E s were the hardest formula 1- Cars of all time. The one with the specifically lowest fuel consumption. With an air resistance like a bus. And the length of a stretch limousine. And yet the fastest in the history of Formula 1. Actually a contradiction in terms. But over 20 percent more downforce, 20 percent more contact surface of the tires and almost four percent more power accelerated 728 kilograms of mass on average 2.5 seconds faster around the 20 race tracks on the calendar. In Bahrain the least with 0.654 seconds, in Spa the most with 4.191 seconds.
19 of the 20 training records were broken. Only rain in Monza prevented the complete revolution. The lap record was rewritten in ten cases. That can be explained. Most of the fastest race laps come from a time when refueling was allowed and softer rubber compounds had to cover shorter distances. And the cars still weighed 605 kilograms. From a purely mathematical point of view, that's a difference of 3.7 seconds.
If the world association hadn't kept slowing down the fastest cars in the world for safety reasons, all records might have fallen sooner. But in the Groundeffect era between 1978 and 1982, the cars that had mutated into a single wing had so much downforce that they sometimes managed without a front wing, but they lacked 400 hp compared to today. In the hot turbo phase between 1982 and 1987, their fireworks burned up to 1,400 hp, but the contact pressure was only 60 percent of the current value, and the engineers bought it with huge wings with high air resistance. Then there was the generation of electronic monsters between 1991 and 1993, when active suspensions, traction control, ABS and four-wheel steering created conditions like in the wind tunnel and the power when braking and accelerating was always optimally applied to the road. The early computer magic was banned in 1994. He too would have had a chance of breaking records and setting them for a long time.
2.687 seconds faster in Silverstone, 3.228 seconds in Suzuka
Most of the best times came from a time in Michael Schumacher won almost all races. The cars were light, the aerodynamics already sophisticated, the ten-cylinder engines with up to 960 hp. They rolled on grooved tires that rarely had to last longer than 20 laps. Then came the V8, an aerodynamic reform, onesecond and the hybrid drive, which lacked muscle in the first year. And the weight went up and down. From 605 to 620, to 640, to 691, to 702 and finally to 728 kilograms. Formula 1 had to put up with the accusation from its own ranks that it had become a racing series for old men and youngsters. The drivers rebelled. “It's not fun like that. We feel under-challenged, 'said Lewis Hamilton, Sebastian Vettel and Fernando Alonso in unison. They got what they wanted in 2017. Wider cars, fatter tires, more power.
If you want to experience speed, you have to stand by the track. Or drive Formula 1 yourself. Lewis Hamilton found only one sentence for the speed experience in fast passages like Becketts in Silverstone: “People, that's just sick. I wish I could take you with me so that you can feel what I feel. ”Can he at least put it into words? 'Just as little as if I had to explain to you what it feels like to have a child.'
The television doesn't even begin to show what a Formula 1 car can do. Only data can shed light on the darkness. They show how and where this new Formula 1 has pushed the boundaries of physics. The 2017 generation flexed its muscles at Silverstone and Suzuka. Both are routes that contain all the elements: slow, medium-speed, fast corners with long and short radii, chicanes, hairpins and one or the other straight. At Silverstone, the lap time fell by 2.687 seconds, and on the Suzuka circuit, which was almost the same length, it was down by 3.228 seconds. This is due on the one hand to the characteristics of the route and on the other hand to the progress made in the three months in between. Mercedes brought an aero upgrade and a more powerful engine.
On the straights at up to 10 km /hslower
Today speeds are determined using GPS. Centrifugal forces come from the data recording devices. Mercedes has exclusively supplied auto motor und sport with the speed data for comparable qualifying laps from Hamilton from 2016 and 2017. 1,724 data sets from Silverstone and 1,842 from Suzuka show practically meter by meter where the new cars gain time and also the few places where they have slowed down. It is measured from the finish line. All speeds are assigned to the distance to the target line. This makes it easy to locate where the car was when it was measured.
The graphics speak for themselves. They document the progress that the rule reform has brought about and give it a face. We want to start where Formula 1 has slowed down. On the straights. When you accelerate out of tight corners, the new Formula 1 has the upper hand first. After 130 meters out of third gear on the Luffield curve at Silverstone, Hamilton accelerated to 185.5 km /h in 2016, and a year later to 198.0 km /h. “More power, more grip from the rear tire, more downforce at the rear,” says Mercedes engine boss Andy Cowell succinctly. At some point, the larger frontal area and the higher air resistance of the 2017 generation become noticeable. It doesn't make sense to invest even more engine power in order to get faster in the second part of the straight. That doesn't improve the lap time. The MGU-H prefers to store energy by braking the turbocharger.
At top speed, the narrower 2016 car takes 8.3 km /h from the current Mercedes on the old home straight at Silverstone. The same scenario in Suzuka before the first corner: 2016 wins with 337.4 to 327.1 km /h. Not every straight line can be pressed into this scheme. There is practically a tie on the Hangar Straight at Silverstone. Why this? Cowell explains: “The driver turns into the straight there much faster and is therefore closer to top speed from the start. The engine no longer has to overcome so much air resistance. ”
They vary accordinglyCentrifugal forces at the braking points. Where the cars will arrive immediately in 2017, the 26 kilograms higher weight of the current vehicles is evident. The current cars brake 24 meters later than a year ago, but they don't come to the braking point as quickly either and they drive through the Brooklands curve at 159.6 instead of 140.8 km /h. The deceleration when braking is accordingly 0.4 g less than in the 2016 season. A completely different picture emerges in front of the Vale curve in Silverstone. There, Hamilton pressed it into the seat belt in 2016 with 4.0 g, a year later with 4.7 g.
More full throttle means more MGU-H recuperation
More downforce pleases the aerodynamicists . This gives the engine engineers a headache at first. The time in which the drive units are operated under full load increases. In Silverstone by eight, in Suzuka by seven percent. “The cooling time went down by the same percentage. However, the cooling systems are not designed to use full power all the time. On long straights like in Spa or Baku, where the engines run for 23 seconds, the temperatures reach limit values. The engines are happy when the driver finally takes his foot off the accelerator, ”Cowell suffers with his Mercedes M08 engine. Energy management is also changing, as the Mercedes engine man explains: “More full throttle means more MGU-H recuperation, but also less time to store kinetic energy when braking. The time on the brakes is correspondingly shorter with more grip, lower top speed and higher cornering speeds. For each route, we use simulations based on the presumed downforce and tire grip to define the strategies for how much energy is accessed via the MGU-H and MGU-K. ”
Something else stands out. 2017 was less switched. Max Verstappen drove through the famous S-curves of Suzuka in one gear. “Last year I first went down one gear, then up again at the end.” Andy Cowell explains the absence of certain shifting maneuvers from the point of view of the engineer: “The Suzuka S-curves are a good example. The speed at the apexes of the corners increases and approaches the speed on the short straights in between. So many passages can be driven in one aisle. “Good for the driver: there are fewer load changes.
It gets exciting in the curves. The differences are smaller in slow corners and larger in fast corners. That's often true, but not always. The radius of the curve also plays a role and the example of the tire. Andrew Shovlin, chief engineer and tire expert at Mercedes, first of all dispels the prejudice that aerodynamics are the sole source of faster lap times. “It is difficult to assign the progress to the individual components, because it changes from track to track, from track temperature to track temperature. The wider tire, for example, not only offers 20 percent more tread, it also reduces the load on the contact surface because the forces are better distributed. This allows the softer rubber compounds to live longer. The shape of the contact area has also changed, which means that the tire does not heat up as much. Therefore, the drivers could drive more aggressively. With wider wings, floors and panels, the aerodynamic surfaces have increased and downforce increased by over 20 percent. The increase in drag was smaller than that of downforce. So the 2017 cars are more efficient than their predecessors. Wider cars bring more mechanical grip. Because they roll less strongly around the longitudinal axis. This puts a little more strain on the inner tire, which again increases grip. ”
At 287.2 km /h and 4.9 g through Copse Corner
, that means 20 percent more contact area not 20 percent more grip. “It always depends on the vertical load that you can produce. If you overdo it with the width, the tire no longer meshes so well with the road. The big gain in grip came from softer compounds, ”explains Shovlin. This basic knowledge explains why, for example, the first of the two Degner curves in Suzuka became 22.0 km /h faster with one g more centrifugal force, but the second only 14.3 km /h and why 1.5 kilometers later During the lap the Spoon curve delivers a delta of 29.2 km /h, although this curve is in the speed range of Degner 2. Shovlin solves the riddle: “In the past, the tires from Degner 1 were already up to temperature. This has had a positive effect on Degner 2. Therefore the speed effect is less. In Spoon, on the other hand, you go in with slightly cooler tires, but because the corner is so long, the front tires at the exit overheated last year. That was no longer the case in 2017. Therefore the speed difference is bigger than in Degner. A pure tire effect. ”
The point at which aerodynamics dominate mechanical grip cannot be found in a manual eitherread off. “It's a progressive process. As soon as the car starts to move, it produces downforce. Four times as much at twice the speed. That is why we see significantly higher speeds in medium-fast to fast corners. When you come to the high-speed corners, which were already full last year, then you no longer have the extra power to break the maximum air resistance. A 2017 car can be slower, ”warns Shovlin of the theory that every curve is automatically a feast for the 2017 cars. The 130R curve from Suzuka belongs to the Mercedes AMG W07 from 2016. And clearly, with 315.1 to 308.1 km /h. The opposite is Copse Corner at Silverstone. Yesterday with three-quarters throttle, today full. Incredible the delta. Hamilton was measured in the right turn this year with 287.2 km /h. Last season it was 247.7 km /h. Difference in centrifugal force: from 3.6 to 4.9 g.
In slow corners, the grip from the wider tires is evident, but the driver also has to heave more car around the corner with more weight . The cars are not that agile. That costs speed. Shovlin concludes, “These cars are tailor-made for tracks like Suzuka and Silverstone. In Monte Carlo you would have to go two rubber compounds softer to see similar differences. ”
Loop in Silverstone is a typical Monaco curve. Nevertheless, the advantage for the current car is relatively large at 8.8 km /h. “The 2017 car can be positioned better for turn 3 because of the high downforce. That helps you at the entrance, but in the corner after that the power of the aerodynamics is broken and you don't see as much progress compared to before, ”says Shovlin. The proof: The 2016 Mercedes drives 83.4 km /h in the arena curve, its successor 86.2 km /h. A moderate increase in speed. The story of the Suzuka chicane sounds similar. It is noticeable here that the speed difference when driving in is dramatically much greater than when driving out. “With the old cars, the drivers chose the corner entrance so that they had as much speed as possible when exiting the corner.Now, with more downforce and more grip from the tire, you can take the speed at the entrance to the corner much better to the apex, without having to pay for it at the exit. Plus, before that, 130R curve is no longer a big deal for the 2017 cars. The tires are well warmed up for the braking maneuver and turning, but not as close to the limit as last year, 'explains Shovlin.
The drivers' new favorite corners
The drivers have received , what you want. Cars that let you feel the limits again. Sebastian Vettel feels the progress most in Turn 3 of Barcelona, in Pouhon in Spa, and the S-curves of Suzuka. “The difference is greatest in fast and medium-fast corners. In slow not so. The tires don't have much more grip. They are wider, but also harder. Overall, the cars feel similar to 2012 and 2013 with a blown diffuser. ”Sergio Perez declares Copse, Abbey, and Turn 9 of Barcelona to be his new favorite turns. For Felipe Massa it's the S-curves of Austin and Suzuka, plus the Becketts complex of Silverstone. Max Verstappen points out: “Many corners that used to be almost full are now easily full. The first sector in Suzuka is a lot more fun. The car is much more stable. In 2016 we had a lot more sideways. ”His colleague Ricciardo differentiated:“ Suzuka was a massive but not breathtaking step. We get out of turn 6 faster. Turn 7 is almost a straight line. ”
If the drivers had their way, things could get even better. “Today you think that more is not possible, and then the cars will be three seconds faster, and you will find this extra in your body, and you control it. It's walking the tightrope that drives me, ”says Hamilton, describing imaginary curves with his hands. The well-groomed slide has long been out. What is needed is maximum grip, a line chiseled into the asphalt like a tram track. “Standing sideways feels good for a long curve. You pay for the next two because the tires have gotten too hot, ”dismisses Hamilton. The champion also has criticism for the new cars: “As wonderful as they are on a lap. They are not suitable for racing. Because the extreme aerodynamics prevent you from following other cars. '