THE EDITOR-IN-CHIEF OFF-THE-SHELF F1
“Only a genuine title challenge will
dial back the thermostat. Problem
is, Ferrari’s SF16-H is chasing a
moving target in Mercedes”
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How, you might ask, does any magazine or Website get exclusive
F1 content when every test or grand prix is a scrum of folks all
getting exactly the same quotes? We’re not giving away the secret,
but we will say thanks to contributors Edd Straw and Mark Hughes...
We gave Sean Rice
a ridiculously tight
turnaround to shoot
Ganassi newbie Max
Chilton and 2015
champ Scott Dixon’s
car at IndyCar’s
Phoenix test. But
thanks, Sean, and
thanks Ganassi for
making it happen!
here’s always pressure on Ferrari to
deliver in Formula 1. It comes with the
territory when you’re the oldest, most
storied and charismatic marque in the
utimate motorsports arena. Yet heading
into the 2016 season, that pressure
somehow seems heightened – like progress
in itself isn’t enough, and only a genuine
title challenge will dial back the thermostat.
Problem is, Ferrari’s SF16-H is chasing
a moving target in Mercedes. And while
the Prancing Horse may have found the
0.0X percent improvement necessary to
put it on a par with the Silver Arrows,
circa 2015, it’s a massively bigger ask to
expect it to also find the 0.0Y percent
that Mercedes undoubtedly found during
development of its F1 W07 Hybrid.
But that’s the nature of progress in
modern F1. The restrictive framework of
the rules means that chassis and aero
performance gains are an accumulation
of miniscule improvements (or “mini
revolutions,” as Mercedes’ tech chief Paddy
Lowe calls the barely-recognizable tweaks
on W07), with the bigger teams’ defense
contractor-sized design departments
shaving off the next tenth – or hundredth –
by endless iterations on a theme. Sure, the
relative freshness of the current hybrid
power unit regs and the relaxing of the token
system mean there’s still potential for
meaningful gains on the motive side. But
when it comes to actual car design, there’s
little place for a Colin Chapman (or even the
next Adrian Newey) in current F1, where
quantum leaps are pretty much the past.
Which is why Haas F1’s approach to its
debut season is so inspired and, based on
pre-season testing, potentially effective.
Why would you spend inordinate amounts
on trying to catch a moving target when
the alternative is to purchase a known level
of performance off the shelf? Yes, that
implies a ceiling on the VF- 16’s ultimate
potential, but is that such a bad thing for
now? Get some points, get established,
and save the endless iterations for later.