With the 2015 drivers and constructor championship positions confirmed team’s technical departments have shifted focus to the 2016 season, seeking to understand which areas of development they can expect to see most gains.
Free Practice One in Brazil saw Mercedes trialling positioning and sizing of an S duct system similar in thinking to the F duct pioneered by Mclaren in 2012. The system is designed to stall aero around the car at certain times to increase overall speed trap performance. The trial of this system is plain for all to see with both cars sprouting additional openings along the nose cone of the car.
Less clear are the experimental developments with Ferrari, ignoring the huge rake seen on the rear right end of Kim’s car in the early phase of FP1. Since Austin both Kimi Räikkönen and Sebastian Vettel appear to have had issues under braking and in deployment of power, with both drivers suffering uncharacteristic spins or race ending accidents. These incidents have been put down to driver error, but the growing frequency of these incidents, most recently seen in Free Practice with Kimi Räikkönen suggest something there could be more to these incident than meets the eye.
Ferrari throughout the 2014 season was known to struggle with consistent harvesting and deployment of ERS (Energy Recovery System) power. On the face of it this issues appears to have been resolved in 2015, but could an evolution of this harvesting system be causing the drivers new issues? As with any new technology the scope for development of the system must be significant, perhaps Ferrari have found a new direction with harvesting of energy. Could an evolution ot the team’s ERS be what brings Ferrari into true championship contention in 2016?
The extent of Ferrari’s experimentation led may observers to believe the team had lost their way in the build-up for today’s race, but in qualifying 3rd and 4th on the grid it seems more likely the team have a clear understanding of exactly how to maximise the performance of the SF15-T and have switched attention to the 2016 challenger in free practice sessions. Sebastian Vettel’s experiences in 2013, when Red Bull Racing continued to develop their dominant machine until the final race of the year arguably severely impacting the team’s performance in 2014 may be influencing Ferrari’s current focus.
Sebastian Vettel or Kimi Raikkonen struggling under braking into turn 4 or through acceleration out of turn 12 in today’s race would suggest continued evaluation or developments with the teams energy recovery harvesting and deployment systems.