JUNE 26, 2010
F1 battle is tighter than ever
The battle for F1 supremacy hotted up in Valencia with most of the leading teams bringing significant updates to their cars.
Ferrari has high hopes that its latest exhaust system, designed to increase the downforce from the diffuser – a concept exploited by Red Bull since the start of the season – will vault the team to the front of the pack and were quietly confident after Fernando Alonso topped the opening day's practice in Barcelona.
"We are reasonably pleased with what we've seen," said Ferrari's Chris Dyer. "At the moment there do not seem to be any reliability problems relating to the new configuration of exhaust system and the F10 is pretty competitive."
Red Bull, meanwhile, has run its F-duct on the opening day and will study the data overnight before deciding whether to continue with it for the balance of the weekend. "We had a good programme with no interruptions," Mark Webber said. "As we all know, it's not without its challenges getting that thing working..."
McLaren, having predicted that it could face a tough task in Valencia given that the update including its revised exhaust system is not due on the car until the next race at Silverstone, still looks competitive, as does Mercedes.
Both Nico Rosberg and Michael Schumacher ran a new exhaust system as part of the team's Valencia update. "We've had a productive day and I'm feeling comfortable in the car although the tyres were a challenge again with graining and various issues," Rosberg explained. "We know that our race pace is better than our qualifying performance at the moment so if we can get our qualifying right we should make progress this weekend."
Schumacher, a Valencia virgin, admitted that he hadn't yet fully found the rhythm of the track.
At Renault, Robert Kubica reported that he was able to feel the improvement made by the team's update and chief race engineer Alan Permane said: "We had a good look at our new parts today, including our first iteration of the blown floor. The data was encouraging and it seems to be working as the wind tunnel and CFD predicted. We expect to continue running our updates for the rest of the weekend."
The Valencia qualifying battle looks set to be more important than ever. With Bridgestone reporting negative tyre degradation with its super soft option tyre, a very different situation from Canada, it seems likely that every team will use it for qualifying and then run very long first stints before bolting on the medium compound prime tyre late in the race. With overtaking already nigh on impossible in Valencia, the situation does not bode well for a continuation of the fascinating raceday afternoons F1 has enjoyed of late.
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