Where we left off
In the eighth installment of this series we reviewed how Michael Schumacher, Scuderia Ferrari and the dream team of Ross Brawn and Rory Byrne had absolutely dominated the 2000 to 2004 seasons, in part because of Ferraris close collaboration with Bridgestone, matching their tires to Ferraris chassis characteristics. After five straight seasons of Ferrari domination, the FIA felt drastic regulatory changes were needed to shuffle the deck and improve competition. The FIA also opined that harder and hence more durable tires would be safer by reducing cornering speeds and so the wise men at the FIA banned tire changes for 2005. Tires would have to last through both qualifying and the entire race, a distance of about 350 kms and could only be changed without penalty for punctures or dangerous flat spots. Pat Symonds, Renault’s Technical Director, opined that (in the upcoming 2005 season) “The driver who can look after his tires best, and has the feel for how to maximize tire performance over a full race distance, will undoubtedly gain a performance advantage”. Fernando Alonso in the Renault R25 would prove him right.
2005, the rise of Renault
F1 Championships are won by finding an extra fraction of a second in lap times over your competition. The Renault R25 found 3/10s of a second per lap with the introduction of a tuned mass damper, in effect a shock absorber which controlled the front end bouncing caused by the extremely stiff front springs needed to combat aerodynamic down force; giving more consistent mechanical grip to the tire-contact patch which improves tire life! The Renault R25 also introduced an all-new, high processing power, on-board electronic system integrating the engine, the chassis controllers and data acquisition capacity, allowing better chassis setup on a track-by-track basis, which also improved tire life. In all F1 engines the combustion cycle takes two 360° turns – intake and combustion – of the crankshaft, so in a perfect world the number of cylinders must be a function of 720° for evenly spaced cylinder firing, primary balance and smoother power. Renault’s 72° V10 gave the perfect bank angle for a V10 engine making the Renault the engine to have for 2005, versus the 90° V10s used by all other teams.
2005 would also be the last season for V10 powered F1 cars, marking the end of an era. In an effort to keep costs down all engines were required to last two full race weekends and if a team changed an engine between the two races, they incurred a penalty of 10 grid positions. In an effort to increase passing, the FIA also mandated smaller front and rear wings, higher noses and smaller rear diffusers to substantially reduce downforce. Ferrari and Bridgestone couldn’t find the right balance between performance and reliability, leaving McLaren and Renault on Michelin tires to battle for the championship.
Renault’s number two driver, Giancarlo Fisichella won the season opener in Australia but Renault teammate Alonso then won at Malaysia, Bahrain and San Marino. In mid-season the McLarens of Kimi Räikkönen and Juan Pablo Montoya traded wins with Alonso’s Renault and by the late-season McLaren was the faster package. At the twelfth race, the German GP, the FIA banned the tuned mass dampers which hurt Renault as they had designed their whole car around the technology, as was obvious when McLaren won the next six races in the season. Despite Renault’s Alonso and McLaren’s Räikkönen each winning six races, Alonso’s greater consistency meant he was able to claim the Championship with two rounds to spare. Renault also took the Constructors’ Championship with Alonso’s seventh victory of the year at the final race. Alonso’s scored 133 points over Raikkonen with 112 and Schumacher with 62 points. This gave Renault their first championship as a constructor with 191 points over McLaren with 182 points and Ferrari in 3rd with 100 points. Ferrari had only one win, at the United States GP, a race that was only contested by the six Bridgestone cars after Michelin declared their tires unsafe on the Indianapolis Speedway’s banked corner.
For those into number spotting, Ferrari built F2005s s/n 243, 244, 245, 246, 247, 248 and 249. All survive.
2006, Ferrari bounces back, but…
In the never-ending battle to slow the cars down the FIA eliminated the 3.0 liter V10 engines which, by 2005 produced 980 – 1,000 hp in cars that reached 375 km/h (233 mph) on the fastest tracks. For 2006 all teams had to use an all-new, normally aspirated 2.4 liter 90° V8 with only two intake and two exhaust valves. Both variable-geometry intake and exhaust systems and variable valve timing were eliminated. The new 2.4 engines produced 730hp at the start of the 2006 season but improved to 785hp at 20,000 rpm by the season’s end, before a 19,000 rpm rev limiter was mandated for 2007. The 2.4 liter engines were required to last two full race weekends and all teams had to use a 7-speed transaxle. In-race tire changes were once again allowed.
Ferrari replaced Rubens Barrichello with fellow Brazilian Felipe Massa, with both Massa and Schumacher in the new Aldo Costa and Rory Byrne designed Ferrari 248 F1, which was fast out of the box. The season began with an all-Ferrari front row at the season opener, the Bahrain Grand Prix, but Alonso won in the Renault R26. At the season’s second race in Malaysia, both 248 F1s had piston problems, the engine replacement meant Schumacher started 14th and Massa in 21st and, during the race rpm was limited to preserve the engines, a problem that continued at the next race at the Australian GP.
An aerodynamic upgrade in the fourth race, the San Marino GP brought the 248 F1 even with the Renault R26 and by the tenth race at the US GP, at Indy, Ferrari had their first one-two finish in a year. Further ongoing updates improved the 248 F1 making it the fastest package of all for the remainder of the season, winning seven of the last nine races in 2006. Ferrari and Schumacher were able to close the gap to Renault and Fernando Alonso in their respective championships. At the seventh race in Monaco Schumacher had set the fastest lap in final qualifying but Alonso had a faster sector time and was likely to take the pole. Schumacher stopped his car in the Rascasse corner, claiming he had locked his brakes, blocking Alonso from improving his time. The race stewards deemed Schumacher’s actions to be “deliberate” and he was demoted to the back of the grid, moving Alonso from 2nd to pole position. Alonso won the race with 10 points over Schumacher in 5th with 4 points. At the penultimate race in Japan Schumacher had an engine failure while leading, which effectively ended his title hopes. Alonso won the title with 134 points over Schumacher with 121 while Renault scored 206 points to beat Ferrari with 201 points in the Constructors’ Championship. Renault and Ferrari won every race in the season except for the Hungarian GP won by Jenson Button in the Honda RA 106. After ten years and five Championships with Ferrari, Schumacher retired from Formula One at the end of the 2006 season.
For those into number spotting, Ferrari built F2006s s/n 250, 251, 252, 253, 254, 255, 256 and 257. All survive.
2007 Kimi takes the Championship
For the 2007 season Kimi Räikkönen replaced the retiring Michael Schumacher, joining team-mate Felipe Massa, while Ferrari technical director Ross Brawn left the Scuderia after ten seasons, going to Honda for 2008. Fernando Alonso switched to McLaren after five years and two Championships at Renault and new driver Lewis Hamilton became McLaren’s number two wheel man. Michelin quit F1 leaving Bridgestone as the sole tire supplier, all cars had to use both hard and soft compounds during the race, annual testing was limited to 30,000 km, engine development was frozen until the end of 2008 and rpm was limited to 19,000 rpm to cut costs. 2007 was also the final season in which traction-control was permitted.
The season began well for Ferrari in Australia as Kimi Räikkönen led the whole race, becoming the fourth driver to win on their debut for Ferrari. Alonso’s McLaren was 2nd and debutante Lewis Hamilton finished 3rd. Every race of the season was won by Ferrari or McLaren, with Räikkönen taking six wins, both Alonso and Hamilton each taking four wins and Massa taking three wins. For the first time since 1986, the season’s finale at Brazil had three drivers with a chance of becoming World Champion, and for the first time since the inaugural season in 1950 when Giuseppe Farina went on to win the championship, the driver in 3rd place before the final round won the Championship. The favorite was Hamilton with 107 points followed by Alonso with 103 points and Räikkönen with 100 points. Hamilton started 2nd but dropped to the back of the pack after a gearbox problem and later recovered to 7th but Räikkönen won the race and the championship. The final standings were Räikkönen with 110 points followed by Hamilton and Alonso each with 109 points. Ferrari won the Constructors’ Championship with 204 points over McLaren with 166 points.
Long term F1 fans will remember the McLaren-Ferrari spygate controversy in which a former Ferrari designer sold a 780 page document with schematics and technical data from the Ferrari team to a McLaren designer. In the end McLaren was excluded from the 2007 Constructors’ Championship and fined $100m by the FIA for industrial espionage.
Unlike Schumacher who usually drove the newest and potentially fastest car built, driving five or six different cars during the season, Kimi Räikkönen drove s/n 262 for fourteen of the seventeen races in the 2007 season, with 1st place finishes at the Australian, French, British, Belgian, Chinese GPs and the all-important Brazilian GP, to win the Championship!
For those into number spotting, Ferrari built F2007s s/n 258, 259, 260, 261, 262, 263 and 264. All survive.
2008, the rise of Lewis Hamilton
For the 2008 season Räikkönen and Massa would stay with Ferrari, Hamilton stayed with McLaren while Alonso left McLaren to rejoin Renault. Because of repeated tire problems on the banking, the US GP at Indianapolis was cancelled so there was no US GP and Bridgestone would be the official tire for the 2008–2010 seasons. A five year engine freeze started in 2008 and a new standardized ECU (Electronic Control Unit) made by Microsoft MES in a joint venture with McLaren Electronic Systems would eliminate traction and launch control. As the 2008 global economic crisis worsened, Honda would leave F1 at the end of the 2008 season.
The season began with a crash-fest in Australia with only seven of the twenty cars running at the finish, with Hamilton taking the win, although Räikkönen would win the season’s second race in Malaysia, then Massa in Bahrain, Räikkönen, in Spain and Massa in Turkey. Ferrari won eight of the season’s eighteen races, with Massa ultimately winning six of the eight Ferrari victories, but it was not enough. Hamilton won five races and by the last race of the season Hamilton had a seven-point lead over Massa, meaning even if Massa was to be the victor at his home race in Brazil, Hamilton would only need to finish 5th to take the title. Massa won at Brazil and for a few mere seconds was the Champion, but only seconds later Hamilton won the Drivers’ title by a point, overtaking Toyota’s Timo Glock on the final corner of the final lap of the final Grand Prix of the season to claim the required 5th-place finish, scoring 98 points, beating Felipe Massa who finished with 97 points. Kimi Räikkönen was 3rd with two race wins and 75 points. Scuderia Ferrari Marlboro won the Constructors’ title with 172 points over McLaren with 151 points.
For those into number spotting, Ferrari built F2008s s/n 265, 266, 267, 268, 269, 270, 271 and 272. All survive.
2009, F1 goes Hybrid
Because of the 2008 global economic crisis and in an effort to improve the on-track spectacle, the FIA introduced the largest number of rule changes in the history of the sport. Front wing ground clearance changed from 150 mm to 50 mm and width increased from 1400 mm to 1800 mm. Rear wing width was reduced from 1000 mm to 750 mm and rear wing height went from 800 mm to 950 mm. Aerodynamic barge boards around the side pods were banned and after eleven years of grooved tires, racing slicks returned. Aerodynamic changes included driver adjustable front wing flaps to improve downforce and overtaking when following another car. Engines were detuned from 19,000 rpm to a mere 18,000 rpm.
Far more game-changing was the introduction of a non-mandatory Kinetic Energy Recovery System (KERS), also called regenerative rear-wheel braking, making the FIA the first motorsport sanctioning body to go hybrid. Energy from braking was stored as electrical energy (in a battery or supercapacitor), with a maximum power of 81 hp that could be used for 6.6 seconds per lap with a “boost” button for overtaking which, in theory, could reduce lap times by 0.2-0.3 seconds. Front runners Ferrari and Renault used a Magnetti Marelli system with a single 60 Kw liquid cooled and brushless direct current motor/generator attached to the front of the 2.4 liter V8 and driven by a reduction gear off the crankshaft. The battery pack was made by French Li-ion battery maker Saft and placed in the bottom of the fuel cell. The KERS system added an extra 30kg (66 lb) which reduced the amount and location of on-board ballast and was dead weight unless the 6.6 seconds of boost saved enough lap time to make it worthwhile. The cars carried “High Voltage” warning stickers while Puma developed an insulated shoe for drivers. The cars also had a KERS status warning light and if the light was in the wrong state, then course marshals shouldn’t touch the car for fear of electrocution! The goal was to have what the FIA considered to be the best and brightest engineers develop electric hybrid technology which could be transferred to road cars. The four best-funded teams, Ferrari, Renault, BMW, and McLaren all wanted to be as competitive as possible and so all used KERS at some point in the season.
Click on https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TgVvzoxGj_g for a video explaining the 2009 Mercedes KERS system
Big rule changes shook up the order as everyone got a clean slate. The Ferrari F60 was fast out-of-the-box while the McLaren MP4-24, the Renault R29 and BMW Sauber F1.09 were all disappointing with aerodynamic, handling or reliability problems, although the 2009 season became the first since 2005 in which, at some point, all teams scored World Championship points. The season’s surprise was the Ross Brawn GP team, created by the buyout of the former Honda F1 team for a symbolic £1 Sterling. With Honda out of F1, Brawn was forced to use a “customer” Mercedes FO108W engine which meant that six inches was removed from the rear end, severely compromising the car’s center of gravity. Because of time, cost and weight restraints Brawn did not use the KERS system but instead focused on what is called a ‘double-decker diffuser’ and a clever under-floor design producing downforce by using the airflow under the car’s floor. This increased the airflow speed to the higher rear venturi section, creating more downforce. While Toyota and Williams also used a ‘double-decker diffuser’, not all are created equals. Brawn finished 1st and 2nd in the first race, Renault, Ferrari and Red Bull immediately filed a complaint; their complaint was rejected by the stewards.
Jenson Button, in Brawn s/n BGP 001-02 won the 1st and 2nd races in Australia and Malaysia and the 4th, 5th, 6th and 7th races in Bahrain, Spain, Monaco and Turkey, taking a massive lead, but lost the advantage as the other teams copied Brawn, which had little money to further develop the car. Sebastian Vetttel in his Red Bull RB5 Renault bounced back to take the 3rd race in China, the 8th race in England and the 15th race in Japan. The Drivers’ and Constructors’ Championships were both decided at the penultimate race in Brazil. Because of heavy rain, title-rivals Button and Vettel started from 14th and 16th respectively. Button was able to move up the grid to 5th by the race end, enough to clinch the title with 95 points over Vettel with 84. Räikkönen in the F60 finished a lowly 6th with 48 points. Brawn easily won the Constructors’ Championship with 172 points, becoming the first team to win the Constructors’ Championship in their debut season, beating Red Bull-Renault with 153.5 points, McLaren with 71 points and Ferrari in 4th with 70 points.
For those into number spotting, Ferrari built F60s s/n 273, 274, 275, 276, 277, 278, 279 and 280. All survive.
For those into s/n trivia, because of budget and development limitations Brawn only built three cars, BGP 001-01, BGP 001-02 and BGP 001-03, so one for each driver and a spare. Jenson Button used s/n BGP 001-02 in every practice, qualifying session and race between the 1st race in Australia and the 16th race in Brazil and became the first team to use the same engine to win three GPs in succession! BGP 001-02 is still owned by Ross Brawn. At the end of the season Brawn GP was sold to Mercedes for a reported £110m Sterling, making Ross Brawn one of the few people to make a fast fortune in F1. Brawn GP was renamed as Mercedes GP and so Brawn became the only one-season-wonder to win not just a Championship but a double Championship!
2010 Sebastian Vettel takes his first
While KERS was still legal in the 2010 F1 season, the teams agreed not to use it, in order to allow all of them time to be able to develop and perfect their own systems. Minimum weight went from 605 kg to 620 kg to compensate for the KERS units. With BMW and Toyota leaving F1, engine diversity dropped to a 30-year low, with only Ferrari, Mercedes, Renault and Cosworth powering the entire grid. Brawn was bought out by Mercedes while Lotus, Virgin Racing and HRT joined the grid. Bridgestone would supply all the teams and refuelling was again banned. Fernando Alonso left Renault to join Filipe Massa at Ferrari, 2009 Champion Jenson Button went to McLaren and seven-time World Champion Michael Schumacher returned to F1 by joining Mercedes.
In contrast to 2009, no driver dominated the early races in the 2010 season, although the Red Bull RB6 was the fastest car in the field, taking the pole in fifteen of the nineteen races! Fernando Alonso won the first race of the season in Bahrain becoming just the sixth Ferrari driver to win on his debut for the Scuderia. Jenson Button won the second race in Australia for the second year in succession, whilst Vettel won the third race in Malaysia for Red Bull while Button became the first driver to win a second race with a win at the fourth race in China; but Mark Webber would be the first to take back-to-back victories with wins in the fifth race in Spain and sixth race in Monaco.
By the eleventh race, the German GP, both Alonso and Massa were the fastest with Massa leading until a pit message appeared to be a code telling Massa to move over for Alonso, giving Alonso seven extra World Championship points for his win. Ferrari were fined US$100k for the use of team orders to alter the outcome of a race and faced further sanctions for bringing the sport into disrepute, but were cleared for lack of evidence.
The last race of the season saw both Vettel’s and Webber’s Red Bulls, Alonso’s F10 and Hamilton in the McLaren all in the fight, although Vettel won the race and Championship with 256 points over Alonso with 252 points, Webber with 242 points and Hamilton with 240 points. Red Bull won the Constructors’ Championship with 498 points over Mercedes with 454 points and Ferrari far behind with 396 points.
For those into number spotting, Ferrari built F10s s/n 281, 282, 283, 284, 285 and 286. All survive.
The market for 2005-2010 cars
Today’s F1 buyers usually want the latest-greatest-newest car possible, preferably a race winner or multiple race winner. With 44 cars surviving, the 2005-2010 Ferrari F1 cars are well represented at F1 Clienti, but impossible to operate without factory technicians, and an absolute bargain as awesome interactive art. Any of the 2005 V10s or the 2006-2010 2.4 liter V8s will sell for in the low-mid seven-figures and the few multiple race winning cars fifty percent more, if and when they come to market. Most will be the centerpiece of a substantial collection. All are expensive, for a F1 car, but a bargain when compared to a Jeff Koons’s statue of Popeye at $28m. And yes, Koons is very much alive and will probably make you a statue of Olive Oyl, or Wimpy, or Brutus, or any other cartoon character you might fancy for far less than $28m.
The next Chapter
Every attempt by the FIA to improve the show or slow the cars down had been beaten by enterprising engineers and so the FIA would join the “Green New Deal” club by bringing KERS back for the 2011 season, with all but three back-of-the-pack teams using KERS. By 2013 all teams had KERS. The double-diffuser, the “F-duct” and adjustable front wings were banned, replaced by a driver adjustable rear wing, with a DRS (drag reduction system) introduced to help overtaking. The DRS could be used freely in practice and qualifying, but only when within 1 second of the leading car in the race. The 107% qualifying rule was re-introduced after concerns about the new teams’ pace. Gearboxes had to last for 5 race weekends, but each driver had one penalty free (a.k.a. “joker”) gearbox change at their disposal. Drivers were also warned to be examples of road safety in public after Lewis Hamilton was stopped for doing burnouts in his Mercedes C63 after the 2010 Australian GP. Stand by for the last column in this series on the 2011-2013 KERS cars.
Thank, in alphabetical order, to John Amette; Lar Beringer, Arnaud Blanfuney, Ross Bowdler, Andy Dayes; John Dinkel; Scott Drnek; Andrew Frankl; Trevor Griffiths; Alastair Henderson; Mike Matune; Paul Osborne; Nigel Petras, Ethan Shipard; Glen Smale; Thor Thorson, and Giovanni Tomasetti for their feedback.