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Archive for the tag “Red Bull”

Another first corner skirmish…

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It was 50 years ago that Graham Hill summed it up:  “Difficult to believe that a bunch of so-called racing drivers can’t all head into the first corner without running into one another…” He was talking, of course, only a few moments after the famous 1966 Indy 500 rolling-start multishunt. As on-the-button as Graham was back then, he would be astonished to see that nothing’s changed. First, McLaren’s Fernando Alonso runs into the back of Esteban Gutierrez at high speed in Melbourne. Next, Valtteri Bottas t-bones Lewis Hamilton at Turn One in Bahrain. Then the two Ferraris hit one another in China’s Turn One. Now, in the latest demonstration of ineptitude, both Daniil Kyvat and said Gutierrez ram the cars in front of them in Russia’s Turn One.  And Turn Two, in the case of Kyvat.

Kvyat’s demotion to Scuderia Toro Rosso from next weekend’s Spanish GP onwards is a double-whammy for Red Bull.  One, they hope it will sort out the volatile Daniil. Second, and much more importantly, they are able show the world that the brilliantly-talented Max Verstappen is very much a Red Bull driver, thankyou very much (Ferrari, Mercedes and anyone else who might think of poaching him).

I’ve never been a massive fan of the Red Bull driver programme, I have to say. I applaud the company’s commitment to motor racing, and the opportunity they have given, and are giving, to drivers like Vettel, Ricciardo and Verstappen, but I wince at the lack of real training for those of lesser natural talent:  instead of methodical, hard work – of the type that Rob Wilson drums into drivers of the quality of Valtteri Bottas, Nico Hulkenberg, Marcus Ericsson and Alex Lynn, to name but a few, the Red Bull system seems to thrive on arm-waving, innuendo and fierce discipline. To put it bluntly:  there’s no point in disciplining a driver if he doesn’t know the fundamentals in the first place.

As quick as Daniil is, he quantifiably lacks the critical elements that come so naturally to drivers like Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen.  You can see that when you stand on various corners at various circuits – at Turn Nine in Bahrain, for example, or at the entry into Turn Three at Barcelona. Funny thing, though:  I’ve never seen a Red Bull Driver Executive at any of these vantage points.  Had they been so inclined, it might have saved them a lot of money over the years. Think of the loot spent on, say, Scott Speed, Jaime Alguersuari and Jean-Eric Vergne (at least $50m, if you compute the cost of buying the Minardi team in order to give Speed a drive), and you see what I mean.

Carlos Sainz is also in the Red Bull bump-zone.  He has a lot of people around him, telling him that he’s ultra-quick and just as “good” as Max, yet the variables of race day tell us otherwise:  Max is all subtle input;  Carlos is all reflex and car control. Max manipulates the car; Carlos eventually recognises his survival instinct. Sainz is good enough to be a winner…but he needs to work hard on the fundamentals he lacks. And, to do that, he needs to discover those fundamentals in the first place.

It shouldn’t be a hit-and-miss thing: drivers like Sainz and Kyvat can definitely perform at higher levels – but they need to focus on the elements that are critical rather than numbers that can mislead on the standard, digital telemetry charts.  That’s why golfers like Jordan Spieth and Rory McIlroy have other guys watch their swing: the telemetry is there for them in the Titleist and Nike labs but it’s no match for “doin’ what’s right” on the practice range.

It’ll be interesting, of course, to see how Sainz and Kyvat slug it out: Daniil creates slightly shorter corners but Carlos has the Latin flair. In the A-Team, meanwhile, we now have two superb racing drivers. Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen are a Dream Team by any standards; and it’s my bet, if Daniel R is correct about the RB12 being capable of winning this year, that Max is not too far away from his first F1 victory.

Anyway, I talk about this, and a bit more, in these two video reflections from Russia. I posted them on YouTube just before the Kyvat announcement…but the rationale is all there.

I have also written in depth about the talent of Max Verstappen in the latest edition of F1 Racing.

Enjoy.

Mexican Memories (2)

And so we say goodbye to Mexico City – to one of the most enjoyable F1 races of recent times. Here are my post-race thoughts and (below) some close-ups of as many of  Cesar Galindo’s paintings as I could find in the various paddock offices. Cesar has recently published a magnificent art book, details of which I shall be giving to my wife to ensure an early Christmas arrival…

 

Notes from the Singapore paddock

  • The Romain Grosjean-Felipe Nasr first-lap shunt at Monza (Romain’s right-front hit Felipe’s left-rear) was indeed a “racing accident”.  It turns out that when Grosjean’s Lotus was hit from behind by Nasr’s team-mate, Marcus Ericsson, the resultant impact/deceleration was enough to activate the anti-stall on the Grosjean car.  That’s why he then had no control and collected Nasr. I asked Romain if this anti-stall-kicking-in-mid-corner thing was something he’d experienced before and he said he had: it’s become an integral part of this current era of technology and I’m not sure if it’s a good thing.  I can see why the cars need anti-stall but Romain agreed with me that in the pre-anti-stall days the incident at Monza would have resulted in all three cars continuing relatively undamaged.  As it was, we had a “racing accident” – 2015-style.
  • Speaking of Nasr, he’s been having a lot of trouble with his Brembo brakes recently – specifically with managing the temperature windows.  With Ericsson racing Carbon Industries on the other Sauber, Felipe is also switching to CI for Singapore. Daniil Kvyat, meanwhile, was surprised to hear this, bearing in mind how quick he has been on the Brembos. More than anything, I think, it shows how difficult it is for a team to run two different  brake types within the same garage. Nick Chester of Lotus was saying that “finding brake temperature windows” is primarily all about brake ducts  – “which sounds simple until you remember that ducts not only play a massive role in aerodynamics but are also very expensive and time-consuming to make, given all the aero research that goes into them.”  Is this a good thing, I ask?  I  don’t mind getting excited about a new wing or something but  brakes to my  mind should be about stopping power. Ducts? Difficult to get massively excited about their inner workings but it explains why low-budget teams like Sauber find it so hard to get the cars to stop.
  • It’s official: Ferrari have confirmed that Kimi’s poor start in Monza was indeed “finger trouble”.  Having said that, Kimi replicated the start sequence a hundred times in the simulator a few days later – and was perfect every time. He would have hated that, too, because he likes working in a simulator about as much as he does wearing a tie. He’s still unsure of what happened but it all points to him not releasing the first clutch paddle…and initiating the anti-stall. Sergio Perez owned up to having made the same mistake in practice – and Romain Grosjean said that he still spends a lot of time thinking through the start procedure the night before a race. It’s still that complicated.
  • I said on video after the Italian GP (www.youtube.com/peterwindsor) that Kimi’s re-booting process seemed to be pretty quick but the word from the Singapore paddock is that it was actually surprisingly slow: all that’s required is a quick flick of the clutch lever and you’re away. I guess in Kimi’s case he also spent a few seconds wondering whether the nightmare could really be true…
  • Valtteri Bottas has confirmed that he “just happened” to leave the garage ahead of Felipe Massa in that final qualifying run at Monza. Bottas gave the tow to his team-mate – and the rest is history.  My bet is that Valtteri will be a bit more selective about who he has running five seconds behind him come Monza, 2016, but this is really something he should have thought about before the race week. No honest race engineer is ever going to prevent one of the team cars helping the other (in qualifying) but the driver has a different set of priorities – ie, he wants to beat his team-mate more than any other driver on the grid.  Most of today’s F1 drivers have managers for their contractual and financial affairs but, to me, this sort of issue should also fall under the remit of “management”.  If a personal manager isn’t going to remind the driver about something like this, who is?
  • Daniel Ricciardo told me that “getting the brakes to work at the correct temperature” has been a major factor in the recent, improved  performance at Red Bull-Renault. I say this because so much of the chat these days is about the Renault engine and very little of it is about Brembo. Singapore is going to be a big test for the brakes – but then Monza was, too, and they worked well there on the RB11. Daniel has been preparing for Singapore by cycling in a controlled-temperature environment (stationary bike!) and is of course looking forward to the weekend: “I sweat so much here it’s ridiculous.  When I got out of the car a couple of years ago there was so much fluid in the seat that boys thought I’d had an unfortunate accident or something.  I wouldn’t resort to Nico Rosberg’s extremes but I need to make sure that the front of the balaclava acts as a sweat-soak..”  Nico’s extremes?  Apparently he’s tried sanitary pads on his forehead…
  • Sergio Perez reports that the Mexican GP is a sell-out and that the temperature is definitely rising.  (A lot of the tickets were bought by touts, but then it was forever thus in Mexico City.)  No pressure on him, then? “I love it,” he chortled.  “The place has gone crazy. I never imagined that F1 could be so big in my country.”

Thoughts of Japan…and Andrea

Apologies, first of all, for being away from this site for a little bit of time. I’ve been focusing on our fab new studio for The Racer’s Edge (see video below!); and, in addition, there were a couple of systems glitches with WordPress. Anyway, hopefully now all is in order. We’ve got lots of video out there on our YouTube channel (www.youtube.com/peterwindsor) and I’ll be posting some video highlights here, too – plus a little more besides. Subscription to the YouTube channel is free, so please go ahead and sign up with the widget here for your email notifications about all the new posts as they happen.
Here’s our latest video, introduced from our studio within the showroom of Joe Macari Performance Cars, near Wimbledon, London. It’s a breathtaking site full of exquisite machinery, some of which is red, some of which is eclectic. I love it there – and I aim to be sharing much of that passion with you.
In this vid, Rob Wilson gives his expert assessment of the Lewis-Nico battle in Japan; we talk about the amazing Daniel Ricciardo – and we both look back at the fast, irascible but always charming Italian that was Andrea De Cesaris.  This is Andrea playing table-tennis at the Kyalami Ranch in 1984.  Fit guy, too.  Sadly he lost his life in a motor-cycle accident in Rome last weekend.

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Rob White on a difficult week in Jerez

_X5J7384Rob White (Deputy MD, Technical, Renault Sport F1) is one of those straight-talking engineers who always remind you of the sheer quality of the brain power in an F1 paddock. A former Cosworth man, Rob seems to be neither arrogant nor proud. He’s just an engineer who loves F1 – and who, for the most part, is also very good at what he does. At Jerez this week, though, things didn’t go well for Renault. The problems were high-profile – because of the Red Bull element – and they were seemingly endless. I think it’s typical of Rob that at weeks’s end he lost no time in talking about the issues for the benefit of all:

We have seen very little running from the Renault-engined teams this week. What have the issues been?

We have not run enough laps, and when we have they have not been run at an acceptable performance level.

The underlying causes are not straightforward: there isn’t a single component or system that has caused particular trouble. A number of related things have been troublesome, principally concerning the control and operation of the various sub-systems of the Power Unit within the car.

For example on the first run day, we had problems with a sub-system within the Energy Store that did not directly concern either the battery nor the operation of the battery – it is an electronic part that was in the same housing as the Energy Store.

We subsequently had problems with turbocharger and boost control systems with knock-on effects on the associated engine management systems, subsequently provoking mechanical failures.

What fixes did you implement in Jerez?

Between days one and two, with the help of Red Bull, we implemented a later level of hardware for the rest of the test to address the problem within the Energy Store. This ran for the remaining days.

In parallel to running in Jerez, the team at Viry has run dyno test programs to investigate the trackside problems and to propose solutions.

We identified the probable root cause of our main turbo control issues, implemented some workarounds that were first seen at the end of day three and deployed in the three cars for day four. This established a very minimalist baseline from which we could build._A8C8437

Why were these issues not flagged up on the dyno?

We believed our initial configuration was a robust start point for track use but it has not proved to be the case. We have done substantial dyno running in a similar configuration with few issues. We now know that the differences between dyno and car are bigger than we expected, with the consequence that our initial impressions were incomplete and imperfect.

Our intention was to run the car; we are very frustrated to face this litany of issues that we should have ironed out on the dyno and which have deprived us of a precious learning opportunity.

Have you learned from the limited running?

Absolutely, and at this stage every kilometre is hugely valuable. We recognize that when the cars have run, they are not running at an acceptable level. We are a long way from the type of operation we had planned and prepared for – largely as a result of the workarounds we have implemented – but all the information is useful. In dealing with the issues we have moved further away from the configuration we were comfortable with, which has resulted in the relatively slow times, but the running has given us a vastly greater understanding of the issues we face. We absolutely expect to have a more definitive solution in place for the next session in Bahrain._R6T9498

Has every team experienced the same issues?

Several problems are common to all, as the power unit is the same specification in all the cars except for relatively minor installations differences. Some problems are particular to one installation environment, but it is our responsibility to deal with all of them.

In general, the individual issues are understood; we have worked with all three teams running this week and despite appearances, have made some useful progress. We have not uncovered any big new fundamental problem, although we must recognize that our limited running makes it impossible to be certain.

What is the road map from now until the second test in Bahrain?

Of course we now have a large job list for Bahrain as a lot of the items we wanted to test in Jerez we have not been able to cover. The next stage is to identify the root causes for the problems we experienced, to develop the solutions to strengthen our validation process so we can be more confident to tackle Bahrain in a more normal way.

Are you concerned by the fact that engine specifications are frozen pre-season?

The homologation deadline is the end of February and is fundamental to regulations. Beyond that time, changes are permitted only with prior approval from the FIA. Change is not forbidden, but subject to the sporting regulations and we should not get so hung up on this date.

_R6T9803Remi Taffin faces the media in Jerez

In view of this test, are you still in favour of the new regulations?

Yes absolutely. The powertrain regulations are a massive challenge but also an opportunity, and are hugely important in placing F1 back at the vanguard of technology. We have the necessary tools and determination to succeed.

The step we must take to reach an acceptable level of in-car performance is bigger than we would have liked. It is unacceptable that we have not been able to mitigate the problems sufficiently to allow our partners to run at any length. We are working hard to correct this in time for Bahrain and aim to make amends there.

Images: LAT Photographic

Racing in America

Last week being  US GP week – one of the biggest events on the F1 calendar, with a history going back to Sebring, 1959 – we ran a decidedly American-themed edition of The Racer’s Edge.  It begins in the UK with Jim Clark’s 1966 US GP-winning Lotus 43-BRM and it continues on to Austin Texas, where we looked at some of the elements of the latest US GP venue, at the positioning of F1 in the USA – and where we caught up with a Hollywood actor with more than a passing interest in F1.  Here are all four segments.  The show begins up near Liverpool, not far from Aintree, as it happens.

 

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