Now that Formula One’s summer break is in the rear view mirror, most teams are still pouring development work into their 2012 challengers. Unfortunately for some teams, however, the infamous LaSource melee during the Belgian Grand Prix saw many updates scattered along the asphalt after a flurry of carbon fiber erupted.
One team–McLaren–has taken another big step forward, technically speaking. McLaren made the most visible changes to its MP4-27 at Spa-Francorchamps.
Jenson Button opted for a slightly different rear wing than that of his teammate, Lewis Hamilton. And according to Hamilton’s phantom Twitter feeds, this accounted for a significant performance differential between the MP4-27s in Belgium. Although it is difficult to tell what kind of advantage the rear wing would have provided if Lewis could have finished the first lap of the race, Jenson’s outright dominance at race pace proved, again, that McLaren is still furiously developing the car. In addition to different rear wings, the MP4-27 featured airflow conditioners on the outside of the side pods that reconnect to the chassis above. Most believe the updated conditioners improve airflow over the side pods and, more importantly, compliment the existing exhaust air flow over the rear sections of the car where most teams are still searching for downforce. McLaren also added two small winglets at the base of their side view mirrors–similar to Ferrari’s F2012 in theory–presumably to find a few small improvements in air flow over the bodywork. McLaren’s big performance leap has reportedly caught the eye of Ferrari, and I would not count out a protest from another team if the McLaren’s pace continues to handily outshine the rest of the field.
Going into the summer break, there was a lot of interest in the passive double-DRS system that was being visibly developed by Lotus on the E20. The team has integrated two inlets visible on either side of the E20′s engine cover that, when activated by sufficient airflow and a pressure differential in the back if the car, influence airflow over the rear wing and thus reducing drag. Although Lotus planned to use the device at Spa-Francorchamps, most believe that the limited practice sessions did not produce enough mileage to risk putting the system to work in race trim. Lotus has indicated that they will likely debut their version of the double-DRS “device” no earlier than in Suzuka at the Japanese Grand Prix. Other teams like McLaren have been considering the double-DRS technology, but have not yet unveiled similar devices on their cars.
Apart from the DDRS buzz, Lotus did make a visible change to the E20′s front aerodynamics by enlarging the bottom of the nose section to create a “pelican” chin. This chin design is thought to be a solution to increase downforce and reduce drag in the front end of the E20.
In practice, Ferrari is still using Flo Viz paint on the rear diffuser to assess the all-important aerodynamics across the rear section of the F2012. Although Fernando Alonso was one of the many victims of Romain Grosjean’s LaSource accident, Felipe Massa posted a solid finish and demonstrating competitive pace in the F2012.
Michael Schumacher shared some insight in an interview with Autosport magazine on the continued development and pace of the Mercedes W03 for the rest of the 2012 Formula One Season: ”[w]e will probably see our car improved after Monza . . . So far we have not really done much because it is progress that will come in time after Monza. In the meantime, we have to live with what we have, and we can probably say that his race and the one before did not suit our car at all . . . Plus, others went forward and we have stood still – and that is why we are where we are.”
Mercedes and Williams could be quick at Monza this weekend as both teams are believed to have fast cars with low downforce setups. Senna and Schumacher both proved to be quick at Spa, and Monza could be another good weekend for the W03 and the FW34.