Mick Schumacher, Haas, Bahrain International Circuit, 2021

Running in traffic ‘like going to 20 percent downforce’ – Schumacher

2021 F1 Season

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Mick Schumacher admitted he was taken aback at how much downforce F1 cars lose in traffic, as both Haas drivers spun during their grand prix debuts in Bahrain.

Having taken the chequered flag in last place in Bahrain, Schumacher said many things in F1 that had been unexpected from his prior experience in junior series.

“In general, I’ve learned a ton of new things and we’ve seen that come through in all the meetings we’ve had,” he said. “It’s always different talking about it and feeling it.

Both Haas drivers reported severe loss of grip when following other cars. “There are a lot of things I learned about the tyres, that’s probably the biggest new thing to me,” said Schumacher.

“Also, on things like how much downforce we lose at the start of the race. It’s like going from 100 percent downforce to 20 percent downforce the moment you’re turning into a corner.”

While Schumacher reached the finish, team mate Nikita Mazepin spun into retirement two corners into his first race. Team principal Guenther Steiner said their priority this weekend is accumulating mileage.

“The performance of the team and the car, we know what that will be,” he said. “So the expectations were not high, at least results-wise.

“I think the two drivers did a good job over the course of the weekend. Obviously in the race Nikita spun out and damaged the car and Mick spun once too – but the whole weekend for them was a learning phase. We need to do more of it, and as many laps as possible, with all that we’ll be fine.

“It was one weekend from 23. We need to get better and better, work on getting more laps in, and keep learning – that’s the mission.”

Steiner put the drivers’ performances down to their need for experience in F1. “It is quite a big challenge. Formula 1 is a very difficult sport, but we knew the challenge, therefore there’s no big surprise. We decided to do this, and we need to get through it.”

“I just try to see it that the drivers feel comfortable – I don’t try to micromanage them,” he explained. “They have their engineers and they need to work with them on a day-to-day basis, or more accurately on an hour-to-hour basis, not with me. For sure though, in the beginning, I will be well-informed what is happening and try to see where I may need to intervene.

“I’m not doing the job myself; I’ve got good people working for the team which know how to do the job better than me. I just observe what is happening. If there’s a problem I’m there to ask what it is and then I see if I need to do something.”

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Hazel Southwell
Hazel is a freelance journalist who roams the paddocks of Formula E, covering the technical and emotional elements of electric racing. Usually found at...

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  • 12 comments on “Running in traffic ‘like going to 20 percent downforce’ – Schumacher”

    1. From next year, F1 cars should only lose around 20 or even 10% DF when two car lengths behind rather than around half what they lose presently or have lost in the recent past at the same distance. Hopefully, the aero changes will be successful, but we shall find out.

    2. Mick is clearly struggling with the concept of percentages.

      1. Why? Would it be a surprise if in that car it feels like an 80% loss of downforce?

        1. Because 80% drop in down force is a huge loss regardless of what car he’s in. I’d like to hear from an aerodynamicist about what the actual drop would be, and I’d be very surprised if it was 80%. I did a few aerodynamic papers at uni and I’d expect it would be around 30-50%, if any aerodynamic vehicle experienced that loss or interruption of aerodynamic efficiency it would feel catastrophic for the person operating it, so that’s why I this 80% is excessive

          1. @nicharvs That’s fair comment and from what Brawn has said F1 cars currently lose about 50% of their downforce while in dirty air. I was basing my remark on considering that Mick probably wasn’t trying to be scientifically accurate, but was moreso just quipping that that is what it felt like. Factor in that the Haas probably has terrible downforce with which to begin, especially compared to the top teams, and I’m sure the bottom line is it feels terrible in that car while in dirty air. If the Haas does indeed lose something more than 50% of it’s downforce in dirty air would that really be a surprise?

            1. @robbie it is worth noting that Brawn’s claimed figures do seem to be rather on the high side when compared to both studies of the type that NicHarvs has undertaken, and also high when compared to what other technical experts within the FIA have stated.

              Nikolas Tombazis, in his role as technical expert for the FIA’s single seater commission, has in the past talked about downforce losses being in the order of 30%, pointing rather more towards the lower end of NicHarvs’s range, and indeed most figures I’ve seen from academic studies tend to point towards the lower to middle of his range, if not even slightly lower (more like 25-35%).

              It may not be technically impossible, but it would be very surprising if Haas’s car experienced that extreme a drop off in downforce and the odds are probably against it. What’s rather more likely is that the total downforce drop is nowhere near as extreme as he’s suggesting, but Haas’s decision to put the absolute minimum effort into their 2021 car means the aerodynamic balance is already completely off (i.e. probably far too far forwards for what it needs to be for the static weight distribution of the car) and any impact is basically cumulative to an already fundamentally flawed car design.

            2. anon Fair comment. I’m not even clear at the moment if Brawn has claimed 50% or ‘up to’ 50% loss in downforce, and I’m sure that varies depending on the type of study done, with what wings, in what wind tunnel, with what model size etc etc. I’m sure in some studies it has shown to be more like a 30% loss in downforce, but again, I’m sure no two studies have been done exactly equally, other than perhaps the extensive and consistent testing Brawn may have been able to achieve with his team and their long-term tunnel testing since they took over in F1. I’m sure the dirty air effect is different all other things being equal between Monaco wings, and Monza wings. What cars were tested at universities? What was the configuration of the leading cars wings and diffuser and what shape of wake did it produce? In real life sometimes a driver will be affected by the wakes of several cars in front, especially at race starts.

              Then I think things can also get a bit muddy when a driver or a team member might speak of loss of ‘performance’ while in dirty air, which can entail not just the literal taxing of downforce levels, but the effect on the tires and the cooling of the car, and what that affords a driver in being able to stay close for a fight, or having no choice but to back off to preserve the tires and the engine for the long game of at least finishing the race intact.

              I’m not questioning nor doubting any of the tests nor varying numbers that have been thrown out there, done both within F1 and without, and would just reiterate that I don’t think we need hold Mick to a scientific number as to what it felt like to him, in that Haas, in his first experience in F1 racing in anger. I agree that it likely wasn’t 20% of normal downforce that he was actually happening, but I’ll take his word for it that that is what it felt like.

      2. Coventry Climax
        13th April 2021, 0:33

        What I’m more surprised about is that he’s obviously not been in a simulator that does it’s job well, otherwise he could, would and should have known beforehand.
        Furthermore, I can image a car that has really been finetuned, engineering-wise, and performs extremely well in clean air, to lose a high percentage when in dirty air, but losing that much with a car that doesn’t have those characteristics to begin with? Maybe, but it doesn’t seem likely. So yes, an engineer or even better telemetry figures to substantiate the claim would be welcome. Not that we’ll ever see those, give the name of the guy that said this is ‘Schumacher’.
        I can’t figure out the lacklustre attitude of Haas. I’m not surprised if the team goes into russian hands any time soon.

    3. Running with Nikita instead of Kimi ‘like going to 20 percent learning’ – Schumacher

    4. When these wider cars came they were too wide and almost impossible to handle in some scenarios. People might have said that racing was better pre 2017. Still there was at least one silver lining with these generation of cars. After the GP I, like many others rated Mazepin to be one of the worst drivers for a long time. He made quite a few rookie mistakes. Back when Giovinazzi was still new to F1 he crashed his Sauber a few times in China. Leclerc has made some strange mistakes here and there and last year we saw how Russell spun.

      It has been said that F1 needs to be harsh on rookies. I’m not sure how difficult those 2022 cars will be but I hope that we will really see the difference between a rookie and someone who has raced more.

      PS. I still have to give credit how well Tsunoda drove.

    5. the fact that they were caught out so much is an unintended but inevitable consequence of the limited testing they were allowed to do

    6. I fully understand the financial issues behind the severely limited testing these days but it’s got to be tough on new drivers to come into F1 with almost no testing. Think about it: every title winner since they limited testing has been won by drivers that came into F1 when there was unlimited testing. That had to be a big advantage for drivers like Hamilton, Alonso, Vettel when they broke into F1. Lewis obviously has a natural gift but it’s hard to imagine that he would have had the rookie year in 2007 if he had just a couple of days testing before the season.

      I would like to testing expanded up for rookie drivers. I think it would go a long way toward making the back marker teams a bit more competitive and give rookies a better chance to compete.

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