Now we’ll find out if they can overtake…

The Barcelona track is not known for producing great races

The Barcelona track is not known for producing great races

The Circuit de Catalunya will test more than just the drivers’ abilities this weekend – it will also give F1’s new ‘overtaking friendly’ cars their sternest challenge yet.

Much of the aerodynamic changes made to this year’s cars were made to make overtaking easier. So far it seems we’ve seen more wheel-to-wheels racing than in recent years.

But the Spanish Grand Prix has seen some of the dullest races of recent years. Will the new rules give us a race worth watching?

If the new F1 cars can overtake each other at the Circuit de Catalunya, then they should be able to do it pretty much anywhere.

The biggest obstacle to overtaking in F1 at the Spanish Grand Prix track has been that the cars have struggled to follow each other closely through the fast corners that precede the two longest straights: at Campsa, and onto the start/finish straight.

But this year that may be different. In theory, the changes to the front and rear wings of the cars should make it possible for them to follow each other more closely. That seems to have been the case so far.

Additionally, some cars will be able to use KERS to mount attacks on their rivals, particularly at Barcelona’s long start/finish straight, where the cars are flat-out for 1.1km.

I have a hunch we may be in for a pleasant surprise. I don’t necessarily think we’re going to see a classic race. But given what we’ve seen so far of how closely the cars can follow each – particularly at Sepang which also has a lot of long, fast corners – I think we could see a much better race than were used to in Spain this weekend.

That said, Sebastian Vettel’s remarks on trying to pass Jarno Trulli at Bahrain suggest we shouldn’t get our hopes up:

Generally compared to last year you are able to follow closer, but then you lose the grip more abruptly. All of a sudden you lose all the downforce, all the grip, from the front axle. So that makes it still difficult to pass someone.

How well do you think the new rules have worked in promoting overtaking? Do you think well see a better race at the Circuit de Catalunya this weekend? Leave a comment below.

Circuit de Catalunya track map - click to enlarge

Circuit de Catalunya track map - click to enlarge

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51 comments on Now we’ll find out if they can overtake…

  1. ceedas said on 5th May 2009, 12:09

    I think the new diffusers probably won’t help too much when it comes to overtaking, given that they give back so much downforce which was initially designed out of the cars.

    However, as it looks like only McLaren, if anyone, will be using KERS, it should be easier to judge the teams’ comparative pace.

    • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 5th May 2009, 19:50

      Having more effective diffusers on the cars doesn’t necessarily mean they won’t be able to race closely – the question is whether those diffuser can still generate the same amount of downforce when the car is following another one closely.

      With the usual caveat that I’m not a technical expert, from what I understand diffusers are less prone to losing their effectiveness in these situations than wings on the upper surface of the car are.

    • Xanathos said on 5th May 2009, 19:57

      i think Williams also said that the new Diffusers are actually better for overtaking.
      But we’ll see this weekend

    • Very true, the double decker diffuser causes more air to be released at a lower speed, thus increasing the downforce available for the car.

      This results in more disturbed air in the wake of the car. Thus decreasing the downforce for a car following this car.

  2. Xibi said on 5th May 2009, 12:21

    I don’t think we will see a lot more overtaking to be honest. In Bahrain, it was clear that the distance was only halved between one car following another when compared to the previous season. If the ‘ground effect’ is allowed on cars to a certain percentage (due to safety..), we will see a huge improvement here.

  3. graham228221 said on 5th May 2009, 12:43

    I think that the new regulations have definitely worked, and we’ll see that again this weekend.

    The Overtaking Working Group actually used the Circuit de Catalunya when designing the new regulations, so I’d be surprised if there is no overtaking.

    I don’t think the new diffusers will have much of an effect at all, as the downforce and wake they produce will be extremely low. Keith, you ran an article about two years ago which included an article with Gary Anderson about how to improve overtaking, one of his suggestions was a higher rear wing coupled with a *larger* diffuser (as we are now seeing with the double-decker diffusers).

    • graham228221 said on 5th May 2009, 12:46

      Sorry, that should be “used ***simulation of*** the Circuit de Catalunya when designing the new regulations”.

      I believe they sat Pedro de la Rosa in a simulator and tried out a number of different options for letting cars follow closer.

    • graham228221 said on 5th May 2009, 12:46

      Sorry, that should be “used a simulation of the Circuit de Catalunya when designing the new regulations”.

      I believe they sat Pedro de la Rosa in a simulator and tried out a number of different options for letting cars follow closer.

  4. Williams 4ever said on 5th May 2009, 13:12

    Additionally, some cars will be able to use KERS to mount attacks on their rivals,

    Keith – This year’s field is not a level playing field, based on different design approaches and not to mention KERS-vs-NON KERS cars running in same field, the whole overtaking thing doesn’t make sense. For all practical purposes F1 races these season resemble LeMans Series where there are three different categories of cars running on track simultaneously. Do we indeed care if LMP1 class car overtook a GT class in Le Mans ?

    Unless ofcourse if we see KERS equipped car overtaking another KERS euipped car or DD car overtaking another DD car, this whole improvement of Overtaking in ’09 season makes valid discussion point.

    • The Sri Lankan Senna said on 5th May 2009, 13:32

      i actually agree wth you there but, come on! cheer up! for once( in a very Long time) we are seeing three teams that wwere never used to being at the front of the field dominating the whole field. i would love it if williams joined the three and Ferrari and Mclaren went backwards all this year and the years to come. im sick of seing and hearing mclaren this ferrari that etc…i want to hear more about Brawn, Toyota and Redbull this year and these guys deserve it

    • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 5th May 2009, 19:54

      For all practical purposes F1 races these season resemble LeMans Series where there are three different categories of cars running on track simultaneously. Do we indeed care if LMP1 class car overtook a GT class in Le Mans ?

      No I think that’s an exaggeration – yes some cars have KERS but the trade-off, as we have seen, is less optimal weight distribution.

      However I think your comparison to championships with two different classes would be a highly appropriate way of describing next year’s ‘two tier’ rules proposal…

  5. Terry Fabulous said on 5th May 2009, 13:27

    I’ll say it again, Keith is dead on. This is the acid test of the OWG.

    If you can pass at Barcelona, then job done.

    • 159Tom said on 5th May 2009, 15:12

      If you can pass at Monaco as well, the new rules have gone too far…

    • Monaco no test then?

    • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 5th May 2009, 19:55

      Monaco is pretty exceptional as circuits go. If they can pass there it’s a bonus. That said there were a few decent passes there in 2005 (a season mis-remembered by many as a poor one for racing when often it was anything but).

    • Rikadyn said on 5th May 2009, 21:20

      I agree that Spain is boring, but the worse track in my opinion has always been Hungary.

  6. Ron said on 5th May 2009, 13:30

    Perhaps, and i hope the race wont be a disappointment in terms of racing. the simple fact that almost everyone is bringing an aero upgrade might pack the cars even closer together, but then again, the added downforce of the DD might factor that out as well.

    but logically, F1 cars are kept on the road by wings, which make air turbulence a natural thing. so i guess the failure for the cars to adapt when in toe is only normal and has been always present i presume.

    maybe instead of Kers, drivers can be given a boost button like the one in A1GP. cheaper than KERS and a good trick to overcome that aero disadvantage with sheer speed.

    • Williams 4ever said on 5th May 2009, 13:55

      maybe instead of Kers, drivers can be given a boost button like the one in A1GP. cheaper than KERS and a good trick to overcome that aero disadvantage with sheer speed.

      What would be F1 if Max keeps fiddling with rule knobs which makes teams run amock and come up solutions that are akin to using a rocket to kill a fly.
      Does someone on this forum remember when V10 engines made way for V8 what was STRs solution to reduce the revs on existing V10 engines :-? and how much the Constructor teams spent on redesigning new power plant.

      Get rid of Max and all will be well…. :D

    • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 5th May 2009, 19:57

      Perhaps, and i hope the race wont be a disappointment in terms of racing. the simple fact that almost everyone is bringing an aero upgrade might pack the cars even closer together, but then again, the added downforce of the DD might factor that out as well.

      It’s a double-edged sword: if the cars are similar in specification then it stands to reason they’re similar in performance and therefore closer to each other. But variations in design can open up avenues for overtaking, as illustrated by KERS. (And as I wrote after the first comment, I’m not convinced about this link between diffusers and overtaking).

  7. janis1207 said on 5th May 2009, 13:48

    I suppose we already have found out – in Bahrain. You can’t overtake a KERS car if you don’t have KERS yourself, even if your advantage is >1 s/lap. In case the car in front (pun intended :) ) has a double diffuser, things are even more complicated. And that was Bahrain – a track considered overtaking-friendly.
    So, I am afraid we are in for a processional race, apart from the pit-stop strategy and except if Bridgestone will get one of the tyre compounds completely wrong again.

    • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 5th May 2009, 19:57

      You can’t overtake a KERS car if you don’t have KERS yourself

      Button passed Hamilton at Bahrain, and Glock passed Alonso at Melbourne – come to think of it, I’ve seen quite a few non-KERS passes on KERS cars.

  8. Robert McKay said on 5th May 2009, 13:50

    Well, there’s no BMW KERS anyway. We’ll have to wait and see what Ferrari and Renault do with it in practice (I suspect Mclaren will definitely be using it).

    But I have to say I don’t think we’ll see an awful lot of difference in overtaking unless one of the tyre compounds is considerably less raceable than the other.

  9. ajokay said on 5th May 2009, 14:12

    I’m not getting my hopes up. I got my hopes up for Bahrain, which has pretty much been a bore fest for every race thats taken place there, and it was pretty boring again this year, so I’m really not holding out for Barcelona, unfortunately.

  10. Oliver said on 5th May 2009, 14:21

    BMW abandoning KERS for this race, does make them look rather silly, considering they were the key backer of the system.
    I still think its early to decide if the OWG suggestions have worked. Teams are having redesign their cars, and with no in season testing, friday practice is the first opportunity to get a proper test. If things don’t work as planned, next race to test the updates, and on and on.

    • sajonaraman said on 5th May 2009, 14:47

      “We will not have KERS in our two cars in Barcelona, because bringing in an aero update and running KERS does not work,” said Theissen.
      What makes them look silly is a look back at a point where they’ve last season and concentrated on this.
      So far I’m very surprised by racing quality and expect thrills also in Barcelona. If there’s going to be 10 overtaking manouvres through the race we should all be happy campers.

    • sajonaraman said on 5th May 2009, 15:34

      should be:
      …where they’ve ditched last season…
      Sorry for that.

    • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 5th May 2009, 19:58

      BMW abandoning KERS for this race, does make them look rather silly, considering they were the key backer of the system.

      Quite a climb-down isn’t it? From what we heard before the season if they hadn’t been backing it then we might not have it on any of the cars right now.

  11. PJA said on 5th May 2009, 14:54

    Assuming we have no dramas such as a wet race or multiple safety car periods, I think this will be the dullest race of the year so far. While it will probably be better than previous races at the circuit a relative lack of overtaking will lead to calls for more changes to allow overtaking.

    Another reason I have heard used for why previous races at The Circuit de Catalunya have been dull, is that due to all the testing there, teams already know their ideal set-up before they arrive, I wonder how the testing ban and the fact most teams are bringing quite a few upgrades will affect this.

    • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 5th May 2009, 19:59

      True although there has been much less testing this year and none since the start of the season (except the odd straight-line test, such as Ferrari at Vairano).

  12. Damon said on 5th May 2009, 14:59

    BMW abandoning KERS for this race, does make them look rather silly, considering they were the key backer of the system.

    Yup, BMW ’09 = failure
    ________________
    You can watch the 1991 Spanish Grand Prix on YouTube:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7VN7cspSV0w
    Senna, Prost, Mansell, Piquet, Schumacher, Hakkinen
    6 former or to-be champions :)))

    Watch the legendary Mansell vs. Senna pass!

  13. Nick said on 5th May 2009, 15:08

    good, BMW were lucky last year. I hope Ferrari are more competitive here…having Jenson winning another race isn’t good.

  14. YeaMon said on 5th May 2009, 15:27

    We’ll see some more over taking, but it will be the same old Barcelona.

    I always looked at the track of having a lot of potential. I love the final turn, straight, and turns 1 and 2 sections. The Campsa also is an awesome turn. Other than this the track is fairly bland, I’ll go along the lines of it being blander than a tilkedrome.

  15. scunnyman said on 5th May 2009, 15:35

    Now Barcelona has been around a long tme, and before refuelling came in. In all that time, with the exception of the brilliant move by Mansell on senna into the first turn, it has been a processional race and always will be in my opinon. It’s in the design of the circuit.
    It’s been the same on any video game simulation i have played where you race at barcelona. That’s why i usually skip it.

    I don’t mind being proved wrong if anyone can describe an exciting race at barcelona, barring rain of course.

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