Analysis: The good and not-so-good of each car – Part 2

This is part 2 of the post requested by @robb___alexander on Twitter.

In the first part of this analysis we took a look at the top teams’ technical features. For this second installment we will look at the remainder of the grid including the intriguing Toro Rosso STR9 and just how Williams’s FW36 has recaptured their form.

Force India VJM07

+ Force India continue to design a car that is kind on its tyres. It’s a design feature that has been prominent ever since the current regulations’ inception in 2009 and it is unclear whether it has been a deliberate philosophy or a handy characteristic of their platform. It sets the team back in qualifying trim but their ability to push during the race has seen them score in every round this year bar Hungary. With a good haul of upgrades during the Austrian and British GP period plus a few more on the way, the VJM07 once again punches well above its weight in the battle against McLaren.

Despite having significantly less money to play with than the surrounding competition, Force India continue to develop their strong 2014 contender

Despite having significantly less money to play with than the surrounding competition, Force India continue to develop their strong 2014 contender

– Qualifying pace and generally lacking a bit of downforce. This is where a smaller budget can cost a team such as Force India as their creative solutions (they were one of the first teams to start packaging the sidepod area more tightly this year) can be met and then overcome by bigger spenders. Keeping up the development pace is tough but the car is extremely consistent, so they have no major worries.

Sauber C33

+ It started the year overweight but the team have worked hard to bring it down to near the minimum (690kg) and take advantage of their Ferrari power unit by significantly pinching in the bodywork from Spain onwards.

– It is sad to say that there isn’t much good about this year’s C33! Not only is it still a touch heavy but it is visibly appalling to drive in any conditions at any circuit. This is primarily down to Sauber’s brake-by-wire (BBW) system, which delivers a very inconsistent feel to the driver even from lap to lap. Adrian Sutil described it as a different car to drive every lap, which brings us back to having confidence in the car as mentioned in part 1.

Sauber’s power unit (PU) is supplied by Ferrari so that means that they also receive their MGU-K, which harvests under braking. I can only have an estimated guess that the BBW system isn’t calibrated to enough types of braking/harvesting events, hence why it tends to grab at the brakes or not work at all. This could even boil down to the initial braking phase and the way Sauber are choosing to harvest their energy. It’s a complex area and until it is fully fixed the team will be going nowhere.

Toro Rosso STR9

+ The STR9 is quite possibly one of the most intriguing cars of the year. It is quite simplistic in the sense that there is nothing too standout about it in terms of complexity. However it is the culmination of the finer details that perhaps make it the best Renault-powered car after Red Bull. Aerodynamically the car looks pretty sound and, like every Toro Rosso since its birth, is pretty hand in the wet.

The ugly but neat airbox layout – which provides the ICE with forced induction air and cooling for the gearbox oil – removes volume from the sidepod area and allows a slimmer engine cover further behind. I am still a huge fan of the floor-mounted rear wing endplates as although it adds a bit of weight it reduces drag and manages the airflow around the rear tyre.

The STR9 may look simplistic but it's an almost-perfect benchmark for the likes of Daniil Kvyat to hone is skills

The STR9 may look simplistic but it’s an almost-perfect benchmark for the likes of Daniil Kvyat to hone is skills

– As technical director James Key pointed out earlier this week, reliability has been a bit of a shambles. Failures have been dotted around the car including exhausts (not made by Renault and on two differing occasions), rear track rods, brakes, gearbox and the PU itself. It is unlikely that they will catch the McLaren-Force India battle but as long as the cash keeps pumping in from Red Bull owner Dietrich Mateschitz then they shouldn’t have to worry.

Williams FW36

+ A combination of fortune and Pat Symonds’s guidance have seen Williams ascend to the podium on a regular basis once more. No “top” designers have been employed since the dark days of 2011 and 2013, just a slight restructuring and a little encouragement have led to solid car which just so happens to have a Mercedes engine in the back. The FW36 is quite slippery whilst creating very useable downforce, so we often see the Williams drivers at the head of the speed trap standings. The team have also taken a massive advantage from their unique short gear ratios (as discussed here) to propel them off the line and defend during the latter stages of races. Having been the only car other than a Mercedes on pole position this year, it’s been a damn good year for the team so far.

– Although rear tyre degradation has been cured to a certain extent this year, you could argue the fixes have set them back a little in pace. This is similar to what happened with Mercedes in 2013, so you can bet that the fundamental problems will be addressed for 2015.

Marussia MR03

+ Marussia have honestly created one of the best cars on the grid this year given their budget. Perhaps the key to unlocking their form and challenging the other midfield teams was the switch to Ferrari power but look at how poorly Sauber are doing. Marussia, along with McLaren, were the initial users of the ‘Y-lon’ central rear wing pylon/Y100 winglet mount. This was coupled with the keel nose design, something only Red Bull had really considered. The continuous upgrades show a good thought process going into the MR03 so hopefully they can kick on from here…

– Although steps have been made to address the issue over the past couple of years (they have a technical partnership with McLaren), the MR03 still doesn’t have the downforce to consistently reach Q2. This is mostly down to their reliance on CFD over wind tunnel resources as the team continue to operate on the lowest budget on the grid.

Caterham CT04

+ There are a few positive things to say about the CT04, the biggest plus being that funds have been found to produce a large upgrade for Spa this weekend. The fundamentals of the car are based on reliability as their lack of knowledge surrounding the Renault PU is clear to see by the large sidepods (particularly the massive outlets which allow viewers to take a nice look at the gearbox case) and basic aerodynamic features.

– The biggest downside of the CT04 has, like Sauber, been its BBW system. The thing that makes it harder for the team is the car’s lack of downforce, so the driver really is struggling to get the car stopped properly. Their issues are not quite so deep as Sauber’s but they are certainly a hindrance, particularly to rookie driver Marcus Ericsson who has looked a bit out of depth so far this year. Confidence is key and if they can give that to the drivers they might be able to claw back at Marussia’s slight advantage.

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