Tag Archives: Mercedes

F1 2012 season opener preview

There’s only a few days to go until the Formula 1 season kicks off again – the off-season really does fly by.

But there’s no time to waste. With everyone gearing up for a much closer title fight this year, it’s time to take one last glance at the pack, and try to predict how the teams will fare in Melbourne:

Red Bull

Red Bull may well battle with McLaren for 2012

Red Bull may well battle with McLaren for 2012

Nobody can deny that Red Bull will be at the front this year – it’s almost a given.

However, that’s not to say that the Adrian Newey-designed RB8 will run away with the title again. The ban on exhaust-blown diffusers has cut their advantage to the other teams, and further restrictions on front wing flexibility put them under greater pressure over the winter.

Sebastian Vettel is still the team #1 after back-to-back world titles. While Mark Webber is gearing up to challenge his teammate, I don’t think the Australian is up to the challenge. The best indicator of Webber’s performance will be in Australia, where Mark has never finished higher than 5th. If he can break his streak of bad luck, then he may be in with a chance.

Still, I predict a Vettel pole position in Australia – after that nobody can be certain.

McLaren

The MP4-27 may well being McLaren back to winning ways

The MP4-27 may well being McLaren back to winning ways

Pre-season testing has indicated that the Woking squad are back in top form in 2012.

However, they have a mighty challenger in the form of Red Bull. Both teams have tested out radical innovations on their cars, and it is still unclear who possesses the faster car. While Red Bull appear to have good qualifying pace, McLaren have performed well in long-fuel runs, similar to the 2011 season.

Lewis Hamilton’s well-publicised problems from 2011 appear to be behind him. The Brit has admitted he spent many nights partying during the 2011 season, which may well explain his loss of focus. There’s no doubt that Lewis is a fantastically talented driver, but there is also no excuse for underperforming in 2012.

His teammate, Jenson Button, will be looking to capitalise on a relatively successful 2011 season, and is hoping to beat Lewis again. However, if Hamilton has tackled his personal issues, then there may well be a brilliantly tight battle between the two this year.

Ferrari

Ferrari are yet to understand their F2012

Ferrari are yet to understand their F2012

While the front two teams have already established themselves as title contenders before the season opener, Ferrari are still unsure as to their pace. How they react to their radical F2012 will be fascinating.

Fernando Alonso will continue to push the team – and the car – to the limits, and there is little doubt that Felipe Massa will be left trailing behind. Ferrari have a perfect team leader in Alonso, and Felipe’s #1 spot at the team (inherited in 2007) has been well and truly taken away from him.

With such a differing driver line-up, the constructor’s title is already out of reach for Ferrari. However, depending on how Ferrari react to developing their F2012, Alonso may challenge for the driver’s title later on.

Mercedes

Mercedes will be looking to challenge the top 3

Mercedes will be looking to challenge the top 3

If Ferrari even stumble, Mercedes appear poised to snatch 3rd place in the constructor’s table from them.

After two disappointing years following the Brawn GP fairytale, things appear to be coming together for Mercedes. Team principal Ross Brawn has assembled some of the sport’s finest engineers to work on the W03, which showed good pace in pre-season testing.

Despite his age, Michael Schumacher may still be a force to be reckoned with. Nico Rosberg meanwhile will be looking to take his first ever race victory – compared to Michael’s colossal 91 wins.

It is unlikely that the team can challenge for the titles this year, but nobody can fully rule them out. Starting the season at the front is absolutely crucial.

Lotus

Lotus will be looking to establish themselves

Lotus will be looking to establish themselves

With a new name and new driver line-up, Lotus are the midfield team to keep an eye out for.

The Enstone squad have one of the most exciting driver combinations on the grid – a former world champion and current GP2 title holder. It is more than likely that Kimi Raikkonen will assert himself as #1 in the team, but Romain Grosjean may well keep him on his toes.

What’s of more importance to the team is moving up the grid. After the frontal-exhaust disaster last year, the E20 appears to be much faster and more reliable, despite the chassis issue that ruled the team out of 4 testing days.

Like Mercedes, they are unlikely to make a massive jump up the grid, but I would be very surprised if Lotus were to finish any lower than 5th.

Force India

Force India are looking to stay on top of the midfield

Force India are looking to stay on top of the midfield

Lotus aren’t the only team looking to make progress in 2011. After several impressive performances last year, Force India will be looking to push their way to the top of the midfield.

Adrian Sutil has been ditched after 5 years of faithful service, and his F1 career appears to be over. He has been replaced by Nico Hulkenberg, who gets another shot in F1 after a good 2010 campaign with Williams.

The team have recently received a $32m cash injection from owner Vijay Mallya, so finances aren’t an issue. What the team want is a progressively faster car than last year – the VJM05 appears to be delivering so far.

Alongside Paul di Resta, this is another exciting driver line-up. This battle is much more difficult to call, but I think Di Resta will stay just on top.

Sauber

Sauber may struggle in 2012

Sauber may struggle in 2012

Another midfield team looking to make progress, Sauber may find themselves squeezed out this year.

While their driver line-up of Kobayashi and Perez is an impressive one, I fear the team has not kept up with the development of the rest of the grid. The team saw a massive slide in pace during the second half of 2011, and the loss of James Key was a massive blow.

With teams like Force India and Lotus looking to move up the grid, there may be no improvement from Sauber in 2012.

Toro Rosso

Ricciardo and Vergne will battle it out at Toro Rosso

Ricciardo and Vergne will battle it out at Toro Rosso

The latest batch of Sebastian Vettel wannabes are in, and look set to provide an exciting battle for 2012.

Jean-Eric Vergne and Daniel Ricciardo are in, ousting Sebastian Buemi and Jaime Alguersuari, who had well and truly overstayed their welcome. With little to no F1 experience (several races for HRT doesn’t do much for Ricciardo), we have no idea who will end up on top.

The STR7 looks solid, but doesn’t seem to be pushing the team up the order. Most of the focus this year will be on the driver pairing, to see can either of them join Vettel at Red Bull.

Williams

Williams look set for another dismal season

Williams look set for another dismal season

After a dismal 2011 season, it appears unlikely that Williams will recover this season.

The Fw34 has been disappointing in testing, frequently ending up at the back of the pack. Bruno Senna brings a fresh face to the team, but Pastor Maldonado stays on, and frequent readers of this site know how I feel about him.

They may prove me wrong, but I see little improvement for Williams this year.

Caterham

Caterham must make progress in 2012

Caterham must make progress in 2012

After two years stranded in F1′s no-man’s-land, Caterham will be looking to push forward and join the midfield.

Failure is not an option for this team – they have spent way too much money to continue to fall behind teams like Williams and Sauber. Unlike HRT and Marussia, Caterham invested financially according to where they thought they would finish in several years, not where they would end up in the beginning. Banking their future on FIA payouts is risky, but it’s been done in F1 before.

Vitaly Petrov replaces the direly slow Jarno Trulli, and may give Heikki Kovalainen a run for his money.

HRT

Another season at the back for HRT - but that's all that's needed

Another season at the back for HRT - but that's all that's needed

After finally turning a wheel before the opening race for the first time in their history, HRT have made ever so slight progress towards stability – albeit at the back of the grid.

With the oldest driver line-up on the grid, the team will be sorely lacking in pace. However, the most important thing for the team is that they stay afloat – many new teams collapse within the first two years, particularly back in the 1990s.

A neat livery may gain them some fans, but otherwise it’s business as usual at the back of the pack. They may struggle to reach the 107% rule in the opening rounds.

Marussia

Marussia will be looking to beat HRT

Marussia will be looking to beat HRT

After finishing last yet again, Marussia will be looking to pull themselves ahead of HRT in the standings in 2012.

Rookie Charles Pic will find it most difficult, having little to no experience of the MR01 before Melbourne. I would be surprised if he were to survive the 107% chop in Q1.

Timo Glock, after proving his worth against all his teammates so far, deserves better than to be languishing in 23rd place all year, and the future of the team may well rest in his hands. No pressure, of course.

 

Of course, all of these predictions could fly out the window by the first corner in Melbourne! Either way, it’s looking set to be another fantastic season of Formula 1. I’ll be here to cover it every step of the way.

Mercedes reveal W03 in Barcelona

Mercedes' W03 features a large stepped nose

Mercedes' W03 features a large stepped nose

Mercedes are the final frontrunning team to release their 2012 F1 car, called the W03.

The Silver Arrows car has a distinctive nose design, featuring one of the highest steps on the grid so far. The bridge sections of the nose are particularly steep.

The W03 features a lower core weight than its predecessor. The Mercedes team noted that it took 4,500 parts to construct the W03, which is 200 more than the W02.

Over the last few months, the team have hired ex-Ferrari designer Aldo Costa, Renault engineer Bob Bell and Geoff Willis, who previously worked for BAR, Williams and Red Bull.

Vice President of Mercedes-Benz Motorsport Norbert Haug has said that the aim from 2012 is to move into the top 3:

"2012 will mark the third season for our Mercedes-Benz Silver Arrows works team, 
which was introduced in January 2010, and our target is to take a step forward in 
on-track performance.

A lot of work has been done throughout the last year, not just to design the new 
car but also to build a technical organisation that is capable of delivering to 
its full potential, with consistency. Our ultimate goal is to become regular race
winners and championship contenders, and so to write another chapter of success 
in the story of the Silver Arrows which began 78 years ago."

Team principal Ross Brawn called the stepped nose an "acquired taste", but stated that the car is certainly a step forward from last year.

The W03 made its track debut in Barcelona today, with Michael Schumacher at the wheel.

Jerez testing day 3: Rosberg keeps Mercedes on top

Rosberg kept the Mercedes W02 on top

Rosberg kept the Mercedes W02 on top

Nico Rosberg kept last year’s Mercedes on top of the timesheets for the third day of testing in Jerez.

Rosberg took over from Michael Schumacher, and beat his teammate’s time by over a second today. This concludes Mercedes’ running in Jerez, as they will not take part in testing tomorrow.

Romain Grosjean was fastest of the 2012 cars, finishing ahead of Sebastian Vettel.

Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso made their first appearances in 2012 testing, taking 4th and 7th places respectively.

2012′s new rookies had a difficult day. Giedo van der Garde spun out with an hour to go, finishing 9th. His test was not as bad as Jules Bianchi’s though, as the Force India driver crashed on only his third lap, setting no fast laps. This prevented the team from running Nico Hulkenberg in the afternoon.

Times from Jerez day 3:

1. Nico Rosberg            Mercedes W02        1:17.613   118 Laps
2. Romain Grosjean         Lotus E20           1:18.419   117 Laps   +0.806
3. Sebastian Vettel        Red Bull RB8        1:19.297   96 Laps    +1.684
4. Lewis Hamilton          McLaren MP4-27      1:19.464   80 Laps    +1.851
5. Jean-Eric Vergne        Toro Rosso STR7     1:19.734   79 Laps    +2.121
6. Sergio Perez            Sauber C31          1:19.770   48 Laps    +2.157
7. Fernando Alonso         Ferrari F2012       1:20.412   67 Laps    +2.799
8. Bruno Senna             Williams FW34       1:21.293   125 Laps   +3.680
9. Giedo van der Garde     Caterham CT01       1:23.324   74 Laps    +5.711
10.Jules Bianchi           Force India VJM05   No time    3 Laps      N/A

2011 final driver rankings: 10th – 4th

This is the third article in a 4-part series, ranking all 28 drivers of the season. This section of the ranking covers drivers such as Mark Webber, Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg.

10th – Paul di Resta

Di Resta has proven to be a surprisingly fast and reliable rookie

Di Resta has proven to be a surprisingly fast and reliable rookie

Previous ranking: 13th

Review from previous ranking: “Ragged drives have lost him points, but nevertheless a decent start to his F1 career for the Scot.”

It still amazes me that Paul di Resta is in only his first year in F1 – his form makes him look like an experienced veteran.

Aside from a few scrappy rookie errors, Di Resta has been incredibly reliable and solid for a rookie, amassing the most racing laps by any driver this year. He out-qualified teammate Adrian Sutil 9 times, and held this advantage 6 times in the races.

Force India later began to split their strategies between their two drivers, which resulted in a hit-and-miss second half for Di Resta. Despite this, many have been seriously impressed with the Scot’s mature attitude and confident driving this year.

The fact that he scored points in his first 2 races, as well as 6 of the last 9, spoke volumes.

9th – Adrian Sutil

Sutil performed well, but it wasn't enough

Sutil performed well, but it wasn't enough

Previous ranking: 15th

Review from previous ranking: “If he is beaten by Di Resta in his first year, then Adrian will find himself shunted out of the way by the hotshot rookie.”

It’s both a blessing and a curse for teams to see their driver perform brilliantly while their contract is up for review. A blessing because it brings the results the team craves, a curse because the form rarely continues into the next season (see Toro Rosso).

Sutil found himself under huge pressure from rookie Di Resta, and delivered the goods fantastically in the second half of 2011. Taking season-best 6th places in home race Germany and Brazil were the highlights. It has been a complete turnaround from Germany only 2 years ago, when he bottled his first-ever points-scoring finish by clashing with Kimi Raikkonen.

He enjoyed a decent overall margin over Paul in both qualifying and the races, and rarely lost an opportunity when it was presented.

Adrian has proven himself to be much more reliable and mature than his previous driving indicated, but ultimately it wasn’t enough to retain his contract for 2012.

8th – Mark Webber

Webber tussled with the Pirelli tyres all year

Webber tussled with the Pirelli tyres all year

Previous ranking: 7th

Review from previous ranking: “Webber seems to be lacking in pace, and is at risk of being beaten (points-wise) by Alonso.”

After the end of one of his most disastrous seasons in Formula 1, it is a mystery as to how Mark Webber can pull his career around.

Webber has been completely annihilated by Sebastian Vettel in every single sector this year. While his German teammate finished in the top two 16 times, Mark could do the same only 3 times across the entire season.

He struggled massively at starts, couldn’t extract any performance from the Pirelli tyres in qualifying, and wore them out too quickly in the races. A solitary win in Brazil was barely deserved either – it was only because Vettel suffered gearbox issues.

His racecraft was hit-and-miss as well. His pass on Fernando Alonso in Spa was breathtaking, but he showed inability to adapt to the 2011 racing style in Korea, passing Lewis Hamilton just before a DRS zone, allowing the McLaren to sail past.

A charge through the field in China was fantastic to watch, but overall it was incredibly disappointing to see Webber toil with the Ferraris and McLarens rather than with his teammate.

7th – Sergio Perez

Perez is a completely different type of driver than other rookies

Perez is a completely different type of driver than other rookies

Previous ranking: 8th

Review from previous ranking: “Impressive pace has led many to praise Perez as rookie of the year.”

A crash in Monaco ruled out Perez when the Sauber car was at its best, but he has still done an immense job in his rookie year.

“Checo” made an immediate impact in F1 by scoring points on his debut, only to have them cruelly taken away after a minor technical infringement. A scrappy few races followed, particularly in China, where Sergio picked up two penalties after some questionable driving.

One of the things that has impressed me the most about Perez is his mature no-nonsense attitude. After his Monaco crash, he sensibly sat out the Canadian GP as well, after not feeling well in Friday practice. There are many drivers on the grid who would go into the Grand Prix regardless, putting themselves and their fellow drivers at risk. The fact that Perez reported side-effects from the crash up to 4 races later shows that his decision was the sensible one.

He was soon back to his best, taking a career-best 7th in Silverstone. He was vastly superior over Kamui Kobayashi in qualifying, and was very competent at adapting to the Pirelli tyres. The fact that he is already being lined up for a Ferrari drive is a signal of his prowess.

6th – Lewis Hamilton

Undoubtedly the worst season of Hamilton's career

Undoubtedly the worst season of Hamilton's career

Previous ranking: 4th

Review from previous review: “Hamilton needs to ease off at times, and learn which battles to fight and which to avoid.”

My prediction for Lewis Hamilton could not have been more wrong – it’s been an incredibly difficult year for the former world champion.

Needless clashes, spats with the stewards, tussling with a superior teammate, and apparent overwhelming personal issues all dogged Lewis in 2011. He hasn’t lost his racing ability, as shown by excellent driving in China, Spain and Germany. However, it was clear that Hamilton was surrounded by the wrong people.

The decision to hire a celebrity manager rather than a sporting one took its toll – Lewis was making 3 media/sponsor appearances every single day for a 3 week period at one point. His frustration took to the track, and several shunts with Felipe Massa in Monaco was just the beginning of a fracas that would last the entire season.

As well as the collisions with Massa, Monaco proved to be the worst race of the year. Hitting Pastor Maldonado near the end provoked another penalty from the stewards, and Lewis didn’t hold back in his criticism afterwards.

To make matters worse, the fact that Jenson Button had improved to become an increasingly competitive teammate proved calamitous. In Canada, relations were tense after the two collided in the treacherous conditions.

However, we must not forget that Lewis was still able to show his talents this year. He was completely deserving in every race he won, and pushed Vettel to the flag in Spain, where Red Bull have dominated so much in the past. Wonderful passes in China and Germany were a demonstration of how good a driver he is.

It’s absolutely certain that Hamilton has the pace to win championships, all he has to do is calm down. But that’s easier said than done.

5th – Michael Schumacher

A notable improvement from Schumacher this year

A notable improvement from Schumacher this year

Previous ranking: 10th

Review from previous ranking: “Further improvement this year would be the main aim for Schumacher.”

It’s been more than improvement for Schumacher – he has seriously upped his game, and pushed Nico Rosberg in nearly every way to the final race in Brazil.

Ending the season only 13 points behind Rosberg, it’s been an impressive year for Schumacher. He deserved a well-earned podium in Canada, only for an oversized DRS zone to rip it out of his hands.

Poor qualifying was his hindrance, but he frequently made it up in the races. Michael has set 116 overtakes this season, more than any other driver. Of course, this stat is skewed in the fact that Rosberg was unable to make up much places, while Schumacher would ascend from the depths of Q2, but it is still an impressive statistic.

It’s no secret that Schumacher’s side of the garage is 100% geared towards defeating Rosberg. There is apparently a growing tension in the team as both sides do their best to out-perform the other. It will be very interesting to see how the German duo battle it out in 2012, but much of it will hinge on the car.

4th – Nico Rosberg

Rosberg needs better machinery to show his potential

Rosberg needs better machinery to show his potential

Previous ranking: 5th

Review from previous ranking: “Consistently beating Schumacher will do his reputation a world of good.”

Another year, another lacklustre car at Rosberg’s disposal. It’s a wonder why he puts up with it.

While he was unable to completely dominate Schumacher in the points total, Rosberg completely out-classed his fellow German in qualifying pace. While Michael’s races were spattered with retirements, Nico has cleanly and consistently been taking points finishes by the truckload.

His points margin over Schumacher was reduced this year compared to 2010, but that was to be expected after a torrid campaign last time around from the 7-times champion.

Rosberg is completely capable of mixing it with the frontrunners whenever the opportunity arises, such as Spa or China. He has led quite a few Grands Prix, but the lack of pace from the W02 has constantly held him back from crossing the chequered flag first.

The start of next season will be similar to the start of 2011 – many will be looking to see does Mercedes deliver on its long-awaited frontrunning car. I’m also looking forward to that day – but mostly to see can Rosberg show what he’s really made of.

Schumacher leads quiet rain-affected first practice in Korea

Schumacher set the fastest time in the dying minutes

Schumacher set the fastest time in the dying minutes

Michael Schumacher topped the timesheets for first practice for the Korean Grand Prix, in a session heavily disrupted by rain.

The first 30 minutes of the session were mostly silent, as only Lewis Hamilton set exploratory times on extreme wet tyres.

The track burst into life with half an hour to go, however. Hamilton, Sebastien Buemi and Adrian Sutil all briefly headed the timesheets with less than a minute to go.

Right at the end of the 90 minutes, Schumacher set a 2:02.784 to lead Sebastian Vettel and Paul di Resta. The new 2011 world champion had a slight scare near the end, almost running into the back of a Virgin car.

Managing only 5 laps, Mark Webber was 10th, 2.3 seconds off the pace. Karun Chandhok was 11th, while Jean-Eric Vergne was 13th for Toro Rosso in his first ever official practice session in F1.

Both Ferraris and Renaults, as well as Heikki Kovalainen and Jenson Button, opted not to set a time in FP1.

Times from FP1:

 1.  Michael Schumacher    Mercedes                2:02.784           10
 2.  Sebastian Vettel      Red Bull-Renault        2:02.840   0.056    8
 3.  Paul di Resta         Force India-Mercedes    2:02.912   0.128   12
 4.  Adrian Sutil          Force India-Mercedes    2:03.141   0.357   12
 5.  Sebastien Buemi       Toro Rosso-Ferrari      2:03.182   0.398    9
 6.  Kamui Kobayashi       Sauber-Ferrari          2:03.292   0.508   13
 7.  Lewis Hamilton        McLaren-Mercedes        2:03.391   0.607    6
 8.  Nico Rosberg          Mercedes                2:04.311   1.527   12
 9.  Sergio Perez          Sauber-Ferrari          2:04.797   2.013    8
10.  Mark Webber           Red Bull-Renault        2:05.183   2.399    5
11.  Karun Chandhok        Lotus-Renault           2:06.350   3.566   11
12.  Pastor Maldonado      Williams-Cosworth       2:06.852   4.068   11
13.  Jean-Eric Vergne      Toro Rosso-Ferrari      2:07.541   4.757    9
14.  Rubens Barrichello    Williams-Cosworth       2:08.218   5.434    5
15.  Narian Karthikeyan    HRT-Cosworth            2:08.832   6.048   14
16.  Daniel Ricciardo      HRT-Cosworth            2:09.232   6.448   14
17.  Jerome D'Ambrosio     Virgin-Cosworth         2:12.658   9.874    7
18.  Timo Glock            Virgin-Cosworth         2:14.508   11.724   4
19.  Felipe Massa          Ferrari                 N/A                 0
20.  Fernando Alonso       Ferrari                 N/A                 0
21.  Bruno Senna           Renault                 N/A                 0
22.  Vitaly Petrov         Renault                 N/A                 0
23.  Heikki Kovalainen     Lotus-Renault           N/A                 0
24.  Jenson Button         McLaren-Mercedes        N/A                 0

Mercedes 1-2 in Belgian first practice

Michael Schumacher's special one-off helmet for this weekend

Michael Schumacher's special one-off helmet for this weekend

Michael Schumacher marked his 20 years in Formula 1 by leading first practice for the Belgian Grand Prix.

Wearing a special gold helmet for this weekend, Michael was the first out of the pits, and this proved to be crucial.

Teammate Nico Rosberg was 2nd, as both Mercedes cars were the only drivers who went out on track before a heavy shower.

The rain lasted for the first half an hour of the session, completely soaking the track and forcing the other drivers to take on extreme wet tyres. Over the 90 minutes, drivers opted to switch to intermediates as the track slowly dried out.

Jenson Button was third fastest, over 8 seconds behind Schumacher. Sebastian Vettel and Lewis Hamilton were 4th and 5th.

The damp track still caught out several drivers, most notably Bruno Senna and Paul di Resta, both crashing out at Turn 9.

Times from FP1:


 1.  Michael Schumacher  Mercedes              1:54.355            13
 2.  Nico Rosberg        Mercedes              1:54.829  + 0.474   15
 3.  Jenson Button       McLaren-Mercedes      2:02.740  + 8.385   8
 4.  Sebastian Vettel    Red Bull-Renault      2:03.752  + 9.397   10
 5.  Lewis Hamilton      McLaren-Mercedes      2:04.301  + 9.946   7
 6.  Adrian Sutil        Force India-Mercedes  2:04.663  + 10.308  18
 7.  Felipe Massa        Ferrari               2:04.728  + 10.373  10
 8.  Rubens Barrichello  Williams-Cosworth     2:05.391  + 11.036  12
 9.  Jaime Alguersuari   Toro Rosso-Ferrari    2:06.583  + 12.228  16
10.  Kamui Kobayashi     Sauber-Ferrari        2:06.886  + 12.531  15
11.  Fernando Alonso     Ferrari               2:07.055  + 12.700  12
12.  Sergio Perez        Sauber-Ferrari        2:07.481  + 13.126  15
13.  Jarno Trulli        Lotus-Renault         2:08.233  + 13.878  14
14.  Sebastien Buemi     Toro Rosso-Ferrari    2:08.239  + 13.884  14
15.  Pastor Maldonado    Williams-Cosworth     2:08.918  + 14.563  10
16.  Mark Webber         Red Bull-Renault      2:09.792  + 15.437  8
17.  Timo Glock          Virgin-Cosworth       2:12.278  + 17.923  13
18.  Tonio Liuzzi        HRT-Cosworth          2:12.389  + 18.034  10
19.  Jerome D'Ambrosio   Virgin-Cosworth       2:12.772  + 18.417  13
20.  Paul di Resta       Force India-Mercedes  2:13.058  + 18.703  8
21.  Karun Chandhok      Lotus-Renault         2:13.090  + 18.735  11
22.  Vitaly Petrov       Renault               2:13.601  + 19.246  10
23.  Bruno Senna         Renault               2:14.340  + 19.985  7
24.  Daniel Ricciardo    HRT-Cosworth          2:14.933  + 20.578  11

How the teams are shaping up after testing – Part 2

This is part 2 of a 3-post series, looking at each individual team with less than 2 weeks to go until Melbourne. So without further delay here are the next 4 teams:

Mercedes

Mercedes may well leap to the front in 2011

Mercedes may well leap to the front in 2011

After the fairytale double championship success of 2009, last year was a huge shock to the Brackley outfit. With only a handful of podiums courtesy of Rosberg, and Schumacher’s performances lacklustre at times, 2011 is a crucial year for the silver arrows.

Despite struggling in the first few test sessions, a large upgrade package has launched Mercedes back to the top of the testing timesheets. Although we aren’t exactly sure how the W02 is shaping up just yet, it seems as if the team has minimized the damage from the loss of the double diffuser and F-duct.

With Schumacher happier than last year with the slick tyres, things are looking up. Nico Rosberg appears to be very happy with the performance of the car, so race wins can’t be ruled out for either driver in 2011.

Renault

There's a lot more to the R31 than a shiny new livery

There's a lot more to the R31 than a shiny new livery

Despite the ongoing battle with Lotus over naming rights stealing the headlines (for all the wrong reasons), Renault may have made huge progress over the winter behind the scenes.

The front exhaust-blown diffuser looks like a stroke of genius, and rumours hint that there are more technical secrets hidden inside the R31. However, the temporary loss of Robert Kubica has shot down some of the high expectations they may have had. Despite Nick Heidfeld taking his seat, there are very few drivers in the world who could replace Kubica.

Vitaly Petrov is still learning, and podium finishes may be too much to ask. Heidfeld is fantastically consistent, but this means that the team will lose out in terms of raw performance.

Despite a radically designed car, Renault may still lose out, though by no fault of their own.

Williams

A radical rear end design may help or hinder Williams

A radical rear end design may help or hinder Williams

At first glances, Williams’ Fw33 doesn’t seem to be particularly exciting, having shied away in the midfield for most of testing. However, a closer look at the car will hint that the team have quietly produced a very interesting car.

With some difficulty, they have created their smallest-ever gearbox, which is crucial to having a tight rear end layout on the car, which benefits both aerodynamically and mechanically.

A low differential, combined with high-angle rear axles, have manipulated the rear wing to squeeze more downforce out of the car. Unfortunately, their coveted flywheel KERS will still not be run yet, the team opting to run a conventional battery system – for the moment.

The loss of several important sponsors has hurt the team financially, and perhaps this is what prompted them to drop Hulkenberg for sponsor-laden Maldonado. The PDVSA logos (Pastor’s sponsor) all over the FW33 demonstrates this.

Reliability appears to be a huge problem at the moment, but their raw pace has yet to be discovered.

Force India

Force India may struggle to improve

Force India may struggle to improve

The end of 2010 was very disappointing for Force India, considering the way they started the year battling near the frontrunners. 2011 has seen the field raise their game, and after losing two senior team personnel, the team may find this year just as difficult.

Both James Key and Mark Smith have left to join rival teams, leaving the technical department under-resourced. The blade roll-hoop design is risky, but apart from this there doesn’t seem to be huge leaps in design compared to the VJM03.

On the other hand, the arrival of Paul di Resta (who has beaten Sebastian Vettel in lower racing categories) should bring some extra pace. A Mercedes KERS system, by far the best of the pack in 2009, is also a huge boost.

However, I feel that this is not enough for Force India to even retain their ground. Their car has failed to impress many in testing, and the midfield will probably be the only battleground for the team in 2011.

The final post, part 3, will be up tomorrow.

Brawn “comfortable” with Mercedes’ position

Team Principal Ross Brawn is confident Mercedes will improve before Melbourne

Team Principal Ross Brawn is confident Mercedes will improve before Melbourne

Despite a radically new car at the start of this month, Mercedes has so far failed to shine in pre-season testing, most days struggling in the midfield.

However, in a team Q&A session, team principal Ross Brawn claims that he is content with the team’s current form:

"We are well aware of the pace of our current car, the distance to the current front 
runners and the reasons for this, which include the compromises brought about by our 
cooling issues. Our intention was always to launch the car in a fairly basic 
specification to allow more time to focus on the upgrade package. This inevitably 
means that we look further off the pace than people might expect. Knowing all of the 
facts, I am comfortable with our current position and the developments that we have 
to come."

The Wo2 car is expected to recieve several large upgrades before the season opener in Melbourne. One of these is a brand new front wing, as Brawn explains:

"The front wing that we used in Barcelona will not be our final race specification 
but is moving closer to the wing that we will use in Melbourne. Our previous front 
wing was based heavily on the 2010 version, while the wing that we used in Barcelona 
moved closer to our 2011 design. We used the opportunity to investigate and confirm 
our direction before finally signing off the race-specification wing."

 

Mercedes launch W02

The Mercedes W02

The Mercedes W02

Mercedes were one of the four teams to reveal their 2011 cars today, with the Brackley-based squad pulling the covers off the W02.

Seeing as development had begun on this car back in July last year, expectations are huge for the all-German line-up. The front of the car is home to several changes, such as a very odd-looking nosecone, which becomes very wide and flat at the front. The angle of the bridges on the side of the nose are also very different.

The front wing has been heavily revised, and the sidepods now contain two smaller bargeboards instead of one. A pull-rod suspension system has been adapted to the rear of the car. Also, the roll bar appears to very unusually far back, well behind the overhead air intake.

 

First image of Mercedes W02

A first look at the Mercedes W02

A first look at the Mercedes W02

The first rendering of Mercedes’ 2011 challenger, the W02, has been published by the team.

Although this is not the actual launch, as that is happening on Tuesday in Valencia, it gives us a good look at the car. Mercedes appear to have adopted Red Bull’s high nosecone, which becomes wider at the front, similar to Ferrari’s F150.

The wings appear generally the same, although they have reverted to the old airbox design, compared to a radical split airbox layout last year.

This image was first published by German newspaper Bild earlier today.

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