Where We Left Off

In the ninth installment of this series we reviewed how Fernando Alonso and Renault had the right combination to win both the 2005 and 2006 titles. Kimi Räikkönen bounced back taking the title for Ferrari in 2007, but was beaten by Lewis Hamilton and McLaren in 2008. In 2009 the F1 Championship went hybrid and Brawn, an underfunded new team, would power Jenson Button to an unexpected Championship. Brawn became the only team to win both the Drivers’ Championship and the Constructors’ Championship in their first and only year of existence, before being sold to Mercedes. While KERS had been legal in F1 in the 2010 season, all the teams had agreed not to use it, in order to allow the top teams time to develop and perfect their own systems for the 2011 season. Sebastian Vettel and Red Bull dominated the 2010 season. In 2011 only three of the back-marker teams ran without KERS. For the 2012 season, only two teams would race without KERS, and by 2013 all teams on the grid would have KERS.

2011: A Red Bull Repeat

While previous regulations aimed at improving the show had largely failed, by the 2011 season cost escalation was more-or-less under control, safety standards were at an all-time high and the FIA wanted to show their environmental chops by going full Hybrid. Political correctness also meant that Marlboro ceased to be a sponsor. Pirelli replaced Bridgestone and the double-diffuser rear wing, the adjustable front wings and the F-duct were all banned. A driver adjustable rear wing, known as DRS (drag reduction system) was introduced to help overtaking. It could be used freely in practice and qualifying, but only when within one second of the car to be passed in a specific DRS zone during the race, and the DRS had to close immediately under braking. DRS was expected to give the cars as much as 15 km/h (9.3 mph) when passing. Far more important, the teams agreed to re-introduce KERS, with minimum car weight increases from 620 kilograms, (1,367 lb) to 640 kilograms (1,411 lb). Ferrari kept both Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa in the new 150 Italia. As the reigning Champion, the season was Sebastian Vettel’s and Red Bull’s to lose. Just as Vettel and the RB6 had dominated the 2010 season, Vettel and Red-Bull’s Renault-powered RB7 would dominate the 2011 season.

The Red Bull RB7 with the ugly step-nose of the 2011 cars at Goodwood, 2014 with Sebastian Buemi
The Red Bull RB7 with the ugly step-nose of the 2011 cars at Goodwood, 2014 with Sebastian Buemi

Defending Champion Vettel qualified on pole by eight-tenths of a second and went on to win the opening race in Melbourne, followed by a win in Malaysia, and became the first driver to take the pole at the first four races since Häkkinen in 1999. Indeed, after nine races, Sebastian Vettel had not finished lower than 2nd and by season’s end Vettel equaled Nigel Mansell’s record of fourteen pole positions in a season. So dominating were the Red Bull Renault-powered RB7 and the McLaren MP4-26 that every race of the 2011 season was won by a McLaren or a Red Bull, with the exception of the British GP, won by Alonso for Ferrari! The championship came to a showdown in Japan, with Vettel out-qualifying championship rival Jenson Button, now driving for McLaren, by just nine-thousandths of a second. Button went on to win the race, his 3rd victory of the season, while Fernando Alonso finished 2nd. Vettel completed the podium, securing his 2nd World Drivers’ Championship. Lewis Hamilton had a bad year after getting six driver penalties over the course of the 2011 season, setting a new record for the most penalties in a season. Vettel took his second Championship for Red Bull with 392 points over Jenson Button with 270 points for McLaren: team mate Mark Webber at Red Bull scored 258 points and Alonso at Ferrari scored 257. Red Bull took their 2nd Constructors’ Championship with 650 points over McLaren with 497 and Ferrari in 3rd with 375.

For those into number spotting, Ferrari built F150s s/n 287, 288, 289, 290 and 291. All survive.

2012: A Red Bull Renault Three-Peat

Rule changes were minimal for 2012: the noses were re-profiled, reactive ride systems and “exotic” engine maps were banned. The US GP returned at the Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas and the Bahrain GP returned
after being canceled in 2011 due to civil protests. Because of the soft compounds, Pirelli predicted as many as three tire changes during every race. For the first time the season included twenty races and, for the first time since 1970, six current or former World Drivers’ Champions, Vettel, Alonso, Button, Hamilton, Räikkönen and Schumacher all started the season. Ferrari had Alonso and Massa in the F2012, Red Bull Renault had Vettel and Webber in the RB8 and McLaren had Button and Hamilton in the MP4-27. Ferrari’s F2012 had pre-season problems, under-steering on entry and over-steering on exit, qualifying 12th and 16th at the season opener in Australia. In the week before the season’s second race in Malaysia, Ferrari took the extraordinary step of preparing a brand-new chassis for Massa, and performance improved.  

Ferrari press release photos of the F2012 with its ugly step-nose
Ferrari press release photos of the F2012 with its ugly step-nose

The early season saw seven different drivers win the first seven races, a record for the series. It was not until the eighth race at the European GP that Ferrari’s Alonso won his second race of the year, becoming a championship contender with a twenty point lead. Alonso led for the next seven races, taking his third win in Germany and finishing on the podium in England, Italy and Singapore. In the second half of the season, at the 11th race in Hungary, Alonso maintained a 34 point lead over Webber, with Vettel a further 10 points behind. The season’s dynamics changed at the 12th race, at Spa in Belgium. At that point Ferrari driver Fernando Alonso led the championship by 40 points over Red Bull Racing’s Mark Webber and Sebastian Vettel, with fourth-placed Lewis Hamilton a further 7 points behind. Unfortunately Grosjean’s Lotus took out both Alonso’s Ferrari and Hamilton’s McLaren at the first corner, La Source, on the first lap. Without that incident, it’s very likely that Alonso would have picked up at least some points and would probably have been on the podium given that the cars in front of him were: Button, who won the race, Kobayashi in a Sauber-Ferrari, Räikkönen in a Lotus-Renault, and Sergio Pérez in the other Sauber.

Alonso’s luck again ran out at the 15th race in Japan; spinning out after contact with Räikkönen, allowing Vettel to take a full 25 points for the win. Ferrari made extensive upgrades to the F2012, starting with the 17th race at the Indian GP, but the changes were not enough for Alonso to catch Vettel. Alonso started the final race of the season, in Brazil, 13 points behind Vettel. Button’s McLaren won in Brazil, with Alonso 2nd and Massa 3rd but Vettel’s 6th place was enough to secure his 3rd consecutive World Drivers’ Championship, becoming just the third driver in the sport’s sixty-three-year history to do so. Vettel finished the season with five wins and 281 points over Alonso with only three wins and 278 points. Räikkönen’s one race win and 207 points was good for 3rd while Massa finished 7th with 122 points. Red Bull Racing took their 3rd Constructors’ Championship, with 460 points, Ferrari finished in 2nd with 400 points.

For those into number spotting, Ferrari built F2012s s/n 292, 293, 294, 295, 296 and 297. All survive.

Click on https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V_P-8SCst_U for the season-changing Spa crash

2013: Four In A Row For Red Bull

Because the 2013 season would be the last year for the 18,000 rpm, normally aspirated 2.4-litre V8, the FIA kept rule changes to a minimum. Ferrari’s weapon of choice for the 2013 Championship was the F138 with Alonso and Massa at the wheel. Winter testing had shown the F138 to be much more competitive than the F2012, but Ferrari was also developing their car for the 2014 season in parallel with the F138 and so lost focus. Michael Schumacher again retired from F1. Mercedes’ new car, the F1 W04, would be driven by Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton, who left McLaren to replace Schumacher at Mercedes. Former William’s shareholder Toto Wolff left Williams to buy into the Mercedes team as team principal, but the 2013 season didn’t end well with only two wins for Mercedes, in Monaco and England.  Pirelli had chosen to build a soft compound tire, which all but guaranteed at least two pit stops per race, but the weak sidewalls were damaged by running over the curbing, making for multiple high-speed blowouts throughout the year.
Red Bull returned with Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber in the RB9, which would absolutely dominate the season. By season’s end Alonso had won only two races, in China and Spain, but scored five second-places, in Australia, Canada, Belgium, Italy and Singapore, to keep him in a strong championship position throughout the season. By the season’s end the Renault RB9 had won thirteen of the nineteen races. Vettel broke the record for most consecutive wins in a single season with nine. By his win at the 16th race in India, Vettel had an unassailable 115-point gap on the path to his 4th straight Championship, joining Juan Manuel Fangio, Alain Prost and Michael Schumacher as four-time Champions. Vettel also won the Laureus World Sports Award as the Sportsman of the Year, matching Michael Schumacher as one of the only two racing drivers to ever be so recognized.
Fernando Alonso did well with Ferrari to finish 2nd but with 242 points, 155 points behind Vettel. Vettel’s Renault teammate Mark Webber finished his last Formula One season in 3rd with 199 points, the first time since 2008 that the Australian had failed to win a race. Red Bull easily took the Constructors’ Championship at the 16th race in India by opening a gap of 157 points, with only 129 still up for grabs.  By the season’s end Red Bull scored a total of 596 points over Mercedes with 360 points and Ferrari in 3rd with 354 points. The season finale in Brazil marked the end of the V8 and the naturally aspirated engine era of Formula One which had begun in 1989 when turbo engines were banned.

For those into number spotting, Ferrari built only four F138s, s/n 298, 299, 300 and 301. All survive.

The Market For 2011-2013 Cars

To date we haven’t been asked to source or to sell any of the 2011-2013 Hybrid cars. A few have been sold by F1 Clienti but none have reached the secondary sales market. That day will come simply because today’s current F1 owners get bored after a few seasons and new buyers want the latest-greatest-newest car possible. These cars are staggeringly complicated, built with over 14,000 individual parts which must all work in perfect harmony. When raced every part was always in a permanent state of obsolescence. By the time the parts were on the racetrack there was a new generation in production to replace them. While most changes were incremental, major updates often needed to be done in groups simply because a group of parts needs to go onto the car as one in the hope of gaining a minuscule performance gain. Updates to the front wing, brake ducts, or barge boards were usually incremental based on never-ending wind tunnel tests. If the updates were averaged out over the various 2011 to 2013 seasons there were dozens of updates to every car, every day, seven days a week.
When these cars were used in combat, the drivers made an average of seven or eight changes of the rotary switches over the course of every lap, while giving feedback from the information on the dash to their pit engineers. All while driving at 10/10s every lap, setting lap times within one second per lap, every lap, for two hours and dealing with up to 6 G’s of lateral cornering force. The electronics are fiendishly complicated and instantly obsolete. As an example from a road car, a hybrid battery for a La Ferrari is over $100k and they go dead if not kept on a charger. Once dead they are forever dead and cannot be re-charged. The battery for a hybrid F1 car would cost a similar amount or more, probably much more, if available. However they are no longer supported by Ferrari or their sublet suppliers, making them unobtanium. Indeed, F1 Clienti disconnects the KERS system on the few cars in private hands, as the battery and electronics are too complicated and, again, are no longer supported by either Ferrari or the component suppliers. Additionally the high voltage is far too dangerous to unleash on any team not fully conversant on how to manage it. With only 15 cars built, and all surviving, they do appear at F1 Clienti events, but they are impossible to operate without factory technicians and so must live at the factory with F1 Clienti.
As a guess any of the 2011 – 2013 hybrids will sell for in the low-mid seven-figures and the few race winning cars would bring fifty percent more, if and when they come to market. Most are part of a substantial collection but never live in the owner’s collection and must be kept at the factory. All are expensive, for an F1 car, but a bargain when compared to what this author feels is the ultimate in pop-art lunacy, the sale of the Jeff Koons’s statue of a rabbit which sold for a breathtaking $91m at Christie’s New York Auction in May of last year!

Jeff Koons Rabbit, sold for $91.07m at Christies New York on 15 May of 2019, it is one of four “Rabbit” Sculptures by Koons (including the artist’s proof).
Jeff Koons Rabbit, sold for $91.07m at Christies New York on 15 May of 2019, it is one of four “Rabbit” Sculptures by Koons (including the artist’s proof).

2014 And Beyond

The 2014 Mercedes “Power unit” click on https://www.racecar-engineering.com/cars/mercedes-w05/ for more info.
The 2014 Mercedes “Power unit” click on https://www.racecar-engineering.com/cars/mercedes-w05/ for more info.

Staring with the 2014 season, the 1600cc V6 engines, limited to 15,000 rpm, are now known as “power units”, and are divided into six components. Start with the internal combustion engine (ICE); then the turbocharger (TC); the Motor Generator Unit-Kinetic (MGU-K), (which collects energy that would normally be wasted under braking); the Motor Generator Unit-Heat (MGU-H), (which collected energy in the form of heat expelled through the exhaust); the Energy Store (ES or batteries, storing the energy gathered by the MGU); and the Control Electronics (CE), which included the Electronic Control Unit and software used to manage the entire power unit.

It’s very important to the few manufactures in F1 that these cars are their flagship for ever-improving fuel mileage and performance levels, all of which are far beyond anything that currently exists anywhere else in motorsport or on the road. As of the 2014 season only Ferrari, Mercedes and Renault supplied every engine/power unit on the grid, with Honda joining the party in 2015.

Our history of Ferrari F1 cars for private use ends here because, to date, Ferrari has not sold and is not likely to ever sell an operating 2014 or newer cars to F1 Clients, simply because their systems are far too complex to be used without a very substantial support team. Indeed, the 2014 and newer cars are far more complex than the already massively complex 2011-2013 cars. The 2014 and newer Hybrid cars technology marks the end of usage by mere civilians. In the end the cars became undriveable by mere mortals, impossible to run without a horde of factory team mechanics and their spares and computers and unobtanium because of obsolescence parts, which is where our story ends.

 

Thank, in alphabetical order, to  John Amette; Lar Beringer, Arnaud Blanfuney, Ross Bowdler, Andy Dayes; Andrew Frankl; Trevor Griffiths; Alastair Henderson; Mike Matune; Paul Osborne; Nigel Petras,  Glen Smale and Thor Thorson for their feedback.  

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