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Friday, 3 February 2012

Two More F1 Cars, Two More Stepped Noses...

Ferrari F2012
Force India VJM05
Well, after McLaren and Caterham showed us two ways to see the new rules about lower noses, Ferrari and Force India have suggested that, sadly, most of the grid will be ugly at the front. Introducing the Ferrari F2012 and the Force India VJM05, one car expected to win the championship and one car expected to score a decent haul of points and perhaps bother the top runners this season. This year the Indian team is actually called Sahara Force India, making this probably the only racing car in the world sponsored by a desert. More inside.

Weirdly, it's actually the Force India that appears to have made a smoother job of it, with Ferrari being quite blunt about the fact that the nose has to jump up to meet the chassis and the Indian car having two ridges on the edges that meet the height regulations, while allowing the top surface a slightly smoother and more gradual ascent. Of course, neither look as good as the McLaren MP4-27's lower front bulkhead, which is the same height as the new nose and allows a super-smooth straight line where nose meets car. Hopefully Red Bull managed that too, although we won't find out until the other side of the weekend. The rest of the Force India appears to be an evolution of last year's car, sans blown diffuser of course, while the all new front wing prominently features two suspiciously wing-shaped cameras right at the front...

If something happens on track, Force India will be the first to know
Ferrari, meanwhile, has said from the start that this new car is going to be an aggressive design, by which they mean they aren't holding back with this car after a slightly lacklustre season last year (lacklustre in that they didn't win the championship, managing only one race win in the end). That could make the F2012 one to look out for, although looking out for it might be a thankless task if they plan on keeping the nose like that. As team boss Stefano Domenicali says, though, looks alone are not so important in F1, because it's about how effective it all is. Indeed, people didn't like the new rules overhaul in 2009 resulting in very wide front wings and very tall narrow ones (I was one of them, although I've got used to it), but the racing it's provided has been excellent, so big deal. Hopefully before the end of the year, at which point the noses will be more refined anyway, we'll have become used to this new change as well, however ugly it is.

To be fair to Ferrari, their new exhaust is better integrated than the McLaren's, which features a bulbous exit out of each side of the rear of the sidepods (which are tightly-packed, à la RB7), whereas the Italian car's exhausts fire straight at the rear wing, with the bodywork almost vacuum-formed over them, leaving a sloping section between the exhausts and the spine of the car which perhaps channels yet more air to the lower part of the rear wing. I suspect these lower parts might see more aero attention through the year. As well as the usual vertical plane ahead of each sidepod, now a two-piece affair, there's also a busy new front wing, held in place by very long struts, something Ferrari did last year that also appears to have caught on at Force India. We've seen some interesting designs for these struts before - the 2004 "walrus nose" on the Williams FW26 springs immediately to mind - and maybe streamlined ones like these are the new trend... until the FIA finds a reason to ban them, of course. In line with another recent trend, Ferrari's fifty-eighth Formula 1 car features pull-rod suspension all round (replacing a pushrod system like you find in DTM cars, as well as the Lamborghini Aventador and Aston Martin One-77). The advantages of pull-rod suspension include a lower centre of gravity and better aerodynamics, and at the rear it creates the triangular shape seen on the Red Bull RB7 last year. For a full description of the new car, see this microsite.

The driver lineup at Ferrari is the same, with Force India outing the convicted Adrian Sutil in order for former Williams rookie Nico Hülkenberg to take his seat alongside the impressive Paul Di Resta, and Ferrari test driver Jules Bianchi has moved ships to Force India in order to take part in at least nine Friday Practice sessions this season, although he is still a part of the Ferrari Driver Academy.

That's all there really is to say about that. For everything else that's happened thus far, see the Winter 2011/12 article below this one, although before you leave I should inform you that Indian driver Narain Karthekeyan has been confirmed as Hispania Racing Team's second driver, maybe even for a whole season. That would make a change at the lowly Spanish team...

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