All eyes on Ferrari’s bid to catch McLaren and Red Bull (European GP preview)

Fernando Alonso tested the updated Ferrari F10 at Fiorano

Fernando Alonso tested the updated Ferrari F10 at Fiorano

The McLaren-Red Bull fight for supremacy has largely occupied our attention in the last few races.

But Ferrari are still in the hunt and are looking to propel themselves to the front with a significant upgrade package this weekend.

Will it be enough to help Fernando Alonso score his first win at his other home track?

Ferrari’s ‘F10b’

Some media dubbed the revised Ferrari the ‘F10b’, but the team indicate the changes to the car are not significant enough to merit a new chassis name.

At the heart of the upgrade is a re-routing of the exhausts to direct hot air towards the diffuser, making it more efficient.

This is a complicated change for several reasons: hot exhaust air could damage the bodywork or cause the rear tyres to overheat. Variations in the flow of air from the exhaust as the car accelerates and decelerates could disrupt aerodynamic performance.

This explains why Ferrari have used every means available to run the car before the race. Marc Gene has done straight-line testing at Vairano and Fernando Alonso drove the car around Fiorano for ‘filming purposes’.

All the same, there will be nervous faces in the Ferrari garage at first practice, hoping all runs smoothly with the upgrade.

Even without these new parts, Valencia should be a good race for Ferrari. All teams will use the medium and super-soft tyre mix once again, which has tended to suit the F10 better than the hard/soft mix used at most races this year.

Montreal has a similar mix of long straights and slow corners to Valencia and the F10 was good enough for victory there. The signs are good that we could have a three-way fight for supremacy in Valencia.

Read more: Ferrari bringing new exhausts to Valencia

Few changes at McLaren

The McLaren MP4-25 was clearly the fastest car in race in the last two races but they haven’t got any major developments this weekend and won’t be bringing out their version of the RB6’s exhausts until Silverstone.

Nonetheless Valencia’s long straights will suit their powerful Mercedes engine allied to their pioneering F-duct.

This combination was so effective at Montreal they were able to run higher downforce levels to help them in the corners.

Read more: McLaren expect quick Ferraris at Valencia

Red Bull test F-duct solution

Having failed to get their version of the F-duct working in Turkey, and not bringing it to Montreal, Red Bull are trying once again to put a rear wing stalling device on their RB6 this weekend.

Although their car wants for little in terms of performance, straight-line speed is a key weakness. In qualifying at Montreal they were 11.6kph slower than the fastest car through the speed traps.

Christian Horner has tried to blame that on their Renault engines, claiming they’re ’20-30bhp’ slower than the other F1 power plants. But Vitaly Petrov’s Renault was the fastest in the same session, suggesting that what’s really hurting the RB6 in this respect is the drag penalty associated with all the downforce it generates.

Expect the RB6 to be very fast through the quick corners in the final sector at Valencia – which could make for exciting qualifying laps from Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber. Whether it can hold its own on the straights will be partly down to how well the new F-duct works. We should have some telling data to crunch on Friday evening.

Not another Montreal

Almost from the moment the chequered flag fell at Montreal people were saying “it won’t be this good again at Valencia”. Both the F1 races held at the track so far have been rather dull.

Although the same mix of tyres is being used this weekend the track surface is not likely to play as great a role. Its construction is closer to that of a regular racing circuit and the race weekend is likely to be consistently dry allowing the track to rubber-in.

We’re yet to see a safety car deployment in two years of racing at the track as well, though with more cars on-track this year that is more likely now.

The best we can hope for is a similar situation to what happened in Turkey, with the faster McLarens and probably Ferraris starting behind the Red Bulls and a battle for the lead developing on-track that way.

Read more: ??Not the most interesting circuit?? ?ǣ what the drivers say about Valencia

Drivers to watch

Here’s my four driver to watch closely this weekend. Name your top picks in the comments.

Fernando Alonso – With an upgraded Ferrari, which should be strong at this circuit at any rate, Alonso has his best chance yet of winning the Valencia race.

Nico Rosberg – Still doing a solid job for Mercedes but the team are increasingly being drawn into a ‘best of the rest’ battle with Renault. Qualifying performance is hurting them, so watch out for Rosberg in Q3 to see if he can trouble any of the top three teams.

Nico H???lkenberg – Showed good pace relative to Rubens Barrichello on a track he’d never raced at before two weeks ago. Points were a likelihood before his penalty. Can he deliver some this weekend?

Timo Glock – Lotus have been pulling ever further away from Virgin. Depending on how well the VR-01 goes this weekend Glock could find himself trying to keep the Lotuses in sight or fighting a rearguard action against the HRTs. A far cry from last year, when he set the fastest lap of the race.

The European Grand Prix on F1 Fanatic

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35 comments on All eyes on Ferrari’s bid to catch McLaren and Red Bull (European GP preview)

  1. can Alonso get away with in-season testing in the garb of advertising or “filming purposes” as you’ve put it?

    • BasCB (@bascb) said on 24th June 2010, 12:14

      Well they call him Teflonso for that, as nothing sticks to him!

      • Todfod said on 24th June 2010, 13:03

        Bending the rules are very much permitted. Wouldn’t be surprised if Mclaren and Scamilton do the same. :)

        • BasCB (@bascb) said on 24th June 2010, 13:22

          I was in no means indicating that i think Ferrari/Alonso using this to test something is bad. Nice one, have Teflonso/Scamilton/Doublebutton/Hotrod Vettel battle it out with dirtytrick Schumi on track!

          Every using of the rules to the limit of what they offer will give us new experiences and exitement on and off the track.

    • miguelF! said on 24th June 2010, 16:47

      they admited it on their website and this news is a bit outdated i read it a long time ago its the same thing as all red bull comercials this year all teams have taken advantage of this situations

      • miguelF! said on 24th June 2010, 17:03

        ferrari and mclaren are very close to each other but i dont believe they will catch red bull unfortunatly

  2. glue said on 24th June 2010, 10:48

    how did they get to test the car?..isn’t mid-season testing banned?

    • BasCB (@bascb) said on 24th June 2010, 13:24

      But they did not test it, only ran it to make some nice promotion video for their website. Hey hardly their problem, the only car available for that was the latest update of the F10 :-O

    • Jean said on 24th June 2010, 13:24

      they allowed to straight line test and used the Alonso filming for a bit of an extra

  3. Aqeel said on 24th June 2010, 10:49

    “The McLaren MP4-25 was clearly the fastest car in race in the last two races”

    It’s not the faster car !
    still RedBull are the faster in last two races
    but the reliability is poor and wrong startigy gift the victory to Mclaren.
    just see who is the faster in the qualifying and the fasters laps.

    • mateuss said on 24th June 2010, 10:52

      It was in the race!

    • Prisoner Monkeys said on 24th June 2010, 10:53

      “Fastest” is a relative team. You might have the car capable of setting the quickest time, but if your reliability is shot to hell, you’re not the fastest person on-track. “Fastest” in Formula 1 terms is the person who wins the race.

  4. Agree with PM – in F1, fastest aren’t cars who clock the fastest kmph on the speed gun :)

  5. spezza said on 24th June 2010, 11:01

    Renault will surprise everyone!
    Their upgrades are huge.
    Mark my words.

  6. hope the do Spezza .. it’ll be great if Ferrari and Renault start picking up more points from here on – I’d say this will be the most interesting season ever (if this happens) :)

  7. Aqeel said on 24th June 2010, 11:10

    agree with you “spezza”
    Renault could be the biggest surprise in Valencia

    • BasCB (@bascb) said on 24th June 2010, 13:25

      With bringing their own exhaust blown diffusor to Valencia they certainly supprised me!

      That is a team on a high working hard towards succes and a new respect.

  8. keune said on 24th June 2010, 11:23

    WOW…offtopic

    awesome picture of ferrari in the post

  9. Sandman said on 24th June 2010, 11:24

    RK is definitely a driver to watch this race, in my book at least.

    With all the major upgrades Renault brings there (including those that were late for Canada, front suspension anyone?) and the characteristics of the track suiting Robert so much, i see him fighting in the top 5.

  10. The news just got in that Renault and Mercedes will also run this ‘blown diffuser’ concept with the low exhaust.. Check autosport.com/news.

    Should be an interesting weekend. :D

  11. Macca (@macca) said on 24th June 2010, 12:38

    I hope Ferrari are quick this weekend even though I am a Red Bull (or should I just say Webber) fan. It just doesn’t feel like F1 when Ferrari arn’t competitive.

  12. Dr. Mouse said on 24th June 2010, 12:57

    Well, I won’t be watching it live, unfortunately I’m away this weekend with the girlfriend and she’s told me “No, we’re away for a romantic weekend not to watch TV”.

    There are a few plus points:
    1) Valencia is the race I am least disappointed about missing, given the last 2 seasons.
    2) A friend is going to let me know whether the race is worth watching, so if it’s as bad as the last couple of years I don’t have to bother.
    3) I get to apply the same rule to her and not watch the bloody football on Sunday! :D

    As for the rest, I hope Ferrari do improve, it would be nice to see a close battle between more teams. I have loved that in the last few races.

  13. PJA said on 24th June 2010, 13:05

    Although I don’t have high expectations for the race itself, it will be interesting to see how the different teams rank with all the various updates and who can get them to work.

    Will Red Bull decide to race their F-duct, and have the teams who are introducing an exhaust blown diffuser ironed out all the potential problems?

  14. zecks said on 24th June 2010, 13:21

    I think the dark horse could be massa, he has been good here in the past and the ferrari upgrade will work in his favour

  15. Victor. said on 24th June 2010, 14:08

    I reckon Renault will have the strongest package in Valencia.

    In Monaco they were arguably the thrid best team (after Red Bull and Ferrari) and with Kubica’s skill and Alonso’s crash ended up second best.

    In Montreal which as Kubica suggests has some similiarities with Valencia they were very much on the pace but took a gamble that did not pay off with the prime tyres – Kubica’s Q2 time says enough in my book.

    In Valencia they are bringing their first ‘major upgrade’ since Bahrain – and in Bahrain they’ve shone compared to their pre-season pace. The upgrade includes as far as I know a new front wing, which has thus meant a significant increase in performance whenever they brought one, a new floor, which could make the R30’s mechanical grip even better, and finally the blown diffuser, which although it probalby will not work just yet shows that Renault is right on the money in Valencia.

    Kubica has said that Valencia shares some characteristics with Montreal, but is nonetheless still a street circuit. What he is saying then is that the characteristics of the two tracks at which Renault has been very quick at are in one form or another present in Valencia. Add to that the new upgrades, and I reckon Renault will be the second best team on sheer pace alone, right after McLaren, but will edge them due to Kubica’s love for street circuits :).

    On another note, I sincerely hope that Ferrari will beat Red Bull to it at Valencia, so that Red Bull will not even be able to fight in the top 5. If that were the case, 2010 would be mindblowingly awesome.

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