By Craig Scarborough, England
Autosport-Atlas Technical Writer
In many ways, Silverstone is similar to Magny Cours as far as the technical requirements are concerned. Therefore, the Formula One teams showed up for the British Grand Prix with their French updates, some bolstered with new parts. Craig Scarborough analyses the technical performance of each team last weekend
As the second of two back to back races, Silverstone hosted round eleven of the Championship. The old airfield circuit boasts several fast corners, including the high speed Beckets esses, two long straights and a number of heavy braking areas ahead of the two slower complexes. As a result, Silverstone demands aerodynamic efficiency and plenty of downforce; it also rewards power and traction. With the track similar in many ways to Magny Cours, the teams brought their French updates and bolstered them with some new parts.
We can now expand on the updates seen at the French Grand Prix, with more detail around the floor area. Ferrari have uniquely exploited another unused area where bodywork is allowed at the front of the splitter; this is allowed to be as high as the rear edge of the diffuser and starts at the front of the rear wheels. This exclusive adoption of a flap (yellow) around the front of the diffuser probably smoothes the complex heading into the coke bottle area to ensure the flow at the trailing edge of the diffuser is the best possible in order to get the gurneys work properly.
This flap is bolstered by a small (yellow) fin attached the top of the tunnel itself. Also at Silverstone, where tractions works the rear tyres very hard, Ferrari adopted two tyre temperature sensors (red). The right hand one is the usual one which measures the temperature of the tread block between the inner two grooves, while the second one is not normally seen and is aimed at the shoulder of the tyre which, due to the camber in the rear wheel, gets very hot at Silverstone.
Friday saw the team running new engines and a different approach to tyre evaluation. With both drivers trying the two tyre options throughout the day, the tyres had a lot of mileage by the end of the day, and could be compared like for like. With no new tyres the times were not comparable to their rivals, and only a bizarre shunt in the pitlane upset their day. The team's lack of pace was clear through the Saturday practice sessions with Michael Schumacher at the bottom of the top ten and Rubens Barrichello outside it.
Qualifying saw an upturn in Barrichello's fortunes with a strong lap, while Schumacher reported rising rear tyre pressures which upset the last sector of what was already a poor lap. The race again followed the recent pattern of average starts; poor pace compounded by slower traffic meant the team had a poor result back in sixth and seventh.
A revised rear wing endplate was run at Silverstone using a reshaped trailing edge similar to Renault's endplate. Friday saw an initial burst of speed from Jenson Button, but the promise melted in the second session with the drivers reporting a lack of front end grip and Takuma Sato losing twenty minutes of running with an electrical fault. Saturday saw Sato still struggling with poor grip, while Button was amongst the top five.
Going into qualifying Sato tiptoed through the higher speed section to post the eighth fastest lap, while Button put in a perfect lap to claim third fastest but a front row grid position following Kimi Raikkonen's penalty. His P2 position was lost immediately at the start and the leading McLarens and Renaults drove away through the race.
Sato caused problems as he stopped his engine on the warm up lap while heating his tyres; the car's failure to get into neutral from the marshal's button on the chassis (Marked with an "N") made the situation worse, but he recovered to finish some way down the field on a one stop strategy.
With their Renault pair running their new C spec engines, both drivers sat out the majority of Friday's morning session, while in the afternoon they worked through the lack of grip from the colder conditions, with both drivers struggling to get the tyres up to temperature and suffering understeer as a result.
Giancarlo Fisichella still struggled with poor grip in the Saturday practice sessions, resulting in a spin, and then worked towards a better set up all the way through to qualifying, where he managed to get around, despite some errors, in seventh position. Fernando Alonso, meanwhile, found the car well balanced and was able to push hard on his qualifying lap to secure pole position.
Alonso made a good start yet lost out to Juan Pablo Montoya with a more conservative opening lap; he then was held up in traffic while trying to make up time to Montoya, but for a race Renault was not optimistic about second position was a fine result. Fisichella had a strong race only marred by his stall at his second pit stop.
Sidepods are now much more undercut with the inlet higher and wider, this helps feed the coke bottle shape ahead of the diffuser. In order to make the rear wing work more efficiently Williams have to manage the flow off the large front wing very carefully; this has lead to a lot of attention being paid to the area around the front of the car.
The most obvious change is the adoption of Renault-like winglets on the monocoque over the pushrods; these are bolstered by revised upper wishbones, which now have an extra skin bonded over the old wishbone, making the cross section much deeper and necessitating a cut out for the pushrod. All of these solutions seek to redirect the ever rising wake off the front wing back downwards in order to be picked up by the flows dragging air around the sidepods; this keeps the flow to the rear wing cleaner and improves efficiency.
Also the revised diffuser, explained in the European Grand Prix technical review, and the slimmer sidepods seen in France have seen a compromise in the design of the rear toe link. This links the rear wheels steered in the straight-ahead position (actually a few degrees off straight), and as such needs to be aligned with the inboard mounts of the wishbones in order not produce bump steer, which steers the wheels slightly as the suspension moves up and down.
In order to align the main part of the toe link (yellow) in a cascade with the diffuser and driveshaft, the link is dog legged and thinned as it joins the gearbox. This produces the best possible aerodynamic effect, but compromises the structural efficiency of the link; in order to retain the required stiffness some added weight and careful design must have been required.
After the trials of the revised car in France, Friday was spent running new engines and completing a diligent set up programme, trying to pull speed out of the new parts. Nick Heidfeld being rear ended by a Ferrari in the pitlane and Mark Webber going off track upset the programme slightly, but the team at least felt they could now explain the lack of pace in the car.
Overnight Heidfeld's car was retuned to a pre-France aerodynamic set up, in order to evaluate the differences. Saturday's sessions proved the new set up was not identifiably quicker, with the pair only separated by a few tenths. The race was equally uninspiring; both cars ran reliably but slowly to finish eleventh and twelfth.
With the car's pace ahead of everyone and still improving, there has been little evident change in the McLaren in recent races. The cars inherent design was sound, while the early season revision and the team's work on set up have reaped the full potential of the chassis. Friday saw McLaren head the leader board, with third driver Pedro de la Rosa doing long runs and tyre evaluations, leaving the race drivers to adjust their set ups to suit the windy conditions.
Just as in France, McLaren's weekend went sour for Raikkonen when his oil pumps failed in the afternoon practice session. This was the same engine as he ran in France (after another one had failed) while Montoya had a new engine for this weekend. The resulting damage to the engine forced the team to once again change the engine and incur a ten grid position penalty. This also lost Raikkonen most of the second session while Montoya pressed on and, despite a spin, stayed towards the top of the timesheets.
Qualifying saw wind upsetting Montoya's lap, set early in the session, while Raikkonen's committed run put him second fastest but with a corrected twelfth place on the grid. In the race Montoya made the most of his position and traction to make an aggressive move to pass Alonso in the opening corners, and then careful pit timing around the ever present traffic kept him just out ahead for the race win. Raikkonen also made a decisive opening lap and pressed on for another podium.
Despite having been bought by BMW as the chassis side for a future all BMW assault on Formula One, Sauber were surprisingly imitating more Ferrari solutions. The front wing gains a new chin wing (inset), which is much simpler than the Ferrari design; the Sauber set up is made from one piece, with a simple flap formed along the bottom. Closed chimneys returned (yellow), with a very upright stance and side exit.
Also struggling with low tyre temperatures, Jacques Villeneuve spun and damaged his car; spares were delayed in getting to the circuit so he was unable to properly evaluate the new chin wing. Saturday saw him happier with the set up, and his qualifying lap for eleventh proved that. Felipe Massa had to take his lap early in the session and was on a heavier fuel; accordingly he placed sixteenth.
Massa messed up his start but soon cut through the back markers to settle into the traffic, meanwhile his teammate missed his pit signal and ran over his refueller's foot, delaying his stop and costing him a better finish in what he described as a hard car to race with.
The French Grand Prix update, which at first appeared to be a very subtle reworking, did in fact include a new floor with a revised diffuser and rear suspension fairings. The diffuser now eschews the winglet as described in the Malaysia technical review, and the influential rear brake ducts and suspension fairings have also been revised as a result.
Friday was only marred by a lack of grip, common amongst the Michelin runners in the cold, and a harmless spin for Christian Klien in the afternoon. Saturday was a messy day too, with David Coulthard going off in the morning and then stopped out on the track with an electrical problem in the afternoon, while Klien also had an off in the morning.
Coulthard also had problems on his qualifying lap when he requested a shift that never engaged, upsetting his lap slightly. On differing strategies the driver both struggled with the car throughout the race, changing set up during their pitstops and finding very different handling for the entire race.
Small modifications made by the team include a rear wing endplate, which now featured four gills to vent the inside face of the endplate, and a strut to support the flip ups on the sidepods and direct flow around the rear wheels.
Friday showed where the team was positioned, with the longer runs of Ricardo Zonta getting second on the time sheets and the two race drivers happy with their top six placings. Saturday practice and qualifying were clean solid sessions for the team; Jarno Trulli's usual qualifying pace pushed him up to fifth, while Ralf Schumacher was seven tenths behind him in ninth.
As in France Trulli's better grid position was squandered with a poor start and then a lack of pace until the later stints. Schumacher had an equally frustrating race, and both cars ended up coming across the line in eighth and ninth.
Jordan once again ran the EJ15B in practice in the hands of Robert Doornbos; the car will now officially make its debut as a race chassis in Germany. Within Jordans' tight financial constraints the car is a major update. With new engines for the weekend Friday proved a trial for the team, with problems for Tiago Monteiro including a spin and a failure in one of the new engines, while Doornbos was delayed with problems on the EJ15B.
Aside from Monteiro taking a different fuel strategy and not running a full qualifying lap, Saturday went to plan and no other problems were reported. There were, however, more problems in the race for Narain Karthikeyan, whose electrics stopped the engine out on track. This left Monteiro to run alone for a lot of the race to yet another finish.
Once again the car appeared with an unchanged layout. Friday was a difficult day for the team as they had not tested here, unlike the rest of the teams. Problems with grip and gearing required more set up work and Patrick Friesacher had yet more problems with the transmission.
Qualifying saw both drivers again mentioning technical problems from either cold tyres or difficult brakes, while in the race both cars circulated and avoided the cars passing them, with both posting a reliable finish at the back of the grid.