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Sunday, July 1, 2007

Surprisingly Close At The First Tests

The Grid Is Surprisingly Close!!

This has been one of the main stories of testing this season. All the rule changes have effectively meant that each team has started from a new sheet of paper. Many figures expected this would spread the grid out. Last season, the field spread came down to about two seconds. This is the closest it had been for many season, attributed to the fact that the rules had been stable for a few seasons up to that point.

Amazingly, despite the changes, the grid looks set to close up even more. During the tests, the field has been separated on average by 2.0 to 2.5 seconds. When you take into account that some teams would have been running high fuel programmes, and others low fuel programmes, then the field is likely to be even closer than that.

We won’t see how much time covers the entire field until we start qualifying in Melbourne. I would guess the field spread could well be as low as 1.5 seconds. This would be pretty astonishing.

So why is it so close?

Simply put, many teams have adapted to the rules well and created great cars. We also have to remember that there are a huge number of large manufacturer teams compared to years' past. These teams are extremely well-funded, and have top-range facilities in place. There are more teams with the power and capabilities to build a great F1 car.

Out of the current teams, Toro Rosso and Force India are the ones most likely to be classed as minnows. Toro Rosso is, technically speaking, a customer team of Red Bull, (who look as if they have a great car), and Force India has formed a technical collaboration with Mclaren. Thanks to this, both these teams are going to improve significantly as well, despite not being as well off as the teams above them.

Compare this to the last set of major rule changes in 1998. The field spread out then—which perhaps is why many expected the same to happen this time around—but the difference was there were far more lower funded teams with nowhere near the level of facilities that many teams have now. These teams included the likes of Minardi, Arrows, Stewart Ford, Tyrell, Prost, and Sauber.

Adapting to huge new rules stretched these small teams to the absolute limit. This is a big reason why the field of 1998 spread out. The situation in 2009 is very different with many more big teams on the grid, and the minnows well supported with partnerships with other teams. I bet Minardi and Arrows would have loved a technical collaboration with Mclaren or Ferrari back in their day.

This season, a bunch of very talented and well developed teams have had the chance to start fresh. Every team started the 2009 development at the same place: on the starting line.

In the last couple of seasons, most of the teams have matched each other in terms of development rate. The main problem for the likes of Red Bull and Toyota was that they started the season over a second behind Ferrari and Mclaren. With stable rule changes, it was always an impossible task to make big inroads into that lead. Starting from scratch, and at the same level as Ferrari and Mclaren, they have a chance to edge ahead if they adapt better to the 2009 rules.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

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