Sidepodcast // All for F1 and F1 for all

Next race: Chinese Grand Prix, Shanghai
Tech Spec
Will Davies

Since before he can remember Will^ has watched F1 – he would always be sat down to watch the start before going out and continuing to follow on the radio. His first F1 memory is of his parents snoozing to what they considered the soporific tones of Murray Walker. Having lost touch somewhat during the years at university, Will^ has now reconnected with the sport and is a bigger fan than ever; often combining his interest for the more technical aspects with his love for maths for some 'interesting' results.

Young by name, not by nature // A team-by-team summary of the Silverstone summer test

Published

It once was a chance for young drivers to be tested in Formula 1 cars around a proper F1 circuit. It quickly transitioned to testing cars and developments, so non-race-driving old-boys got involved – Gary Paffett and Oliver Turvey both know their way around an F1 car, having driven in YDTs for the past few seasons. Without anything dramatic happening to either one of McLaren’s two race drivers, Paffett’s F1 career will have him always as the bridesmaid but with no chance of becoming a bride. Now this season, after the Pirelli tyre fiasco, race drivers too have been allowed to attend, so long as they only work on the tyres.

A week and a half after the German Grand Prix, the field returned to Silverstone in the middle of a spell of sun and blistering (for here anyway) heat. It will have been quite a nostalgic return for the teams, as the test was run out of the ‘legacy pits’ – they have used the Silverstone Wing, its paddock and relocated Start/Finish straight since 2011.

Hot and dry weather is ideal for tyre testing – it means teams have a consistent base to work on, and these track conditions resemble the ones that teams will face at so many race circuits around the globe. Part of the reason that this test has become so necessary for drivers to be a part of is the lack of dry running that has been possible in Friday Free Practice sessions during this season, meaning that when Pirelli have brought an unmarked tyre to be tested (for compound or construction) there has not been enough running done. For once the British weather did the right thing.

Prost testing for Lotus at Silverstone
Making the best of the British weatherCredit: Pirelli S.p.A.

It’s not quite as straight forward as race drivers doing all the driving, because if they were allowed to test everything on a car, there’d be no running whatsoever for the ‘young drivers’ who the test was supposedly arranged for. To combat this, limitations were placed on how much teams could test on a car when it was being driven by a race driver. The main restriction was that teams would not be able to change the specifications of their cars during the time a driver was in the car (i.e. swap out different aero or mechanical components to test them for performance). They are allowed to use new pieces, just not play with them; Charlie Whiting essentially told teams that with race drivers they can only change front wing angle for balance, and nothing else.

Additionally, race drivers were only allowed to run for one day. It seems that last part initially caused confusion within the teams as during the first day Red Bull reassessed their line-up. They had intended to run Daniel Ricciardo on the afternoon of day one for him to then run in the Toro Rosso on the morning of day two. It was apparently clarified that each race driver was only allowed to run on one day, meaning that doing half a day on two days was no longer an option for Smiley Dan. The clarification led to Mark Webber being dropped from Red Bull’s plans so they could feature Ricciardo on the Wednesday after he climbed from the Toro Rosso. However this interpretation was clearly not the case and Paul Di Resta clocked a half day on Wednesday afternoon, followed by another session on Thursday afternoon.

From the driver line-ups that were confirmed before the test, it looked like Ferrari and Sauber were focussing on developments, more than that of tyre changes; Lotus, Williams, Marussia and Caterham looked like they were mainly concentrating on developments, with an average amount of tyre-work on the side; Force India looked to be majoring on tyres; Red Bull and Toro Rosso appeared to want to do a little of everything: testing tyres, developments and drivers; then finally, with a list of experienced test drivers and neither Button nor Pérez in sight, McLaren could’ve been out to do anything.

Notably the only thing Mercedes will be taking away from this test is a copy of the data that other teams collected for Pirelli over the 3 days. That is all.

Red Bull

It is not surprising to note that Red Bull had a very secretive test. Whereas other teams gave hints as to the area that they were working in, tweeted photos of some of the more interesting additions to their cars and issued press releases at the end of each day, the current leaders in the Constructors’ Championship did nothing of the sort. Spoilsports.

We were able to note that on day one, the team were interested in the performance of their exhausts; utilising a sensor to measure the velocity of the exhaust plume that had been partly taped to the bodywork (let’s hope it was 300mph-tape, but it looks more like the cheaper variety).

Over the time that their young driver, António Félix da Costa, was in the car (i.e. when it wasn’t a race driver so wouldn’t be wasting that opportunity with them), the team ran multiple pit stop simulations. It was something that they really ought to test at some point before getting to the next race, especially as they’ve changed their procedure and the programming of the lights. Each time they paid special attention to ensuring that all wheels were attached before the car was released. Spending a second or two more to get it right is definitely better than what happened in Germany.

Day two saw youngster Da Costa again in the Red Bull. They completed a selection of runs and programmes and concentrated on more pit stops. Most notably after their stops the mechanics would hide their wheel guns in bags so that no-one could get a look – these guys are taking things either appropriately or far too seriously; I’ll let you make up your minds as to which.

Daniel Ricciardo, Silverstone
Ricciardo gets a taste for Red BullCredit: Thompson/Getty

In the afternoon it was possibly the tests’ biggest news story, Ricciardo’s chance in the big-sister car. He was given number 51, a predetermined Pirelli programme, and sent out to circulate and gather data – not to mention be scrutinised by the world’s media and his prospective new bosses.

Not everything went smoothly though; after 7 laps he beached his Red Bull in a gravel trap, but was out on track again in under half an hour, so didn’t do the car any damage worth speaking of. His afternoon consisted of completing the prescribed programme, so there wasn’t an opportunity for any extra playing about in his new toy. Some may say that his off was poorly timed in his audition for a drive for next season, but all F1 drivers have those moments, and sitting first and third in the timings for the day is going to do him more good than his spin does him bad.

The Friday saw Sebastian Vettel dropping by to experience the new Pirelli tyres, specifically featuring long runs on mediums. His front wing was looking even more complicated than usual, with so many different elements, cascades, r-fins and vortex generators.

Over the 3 days, Red Bull have spread their attention out over a side selection of tasks, and if they improve in every area they’ve tested, then the rest of this season (and next) could be looking very promising for the team.

Ferrari

At the wheel of the Ferrari on the Wednesday was Davide Rigon. He spent most of his day acquiring data, running aerodynamic packages and configurations, and comparing his on track experiences to what he’d previously learned from working in the simulator. The F138 was sporting pitot tubes in the ‘coke bottle area’. Pitot Tubes (and also the similar Kiel Probes) measure air speed and pressure, and a single tube is used to just measure air speed at a certain position or an array is utilised to map the airflow-profile over / around bodywork in order to determine the performance of bodywork pieces.

As with all of Ferrari’s aero-work, the car grows a black fin from the top of the roll-hoop air intake – this is to gather accurate information of both apparent wind speed and car velocity. It is positioned this high above the car so as not to be affected by the airflow over other bodywork, thus guaranteeing as accurate a reading as possible. During all of the team’s work on aero setups they would still be able to collect valuable data about tyre performance and life, as well as also allowing comparisons with work done in the simulator to be made.

At one point Rigon was lapping 30 seconds off the pace, in order that he kept the car at constant speeds

The second day was another busy one for the Ferrari boys as they completed many variations of aero-assessments and comparisons. At one point Rigon was lapping 30 seconds off the pace, in order that he kept the car at constant speeds, satisfying the engineers’ requirements for each designed test. Throughout the day they were keeping an eye on rear tyre temps using a thermal camera mounted close to the outer tyre wall.

In the afternoon there were more aero runs, featuring amongst other things a new front wing or two. You can tell it was a warm day because the Ferrari was also fitted with massive rear brake ducts!

Felipe Massa was at the wheel on day three to complete a Pirelli program on the orange marked hard tyres, then some running on the white marked mediums. “It seems to me these tyres work better, at least compared to what we saw in the race here” noted Massa, but I wonder whether that is more a function of the new tyres or the new tyre set-up regulations? Between runs the mechanics were seen using damp towels, as they did on all three days, on the exhausts to cool them down.

The last afternoon had Rigon back in the car to do some final work before the chequered flag fell and the teams packed themselves up to head home. Over the three days Ferrari have invested a lot of time on aero and mechanical developments. If they have found an improved setup it will to bolster their charge for this year’s crown, but then again it could be them already testing items for the 2014 season (as is true for all other teams as well).

Lotus

Lotus had one of the more interesting first days. They were very active on Twitter, keeping us all informed with their goings on, and spreading their own form of paddock-based banter. The ‘funniest’ joke they came up with was the inclusion of a new hashtag on the car, all at Mercedes’ expense... #WhereIsRoscoe.

Getting back to the on-track action, Nico Prost spent part of his morning driving round with the team interested in the flow behind the front tyres, with one of the biggest sensor arrays of the test bolted to the left hand side. Most likely this was to record the wake generated from the altered profile of the tyres, and to ascertain what effects this might have on the performance of parts that are further back on the car.

Afternoon running saw “more appendages” added to the car – sensors testing other parts of setup or performance, but unfortunately their day’s end debrief must have led to them deleting these pictures from their Twitter account. Spoilsports. There will have been a mountain of tyre data collected, as the Lotus was on a prescribed Pirelli program.

Davide Valsecchi had a big day of it, racking up 91 laps and experimenting with Lotus’ big story of day two, the re-emergence of their drag reduction device (DRD). Lot of runs means lots of data, the Lotus boys will have a lot of analysis to do. After realising that Kimi Räikkönen would not have been able to run enough in the way of developments on the car he was dropped from the final day’s schedule, and (after spending the day before in the simulator) Nico Prost was asked to return.

Prost performed some performance related rungs and ran the Pirelli program, completing laps with Kistler RoaDyn transducers attached to the each wheel. This device measures forces that are being delivered to / experienced by the wheel and is employed for evaluating tyre and hub characteristics. Lotus went all out to continue the developments on this year’s car, with the aim that Kimi can close the gap to Vettel and Alonso, and make things interesting.

Force India

If we only learned two things from Force India’s first day at the test was that James Calado took to the car like a duck to water, and is fast. He was able to perform a variety of runs with “tweakery and assorted work” in between time on the circuits.

Force India motorhome and tyres, Silverstone
Racing blanksCredit: Sahara Force India Formula One Team

When Paul di Resta jumped into the car in the afternoon he had only one goal; to understand those pesky redesigned tyres. Force India started their Thursday with Calado generally testing a selection of aero-pieces on the car. In between runs they conducted a sizable chunk of pit stop practice and all but worked through lunch, conducting a lot of tinkering in time for the afternoon session and Paul di Resta. He jumped in the car for his second half day in order to conduct more tyre-work, he was running the mediums and on heavier fuel runs.

The morning of the final day was pretty simple to understand; Sutil ran a Pirelli program, featuring a few longer runs. He seemed to suggest that the degradation levels are better than those of the old constructions, but of course we don’t know whether that is a function of new tyres, different conditions, improved car set-up, or a combination of all 3. After Adrian had climbed out of the car, Calado jumped back in for a bonus 15 minutes of running until the flag fell.

Let’s hope they are comfortable with the tyres, because they certainly have put a lot of effort into them – partially because the team have confirmed there are no more developments being brought to this year’s car. Less degradation will certainly be good news for Force India, but unfortunately for them it is also rather useful for everyone else as well.

McLaren

The McLaren team were certainly making the most of the testing opportunity, putting a lot of laps on the board. They started off by sampling the flow around the bottom of the sidepod, and experimented with triple vortex generator fins on the top leading edge of the sidepods. This was followed by a long run to end the morning, which will have been a large data-gathering exercise for both car and tyre performance.

The afternoon session saw the young Dane Kevin Magnussen continue his morning’s work on car aero and tyres, as well as allowing himself to familiarise further with the MP4-28, should he be needed again in the future. Racking up near on two race distances on the day (100 laps) will certainly have given the guys back at the MTC a mountain of data to sift through.

Day two saw McLaren unveil another barrage of sensors, including a pitot array this time in front of the right sidepod; another example of sampling flow behind the new tyres. Oliver Turvey completed collections of multiple laps evaluating new aero parts and mechanical changes, as well as those new tyres.

The afternoon comprised longer runs to test modifications that had been first trialled that morning. The length and variety of the runs also enables the team to further correlate data from on-track and that generated from work in the simulator and the wind tunnel. A thermal camera could also be spotted, positioned to monitor the left rear tyre temperature.

Part of McLaren’s final morning was spent stuck in the garage with an engine issue, meaning that Gary Paffett ‘only’ managed to complete 77 laps in the day. There were new pieces on show; like a new nose, featuring a pair of very experimental looking longer front wing mounting pillars. There could also be seen the reappearance of past developments, in light of the reversion to tyre constructions similar to those seen in 2012, such as the turning vanes that were seen in preseason testing.

The aerodynamic program was accompanied by work to evaluate mechanical set-up changes with a sporadic pit stop here or there for good measure – all in all another busy day. Through all the work the team has put in over these three days and the revised tyres (constructions and durability) should help McLaren regain some of last season’s pace, and possibly salvage some respectability from their season.

Toro Rosso

Cecotto drove the car, running a complicated matrix of pitot tubes positioned at the bottom of the Coandă ramp

Much like Red Bull, the Toro Rosso engagement was limited. Johnny Cecotto drove the car, running a complicated matrix of pitot tubes positioned at the bottom of the Coandă ramp and just in front of the rear left tyre in order to test exhaust performance and sample flow over the reconfigured tyres. Other that that the only thing I can say for sure is that they worked on general set-up for the performance of the new tyres.

The morning of day two found Ricciardo in his first car of the day. He tested the tyres and posted some fast times, and that’s pretty much all a race driver is allowed to do at one of these things.

Next it was Carlos Sainz Jr’s turn in the car – familiar name, can’t figure out where from though. We saw an appearance of a DRD (mounted to their spoony rear wing) which may or may not have appeared during preseason testing.

On the final day the Red Bull sister team were interested in both tyre life and performance, running around with temperature sensors to monitor the front tyres. What we know for certain about Toro Rosso’s week: they came, they saw, they tested.

Sauber

Sauber started the three day test with Robin Frijns in the car and were looking at what the flow profile around and over their sidepods looked like. To do this they have a couple of banks of pitot tubes mounted above and beside the pod in order to ascertain the motion of the air as is passed around the car.

Sauber head out for another run
Sensors working overtimeCredit: Sauber Motorsport AG

During the rest of the first day they made various tweaks to the setup and handling in order to make it more to Frijns’ liking, giving him less understeer. This was in addition to trialling a Red Bull style Coandă exhaust (i.e. one with a tunnel under the ramp to direct the flow under the sidepods). At the same time as testing the aero performance the team were able to test some (unspecified) mechanical alterations as well as assess the car’s performance with the new tyre constructions.

Day two saw Sauber continuing to run with their new exhaust arrangement (with a pitot tube sensor array), hoping that they’ve bedded it in ready for Hungary. Multiple installation laps with tweaks in between each to fine-tune some settings, and the morning was mostly aero runs. When Frijns’ focus turned to performance he only completed one flying lap before parking it in the garage and ending his morning. The afternoon session was the turn of Nico Hülkenberg to run Pirelli tyre programme, this one on the P-Zeros.

Sauber’s official line on their final day was that they conducted “some further aero testing”, which translates to aero work including our DRD and a re-emergence of the spoony rear wing. In addition to tyre work, a lot of different pieces were tested over the three days – can this work make the difference for the team? Only time will tell.

Williams

Williams started day one with the young Spaniard Daniel Juncadella in the car and a load of extra kit on it. Their first objective for the day was to test data on the aerodynamic performance of various new pieces on the car. As well as plenty of additional sensors, the most obvious was the rig of pitot tubes that had been erected behind front left tyre. Again an example of checking the difference that the new tyres make to the aero performance of the rest of the car.

Williams were also sporting an interesting looking pod that was sat up next to the main air intake – looking like it housed a rear-facing camera. It could possibly have been a thermal camera, indicating that they might have been at that point interested in where their exhaust plume is going and possibly hinting that they are testing new bodywork specifications in that area; or a just a camera to record the shape changes of the new tyres as they load and unload around a circuit.

At one point in the morning air managed to get in below the sidepod, which caused part of the engine cover to be damaged

At one point in the morning air managed to get in below the sidepod, which caused part of the engine cover to be damaged and coincided with a brief red flag being brought out. It wasn’t clear what the cause of the stoppage was, but it seems most likely that some debris was left on track due to this incident. After an early lunch, so that the engine-cover bodywork could be fixed, the FW35 was back out on the track for some aero runs, which contained comparisons of front wings.

The last part of the day comprised some ‘hot laps without sensors’, but allowed them to gather some good data on the new tyre constructions.

Williams revealed that in addition to development and data collection work, their other objective was to evaluate Juncadella in the car. Due to there being a few technical hurdles that delayed the program slightly, Daniel bought himself a few more hours in the car in the afternoon of day two to continue testing bits and pieces. The morning of day two saw Pastor Maldonado climb into his Williams and over a 5 hour period undertake Pirelli’s defined tyre testing program.

Throughout the runs the car was sporting an interesting looking addition to the exhaust area of the car and Pastor was again running their boomerang rear wing. He was positive on his time in the car: “It was a good day for us, full focus in the new Pirelli tyres, they looks better! Let's see in a proper race weekend.”

Williams' driver for day three was Susie Wolff who completed a program of set-up comparisons and aero work, with both developmental and experimental pieces. The afternoon saw Susie and the team getting stuck into pit stop practice. Susie reported that her only problem was that her seat was moving around a little – something no driver wants, let alone on their first outing around a circuit in an F1 car.

Having not scored a point so far this season, Williams stood at a crossroads to either continue to develop their 2013 car (and risk flogging a dead horse) or try out ideas for 2014 (but do so with an unimpressive base-line). Whether their programme was for this year or next the team from Grove will have been working all out to improve their fortunes, but I don’t know whether they will have been able to do enough with respect to the car, perhaps it is the drivers who can affect the performance more. The team must be hoping they’ve done enough not to be pipped in the World Constructors’ Championship by either Marussia or Caterham if either team manage to sneak a car into the points.

Marussia

Marussia’s test was kicked off by Cypriot Tio Ellinas driving the car around a track for the first time. The morning mainly consisted of familiarisation with the car and circuit and allowing Ellinas to build his confidence, as well as to experiment with some of the toys and gadgets that he may not have come across in his time in lower formulae. He performed various systems and control tests as well as providing the mechanics the opportunity to amass aero-data similar to his previous straight line test and conducting a couple of qualifying simulations on the new soft tyre.

The afternoon however, did not go quite as smoothly. There was an ECU issue that manifested itself and caused Max Chilton to wait a little longer before he could start his work in the car. This hampered his testing of the new tyres, as he was only able to complete 25 laps, and having run on his one day, that was his testing over, as he was off to run the show-car elsewhere.

Reserve driver Rodolfo “Speedy” González took to the track for the whole of day two. He ran through a more detailed programme than he has experienced in his three free practice sessions so far this season and was able to work on longer runs and his rhythm behind the wheel. This was a chance for the team to gather data on tyres as well as a “whole series of test items”; which included control-systems, suspension and set-ups specific to the new tyres. The team were more interested in comparisons between set-ups rather than setting competitive lap times.

González continued his running into Friday morning, specifically testing control systems. During his more performance-related runs he visited the gravel trap a couple of times and was the probable cause of two red flags. In the afternoon it was Jules Bianchi’s turn to gather data for Pirelli on the hard and medium tyres, also providing the team with useful race-related data. A mechanical fault, subsequent spin and trip into the gravel brought an abrupt end to Marussia’s test, and lost them the chance to do some final runs on soft tyres.

During the day there was a report of a fiery airbox at one point, so maybe reliability is something that the team need to ensure before green-lighting all the developments that have been experimented. If these new tyres and new developments can improve the performance of the car, perhaps it can grab a point-scoring finish, especially with one-to-watch Jules Bianchi behind the wheel.

Caterham

Caterham’s first day was a relatively quiet one. A lot of parts that were being tested were not obvious to onlookers and they were also not sporting much in the way of large testing sensor arrays. Although gathering plenty of data on these items, a hydraulic problem which caused a very sickly sounding car to return to the pits meant that they were unable to complete “a really quick lap”, however this did not stop them from posting a time faster than that set by either Marussia driver.

Cockpit action for Charles Pic
Charles Pic finds his limiterCredit: Caterham F1 / Creative Commons

The start of day two saw the Caterham performing a selection of aero runs, partly to collect data but also to help Brit Will Stevens settle into an F1 car for the first time and familiarise himself with the controls and commands on track. Commands such as “multi-function 7 - gear 7, multi-function 3 - gear 4, use DRS / don't use DRS, KERS / no KERs” – simple. After the aero work came setup options and different bodyworks (at one point they were back-to-backing with a new front wing) in order to prepare for races yet to come.

The final morning saw Giedo van der Garde on a Pirelli tyre program, focussing on both short and long run performance as well as monitoring the consistency of drop-off (i.e. identifying the characteristics of the cliff). In addition to this Giedo also tested the new constructions’ on a trip through the gravel, and allowed the mechanics to get some experience picking stones out the car and the new tyres. “Occasionally it’s worth checking how quickly the boys can clear the car of gravel it may unexpectedly pick up. Gravel check completed...

Charles Pic was on board for the last afternoon and was running the exact same program as van der Garde had in the morning (minus the excursion into the kitty-litter). He suggested that there’s possibly less of a cliff with the revised constructions. Like Marussia, Caterham were going all out to improve their car with the goal of scoring their first F1 point (and with it perhaps overtaking Williams in the constructors championship). There is a suggestion, from a comment that Rossi made, that a FRIC system was trialled ahead of its inclusion on the 2014 car.

Much of a muchness

Despite there being so much scope for teams to accomplish what they want in one of these tests, it seems that they have all concentrated on similar goals: testing aero parts, mechanical set-ups, collecting tyre data, and trialling (young) drivers.

When testing, lap-times mean very little, the true test of whether any improvements have been made will come at the next race in Hungary (just so long as the guys back at the factories have been able to crunch enough of the numbers on the mountain of data that will have been amassed).