Autosport - 8 September 2011

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Attention turns to new cars Finding a balance between end-of-year success and catching the frontrunners for 2012 is a difficult decision

Formula 1 teams are increasingly turning their attentions towards developing their 2012 cars, with only seven races remaining this season. With the exception of the frontrunning teams, most will introduce their final upgrades of the season this month – either at this weekend’s Italian Grand Prix or in the Singapore GP, which kicks off the series of six flyaway races that end the 2011 campaign.

Some teams, such as Mercedes, have accepted that wins are not possible this year. The Brackleybased squad has said that its focus has switched to 2012, with a longerwheelbase car in the pipeline. While Mercedes will devote greater factory resources to design, windtunnel and CFD work on the 2012 car, team principal Ross Brawn has also stressed that continuing to work with the current MGP W02 – to understand its strengths and weaknesses – will play a crucial role in next year’s racer.

How McLaren and Ferrari will choose to proceed with development on their current cars depends on results in Italy. Ferrari team principal Stefano Domenicali confirmed at last month’s Belgian GP that he will reassess allocation of resources based on the chances of fighting Red Bull for the title.

CHANGES FOR 2012 The Brawn team’s transformation from backmarker (as Honda) in 2008 to title winner in ’09 is cited

Team bosses decide when to switch focus

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as the classic example of a team reaping the rewards of focusing on a new car early.

But that was against a backdrop of radical aerodynamic rule changes and the brand-new double diffuser.

Next year’s cars will, for the most part, be evolutionary. The only major change is the banning of blown diffusers by the mandating of a top-exit exhaust, so giant steps similar to Brawn’s in 2009 are viewed as almost impossible. Williams technical director Sam

Michael told AUTOSPORT: “The way you allocate resources changes every year depending on the regulations. Next year the exhaust system is the only big change, although Williams are also changing from Cosworth to Renault engines.

“When planning your resources, you tend to do a little bit of next year’s car early on, then change things depending on what happens with the current car and the next year’s rules.”

All teams will have started laying down the basic concepts for their 2012 cars as soon as their ’11 machines hit the track for testing. But until development for the current year stops, it is about how they balance resources.

THE TEAM BOSS’S PERSPECTIVE While the technical director plays a central role in this process, it is down to the team principal to make the final decision. With finite resources, there are constant pressures to re-allocate





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Someone will hope to get a jump on Red Bull

“You’re looking over shoulders to shamelessly steal a part for 2011” McLaren’s Martin Whitmarsh windtunnel or CFD time to different aspects of 2011 development and ’12 design.

McLaren boss Martin Whitmarsh said: “It’s constantly reviewed and negotiated. We set out a plan, but there is some negotiation. You might get an idea of something you want to do on next year’s car and if you’re not due in the windtunnel, you might want to negotiate some time.

“But on the other hand, you will also be looking over the shoulders of those doing development work for the following year’s car in case you can shamelessly steal a part for performance now.”

McLaren will continue to work on its 2011 car in pursuit of more wins, rather than putting all of its eggs in next year’s basket.

“There is a fair amount of work going on at the moment on next year’s car,” said Whitmarsh. “But we certainly want to win more races this year than the four we have won so far.”


BRAWN BGP 001 (2009) With new ‘skinny’ aero rules for 2009, Honda abandoned development of its uncompetitive RA108 early in ’08. As the Brawn, the new car won six of the first seven races.

WILLIAMS FW14 (1991) Adrian Newey left Leyton House to join Williams as chief designer in June 1990 and put all of his effort into the FW14. The car revived Williams as a title-chasing force.

McLAREN MP4/4 (1988) The low-slung Honda-engined MP4/4, designed by Gordon Murray and Steve Nichols, flew from its first test at Imola. It was the team’s first all-new car since ’84.

FERRARI 126C2 (1982) Best described as a revolutionary evolution of 1981’s 126C, the C2 was Ferrari’s first monocoque and featured major aero changes. Huge step forward, marred by tragedy.

LOTUS 78 (1977) Colin Chapman put development of the Lotus 77 to one side in 1976 to focus on the 78. It won five races in ’77 and started the ground-effect revolution.


RED BULL Mark Webber demonstrated a Formula 1 car in Cardiff last Saturday. Red Bull protege and HRT driver Daniel Ricciardo also took part in the promotional event.

McLAREN Lewis Hamilton has admitted that he was “in pain” after his clash with Kamui Kobayashi in the Belgian Grand Prix, but says he is suffering from no ill-effects heading to the Italian Grand Prix this weekend.

MERCEDES Veteran Michael Schumacher is confident of a strong end to the year after his fifth place in the Belgian GP. “This gives us a boost going into the final part of the season,” said the German.

RENAULT The final major upgrade for the R31 will be at the Singapore Grand Prix. Technical director James Allison said: “After that, it will reduce to a trickle as we focus all of our efforts on next year.”

WILLIAMS GP starts record holder Rubens Barrichello has warned Williams not to drop him for a less-experienced pay driver. “Two kids for next year is the wrong thing to have,” he said.

TORO ROSSO Spanish oil company Cepsa is set to agree a major sponsorship deal with the Italian team. The company is owned by the International Petroleum Investment Company, which is itself owned by Mercedes GP stakeholder Aabar Holdings.

HRT Indian Narain Karthikeyan has landed backing for his home grand prix and will return to the team for the race at the Buddh circuit. It has yet to be confirmed by HRT.

VIRGIN The team is set to move to its new base in Banbury in November. Virgin acquired the former Wirth Research facility earlier this year.

PIRELLI The Italian company is pushing to change the number of option and prime tyres available per car per race weekend next season. Currently, each driver has six primes and five options, but Pirelli wants to supply six options and five primes.


Force India driver Paul di Resta has signed up to appear at next year’s AUTOSPORT International, which will be held at the Birmingham National Exhibition Centre on January 12-15. The Scot will appear on both Saturday and Sunday, where he will answer questions on the AUTOSPORT Stage and appear on the F1 Racing Grid. “Britain has the best motorsport fans in the world, and I’m thrilled that I’ll have the opportunity to meet some of my supporters,” he said. For ticket information visit

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