By Craig Scarborough, England
Autosport-Atlas Technical Writer
The intensive July month, with four Grands Prix in five weeks, meant teams had little chance to test new parts or introduce significant changes to their cars. Nevertheless, various new elements showed up in both Germany and Hungary. Craig Scarborough reviews the new additions as well as the technical performance of each team in both of the last two events
With two races in two weeks, the teams have had a hectic time. Not helping the matter is the stark difference between the Hungaroring and the Hockenheim circuits. The German Grand Prix's curcit has a relatively fast layout and the race is run in cooler conditions, while Hungary is next only to Monaco for its slow twisty layout and matching the Bahrain for heat.
With the two races following on only two weeks after Silverstone, there had been little time for the teams to test, and now the August testing 'ban' begins (with nine teams agreeing to refrain from testing for the entire month). With such an apparent workload, the teams have all managed to get new parts on their cars - some teams featuring new parts at both races.
Germany favoured rear-end downforce and the developments reflected this demand with new wings, engine covers and turning vanes aimed at improving efficiency at the rear. Hungary, on the other hand pushes for plenty of downforce front and rear, as well as cooling.
After some recent aero upgrades, Ferrari have not found the form they were expecting. While the initial lack of performance this season was put down primarily to tyres, as the season has progresses it is clear that the Ferrari chassis and aerodynamics are also lacking. Ferrari brought some revised parts for Germany - the mains ones being front wing and diffuser - but most visibly the fins attached the front of the bargeboards.
The lower fin appeared earlier this year, while the upper fin is a more recent addition. In Germany, these two parts (marked in yellow) were enlarged to about twice the size of previously. All this detail work aims to improve the efficiency of the rear end, which, married to simplified chin wing on the front and the trouble with rear tyre wear on the car, suggests that the car needs more rear downforce to preserve the tyres and balance the front end. It appears that the diffuser shape, allowed by the special gearbox, has not produced the figures Ferrari were expecting.
Also for the Hungarian race, Ferrari produced a revised rear wing, with unusually large stays between the main plane and flap. This is reminiscent of the fences used by BAR last year. The FIA moved to ban the large devices, which are used to both improve performance when the car is yawing and to reduce drag created at the wingtips. Ferrari's solution is not as large as the 2004 BAR designs, however, but no doubt it produced a similar effect in reducing effect.
While the new parts improved the car's balance in Germany, its pace relative to the top Michelin runners was lacking. Ferrari's Friday programme put the emphasis on the morning session, which, although cold, did not threaten rain. This change may have affected Ferrari's decision to run the newer tyre, which had a softer compound.
The tricky conditions and Rubens Barrichello's dissatisfaction with the car saw the Brazilian go off the track in the morning, while Michael Schumacher also had a moment in the afternoon. Tyre/Fuel strategy was split - Schumacher taking the newer softer tyre and a lighter fuel load, compared to Barrichello on the harder tyre and longer opening stint fuel load. This reflected in their differing grid positions, with the German qualifying fifth and the Brazilian fifteenth.
Schumacher was able to pass Jenson Button at the start and for a few laps pressure Fernando Alonso. He then started to drift backwards until his stop on lap 22. Going into the second stint, Button was soon pushing Schumacher as the Ferrari's rear tyres were fading. It seems the softer new tyre was not able to cope with the warmer conditions since Friday, and Schumacher then lost another position to Giancarlo Fisichella.
From his lower grid position and heavier fuel load, Rubens Barrichello bumped into Jacques Villenueve on the opening lap. Pitstop-wise he initially stopped four laps later than Michael Schumacher and was embroiled in a battle with Christian Klien for most of the afternoon, eventually trailing in tenth and a lap down.
With new engines for Hungary, Friday started badly with a spin from Rubens Barrichello and an electrical failure for Michael Schumacher. This prevented the World Champion from running in the second session. Saturday's sessions were problem-free for the team, and their pace in these sessions was held up by Michael Schumacher's first pole of the year and Ruben Barrichello's seventh, despite being uncertain with his brakes on his timed lap.
For the race, Schumacher kept his lead at the start, while teammate Barrichello was involved in the mid-pack crashes and needed to pit for a new nose. Under pressure throughout the first and second stints, Schumacher's tyres were losing grip and he lost the lead after his second stop. From there on, he paced himself to stay ahead of Ralf Schumacher. Rubens Barrichello rejoined from his repairs in last and was only able to recover to tenth.
BAR have been running their new bargeboard configuration since they returned from their ban at the European GP, but that change saw the front turning vanes simplified without the trailing bargeboard arrangement. In Hungary, the front turning vanes remained and the small rearwards placed bargeboard (marked in yellow) appeared again, mounted both to the sidepod fin and to the shadow plate. As with Ferrari, these changes move downforce rearwards.
Countering the changes, to improve the rear end's efficiency, was a new front wing for Hungary. The wing's profile features a distinct step on its outer tips (yellow) and a low but quite flat centre section. The wing was married to new, simpler endplates and revised turning vanes (visible beneath) with angled footplates.
With the luxury of new engines in Germany, the drivers completed a lot of laps on the opening day, tyre choice and setup being the usual priorities. The drivers were happy with the car, but it lacking some pace, despite Jenson Button's good showing in the first session.
The pace improved on Saturday, with Takuma Sato going out early to qualify but still managing the eighth fastest time. Button put in another lap to gain second, and this turnaround in BAR's qualifying performance mirrors that of last year, where there pace was undermined with a poorer race pace.
Button was swamped at the start, losing two places to then run in clean air for most of the first stint. In the second stint, Button was closing in on Michael Schumacher and then was finally able to pass on him lap 45. However, despite pitting three laps earlier than the German, Button was able to stay ahead when Schumacher rejoined.
Button finished third while Sato had a more adventurous race. Needing to stop on the first lap for repairs, he was fuelled up and ran on a one-stop strategy until lap 28, when he made his only stop and ended up twelfth.
In Hungary, both drivers were happy with the car on Friday; the only mishap was Sato's driveshaft failure stopping him out on the circuit. The drivers made up for the lost time on Saturday, and in qualifying both drivers felt a lack of grip. Nevertheless, with heavy race fuel, the drivers were happy with their eighth and tenth positions.
Both drivers were then able to avoid the first corner incident at the start of the race and ran without incident to the flag, to finish in fifth (Button) and eighth (Sato).
A largely unchanged Renault appeared for Hockenheim, although the winglet over the crash box was removed, leaving the aerofoil shaped mountings visible. It also showed that the tail lamp has had a fairing added as part of the winglet, which reaches over the shrouding of the lamp. This revised cover improves the flow under the winglet in comparison to the more truncated version used without the winglet.
The Cooler weather allowed the small chimney to be run as well. Renault, unlike most teams, use their louver panels as the main cooling outlet, but as they are built into the moulding of the sidepods, the louvers cannot be tuned for outlet area. Instead, it is the chimney that is altered and the reduction in its size for Germany is evident by the large flange (marked in yellow) required to make the chimney fit the usual aperture.
Tried in Germany but not raced was a revised engine cover, mimicking most other teams' with an undercut (yellow) where the bodywork regulations do not demand bodywork. Also for Round 13, Renault introduced a new rear wing, which is a major departure for Renault in not having the curved flap endplate joint. Instead, a more conventional flat endplate with three drag reducing slots at the front (yellow) and once vertical slot (yellow) towards the rear.
In Germany, both cars were still running Silverstone's engines, but the lack of an appearance on track in the Friday morning session was because of an electrical problem and not engine preservation. The team had work to make up for in the afternoon session and both drivers struggled with a lack of grip from the Michelins on the cold track.
The team clearly had the pace as they proved through Saturday's sessions, Alonso trying hard enough to go off track in the morning session. The Track's lack of grip and altering wind hindered the drivers in qualifying but both drivers were cautious enough to avoid overdriving while still putting in a fast enough lap. The third and fourth grid positions for the drivers placed them in good position for the race.
At the start, Alonso leaped to second position and kept a small but expanding gap to Kimi Raikkonen. He had to stop three laps earlier than the McLaren driver, but the Finn's retirement in the second stint left Alonso in a clear lead with no problems through to the end of the race.
Giancarlo Fisichella, with one more lap of fuel than teammate Alonso, struggled at the start, losing out to Nick Heidfeld, David Coulthard and Felipe Massa. The Italian ran a longer first stint than the three and rejoined behind the recovering Juan Pablo Montoya. In the closing laps. Fisichella managed to close in on Michael Schumacher and finally passed him on the penultimate lap for fourth place.
In Hungary, the team worked on Friday through tyre evaluation and setup, using plenty of laps as the pair had new engine for this race. Giancarlo Fisichella had a spin and the electronics allowed the engine to stall, leaving him stranded for the balance of the afternoon session.
Qualifying saw understeer upset the drivers' laps, with Alonso going wide in the last corner and Fisichella also losing time. The bad weekend continued in the race - with the Spaniard hitting Ralf Schumacher and losing his wing while the Italian suffered from handling problems and failing fuel pressure - to leave both cars out of the points.
After running the new aerodynamic setup in Silverstone, then the subsequent switch back to the old setup for Heidfeld, Williams have committed to run the new setup from now onwards. As a result, the revised sidepod flip ups were run in Germany with the full set of flaps, totalling six on each side!
With the cooler German weather, the louver panels were closed and relying on the chimneys as the main cooling outlet. To add even more downforce to the rear of the car for the Hungaroring, a triple mid wing setup saw one wider winglet added to the top along with generous gurney flaps on the lower narrower pair.
Friday in Germany proved a poor start to the weekend for the revised car, lacking pace and with Heidfeld reporting some "strange" handling with his car. The team worked through the issues and the car's pace improved throughout the Saturday sessions leading into qualifying where, hindered by Silverstone's poor result, the drivers went out early and with solid laps posted sixth and seventh - quite a turnaround for the team.
Mark Webber's race start was compromised in the first corner melee by being hit in the rear by Sato. The Australian pitted and had the car pulled into the garage for the rear suspension to be repaired, rejoining eleven laps down. The loss of so many laps would have paid off if the race had seen a lot of retirements (up to lap 57), as he would be able to qualify ahead of the cars. But, with only Raikkonen's retirement and the Minardi/Jordans being no more than four laps down on the leader, Webber was posted as the second to last finisher at the race.
In Hungary, the Williams car was again lacking outright pace, but otherwise the team had a trouble-free pair of opening sessions. Saturday saw a spin for Webber, although the drivers were happier with the car. Strategy-wise, the team decided to run a two-stop race fuel strategy, so the cars were heavy for qualifying, and both drivers had disappointing grid positions - especially for Webber, who had to qualify so early.
In the race, both drivers avoided the worst of the incidents, but Heidfeld collected some debris and had to detune his car to prevent overheating. This was corrected at his first stop. Both cars ran quite competitively to the flag, to post six and seventh for some useful points.
After McLaren's remarkable lack of visible development on the car to date, Germany and Hungary saw several small developments - notably a new narrower front wing and a revised rear wing endplate, with drag reducing slots. Hungary also saw the team run the wider chimneys to cool the engine.
German's Friday started well for the team, with Alex Wurz topping the timesheets. Running with a fresh engine, the Austrian ran the long stints for tyre evaluation, leaving the race drivers on their older engines to run near identical programmes, completing only nine laps in the morning and 20 in the second (albeit Montoya running off the road in turn one, forcing him abort his last run).
The Saturday free practice sessions went the same way, with the drivers smooth and fast. Kimi Raikkonen's qualifying lap eclipsed all others despite a lurid rear slide through the last sequence of corners. This was followed up with Montoya's equally fast lap, which ended when he also slid in the second to last corner but was unable to catch the slide and went off into the barriers. The impact wasn't huge but both the front, side and rear of the car were damaged.
This required a substantial repair to the car, and the list of parts changed that appear in the the FIA technical report reads almost like a new car was built from scratch: Front and rear suspension, wings, radiator and, crucially, engine. Despite having to start from the back of the grid in one of the fastest cars on the track, at least Montoya would have a fresh engine and tyres to start the race, which no doubt held him in good stead ahead of the race itself.
Raikkonen's race looked all but won, as he was able to increase the gap to Alonso in the opening stint. Then, in the second stint his car slowed retire by the edge of the track. It appears that a hydraulic failure caused by parts being incorrectly assembled lead to the problem. Also exacerbating this problem was Raikkonen having to qualify first in Hungary, which is both a dusty track that improves enormously through the qualifying session, but also one difficult to overtake on should he be back down the grid.
Montoya had a huge task in the German race, starting from dead last. He made the most of others' first lap problems to make up eight places, and then stopped later (lap 27) than the other cars, pushing him up to behind Button/Schumacher, whom he tackled at the second stop from which he emerged in second place - an amazing result aided by a good pit strategy limiting the risks he needed to make overtaking.
The team's pace was clear on Friday in Hungary, albeit eclipsed by Toyota's third driver in the afternoon. Wurz ran the long runs again, leaving Raikkonen and Montoya to run around less than half of Wurz's mileage.
Qualifying well was expected to be a major task for Raikkonen, who had to go out first, on the slower, more slippery track. However, the Finn's time stood up throughout the session, giving him an eventual fourth place on the grid. In contrast, Montoya's first sector error lead him to be more conservative but he ended up posting the second fastest time.
At the race start, Raikkonen was able to pass Trulli and then Montoya around the first lap. The Finn then pressured Michael Schumacher until the second stop, when he came out in front of the World Champion and was then able to stretch his lead.
Montoya's race may have been handicapped even before the start, when he hit a generator on the way to the grid and damaged his nose and bargeboards. These were replaced but the impact may have damaged the rear suspension, as he retired to the pits on lap 41 with a broken driveshaft.
The only technical developments for either race were new cooling outlets for Hungary. Added to the chimneys and louvers were a pair of rear facing ducts towards the front of the sidepods. As the Sauber radiator package places the upper radiator at such an acute angle, these ducts were a simple way of reliving the heat built up and not upset the aerodynamics over the rest of the sidepods.
With fresh engines for the German Grand Prix, Sauber struggled in the opening sessions with cold tyres - the prime choice was selected for hotter conditions and not for the low pressure region pushing temperatures down across Europe. Felipe Massa's time in the afternoon put him in seventh, while his teammate Jacques Villeneuve was eight tenths and about ten positions down the order.
As the team worked to get the car's race setup perfected, Villeneuve had a moment in the fourth practice session as the team dialed out the understeer. Qualifying saw the drivers struggle severely with the changing track. As the track had warmed, Massa found lots of oversteer ruining his lap, while Villeneuve's brakes were locking too easily. Thirteenth and Fourteenth grid positions were much further back than the team had expected.
Jacques had a bumpy race, being hit on the opening lap by Barichello and then being hit by Robert Doornbos after only eight laps, leading to a damaged nose. He pitted to repair the damage and rejoined three laps down, ahead of only the Jordans and a Minardi.
Massa made a good start and cleared incidents to race in seventh; he was tied up with the Red Bulls and ended up eighth for one point.
Hungary's Friday saw the drivers getting increasing oversteer on old tyres - this lead to understeer for Massa, when he ran new tyres in the afternoon. With these difficulties and a Villeneuve spin to avoid a Jordan, the team were disappointed with their positions at the end of the day.
Saturday was spent improving the handling but it did not result in top ten qualifying; Villeneuve's earlier lap was only good enough for fifteenth while Massa's lap was only one place better.
In the race, the Canadian's impact with Christian Klien did no apparent damage, but both Saubers were soon afflicted with the same problem, the spark plug coils were overheating and leading the cars to misfire. The heat under the bodywork was believed to be the root of the problem and such was the severity of this issue that both cars had small fires when they pitted for remedial work.
Villeneuve's car was too damaged to continue, but the team did manage to get Massa back out with a repaired car to complete the race and improve his Turkish qualifying starting slot.
After many races with little visible development, Red Bull Racing had a new engine cover and, much like Renault's revisions, the trailing edge of the cover ends in an undercut.
As with many Michelin runners, Red Bull were struggling in Germany for grip on the cold tarmac, and all three drivers had spins in Friday's practice - David Coulthard's spin left his car stranded for the majority of the morning session. From this poor start, the team bounced back on Saturday, setting much more competitive time without spins and slides. Qualifying reflected this improvement and despite Coulthard's lock-up, the team posted times for tenth and eleventh on the grid.
Coulthard made a great start to leapfrog up behind Heidfeld and then pressured other drivers throughout the race get seventh. Klien's start wasn't as good, but he did have to pass Barichello twice on track to get no points but a good placing in ninth.
Hungary's Friday practice saw the team opt to not run the race drivers in the opening session, despite new Cosworth engines for this race. It was left to Tonio Liuzzi to complete the initial running as the track rubberred in, and his afternoon was only marked with an oil leak from the oil pump limiting his laps in the afternoon.
More interruptions occurred on Saturday as both drivers spun on their new tyres. Qualifying saw Coulthard with a slow middle sector lose out by two places to Klien who was in eleventh.
A poor weekend was ended early when both drivers were ejected from the race, Klien riding over Villenueve's wheels resulting in a spectacular roll and Coulthard hitting Alonso's errant wing and wrecking his suspension. This will leave both drivers disadvantaged for qualifying in Turkey.
To add downforce for Hungary, Toyota added a triple mid wing set up (marked yellow) - the first of the wings points upwards (as if to create downforce), while the second appears horizontal, and the last of the trio points downwards (as if to produce lift). The effect of these winglets is to curve the flow downwards to the rear wing, rather than generate their own downforce.
Both drivers had new engines in Germany with a new specification for this weekend. They revised their usual Friday programme to get most of the dry tyre evaluation completed in the morning fearing rain in the afternoon. This didn't transpire, and the drivers did fewer laps than average in that session as a consequence.
The track still continued to tax the drivers, with Jarno Trulli having an off in the fourth session and both drivers had error-free but conservative qualifying laps. Ralf Schumacher was bumped around in the first lap and, making the most of a long first stint to pass his rivals, he pressured throughout the race to finish a deserved sixth. Trulli also struggled on the opening lap, puncturing his front tyre while avoiding Webber. The Italian made a stop for a legal replacement of the tyre, but his race deteriorated with a drive-through penalty for apparently ignoring blue flags and finally his pneumatic pressure was lost and he retired three laps from the end but was still classified.
All three drivers proved the car's pace around Hungary on Friday, despite issues for two drivers - a spin for Trulli and an electrical problem for Ricardo Zonta. In the afternoon, Trulli even ran more laps than the third driver, which is a very unusual situation, but the Italian did have a new engine for this race.
Trulli's troubles continued in both of Saturday's sessions with a spin in the morning and a fuel system problem stopping him in the afternoon. However, despite these problems, his qualifying lap put him third on the grid, while Ralf Schumacher's time put him two places back.
The German's race start kicked off the first lap incidents although fortunately for him his car was undamaged. Not so lucky was Trullo, whose car was hit by Barichello, damaging the Toyota's diffuser and upsetting the car's handling for the rest of the race.
After problems with the cooling and packaging of the new car, the team decided not to debut the EJ15B in Germany. With a new third driver, Jordan needed to have Nicolas Kiesa prove the race stewards he could get out of the car within five seconds as per the rules, and this standard test was completed without problem.
Narain Karthikeyan spun in Friday's practice and again on Saturday morning. This string of errors lead to more in Qualifying, as he slid into the first corner and then ran wide later around the lap. He was instructed to abort the lap to save some fuel. Teammate Tiago Monteiro didn't have a good qualifying lap either and finished behind both Minardis.
A messy race followed the problems earlier in the weekend. Monteiro hit Villenueve and pitted for repairs, also taking on fuel and changing a tyre in the process, which lead to a drive-through penalty as these two actions cannot be completed at the same stop. Although the crash with Villeneuve was under investigation, no action was taken. Monteiro did however make it to the end of the race for his twelfth finish of the year.
Karthikeyan stopped as early as lap 16 and also was given a penalty for ignoring blue flags. He ended up sixteenth - one position ahead of his teammate.
All three cars suffered spins on Friday in Hungary, and a small technical problem limited Monteiro's running in the morning. To top this off, he had another spin on Saturday as well as suffered an engine problem, which lead the team to change the engine and skip qualifying. Karthikeyan had a solid qualifying lap but was only able to split the Minardis.
In the race Monteiro, was hit by Christijan Albers at the start and this forced a first lap pitstop. Both cars ran to the flag, classified in twelfth and thirteenth, which will aid their qualifying in Turkey.
As with most other teams, Minardi were able to close off their cooling outlets for Germany. As the chimneys are so integral to the aerodynamics of the winglets and rear wing, Minardi prefer to close off the outlet (marked in yellow) rather than mould a slimmer chimney. By adding a closing panel over the front part of the outlet, they are able tune the cooling to suit.
A rare technical development for Minardi is a revised rear wing endplate. Now sporting the drag reducing slots (yellow) to counter the large wing angled required for Hungary.
Albers had a new engine in Germany while new driver Doornbos has Patrick Friesacher's old engine. The First day went well, with Albers ahead on pace, but Doornbos was able to make progress on getting his setup to his liking. Their work was paying off, as in qualifying both drivers outqualified the Jordans.
In the race, Doornbos had to ditch the launch control and instead made a fully manual start with lots of wheel spin. This did allow him to avoid the incidents on the opening lap, although he had a small bump with Villenueve and pitted for any damage to be checked. His finished the race some laps down, as did Albers who had a much more competitive race with two cars finishing ahead of the Jordans.
In his first F1 race weekend at Hungary, the team's third driver Chanoch Nissany struggled and eventually spun and stalled in the morning session. He then had a hydraulic problem preventing him from running in the afternoon.
Meanwhile, the race drivers were all quicker than the Jordan pairing despite Doornbos having one spin on Saturday and Albers having three spins in total. But it was Albers who qualified best after Doornbos made two errors and fell behind one of the Jordans.
Albers had to avoid Webber at the start of the race and instead hit Monteiro, flipping his car up and wrecking his aerodynamics. He soldiered on but a hydraulic problem lead to a long pitstop which, coupled with a consistent lack of pace, lead him to be unclassified at the race's end.
Doornbos had a clean start but was also afflicted by the hydraulic problems, forcing his retirement.