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GP Week : Issue 197
Other relevant data from Bahrain comes from the end-of-straight maximum speed. Although unofficial, it shows Alonso reaching 336km/h (compared to 313km/h in qualifying last year). Some of the Renault drivers spoke of a 20kp/h gap. All up, these figures do help to understand the different approached and outcomes from the testing as a combined package – power output, aero drag, downforce. Wha else is relevant to the 22.5km’h difference from Alonso between last year and now? Firstly, keep in mind the different weight of the cars. In qualifying last year, the car would have run with minimum fuel; in the test it is likely to have been half a tank (in addition to the new, heavier 692kg minimum weight). Every 100kg of weight reduces maximum speed by approx 1.6km/h, so how could the new car reach 336 km/h? The new, narrower front wings, and the lowering of the rear wings has reduced drag by about 20%, accompanied by a downforce reduction of around 15%. While the latter makes no real contribution to tiop speed, the smaller CX (drag) does. Simulation tells us that with this hypothetical 2014 aero set-up, the car should reach 331km/h – close to Bahrain’s 336, but not quite. It is thus reasonable to assume that the difference is due to the Ferrari Power Unit reaching close to 780hp at its maximum, when the electric motors are contributing their maximum. Indeed, the simulator tells us that with this total configuration, a 1:36.58 lap time is possible – very close to what Alonso achieved. Does all this give us some insight into the real performance of the other cars, using the same methodology – although again we do not have access to official top speeds, which would be useful in assessing their CX values. Rosberg’s best lap time in Bahrain – 1:33.283 – was three seconds better thabn Alonso. If we assume initially the same tyres, the aero configuration similar to before, and we adjust for the lower weight of fuel, we come to a simulated time of 1:33.87. Given tha Rosberg used soft tyres, it is thus easy to simulate that experimental time. Above all, it is clear that the ‘macro- functional’ parameters of the Mercedes – aero configuration and power – is not that far from Ferrari. We end the analysis by checking what should be the aero configuration and power to achieve the performance of Red Bull, whose best time was a 1:39.837, more than 3 seconds slower than Ferrari. Even without accurate top speed data, it is safe to assume a large variation on the macro-functional parameters to understand that gap. The most plausible explanation is that Red Bull could not yet have all its hypothetical power – with a maximum of around 600hp. ie the electric motors were making virtually no contribution. The deduction is that with full availability of power, provided by the MGUs, the car is competitive and not that far from Mercedes. The proper integration of that power source takes away any surprise as to Ricciardo’s performance in Melbourne – though Vettel’s failure illustrates some fragility, replicating the failures at Jerez/Bahrain. Red Bull have thus done an impressive job in assessing their weaknesses and, in part, rectifying them. The pre-season tests were thus, once you analyse the data carefully, actually quite a good guide to Melbourne form. Mercedes, McLaren and Williams had already showed their complete form; Ferrari were focusing on reliability, and Red Bull just needed to get its Renault systems integration up to scratch ... 39 GPWEEK.com // 39 GPWEEK.com // F1 >>> AUSTRALIA PARTNERS: