Mercedes hail “a big step forward”
Mercedes have described their 2020 car as “a big step forward” compared with its world championship-winning predecessor. The team’s technical director James Allison has already announced they will start the season with aerodynamic and engine upgrades.
The current champions had “a good winter” and produced a number of innovations to try and fend off their rivals. He told BBC News, “We decided we would make a car that was aggressive. Take every part and challenge ourselves to make it better.”
Allison used a video produced by Mercedes to detail three main areas of innovation on the car – but did not touch on the new ‘dual-axis steering’ system that surprised their rivals at last week’s first pre-season test.
Allison said: “The challenge was, in a year where the regulations are completely stable and where the tyres haven’t changed one little bit, how do we take last year’s best car, the 2019 Mercedes car, and produce something properly competitive when the regulations haven’t changed?”
He admitted there was a temptation for us to just keep polishing up, as they were developing fast throughout the last year. The three main areas where Mercedes have improved is the front suspension and wheel assembly to give “more aerodynamic opportunity in the front end.”
An upgraded engine to improve power and create tighter packaging around the rear, increasing downforce. Allison admitted that there had been “a structural compromise” that had added weight, but that this had been offset by changes elsewhere.
FIA bans DAS from 2021
Mercedes DAS steering wheel introduced this year has effectively been outlawed by next seasons regulations.
As rival teams consider whether or not to introduce their own DAS – Dual-Axis Steering – device for the forthcoming season after Mercedes shocked the sport with its introduction during Test One, it has been confirmed that such a device would not be allowed next year.
The technical regulations for next year states, “the re-alignment of the steered wheels… must be uniquely defined by a monotonic function of the rotational position of a single steering wheel.”
Speaking in his media briefing on Friday, race director Michael Masi said, “You have been very wise in noticing the change to the 2021 technical regulations. We will see what teams can come up with, within those boundaries of what the regulations are written for in 2021.”
Ferrari’s changed approach – Leclerc
Charles Leclerc says that Ferrari is yet to post fastest times in testing as they have changed their approach from last year, in a bid to avoid another slow start to the season.
The Monacan managed a hundred and thirty-one laps on his first day in the new Ferrari, but only eleventh fastest and more than a second behind pacesetter Lewis Hamilton.
This was a modest start compared to last year when Ferrari topped the times and mileage from the very start. The team set blistering pace over the next week in Barcelona to instil themselves as early 2019 favourites.
After Ferrari then faltered at the start of that season – failing to win a race until after the summer break – Leclerc says the team are taking a “step by step” approach to this year’s winter testing.
The Monacan told Sky Sports, “We changed a little bit our approach compared to last year. Last year, the testing felt great but then the first race was a bit less great.”
“I think we’ve learnt a few things from this and this year we decided to focus more on ourselves, try to learn the car as much as possible in this first few days and then focus on performance a bit later on and then see if that pays off.”
While other drivers have praised their new cars and the unofficial lap record has been broken, Leclerc said Ferrari’s new focus meant it was impossible to be sure that the SF1000 is a step forward.
“We didn’t focus on performance but more about trying to know the car at its best. Right now it’s difficult to say but there’s been a lot of work so it can only be an evolution.”
Leclerc’s assessment can be backed up by the data, last year Ferrari was fastest in the speed traps, with a Ferrari team that was quicker than any other on the straights last year the slowest in that regard on Day One in 2020.
Horner defends clone cars
Red Bull team principal Christian Horner has defended the use of ‘clone cars’ in Formula One, saying they make the championship better.
Three teams Racing Point, Haas and the newly renamed Alpha Tauri team have taken inspiration from there bigger sister or partner teams Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull. While some teams are not happy at the prospect of rivals copying each other, Horner said anything that helps the smaller outfits to become more competitive is a bonus.
He told Autosport, “I think collaborations do make sense. Otherwise, how do teams like Alpha Tauri and Racing Point, Haas, even Alfa Romeo, [compete] if they couldn’t buy suspensions and gearboxes?”
“All the R&D that they’re going to have to conduct themselves will be big amounts of resource. Of course, some teams look like they’ve gone further in their cloning than others, but as long as it complies with the rules, I don’t particularly have a problem with it.”
Horner says it also means that the grid is more competitive and affordable. But that you also didn’t want a grid which looks the same. But you could use transferable elements like suspension and gearboxes.
There are no suggestions that Racing Point has broken the regulations with its design, McLaren team principal Andreas Seidl has called for strict policing of team collaborations to check that rules are followed.
Seidl said, “The rules are pretty clear of what is allowed and what is not allowed and of course it’s important already now in 2020, that these rules are followed.”
Next year there are limits on how much teams are allowed to do on CFD and wind tunnel hours. He believes that teams transferring wind tunnel regulations isn’t within the regulations
Teams ask for policing of information sharing
The FIA has been urged to ensure that Formula One teams are not illegally sharing information between each other by rotating staff. The focus on teams co-operating has been thrust back into the spotlight with Racing Point having taken inspiration from Mercedes’ design to create its RP20.
There is no suggestions that Racing Point has done anything wrong or has breached the regulations. The team itself says it is actually concerned about other teams going beyond what is allowed by pooling together resource.
Racing Point technical director Andy Green told Motorsport.com, “The bit that really upset and still upsets us about what goes on, is the transfer of information that can and does happen between the big team and the small team. That is circumventing the regulation. That’s the bit we don’t [like].”
Analysis of the Haas model when it entered F1, restrictions were put in place to ensure that personnel could not swiftly move around teams and transfer intellectual property. Green suggests that the rules may not be strictly followed by all teams and that some information could still be getting moved around.
He explained, “It was brought to a head in Abu Dhabi I think a couple of years ago, with people rotating from one team to another, from the big team to the small team, back to the big team again.” Green believes that its makes sense for engine suppliers to supply customers teams with some hardware.
McLaren boss Andreas Seidl says there are no suggestions that Racing Point has breached the rules with its design, but does have concerns about the long term impact if teams continue to cooperate.
He said, “It doesn’t matter if you have a cooperation with other teams – which is okay and is also allowed by the regulations on certain topics – but when it comes down to the things like monocoque, aerodynamics and do on, where you’re clearly not allowed to work together.”
“no way” Williams will be far off pace – Russell
George Russell feels there is “no way” Williams will be as far off the pace of its rival as it was last year. The British team has started in much better shape compared to 2019, when it missed the first two full days of testing.
But in the first three days of testing, Russell handing it the ninth-fastest time in the first Barcelona test, ahead of Haas. Asked by Motorsport.com, if he felt Williams would be closer to the midfield compared to last year when the team scored just one point, Russell said: “There’s no way we’ll be as far off the pace as we were last year.”
“Last year on average we were one second behind [and] you can say that all the other teams at least have found three tenths – so for us to be fighting we need to have found at least that amount.” He believes that if they can achieve that they will be fighting with the other teams.
Russell spent most of his sessions of the first test sessions doing aerodynamic correlation tests. His teammate Nicholas Latifi drove on the final day.
Russell explained that this was because Williams had brought “loads of aero items” to try and “see if everything’s correlating versus the wind tunnel, versus CFD and how it’s working on the track”.
He told Motorsport.com, “We did loads of rake running [on the second] morning. I don’t know the results from yet but it’s very beneficial and it’s what’s needed in these early days. It wasn’t the perfect day [on Thursday], but I think it’ll be productive in the long run.”
Williams’ deputy team principal Claire Williams said the teams’ realistic aim was targeting Q2 and scoring in each race. She says her team exists to go racing and that last year they weren’t racing.
She added, “Robert [Kubica, who drove for the team in 2019] and George were racing each other, and we want to be coming to each and every race, being able to fight for realistically a Q2 position.”