With the driver market hotting up we’re bound to be in for an interesting weekend of Formula 1 politics but what of the race itself? What will that bring?
What happened last race with Renault is difficult to know. It seems now that their form fade was down to four factors.
1) The mass dampner system certainly will have played a factor but it’s hard to know how much. Especially as everyone else had to take theirs off too. We are led to believe that Renault were better hooked up with the system than Ferrari but how much of a difference does it really make? The easiest comparison would be to use McClaren who didn’t have the dampner. They clearly improved relative to Renault and also to Ferrari. But if you can follow this logic with me: Renault went backwards more than McClaren went forwards against Ferrari and presuming that using the system well isn’t worth twice as much as using it badly (which I think is reasonable) then there was probably something else going on as well.
2) The blistering tires. After the drop of in Michelan tires in France Renault were desperate to find something new. And Michelan were likewise desperate to prove that they haven’t stopped working because they aren’t going to be in the championship next year (actually this claim really doesn’t wash because Michelan have known full well that they aren’t going to be continuing next season since last season). In testing before Germany they found a new tire compound and rushed it into production just in time but clearly the tire didn’t do exactly what they had wanted. It blistered and had lots of trouble in the suprising heat. McClaren on the other Michelan had no such trouble.
3) The new rear end aero package was the real problem for the Renault. We know this now because Renault have not said that they are going to be tweaking it while they try and sort it out. No they are actually going to just junk it and go back to the old one. How it affected the tires we don’t know. But I wonder about this because the whole week of testing was also very hot so the tire choice must have been made in similar conditions. Also we know that in testing you have to be scientific. You need to take a car with a baseline speed that you are sure about and then just change one thing and see what that does. If you change two then you won’t know which one caused the change. And with a limited amount of testing mid season and a limited amount of new design tires it’s possible that it was the combination that was slow not either of the components. It’s possible that they didn’t work well together.
4) The last but by no means least point is the mental state of Alonso. His overreaction to Michael’s pit stop is a sign that Michael really is starting to get to him. He needs to be able to concentrate if he’s going to stem the onslaught. Michael’s after him and he better sort his mind out. In Formula 1 the most important square foot of the race isn’t on the track it’s between the drivers ears. And with Alonso unable to beat Fisi he’s certainly got some thinking to do.
So where does that lead us? Well out of the four things two have been solved already. They won’t use those tires or that rear end again and they we don’t really know how important the dampner was to them. So other than getting Alonso laid or sorting him out some other way they might not be in such bad shape.
But with all of the upheaval and no time you’d have to be pretty brave to suggest they’d be faster than the Ferrari this weekend.
Michael is on fire at the moment and Massa has never driven better. There are definate signs of him being held back for the greater good of Ferrari.
As for the signs that the mass dampner is important it’s worth noting that the two teams who improved the most were Honda and McClaren. Two teams that didn’t have it in the first place. Kimi’s bad luck continued apace with a refueling error, a tire change error, hydraulics failure and a faulty gear box. The fact he was still faster than Pedro probably says something about Pedro as well as it does Kimi. The McClaren is fast again but it’s still not reliable. Honda are faster again too but there’s that reliability gremlin again. Rubens hasn’t even got to the end of a race for a while (after having one of the most successful reliability records at the begining of the season).
Toyota and BMW are keeping everyone nice and honest at the front. With Toyota just ahead and more reliable than Honda.
* I’m I’m sure there’s a joke about eastern european countries in here somewhere