relating to his unusual, extra-wide rear wing (see the video below).

That promoted Riccardo Patrese, who’d started 18th for Brabham, into the final podium position.

Image © Sauber F1 Team

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Keith Collantine
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43 comments on “Sauber working on qualifying weakness”

  1. wow, what a shocker that rear wing is! file under “what were they thinking?”

    1. Every now and then you see a bit of archive footage that has slipped past you. This is one for me.
      Thank you @keithcollantine for posting it. I enjoy the experimental one-off technical aspects of this sport. It’s what makes it unique.
      I have to agree, it’s a ridiculously long rear wing. Almost like a small child had come along and decided that he didn’t have the right length lego piece, but carried on anyway. :D

  2. JPQuesado (@joao-pedro-cq)
    4th April 2012, 0:08

    Does someone know why had Villeneuve that wing?

    1. IIRC they tried to circumvent the “maximum rear wing width” regulation.

    2. The regulations limited the width of the rear wing but didn’t specify how it would be measured. Ferrari’s cunning plan was to have two separate single-element wings which overlapped on the central wing mount. So each wing was within the dimensions required by the regulations, although the total span of the wings was much wider.

      It didn’t work though – FISA said it was implied in the rules that the measurement was taken from the centre line of the car, which clearly made the Ferrari wing illegal. The wonder is that it got to race in the first place.

      1. Ferrari’s cunning plan was to have two separate single-element wings which overlapped on the central wing mount. So each wing was within the dimensions required by the regulations, although the total span of the wings was much wider.

        This is what I understand happened too.

        On the one hand it’s everything I love about F1 and racing – the engineers taking a look at the rules and doing something that follows the letter of the law but completely ignores the spirit of it for their own advantage.

        On the other hand, blatant rule-bending is what led to the excessively prescriptive rulebook we have now: rules that run to thousands of pages, make all the cars look the same, and cause pointless and dull arguments over the legality of every tiny little thing.

    3. Clive James pointed out that the wing was designed to get him disqualified.

      1. Sean Newman
        5th April 2012, 8:44

        That’s right but also to bring weight to bear on the row over the legality of the twin chassis Lotus 88. The Lotus had a softly sprung inner chassis (driver and engine) and a stiffly sprung outer chassis (mostly bodywork and wings). The rules say the wings must be fixed to the sprung part of the car. Colin Chapman tried to get around this by claiming his car had two chassis. he said the rules did not expressly forbid this. Which of course they did not. Ferrari thought that it was illegal because a single chassis was implied. They made their point by using two rear wings. The rules implied a single wing but did not mandate it.

        So the double rear wing was not a technical innovation at all. Just political leverage.

  3. I don’t think I agree with Matt. I am sure that the teams are working on a solution while the complain about other teams. Their goal with complaining is merely to disturb them and hopefully create some diversion in their technical development. Because for as long as an investigation is on going that team will have to spend resources thinking about possible outcomes, while the team that launched the complain is free to research it’s own solutions.

    1. Matt (@agentmulder)
      4th April 2012, 0:45

      This could be true, but I think it goes deeper than that.

      Most of the times when you have a limited number of teams complaining, they sort of go “maybe Charlie should get that looked at” in a wink-wink nudge-nudge sort of way. Here, Red Bull seems dead set on getting this either banned or in the public domain.

      The FIA have already said three times the system is legal. You’d think by then RBR would take a hint, but they are persisting. What’s more, in this case it really wouldn’t take many resources to reverse this from Mercedes’ perspective. They just have to remove some vents and they’re done. It’s not like LRGP’s forward facing exhaust, around which the entire car was designed.

      This leaves Mercedes to sort out the problem they still have dating back to the start of 2011. The car eats tires for breakfast. I think the FWFD was an attempt to circumvent this problem by qualifying them high and taking it easy from there. Problem is they haven’t been able to take advantage of this yet. Their best chance was Schumacher in Malaysia until he got tagged from behind.

      And the scenario @prisoner-monkeys presented is starting to look more and more plausible to me. I think Red Bull are genuinely scared that they are about to be swamped unless their R&D kicks into overdrive. If not, we might be looking at another FW16 or RB4.

      1. @agentmulder Could it also be that Red Bull may be sore that through last year the 3 big teams really hounded Red Bull on a number of issues, from engine mapping to flex wings. Now that they see a team with, what they believe, a questionable system they want to give some of it back? I know it sounds implausible but then in this sport who can tell. They must be scared of losing out to Mercedes for sure and understandably their research of 1.5 years on diffusers and EBD’s was severely curtailed in one fell swoop and now they don’t have any path breaking innovation to bail them out i guess. But the RBR is no slouch and still looks better than Ferrari. More importantly, both their drivers are scoring on a regular basis.

        There seems no way that the system can be deemed illegal after it was deemed legal so many times. That and the fact that in race situations the thing can be used for 6-7 seconds only may cause the FIA to not remove it. And technically the system by itself has no moving parts. That they are exploiting a consequence of the DRS is brilliant to say the least. While there may be a real threat to them from Mercedes and Mercedes are not going to have tire problems for ever, Red Bull has shown in the past that they are pretty good at catching up. They gave Brawn a tough fight mind you.

        1. I really believe that Horner would not be persisting with this if Whiting had given him a definitive “NO, GO AWAY Christian, I’ve made my decision.” That in spite of what some armchair fans are saying has been 3 declarations of legality by Whiting. It takes two to tango, and Horner must not have already been told he hasn’t got a leg to stand on, in spite of supposedly 3 rock solid occasions of declaration of Merc legality having taken place.

          I think it is very possible that Horner has presented a good case that has given Whiting pause, and that Horner will get out of this either the Merc system being declared illegal after all, or he’ll get a much better clarification from Whiting as to why Merc is legal such that Newey can go ahead with their answer to the Merc system, knowing clearly what the parameters are given that this system has been declared illegal in the past.

          I don’t think Horner is a whiner…I don’t think he is scared…I think he is conducting himself as a proven, winning professional playing in the entity that is F1 to his utmost, for the team and it’s sponsors. He has said, and I believe him, that he is ready, willing, and able to accept Whitings final answer and it is obvious to me that Horner has cause, based on conversations with Whiting, to present a strong case and simply ask for detailed clarification either way.

          I would even suggest that perhaps Whiting has said to Horner that he won’t be changing his mind as to Merc’s legality, but that he has promised Horner a more detailed document to explain why this driver-moveable device can have a secondary function at a completely different part of the car, which will give Horner the parameters around which Newey can then instigate their own system.

          As I say, I don’t image Horner et al would be persuing this if they had truly been given a resounding ‘NO, go away’ by Whiting. It is his responsibility to the team and it’s sponsors to explore all avenues to success.

          1. As I have said elsewhere, while the fact remains the teams can continually lobby Charlie to “look” at innovations we will always have this problem. Christian and Eric in the Renault gang will always support eachothers views and challenges. But in the end the buck stops with the FIA who should make a public announcement that any device which activates as a consequence of DRS should be deemed legal. That does not mean adding additional moving parts, it means benfiting from the change in airflow over through or araound the rear wing!

          2. Yeah I won’t be surprised if we get a statement from Horner in China the likes of…’the Merc F-duct remains legal and has been clarified to us in satisfactory detail as to why and how it is legal, with all our queries answered based on why such things have been declared illegal in the recent past and are now legal, such that we shall now proceed accordingly.’

  4. I don’t think I agree with Matt. I am sure that the teams(red bull) are working on thier own solutions while they complain about other teams. Their(red bull) goal with complaining is merely to disturb mercedes and hopefully create some diversion in their(Mercedes) technical development. Because for as long as an investigation is on going that team( Mercedes) will have to spend resources thinking about possible outcomes, while the team(red bull) that launched the complain is free to research it’s own solutions.

  5. Wow, what great racing in that clip. Brilliant, Loved it. I like the idea of cars having different strengths and weaknesses. I don’t know why we keep trying to regulate everyone into having the same spec/speed cars when the old racing looked heaps fun.

    1. WOW overtaking without DRS…how do they do it?

      1. The way Vettel overtook Britney in Melbourne. After seeing the racing we’ve been watching this year the DRS argument is getting a little old.

      2. Because there was considerably less reliance on aerodynamic grip in 1982 than there is today.

  6. xeroxpt (@)
    4th April 2012, 3:11

    May it be that Ferrari engined cars have all gone for a bigger fuel tank taking in account race pace rather than qually I believe that last year only Red Bull went for a smaller fuel tank but maybe this year and after melbourne mclaren and mercedes may have chosen to smaller huge fuel tanks.

  7. I don’t agree with Matt. Qualyfing is heck important and we saw what a good car on saturdays could do, with Red Bull as a prime example. Maybe not last year, though, but teams will still try to get as much as possible from the car, even if the benefit it’s only in qualy and when the DRS is activated during the race.

    However, considering the system is only beneficial during qualy, and it’d be too hard to package the whole system round a car not designed to have it (that’s what Scarbs said anyway), I don’t see how the other teams might copy it and why would they do it.

    But maybe they are all afraid that Mercedes might get it right soon, and the performance gain during qualy would be impossible to counter…

    1. Or they see the benefit for Saturdays and want to be in there fighting for as high a grid spot as possible which is always going to be better than starting further back, knowing full well that the system is much less of a bonus for Sundays.

      Or, once Whiting clarifies to Horner’s satisfaction exactly why Merc is legal, perhaps Newey has something up his sleeve that WILL benefit them on Sundays too, not just on Saturdays like it is appearing for Merc. Example…an F-duct or some other aero trick on some part of the car that will be ‘open’ when the DRS is closed for the majority of the lap. (that’s of course a great sweeping generalization on my part just meant to draw a mental picture, as I think in Merc’s case if the front wing was ‘open’ the majority of the time rather than closed they would be lacking too much downforce in the corners). Perhaps Newey has on the drawing board something that does the ‘opposite’ of Merc’s system and will benefit them for longer periods during a lap. Perhaps something passive that will positively and legally affect the funneling of exhaust and it’s now limited ability to affect the diffuser’s effect.

      Mercs system lightens the car up on straights when the DRS is open as is their front wing ‘open’. When they get to a corner the DRS closes, and back comes the downforce at the front as the front wing is now ‘closed.’ But what if Red Bull has in mind a legal duct funneling air around the diffuser to ‘seal’ the exhaust around it better, which is open when the DRS is closed (in corners) giving them back greater EBD effect that has been largely taken away with revised exhaust configuration parameters for this year, and closed and lightening the car up when the DRS is open on the straights and the air is not being funneled to positively affect the diffuser (when it is not needed).

  8. 1 thing is damn clear, tho. Considering recent seasons, I bet you ANY MONEY, Mercedes’ FWFD (or whatever is called) will be forbidden next year or the next.

    Easy way for the FIA to clean their hands and say: “sod it, illegal for everyone”.

    1. Agreed but I think the problem Horner has is that he thought the FIA had already cleaned their hands and made such things as the Merc F-duct illegal, or at least had made aero devices alterable by the driver illegal, which everyone must admit makes Merc’s system at least highly debatable given that the DRS is a driver-controlled device and their front wing ‘on or off mode’ is directly affected by the driver controlling the rear wing.

      I think this is all an unfortunate spinoff of a darn driver-controlled gadget that shouldn’t be needed nor there to begin with.

  9. Oh Martin if only half of your words rung true. The mayhem you call a garage is a insult to Ron an all He made.

    1. What? Post-Ron-McLaren is a much more likeable team, and no less competitive, either!

      1. +1
        Couldn’t stand Ron Dennis’ “McLaren” towards the end.

        1. @julian Completely off-topic; your avatar makes me laugh every time I see it. Reminds me of an in-joke I have going with a friend! :P

      2. +1 from me as well! McLaren is a far more media savvy place now, more open and less combative. MW has dragged Mclaren into the modern racing team is it today. Ron was awesome at what he done, but his skill set was narrow, when you look up the pit lane it’s a different picture than 10 years ago. The likes of Ron Dennis are unfortunatly out of date and from a different era.

    2. If you’re going to make a claim that that Willon you really need to back it up with something.

  10. If that was how Mercedes’ new wing looked like, I’d have no qualms about Red Bull’s complaints at all.

  11. Rosberg goes nowhere but backwards during a race.

    …and maybe so would Schumacher too if he could make it to the end. Isn’t the point the DRS f-duct is more of an advantage in qualifying and places then artificially higher up the grid enough to effect of teams that might possibly ‘normally’ hold those places if the had the trick wing.

    Teams like RBR have the race pace but need to be closer to the front to keep their race strategy as open as possible and not spend the first 1/4 of the race trying to pass cars going backwards, for these reasons I don’t really argee with the COTD.

    1. Hmm.i think you’ll find that Schumacher, after being hit from behind, did in fact move up the grid throughout the whole race. Maybe not as much as Mercedes would want, but he made up places and finished in the points ahead of his team mate. Oh and he finished the race in case you forgot.

      Who knows how the race would have unfolded if it was dry. We would probably have a Mclaren one two, but i doubt that Ferrari and Sauber would be in contention. It would probably be a fight between Schumi, Kimi, and Vettel for the last podium spot.

      1. I think you’ll find that in Australia, perhaps the better race for comparison because it was dry, MS went out at lap 11 with his car problem, but prior to that he was already losing about one second per lap to the leader. I think that we are going to see on average that MS will fall back on Sundays just as NR has shown. Let’s see how it shakes out after more than just one ‘initiation’ race and one wet race.

  12. Fantastic looking circuit, and indeed cars. What a great clip.

    1. Fantastic looking circuit

      And the venue for the next Indycar race, weekend after next.

  13. Nobody is gona talk about argentinian gp being almost confirmed for 2013 season?

    1. please provide details of that one, if you have theme available. There was some talk about it a week or so ago, but nothing going as far as it being confirmed to be on so far @andrewmansell


        What they saying is that a contract for 3 years, starting in 2013, is gonna be signed this may. It would be the last race in the calendar, after Brazil. They say the circuit will be a non permanent one in the city of Mar del Plata.
        There’s an image of this possible tack:

    2. I’m an Argie and they’ve been saying nothing for the past weeks, really. All talks in-between the country but not too much.

      They said they’d be signing the contract next month but that’s it.

  14. Enjoyed that, great bit of Murray and James too. Is this the race where Lauda took the lead from de Cesaris while he was making hand gestures at a backmarker, instead of changing gear?

    That Ferrari wing reminded me of last year’s front one, the way it was flapping…

  15. I agreed with @agentmulder ‘s COTD when I first read it and I still do.

    I don’t get why Horner is so interested anyway. The RB8 is one of the slowest cars in a straight line and the W03 one of the quickest. It wouldn’t put them on a par. I know it’s not that straight-forward but it just sounds daft on paper.

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