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GP Week : Issue 144
14 The last race of the season is naturally a ‘bridge’ connecting the current season to the next one, from a technical point of view. It is a race where there are always many experiments, aimed as previewing definite solutions in the next season.. It was interesting so see how all the teams are working to recover the diminished efficiency of their cars, due to the blown diffuser ban. Ferrari featured a particular layout of their exhaust pipes, including a vertical extension, that creates an additional volume through which the gases can keep blowing, even with the throttle released and, more importantly, even with different engine mapping to those allowed today. Thus, one way or another, the blown diffuser won’t totally disappear, notwithstanding the different position the exhaust pipes will have next year. This makes further sense when we see how Red Bull, for the very last race of the season, tried to prevent the overheating of the inner shoulder of the rear right tyre that caused Vettel’s retirement in Abu Dhabi. Next year the exhaust positioning will be different and higher but the gases will still blow pretty close to the tyres, so ... the solution was a more complicated rear brake drum, sporting wider and more forward- placed winglets to divert the hot flow from direct contact with the inner shoulder of the rear tyres. Looking more in depth and in particular to Ferrari, it was interesting to see how different was the set up of the two cars. Both used the stiffer version of the front wing even though Massa (during practice) continued testing the newer one, sporting some sensors placed on the endplates with the aim of monitoring their movements. At the rear, on the other hand, Massa clearly adopted an higher-downforce wing, while Alonso a lower downforce configuration. It is clearly visible by the relative position of the main profile in relation to the endplates. The drawings show the wing of Massa sporting four horizontal slits and a completely flat main profile, while Alonso’s one had just three inclined slits on the endplates and a main profile slightly curved upwards in the middle. These two configurations show the different driving styles of the two drivers. Alonso was capable during the season of coping with the chronic problem related to tyres heating, while Massa, even using generally an higher downforce configuration, found the car more unstable compared to his team mate. Performance-wise we can say that Ferrari improved throughout the season trying to close the gap with Red Bull and McLaren, but still were found lacking sufficient downforce generated by the car’s body and underfloor. Talking to some engineers from the Scuderia, it seems they have found the right direction for 2012 –next year the difference in set-up between the two red cars should be smaller, if the overall base efficiency (and downforce level provided) of the car is higher than the current one. Technical Update: Brazilian GP The season-ending race saw some real testing of design tweaks for 2012, as Paolo Fillisetti explains