2009 F1 cars quicker than in 2008

Brawn's BGP001 is faster in qualifying than last year's cars were

Brawn's BGP001 is faster in qualifying than last year's cars were

Speed is part of the essential attraction of Formula 1. But containing the ever-escalating cornering speeds of F1 cars has been a major goal of the FIA for safety reasons.

The new rules introduced for 2009 were not just aimed at improving the spectacle of the racing in F1, they were also intended to keep cornering speeds under control. But already the teams have got their performance at or near the same levels of performance they enjoyed this time last year.

Here’s how the lap times compare – and how they vary for cars equipped with KERS and the controversial ‘double decker diffusers’.

2009 vs 2008 lap times (click to enlarge)

2009 vs 2008 lap times (click to enlarge)

Laptimes (s) 2008 2009 2009 (best KERS) 2009 (best non-DDD)
Australia qualifying 85.187 (Hamilton) 84.783 (Barrichello) 85.319 (Massa) 85.121 (Vettel)
Australia race 87.418 (Kovalainen) 87.706 (Rosberg) 88.488 (Raikkonen) 87.988 (Kubica)
Malaysia qualifying 94.188 (Raikkonen) 93.784 (Button) 94.456 (Raikkonen)* 94.222 (Webber)
Malaysia race 95.366 (Heidfeld) 96.641 (Button) 98.453 (Raikkonen) 97.672 (Webber)

*KERS installed but not activated.

This year’s cars are already lapping quicker than they were in 2008 in qualifying. A significant factor here could be Bridgestone’s decision to bring a greater variation in tyre compounds – meaning softer compounds with better one-lap pace, ideal for qualifying.

They haven’t quite been able to match the performance seen last year in race conditions. But it’s important to remember we’ve only had two races so far, both of which had disruptions.

So far all the fastest times in qualifying and the race have been set by cars without KERS and with the controversial ‘double-decker diffuser’.

The legality of the diffusers will be decided at the international court of appeal hearing on Tuesday. After that, we will either see the diffusers banned or (more likely) declared legal, and then swiftly adopted by the rest of the field. However this will present more of a challenge for some teams than others, particularly Red Bull’s RB5/Toro Rosso’s STR4, with its unorthodox rear suspension configuration.

How much faster will the cars be after a few months of development? Flavio Briatore has some bold predictions:

With this [diffuser] solution you gain 14% aerodynamic load: give us a few months and we’ll gain 30-40%, and the lap times will decrease by two seconds.

KERS has not shown a great benefit for lap times so far, but that may not be the case later in the year when the technology has had further developments and the championship reaches tracks where it can make more of a difference – particular Spa, Monza and other tracks with long flat-out sections.

How much faster will the cars be by the end of the season? Is it inevitable the FIA will have to make further rules changes to cut speeds? Have your say in the comments.

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58 comments on 2009 F1 cars quicker than in 2008

  1. Bear with me on this one, increase the wheel size (diameter) This would have a detrimental effect on the whole aero of the car, the biggest thing for aerodynamists to tidy up is the air created/redirected by the wheels. A larger wheel would compound the aero affects and slow the cars? I realise a larger rolling diameter wheel enables a higher potential top speed but they may have to try much harder to reach this speed. I may be hitting a ball right into the left field and barking up the wrong tree…..

  2. Well done Keith
    This has been an excellent discussion and we have all learned a lot from it. I can see no reason why anyone needs to change anything but many good ideas from contributors if change is needed. In the meanwhile more evidence is required but it would seem that we now have the basis of a good year ahead.

    It appears that the FIA is going in the direction of running two series as Formulas 1& 2 using standard engines lightly supercharged for the upper group which implies a reduced capacity for both. There will probably be an announcement of a standard chassis across both series before long. That will be much more satisfactory for an organisation largely controlled by the non-racing countries who appear to lack empathy with the current system.

    There is no reason why enthusiasts need lose heart. There will be more than enough room for a prime GP series run by most of the present contenders within a more satisfactory business model. Circuit owners will be able to survive on much lower fees and the many circuits which have lost their grand prix and testing business are available while contracts with those trapped in the current system run out. Television fees can be reduced too because the whole financial model will be lower geared without the high wastage of The Rights Holders charges.

    I would hope that manufacturers would be required to supply same spec customer engines to other chassis builders. No doubt the FIA would want Ferrari to be prime contractors for their series but can see no reason why they would not also run a team in the GP series rather than being written down as mere kit builders.

  3. Patrickl said on 12th April 2009, 18:13

    “How much faster will the cars be by the end of the season? Is it inevitable the FIA will have to make further rules changes to cut speeds? Have your say in the comments.”

    Would they really be faster? Relatively I mean? The 2008 cars were developed (at least by McLaren and Ferrari) till the end of the year.

    Do you think the 2009 cars will develop quicker, because the new regs are still so new? Or because you think the diffusers will make the bigger teams faster too?

  4. Stuart Hotman said on 12th April 2009, 23:34

    you think the diffusers will make the bigger teams faster too?

    I assume you are referring to Mclaren and Ferrari. I suppose it depends what you mean by bigger. Honda (Brawn) and Toyota were quite easily the biggest teams last year regarding budget, and Williams were kings of F1 last time we were on slicks.

    I would guess there is some gains in the diffuser area but it wont be the magic bullet. I can’t see how they can ban double decker diffusers now that the results have been published for the first two races:)

  5. JohnBt said on 13th April 2009, 3:45

    C’mon how fast can it be compared to the V12 and V10 engines. By the time my son grows up it will be Formula TAXIS.

  6. JohnBt said on 13th April 2009, 3:50

    Oh by the way the definition for KERS….Killing Every Racing Spectacle.

  7. A Singh said on 13th April 2009, 11:15

    The fact that the lap times are close to those of 2008 doesn’t necessarily mean that the speeds are out of control. The 2008 times were still a long way of 2006 times (when we had ultra grippy Michelin and Bridgestone tyres). Even the 2006 times were a couple of seconds of the 2004 times as well.

    It’s all irrelevant anyway, because if refuelling is introduced next year then the lap times will stutter by 3 seconds.

  8. Raceaddict (@raceaddict) said on 13th April 2009, 21:49

    What about spec pistons and rods (read heavy)? That would keep the revs down, keep some of the costs contained and have an overall lowering of horsepower. These engines are hardly relevant to showroom engines anymore anyway. Let the development happen in the other areas.

    (Anti KERS)

    (Pro tyre war)

  9. I thought the main argument for a single tyre supplier was that it would be easier to control speeds in F1. So surely if the FIA think speeds are getting too fast they just need to tell Bridgestone to make harder tyres.

    Also is it still planned that tyre warmers are banned next year, and if so how do Bridgestone intend to solve the problem of the performance difference between new cold tyres and fully up to temperature tyres?

  10. elfboy said on 26th April 2009, 19:33

    I caught A1 racing a couple of weeks (3 weeks maybe) back on TV and it was about some of the best motor racing I’ve seen in years — and those guys are not even F1 racers. There might be something in forcing all the teams to use the same (primitive/basic) aero-packages (though that takes out a lot of fun in seeing what the F1 tech-wizards conjure up).

    Next year’s rules of allowing a team to have unlimited budget to develop this year’s car or 30 million to build a totally new car would make things interesting (if FIA doesn’t chicken **** and bow to whatever Ferrari demands next — am Ferrari fan btw).

    Personally, I just wish that the FIA had a fuel cap instead of a budget cap. Each team has a fuel budget of 150 liters to fuel both cars on race day (not entire weekend). That’ll see some real car innovation (and speed downgrade).

  11. I bet there be some better drivers too in the prix to handle these cars.

  12. Andrew said on 7th May 2009, 4:38

    Maybe they’re faster in the straights, but definitely not in the corners. Pity.

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