RED BULL RACING RB8
Sebastian Vettel, Mark Webber
Jenson Button, Lewis Hamilton
Some teams grabbed headlines during
preseason testing with low-fuel laps, but
work through the numbers lap by lap, see
the patterns and the tires used and a
picture emerges that looks much like last
season’s races, with Red Bull Racing
consistently challenged only by McLaren.
It’s impossible to be definitive because
of the teams’ secrecy about fuel levels but
the two cars appeared to be quite evenly
matched around Barcelona; the RB8 had
perhaps an edge of 0.2-0.3sec of pace, but
the McLaren was possibly able to retain
tire performance for longer over a stint.
There’s a suggestion the McLaren is faster
through high-speed turns, but lacks the
Red Bull’s agility in slow corners.
The RB8 is the third evolution of an
Adrian Newey concept first seen in 2009,
yet that concept still puzzles rivals. It
appears still able to run its nose closer to
the ground than other cars, despite even
tougher front wing flexibility tests, and
despite the absence of blown exhausts
that allowed the accompanying high rear
ride height to not cause too much
aerodynamic leakage from the diffuser.
It’s clear that both McLaren and Red
Bull invested a lot of attention into
retaining some blown exhaust benefit
despite stringent regulation upon the
siting and shape of the exhaust outlets
WHY ARE THE CARS SO UGLY?
Blame safety regs for the stepped noses
To reduce the chances of cockpit intrusion from a
side-on impact, the maximum nose height was reduced
for 2012 from 625mm to 550mm. Teams who
wished to to take full advantage of the maximum bulkhead
height allowed – all except McLaren and Marussia – were
thus left with a step change between the two.
McLaren wasn’t previously taking full advantage of the
maximum bulkhead height and did not need therefore to make
the step change. Other teams sought to raise the bulkhead
height as far as the regulations allowed to create a lower
pressure area, with the air rushing back from the front wing
to fill it. McLaren reckoned it could get a similar effect,
while keeping the bulkhead and the center of gravity low.
This also gave the advantage of a lower bottom wishbone.
It was originally suggested that the bulkhead height
should be reduced appropriate to the nose height – which
would have made all the
cars’ noses look like the
curved one seen on the
McLaren – but this was
rejected by the teams as it
was felt it might offer an
advantage to McLaren,
which has used such a nose
for several years.
POSSIBLE RACE WINNERS
Fernando Alonso, Felipe Massa
Nico Rosberg, Michael Schumacher
Kimi Raikkonen, Romain Grosjean
Early testing suggested that Mercedes
and Lotus (re-named from Renault) had
gained in competitiveness with their
new cars and Ferrari had lost ground
with its radical clean-sheet F2012 design.
Around Jerez for the opening tests,
Kimi Raikkonen and Romain Grosjean
were consistently quick in the Lotus –
and not just on short, low-fuel runs,
either. Although the team subsequently
withdrew from the Barcelona tests
following the discovery of a chassis
problem that compromised safety, the
prospect of a genuinely quick car from
the team that delivered the 2005 and ’06
world titles is a fascinating one, not least
because of the return to Formula 1 of the
2007 World Champion Raikkonen, his
two-year rallying sabbatical now over.
Ten years younger than Michael
Schumacher, returning after a shorter
period of absence than Michael’s and
arriving in an F1 formula that’s much as
he left it, initial impressions were that
and the mapping of the engines. In the
Red Bull, the exhaust blows over the beam
wing whereas the McLaren appears to be
blowing its exhaust plume, via a shroud,
downward and inside the tire, mimicking
the effect of last year’s in acting as a
virtual skirt in sealing the bottom of the
diffuser, making it work harder.
The McLaren features similar contours
to its predecessor, which several times
last year was the fastest car on race day.
However, it couldn’t fully utilize that
because Sebastian Vettel’s pole lap had
bought the RB8 track position. But in the
interests of aero packaging, the Red Bull
uses a mini-KERS system with just 60
percent of the McLaren system’s storage
capacity, so if Lewis Hamilton or Jenson
Button can start from the front, their more
powerful KERS and (possibly) gentler tire
usage could allow them to beat the
reigning champ. But that’s a big if.
Webber must trouble teammate Vettel
more than he could last year. Pirelli’s new
control tire, which is less sensitive to
technique, should help him in this and, if
so, could either encourage him and Red Bull
to continue together or present Webber a
chance to sign off his F1 career with honor.
That may open a seat to Hamilton – out of
contract with McLaren at season’s end….