Formula One: On and off track - week 13

Formula One: On and off track - week 13

Cosworth is back, tyre compounds, and the F-Duct Cosworth is back The trusty Cosworth engine was for many decades, combined with the good old Hewland gearbox, the favorite package for many teams to propel their Formula One cars. The engine ...


Cosworth is back, tyre compounds, and the F-Duct

Cosworth is back

The trusty Cosworth engine was for many decades, combined with the good old Hewland gearbox, the favorite package for many teams to propel their Formula One cars. The engine manufacturer is now back in Formula One, and supplies the engines for the Williams, Lotus, Virgin and HRT teams. Cosworth's involvement in Formula One began in 1963, and ended in 2006: during that 43-year period they scored 176 wins, which makes then the most successful engine builders, second only to Ferrari. Cosworth scored its first victory during the 1967 Dutch Grand Prix at Zandvoort, with a Lotus 49, powered by the Ford Cosworth DFV (Double Four Valve) engine, and driven by the legendary Jim Clark.

The Cosworth DFV engine in the Lotus 49B.
Photo by xpb.cc.

In 2008 Cosworth invested 1.1 million Euro in machines and tools, and spend 2.7 million Euro on research and development to prepare themselves for the 2010 season. Cosworth celebrated its return to Formula One by scoring one point during the Bahrain GP, when Rubens Barrichello finished tenth in a Cosworth CA2010 V8-powered Williams. The reliability of the Cosworth engine also helped the Lotus team to bring two cars to finish during their Formula One debut. In Australia Barrichello crossed the finish line in eighth position, adding another four points to the new Cosworth engine's tally.

Cosworth F1's general manager Mark Gallagher is happy with the results of the Cosworth engine: "Another satisfactory race weekend from an engine point of view. Our teams were all able to put good mileage on their engines in Australia and we experienced no mechanical problems over the three days. The race was certainly exciting and it was good to see Rubens pick up more championship points for Williams-Cosworth." Cosworth has now also collected a lot of engine data during the races in Bahrain and Australia, and those will be thoroughly examined and analyzed by a team of engineers back at their headquarters in Northampton, UK, and the results will be used to improve the performance and reliability of the engine.

Tyre compounds

Bridgestone said changing the tyre compounds is not the right way to spice up a Grand Prix event. The Japanese company simply believes they should provide the best possible tyres for each team for each race. Of course it would be easy to just change the compounds, in such a way the tyres would degrade very fast, but as always there are a few catches. Bridgestone has already allocated the different tyre compounds for each race until halfway the season, and has already produced these tyres, they are already waiting for shipment. Changing the tyre compounds would not change the pit stop strategy, either, according to the company's director of motorsport development Hirohide Hamashima.

He also warned there are a number of fast and very demanding circuits during the second half of the season, and thinks it would be irresponsible to supply extra soft and fast degrading tyres for those high speed circuits. And if Bridgestone were to produce very soft tyres which would be shredded after 15 laps and force a driver to pit for new tyres, the spectators might jump to the wrong conclusion and think the company produces bad tyres. And with 600 to 800 million people watching a Grand Prix, that's the last thing Bridgestone wants.

The F-Duct

The revolutionary venting system McLaren introduced this season, the F-Duct, will soon be introduced by other teams as well. Last weekend BMW-Sauber came with their version of the system, but didn't use it during the race. The air duct on the Sauber is located on the left sidepod, and not like the McLaren system, on top of the nose in front of the driver. The McLaren system is integrated in the chassis, other teams would have to build a new chassis to make an exact copy of it, that is very expensive and they would also need the approval of the FIA. And make no mistake about it, although it is a simple trick, it is a very sophisticated system, the amount of air that is allowed to stream to the wing is critical: not enough or too much air could lead to a complete loss of downforce on the rear wheels, which would be a very dangerous situation.

The controversial F-Duct on the Sauber.
Photo by xpb.cc.

The system features an air duct which controls the airflow to the rear wing and the duct can be opened and closed by the arm or the leg of the driver. It changes the air stream to the rear wing, which will stall the wing at high speed, it reduces the drag and the result is an increased straight line speed, with about 6 to 8 miles, which would give the driver enough extra boost for a successful overtaking maneuver.

Moveable aerodynamic devices -- like moveable wings and valves that control the airflow -- are a taboo in Formula One, but technically speaking the only moveable part of the system is the driver, and because the driver is not a part of the car, the FIA declared it is legal. Renault is not happy with the FIA decision, they feel all teams have to spend a lot of money to develop the system, and once all teams have it, it is not an advantage anymore, and therefore a waste of money. Happy or not, Williams, Ferrari, Mercedes and Red Bull are already developing their version of the F-Duct system.

And in this fast moving sport there is already another controversy in the making, some teams suspect the Red Bull Racing team is using some sort of mechanical form of a 'active' suspension to adjust the ride height of the car. During qualifying the tanks are almost empty, and at the start of the race the car is heavy because of the fully loaded fuel tank, and such a system could be used to compensate the ride height of a car. After qualifying the cars go to the Parc Ferm? and according to the rules, teams are not allowed to adjust the suspension before the race.

McLaren team principal Martin Whitmarsh was the first to bring up this issue when he noticed the ride hide of the Red Bull was the same during the race and qualification, but Red Bull team principal Christian Horner denies the existence of use such a system, and said the FIA is more than welcome to check out the car's suspension system. Mercedes team principal Ross Brawn has called for a FIA suspension ruling, but it seems the FIA is not interested at all to check out the McLaren, and a FIA spokesman in Sepang said that there is no investigation.

Ferrari team principal Stefano Domenicali is a bit more relaxed about a possible adjustable suspension system on the Red Bull car and said: "It [technical rows] is part of the sport -- putting pressure on the other teams and what they're doing, it's just a part of the game. And that's what it is, the development of new 'tricks and gadgets' is part of the game to go faster and faster than your opponents in Formula One.

Join us again next week for the weekly "Formula One: On and off track".


See also: Formula One: On and off track - week 12

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About this article
Series General , Formula 1
Drivers Rubens Barrichello , Jim Clark , Martin Whitmarsh
Teams Red Bull Racing , Sauber , Williams