Thursday, 13 June 2013

How do you define 2011?

The subject of tyre testing will remain a hot topic until the international tribunal on June 20, at which point there will either be a big fuss, or a big fuss. Mercedes will either be chastised, possibly even severely punished, or they will be cleared. And whichever way the decision goes, some people in the paddock are bound to be upset, unless the tribunal manages to pull off a masterpiece of diplomacy.

And even then, Luca di Montezemolo is likely to be miffed and rant a lot, because that's what he does.

But nobody is really talking much about the Ferrari test, run between the Bahrain and Spanish GPs.

Ah, but it was a 2011 car, run by Corse Clienti, so that's ok, goes the standard response. Mercedes used a current car and that's not allowed in the Sporting regulations.

So here's my question. What defines a 2011, or a 2013 car?

The regulations certainly define what's legal, but we all know that the regulations haven't changed that much in three years. Probably the biggest change is in the exhaust-blown diffuser area. DRS was around in 2011, and the new noses make a bit of a difference, but not much I'd guess.

The monocoque will have been optimized, but not to a massive degree, we are not talking about something that would fundamentally change the way the tyres are used.

I've seen a floor of an F1 car put together in a garage at Barcelona. It involves bonding some carbon fibre, grinding some edges, and maybe cutting some slots, maybe some trimming work. It's not beyond the imagination to think that a 2013 floor could be fitted to a 2011 car. Especially if you've run out of 2011 spares.

Of course you'd need to use the correct exhausts to match the floor, but they mount direct to the engine, the design of which has been frozen for the last, what, six years? So you could get them to fit too, easily. Especially if all your 2011 exhausts had been turned into rather elegant hatstands or lamps.

Bodywork? At worst there is tank tape, or duct tape if you prefer. I've seen whole corners of a car repaired with tape at a race meeting. To think that the most gifted mechanics in the world couldn't fake a set of 2013 bodywork with tape is, well, unthinkable.

And the easiest aspect of all? The electronics. The ECU is standard, and I don't believe the hardware has changed since 2010. Putting the latest software on it would be as easy as updating from iOS5 to iOS 6. Easier probably. And remember, there is no scrutineering at a test.

Here is my second question. As Pirelli already own a 2010 spec Renault (aka Lotus) why didn't they either upgrade that to 2011 spec, or buy/lease/rent a 2011 spec car from Lotus, or even HRT?

I believe that the reason that Pirelli needed to test the current tyres was to understand the current implementation of exhaust blowing. To understand how the tyres deal with the varying loads generated.

Presumably, that's why they haven't purchased a 2011 Sauber, Caterham or Marussia. Teams that would presumably be happy to get some extra income from a sale. Those cars just wouldn't give Pirelli the information the engineers need.

I'm certainly not saying that what I described above actually happened. But it wouldn't be inconceivable that it could be done.

Rather like Trigger's Broom - "I've had this broom for 20 years, it's had five new handles and six new heads, but I wouldn't be parted from it..."

I can't help wondering if Theseus's paradox will be referred to on June 20.

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