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OVERTAKING IS NO LONGER JUST DOWN TO DRIVERS
An interesting radio message between the Red Bull pit wall and driver Daniel Ricciardo gave a real insight into the strategy that can go into making a successful overtake in 2014.
The Australian was closing in on third-placed Sergio Perez, aware that if he made a move stick a potential win was in his grasp, and the team asked him: "Daniel, what do you think is the most likely place for a pass. We'll work out the energy."
A few laps later, he made the pass.
Unlike last year’s KERS system, which delivered extra power at the press of a button in the cockpit, the new energy recovery systems require engineers to manipulate the balance between the harvesting and power release from pit wall.
Up to 160bhp is available, and understanding when exactly to use that during a lap to give a driver an added overtaking boost at the right moment is crucial. By working together, Red Bull’s engineers and driver were able to manipulate it and make the move. And it was a crucial element to them winning the race.
MERCEDES HAS AN ACHILLES HEEL
Mercedes was finally beaten not because the opposition has caught up but because of a fundamental problem with their electrical power unit – and it could prove crucial in the title race. Both leader Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton lost use of the MGU-K (the power generating unit in the kinetic energy recovery system) when each suffered a high-voltage control electronics failure.
The incidents occurred at almost exactly the same time - both after a pit stop - costing them several seconds per lap and crucially nullifying their huge straight-line speed advantage. Although Hamilton retired with brake issues soon after, the reduction in performance cost Rosberg the race. But there’s more to it than that.
Teams can only change these units five times before suffering penalties for doing so – and after changing the one that failed in the race Hamilton has now used four, with Rosberg only one behind. Their rivals have also suffered, but Hamilton is now just one away from a grid penalty – and if that happens it could tip the balance further towards his team-mate.
THE NEWEY ERA IS COMING TO AN END
Red Bull announced a new deal with Adrian Newey before the race - but when the details are fully revealed it could good news for their rivals as it looks set to stop him making his mark in the new era.
The press release mentioned ‘new Red Bull Technology projects’ being a focus for the new deal, and Newey himself said after the race that he was looking forward to taking a ‘more mentoring’ role with the engineers while exploring these new opportunities.
It has long been a dream of Newey’s to work on an America’s Cup sailing project and it’s a fair bet that Red Bull could consider getting him involved – he is understood to have discussed it with British sailor Ben Ainslie in Abu Dhabi last year.
Likewise, he has an interest in working on automotive projects in the same way Gordon Murray did with McLaren to create the McLaren F1 road car - and surely Infiniti would be up for that. Whatever the projects, it is certain that 55-year-old Newey’s focus will be taken away from F1 – and Red Bull will need to make sure he still has the time amidst all this to mentor the engineers that follow him to deliver.
FERRARI ARE STILL IN TROUBLE
Ferrari technical director James Allison has suggested the team lacks “creativity” and “originality” because it constantly has its back to the wall – and a disappointing upgrade in Canada proved the point.
The team ran more aggressive engine settings, having built confidence in reliability, and also brought more new parts in a continued push to move forward - but while Alonso said the package worked “okay” he also said the continued updates have been too inconsistent.
But Pat Fry alluded to greater problems, with new boss Marco Mattiacci quickly identifying key issues that require change within the team.
“There are a huge amount of opportunities for us to actually improve the place,” Fry admitted. “We're going through those and then working on how to fix them and improve them.”
Meanwhile, Raikkonen was struggling with driveability – spinning on his own at exactly the same place, almost to the tyre tracks, in practice and the race. On both occasions, Raikkonen said he had suffered a “kick” from the engine, suggesting the torque delivery from the ERS is not yet smoothly integrated into the system.
But the Finn’s struggles could well be down to a communications issue. Raikkonen has worked well with English engineers in the past, so Ferrari have brought in test team engineer David Lloyd to support the Finn’s Italian race engineer Antonio Spagnolo from now on.
An on-form Raikkonen at Ferrari would be a treat to see – so we can only hope this new approach works before he loses too much inspiration...
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- Motor Racing
- Daniel Ricciardo
- Lewis Hamilton
- Adrian Newey
- Nico Rosberg