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GP Week : Issue 218
The race in shanghai further illustrated that only two teams can currently really compete at the top –Mercedes and Ferrari. The race in Malaysia provided a stunning victory for Ferrari, underlining the fact that the Italian cars, could capitalise on a strong advantage in terms of reduced tyre wear compared to the Mercedes. The Chinese race was expected to show whether what happened in Malaysia was just a one-off in terms of tyre advantage in favour of Ferrari or otherwise. Of course the temperature at Sepang was something completely different compared to Shanghai but, even taking into consideration the different compound allocated for this race as option (Soft), repeating the same choice adopted in Australia, it was clear that Mercedes had recovered in terms of the overall balance of the car, hence reducing the gap in terms of tyres efficiency compared to Ferrari. Mercedes, brought to China a significantly revised aero package, featuring a modified front wing together with revised barge boards, and a revised rear wing too. This of course was a programmed development step for the Brackley- based squad, but it was a timely means of regaining the competitveness of the W06. In particular the new front wing features a series of slits in the area close to the endplate, to better divert the airflow towards the outer section of the front wheels, so to reduce the drag. This feature was particularly effective in China, especially on the long back straight. It is in fact important to note that the W06 had a noticeable downforce gain, with very small disruption in terms of drag increment. This fact was illustrated both by the speed trap and top speeds at the end of each track sector, where the Mercedes, at the top in the speed trap sheet, was the fastest car at the sector ends. This demonstrates that the downforce load adopted was very high, higher than the one adopted by Ferrari, but at the same time the Power Unit advantage still helped Mercedes to top the sheet at the speed trap. The increased downforce load helped in terms of regaining a better balance, and thus managing the tyre wear during the race. The advantage that was believed (after Malaysia) to be Ferrari’s in this respect, already faded away after the first stint, leaving the Italian cars only the chance of trying to close the gap with the cars in front – but not trying too hard, as even for Vettel and Raikkonen it was not possible to put too much pressure on the tyres without eventually destroying them. The SF-15T did however continue a steady reduction of the gap to the Mercedes, even if this was not enough to pass them by means of an undercut strategy. Ferrari was quite active in terms of development of the car, even though not sporting such a deep revision, as it was the case for the Mercedes. Ferrari in fact, limited the aero development to the adoption of a slimmer engine cover, now not featuring the huge air vent around the exhaust pipe. This one was wrapped tightly by the bodywork, so as to reduce the negative effects in terms of airflow directed to the rear under the main wing profile. This new bodywork will probably not be kept in Bahrain next week, due to the very high temperature, even though it is important to point out that the race will be a night one, with temperatures lower than at night. The Sakhir track features a very technical layout and will thus be a very useful test for both the leading teams, as car balance and tyre performance will be crucial elements. TeCHNICAL pAoLo FILIseTTI Technical Editor TECHNICAL 26 GPWEEK.com // 26 GPWEEK.com // F1 >>> CHINA PARTNERS: