D he Formula 1 is moving towards a new record. If the picture of the first half of the season repeats itself from the GP Belgium, then this Formula 1 year will be the one with the fewest defects of all time. In the first 12 races there were only 11 technical failures. That is a rate of 0.92 defects per race.
Even compared to the last three years, that represents a massive decrease. Not to mention the 70s, 80s or 90s. 1987 was the worst year in GP history with 12.1 defects per Grand Prix. In 2018 there were 45 technical breakdowns in 21 races. Makes 2.14 per Grand Prix. In 2017 there were 60 in 20 races or three defects per World Championship run. 2016 is a little better with 52 retirements in 21 races for technical reasons. The rate is 2.47.
This season, seven of the ten teams have covered more than 90 percent of all possible racing kilometers. The reliability is breathtaking. One can almost speak of a series standard. However, it is bad for sport. The surprise factor is missing. In the past, even in the most boring race, you could never be sure that something was going to happen. Today we know.
Only one defect in the top teams
Reliability is the result of forward-looking design, high production quality, good error analysis and seamless quality control. Here, too, the formula applies: if you have more money, you are better off. There is a clear gradient in the field in the defect statistics. The three top teams had only one defect to complain about in the first twelve races. The remaining seven teams are ten. Mercedes, Ferrari, Williams, Alfa Romeo, Toro Rosso and Racing Point still have a clean slate.
OnMost noticeable is the quality improvement at Red Bull. The team from Milton Keynes has always built fast, but often fragile cars. In 2018, Red Bull counted nine defects. In 2017 there were eight. Only one this time. A drive shaft broke on Pierre Gasly's Red Bull in Baku. Red Bull struggled to reproduce the damage. It is assumed that unfavorable vibrations when driving over the curbs damaged the joint of the half-shaft on the wheel side.
Red Bull with more test bench time
Red Bull Sports Director Helmut Marko confirms: “The Quality improvement was a clear requirement for our engineers. We've dropped out too often in recent years. ”At Red Bull, people liked to pass the buck to their former engine partner Renault. But in the past it wasn't always Renault's fault. There was also damage to the clutch, transmission or the electrical systems.
Max Verstappen reveals that the engine partner was also indirectly responsible for the damage in the chassis area. “Today we can drive much longer and more intensively on the test bench. This allows us to test all components under constant load at the limit. ”
The secret: Honda provides many more engines are ready for test bench test runs, and they can also be driven there with more power, i.e. under realistic conditions. “You also have a lot more test stands yourself. In Japan there are test facilities for all possible components, ”reveals team boss Christian Horner.
But the showpiece is the so-called VTT test bench. It's in Milton Keynes. The entire car with engine, transmission, chassis and cooling system can then be tested on every race track in all weather conditions, day and night. Red Bull can even connect its full-size test bench directly to its simulator. The car then does what the driver specifies in the simulator in the room next door. That is not possible with Mercedes and Ferrari.
VTT monsters for 15 million euros
Only the three top teams own one of these VTT monsters. Cost point: at least 15 million euros. Open at the top. Renault is considering acquiring such a system by 2021. If you are with theIf you want to keep up with top teams, this is almost essential. It is probably no coincidence that Renault and its customer McLaren are only 8th and 9th in the reliability statistics. You are responsible for a total of seven of the eleven technical failures.
The VTT test bench replaces practically completely real test drives in terms of quality improvement. Ferrari spooled up to 70,000 kilometers a year in Fiorano and Mugello in the 2000s. That is no longer allowed today. But there is no limit on the test benches.
The private teams will chase after this gap forever. Racing Point technical director Andy Green regrets. “These VTT test stands are a huge advantage. But that will always be reserved for the works teams. It wouldn't make any sense for us to get one. We'd be missing the engines to test them. ”