Monday, April 9, 2007

F1: Malaysia Sound Bites - 2007 edition

Actually that’s STEAMY Malaysia. Or perhaps it was the Sepang Sauna… With ambient temperatures of 93+ deg f. and track temps. Of 133+ deg f. Here’s a few interesting sound bites gleamed from this weekend’s SPEED TV coverage of the Malaysian Grand Prix.

Most entertaining radio comment of the week: From our esteemed Americano Scott “nose” Speed: They’res somebody speaking Italian on my radio! Just what a driver wants to hear while trying to scream down the straight at 180+ mph. But as Bob Varsha noted: “I thought you drove for an Italian team””

And Steve Matchett had an interesting point to Speed’s other lengthy radio transmission.

Speed: “Touching on corners X & Y. Feels like there’s something under my heel stop? What else… Oh yeah, when I went to try warming up the brakes I got massive lock-up from all four wheels and the brake pedal feels a bit spongy compared to the other car!”

Matchett: Touching refers to the “Plank.” That’s about right, for maximum down force you want the ride height plank to be just touching at the end of the straights. The plank is a FIA legality device to ensure that the teams aren’t running their chassis too low, since if you wear off 1mm you can be disqualified. These planks are made out of a composite material. (Jabrock)

(This is the famous “plank” that cost Michael Schumacher a victory in 1994. So perhaps the 2005 USGP Michelin tyre DEBACLE was some sort of a “payback?”)

Matchett: As for Toro Rosso’s drivers both having brake issues, it almost sounds like they’re (drivers) are not keeping the brakes “hot” enough. As the brakes will grab badly at just 800 deg f and they’re probably getting too cool on the long straights. Matchett claimed to go through an enormous amount of braking issues with Gerhard Berger…

Matchett: The drivers have NO excuses about being able to overtake at Sepang as the circuit is 70’ wide in places…

Varsha: The teams are given 8 sets of tires for Friday, (4 sets of each soft & hard compound) which are then returned for Saturday’s allotment. For Saturday they’re given 10 sets (5 sets of each soft & hard compound) with a provision that they have to return one set each of these tires. Confused? Stick with us and we’ll explain it over the weekend…

And Peter Winsor brought up an interesting point about tires while on the subject. Now that Bridgestone is the sole supplier of F1, Bridgestone produces four various compounds of the control tire. For Australia they brought their soft and medium compounds. For Malaysia they’re using the medium and hard compounds. (Due to the much more abrasive race surface and heat?)

While David Hobbs was giving the track layout description he mentioned how it was the Germans’ Herman Tilke’s very first Grand Prix race track design and it was a real shame that his subsequent tracks didn’t turn out as nicely… (This was the 9th year of the Malaysian GP with the track being completed 10yrs ago)

Winsor: And you know the reason why the drivers like the circuit so much? Because it’s a real drivers circuit as you really feel like you’re going somewhere, as it has really good rhythm. In fact this is most likely the BEST circuit they race on now that Suzuka is off of the calendar…

Varsha: “OOH! Even better than Spa?” David Coulthard is absolutely “Gaga” over the newly remodeled Spa Francorchamps that’s back on the calendar this year…

And I’m not sure that Malaysia would be my first pick for vacation spots as the camera panned in on Mika Hakkinen “chumming” about in the McLaren garage on pit lane. Hakkinen made a “bold” statement, declaring that “McLaren’s Back!” (Uh DUH!!!) He also has pronounced that he’ll win this year’s DTM championship…

Varsha: It’s absolutely amazing that they average 48 gear changes per lap around Malaysia… (So may be paddle shifting isn’t such a bad thing after all?)

Winsor asked if anybody had any thoughts about the floor flexing issue. Which prompted a very long dissertation by “Professor” Matchett.

Matchett: Using the telestrator, he tried drawing on screen while the picture kept changing upon him. “Right!” Now in my days at Benetton we used to call it the “Tea Tray” since it looks like a tea tray and we used it to ferry our cups ‘N saucers about.

Anyhow it appeared from his telestrator drawings that the item was the floor mounting above the front splitter just behind the front wheels. Matchett explained that if you could induce the floor to move up then you could lower the ride height of the car (front suspension) by 2-3mm which would give you a significant increase in lap times, i.e.; .03-.04 second per lap. This is what the new “seamless” shift transmissions are supposedly gaining…

Hobbs: That seems like a much more cost effective way of increasing lap times vs. the new transmission.

Matchett: You’re absolutely right David.

Hobbs: Is that that really really long article of yours I tried reading last night?

Matchett. You mean the one you read 4 lines of and got up?

Hobbs: Well I fell asleep trying to read it… Laughter from Matchett: Thanks Hobbs!”

Matchett claimed that if you went to SpeedTV.com keyword search F1 it would send you to the portal with all sorts of Formula 1 info. So I naturally assumed that this would be where the article is hidden? But I CANNOT find it on their website, so good luck!

Upon an interesting segment with Professor Matchett in regards to the exercise of packaging in Formula 1 with his ex-Benetton “croney” where they used last year’s Red Bull/Ferrari chassis to discuss radiator/cooling requirements, this segment led to another quip from Peter Winsor…

Winsor: You’d think that Adrian Newey would be too busy with the design of the RB3 to be off racing? And perhaps some of his employers would prefer he didn’t! Yet Newey plans to compete in this year’s 24 Heurs du Mans in a Ferrari. And this is after he wrote off a vintage car (Newey’s GT 40) during last year’s historic Le Mans…

Varsha: Actually he’s written off two important vehicles…

Matchett. What is going on at Honda? They ran a chassis with the rear wing covered in wool tufts… Isn’t that what they used to do in your days David?

The car had a rear facing mounted camera on the roll hoop to observe what the tufts were doing. But if they’re at the stage where they DON’T trust their wind tunnels then they’re obviously grasping at straws!

Matchett & Winsor further debated Honda’s woes by claiming that it was more of a “Harmony” issue where the “aero guys” and mechanical engineers will always be at odds with each other.

While doing the packaging segment it was noted how not only would aero dynamists want there to be NO cooling ducts, they’d also prefer to loose the drivers, steering wheel, tires, etc.

Varsha: My story line is how Honda, Toyota and Renault: All Factory teams were out qualified by their customers…

(Nico Rosberg drove the wheels off of his Williams-Toyota and was “ROBBED” of a 7th place finish! Interestingly Toyota is running the Williams transmission this season, while Alexander Wurz suffered a transmission failure during the race…)

Hobbs: My story line is how everybody is absolutely mushy over “Louise” Hamilton… I mean you hate to keep hyping the guy because usually when something’s too good, it is. And I hate to jinx the ladd…

Yet you would have to say that the highlight of the race was Lewis “jaguar” Hamilton’s absolutely stunning drive of holding both Ferrari’s at bay… I mean Felipe looked really ragged!

And if the weekend’s scuttle-butt was true about Kimi’s damaged Ferrari engine? As first they claimed he’d be taking a 10 grid spot penalty for changing “lumps” prior to qualifying… Then that they’d run simulations of low revs and tried wrecking a motor with low coolant levels…

If this really happened then it speaks volumes for Kimi’s opportunity to finally become a world champion as his “Achilles heel” at McLaren was the over abundance of race motors going “KABLAMOE!”

Next up this weekend is Bahrain. So with new motors installed for the majority of the grid, watch out McLaren…”

And by the way Ron Dennis… “How ‘bout those BMW Saubers!” So much for running on light tanks, eh?

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