Formula 1: Winning the Constructors Championship
With less than 2 weeks to go until the F1 season starts, I almost can’t contain my excitement.
Who will the Constructors Championship go to? Which driver will be on top this year? And who on earth can I cheer on now that Jenson Button is taking his ‘sabbatical’?
Well let’s start our focus on the Constructors Championship shall we (we can come back to the drivers another time)?
In the past 5 years the top 3 positions have been dominated by 3 main teams; Mercedes, Red Bull and Ferrari. Sure Williams played an active part in the 2014 & 2015 championships, and even the wonderful McLaren were in the top 3 back in 2012, but it doesn’t distract the fact that Mercedes, Red Bull and Ferrari have dominated. The question is why? Why do those teams continue to dominate this sport? Is there a secret Formula (excuse the pun ;-)) that they aren’t telling the others about?
Let’s rewind to the 2012 season. This saw the introduction of the “platypus” nose. A change in regulations meant a change in positioning of the exhaust tailpipe, plus drivers were only allowed a gearbox change once every 5 races. The Mercedes F1 W03 was introduced with Double KERS, the exhaust outlet on the Red Bull RB8 directed air toward the diffuser and the Ferrari F2012 featured a pullrod front suspension.
2013 saw further development to the “platypus” nose, and the regulation changes accounted for an increased minimum weight allowance due to the change in specification of tyres between 2012 and 2013. The Mercedes F1 W04 featured a new wing design whilst retaining its pushrod front and pullrod rear suspensions, the Adrian-Newey designed Red Bull RB9 saw a performance increase due to a change in tyre construction mid-season, and the Ferrari F138 (originally F2013) was deemed an evolution of the F2012 with minor enhancements, as opposed to leading the revolution.
In 2014 turbocharged engines were re-introduced, and KERS were incorporated within the engine design. Due to the additional weight of the new engine the minimum weight allowance was again increased, however the regulations stipulated that noses were to be a maximum of 185mm from the ground. Mercedes launched the F1 W05 Hybrid (originally Mercedes F1 W05) and took advantage of the PU106A Hybrid engine, Red Bull’s RB10 used the Renault Energy F1-2014 but the car was plagued with a number of technical issues during the season, and Ferrari’s F14 T kept the pullrod front suspension and revised the rear to accommodate new regulations.
Regulation changes for the 2015 season resulted in noses tapering to a point at a fixed linear rate, minimum weight of cars increased yet again, and Titanium skid blocks underneath the car became mandatory, meaning that spectators could see sparks fly as the underbody touched the track, giving each race a much more dramatic feel. Drivers could now only use 4 power units per season making it even more necessary to look after the car. Mercedes offered the F1 W06 Hybrid, an evolved version of the high-performing F1 W05 and the RB11 from Red Bull used the Renault V6 engine but continued to be plagued by reliability problems. By the Silverstone race Ferrari had made significant changes to the wing of the SF15-T making it much more aerodynamic.
Last season (2016) the aim was to return noise to the cars and they were therefore designed with a waste gate for exhaust gasses to pass through, increasing the noise level. Options for developing the power units were significantly increased this season, due to the volume of changes allowed returning to the same level as 2014. The Mercedes F1 W07 Hybrid started the season having only made mini revolutions to the excellent car, however mid-season a bowl-shaped rear wing enabled faster speeds and a reduction in drag. Red Bull’s RB12 featured minor changes, with one of the more notable ones being the change in rear suspension geometry, whilst Ferrari’s SF16-H boasted a shorter nose design, a higher and straighter chassis, and taller sidepods.
Looking at all of the differences each constructor has been making, mixed with changes in rules and regulations imposed by the FIA, I'm not convinced there actually is a specific winning formula. A great engine, aerodynamic design and lots and lots of analysis and insight are of course a must. Whatever Mercedes have been doing recently clearly seems to be working, but will they keep it up for the 2017 season? Hhhhhmmmmm if I was a betting person then I'd say yes but I guess we'll have to watch this space (well watch the race).
If you haven’t seen the new cars take a look at this article.