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Analysis: Understanding F1's power game

Renault's Fernando Alonso and Ferrari's Kimi RaikkonenWith Formula One heading to power tracks Spa-Francorchamps and Monza in successive weekends, recent chatter about engines is only likely to increase as the title battle enters its final phase.

Talk about variations between manufacturers first surfaced when Flavio Briatore and Fernando Alonso both complained their Renault team had lost out by not exploiting the engine freeze as much as other car makers.

And, with the matter being highlighted at Valencia when Sebastian Vettel proved that a Ferrari-powered Scuderia Toro Rosso STR3 was better than a Renault-powered Red Bull Racing RB4, it is clear that engine power is now differentiating teams.

Autosport's technical correspondent Gary Anderson has conducted a detailed examination of speed trap figures from qualifying in Valencia - and it has revealed an interesting comparison of aero and engine performance between Ferrari, McLaren, Toro Rosso, Red Bull and Renault.

Qualifying figures were used as the drivers require a clear lap to achieve maximum performance and therefore other cars do not influence their speeds, as they could be in practice or the race.

The speed trap figures are:

                     Start/finish line     Inter 1   Inter 2   Top speed
Ferrari-Ferrari         245.6 km/h          287.7     308.2      316.1
McLaren- Mercedes       246.0               284.0     307.9      312.2
Toro Rosso-Ferrari      243.8               287.1     308.4      316.4
Red Bull-Renault        239.4               281.1     303.5      313.6
Renault-Renault         242.6               282.0     305.9      312.2

So what do these figures show?

The start/finish line is a measure of traction and horsepower, coming soon after a second gear entry onto the straight.

Intermediate 1 comes at the end of the straight between the first chicane and before the braking zone for the bridge. It is far enough along the straight that the impact of traction upon speed will be negligible and is reckoned a good indication of horsepower.

Intermediate 2 comes at the end of a longer straight, prior to braking for turn 17. The maximum speed figure is taken from the speed trap at the end of the longest straight - that before turn 12. Power and drag are the prime determinants of the speeds at those points.

The start/finish figures suggest the McLaren and Ferrari have similarly excellent traction. Using the same engine as the Ferrari, the Toro Rosso is a couple of km/h slower at this point. Similarly, the sister but Renault-powered Red Bull lags behind the identically engined Renault, suggesting the RB4/STR3 design lacks traction.

Looking at the Intermediate 1 figures, the Red Bull is 6km/h slower than the sister Toro Rosso. At this speed, it would suggest the Renault has a horsepower deficit to the Ferrari of around 30bhp. The Mercedes appears to lie somewhere in between the two.

The Intermediate 2 and the maximum speed figures suggest that the Ferrari and identically-engined Toro Rosso are equally low drag. The fact that the Red Bull reduces its deficit to the Toro Rosso between 303km/h and 314km/h suggests that it was running with less wing than the Toro Rosso to compensate for the power shortfall.

It would appear from this also that the McLaren induces more drag at high speeds than either the Ferrari or the Toro Rosso/Red Bull design.

The Renault is 4.4km/h behind the McLaren at Intermediate 2, but completely negates its deficit to the McLaren by the time they are doing 312km/h, again suggesting it is having to run less wing to compensate for less power.

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