In the round-up today: RedBull blame windtunnel for early season woes; Rosberg bets on Mercedes to surge ahead of Ferrari after Summer; Formula-E to get a significant revamp in 2018; US Formula 1 fanbase bigger than expected says Carey; Mercedes needs new talent pool after DTM pullout reckons Wehrlein.
Red Bull believes its slow start under Formula 1’s new regulations for 2017 was caused by this year’s bigger cars affecting the performance of its wind tunnel.
Despite predictions the major aerodynamic regulations overhaul for this season would play to Red Bull’s strengths and allow it to mount its first title bid since 2013, the team lagged behind Mercedes and Ferrari from pre-season testing.
Red Bull discovered parts were not performing on track as they had when simulated at the factory, and though Horner said in June that this problem was solved he has admitted it set the team’s programme back considerably.
“We came in on the back foot really, the tools weren’t correlating with what we were seeing on the track,” said Horner. “Predominantly it was the wind tunnel that was leading us a little bit astray.
“The size of the model, the size of the tyres in the tunnel that we have gave some spurious results whereas previously they’ve been very, very reliable in specific areas and suddenly we have this divergence between track and tunnel and CFD.
“The big issue that we had was that the car suddenly got a lot wider, a lot bigger, a lot more blockage in the tunnel, and our particular wind tunnel was pretty sensitive to that, with issues that we haven’t seen previously.
“That probably cost us about two months, two and a half months in terms of where it put us back to.
“Then of course you’re working flat-out to try and recoup all that time but it’s not like the others are all standing still.”
Red Bull opted for a low-drag design philosophy this season, in a departure from previous car concepts that had focused on cornering strength making up for straightline deficiencies.
Horner said Red Bull had stuck with that concept even amid the changes it made to its development path once the correlation problems were diagnosed.
“The wheelbase, the fundamental concept of the car is the same,” he said. “It’s just how it’s evolved. It’s the direction of evolution that has changed and been putting good performance onto the car.”
Horner is optimistic that the remainder of the year will be much stronger for his team.
“Ever since Barcelona each grand prix we’ve managed to be getting more and more performance out of the car,” he said. “We had very good progress during the first half of the year.
“We lost a lot of ground early on but we’re hoping for a much more competitive second half of the season.”
Reigning world champion Nico Rosberg believes Mercedes will ultimately emerge as the winner in its fierce battle with Ferrari this season.
As he sits on the sidelines watching the action, Rosberg offers his expert opinion on the titanic battle at the front in which he sees his former team edging out its rival, starting at the next race at Spa.
“Ferrari did a really great job over the winter,” Rosberg told Sport Bild.
“But from now on it is a development race.
“And I find it hard to believe that Ferrari can keep up. After Silverstone I already thought ‘That’s it now’ and was surprised to see Ferrari fight back in Hungary.
“But Spa will once again be a real Mercedes track and Ferrari is unlikely to have a chance,” he added.
Rosberg recognises however that both former team mate Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas are up against a formidable opponent in the person of Sebastian Vettel.
The German driver is perhaps prone to outbursts,a s his behaviour in Baku revealed, but he is also a strong character with a winning mentality insists Rosberg.
“We know that he does not control his emotions sometimes,” Rosberg said.
“Last year we already saw that on the radio in Mexico.
“But this thick skin in the consequences of such an action is also a strength of Sebastian’s,” he explained.
“In the short term and in the moment it may seem weak, but over a whole season that can actually make the difference.
“His basic character, in spite of everything else, is poised for victory, and that cannot hurt.”
FIA President Jean Todt has suggested that the final design of Formula E’s 2018/19 car will likely include some radical changes.
Motorsport’s governing body, driven by Todt’s guidance, has thrown all its weight behind the all-electric series, helping Formula E steer itself towards the future.
The series has gained unquestionable momentum after three season, drawing increased manufacturer interest as the latest commitments of Mercedes and Porsche clearly indicate.
Formula E’s fifth season will see the introduction of a new design, the outline of which was revealed earlier this year by Spark Technologies.
But Todt has alluded to design changes which are in the works, apparently centered around the rear of the car which will also integrate a halo cockpit protection device.
“We like to make some good surprises and this [the season five car] will be a good surprise with new safety and technology on the car,” Todt told Motorsport.com.
“The big change is only having one car [per driver, per race] and for me Formula E is a visionary category in motorsport.”
The 2018/19 FE car will undergo private testing later this year before the final design is supplied to teams early in 2018.
Recent announcements by the French and British governments seeking a ban on all petrol and diesel vehicles from 2040 were greeted with enthusiasm by the FIA’s president.
Todt believes the directives, coupled with growing manufacturer engagement, only enforce Formula E’s status as a trail blazing racing category.
“You have seen that by 2040 the UK and France will ban and any car that will not be hybrid,” said Todt.
“They want to encourage the introduction of the electric car, so in a way Formula E is ahead.
“Formula E is a show and it is a laboratory, and as a show people love entertainment, so we want this kind of feeling.”
F1 CEO Chase Carey says Formula 1’s American fan base is bigger than expected as the sport contemplates adding a second US race on the F1 calendar.
As Liberty Media takes hold of F1 and improves its understanding of the sport, its knowledge of the American market, where it seeks development, has also increased.
Carey insists F1 has a “five-year plan” linked to the US, but is in no rush to add a second venue in addition to Austin, Texas to the calendar.
“I don’t want to criticise Bernie,” he told Germany’s Auto Bild, “because he did many things very well.
“But I think he went too much for short terms deals. So if you want to go to New York, it takes time and good planning.
“Previously, Formula 1 worked in so far that you sign a contract and leave the rest to the promoter. But this is no longer possible,” Carey insisted.
The American executive has often cited destination cities, rather than permanent road circuits, as potential new venues for Grand Prix racing.
“You have to capture people’s imagination. You don’t do that with Phoenix, but in New York or Miami.
“We can already see the first signs, as since we have increased our commitment to social media, we are already seeing more feedback from the US.
“There is a bigger fan base there than we thought,” Carey added.
Pascal Wehrlein believes Mercedes will need to find a new breeding ground for its young talent following its surprise departure from the German DTM series.
The manufacturer announced last month that it would be shifting its DTM resources to Formula E, but its retreat from Germany’s premier racing series will force Mercedes to promote its junior drivers elsewhere.
Paul di Resta, Esteban Ocon and Wehrlein himself grew up and refined their racing skills in DTM before moving on to F1.
Wehrlein’s championship winning season in 2015 opened the door to Grand Prix racing last year and to a seat at Manor.
“DTM is not the normal way. You start in Formula 4, Formula 3, Formula 2, GP3, that’s the normal way,” says Wehrlein.
“I can just tell you about my case, it was not possible for me to drive in GP2; I did not have the budget of one and a half millions so I had to decide what can I do after Formula 3.
“For me it was clear that there was an offer from Mercedes that I could drive DTM, I’m getting paid and don’t have to spend crazy amount of money for another year of Formula 3 or something like this,” he continued.
“As I said, GP2 was not possible, so for me the only option was DTM and I was really happy about that chance.
“I always knew if I did a good job, winning and so on, there could still be a chance to arrive in F1, luckily I won DTM and now I’m in F1, but I think this is only possible with Mercedes.
“So now maybe without DTM they will put their drivers in Formula 3, GP3 and F2 and maybe they now don’t try anymore to go the second way.”