So two cars that are meant to be identical can in fact be different. We always talk about drivers having a car that is always as fast as their teammate’s and that could be the case but it does not have to be.
As we’ve found out drivers can choose components such as brakes as Hamilton and Rosberg have done and the 2 cars are no longer identical over an entire season and therefore the car’s behavior and performance are not the same despite the public’s impression that Car A is the same as Car B.
We’ve also seen cars be different just for a certain race, as Keith showed in the example with Schumacher and Barrichello. Or the team may run different front wings as we saw with Vettel and Webber at Silverstone for a multitude of reasons. We have also seen Raikonnen and Grosjean run different exhausts to test a part and its performance during a race.
Where did this topic come from? Well, I was thinking about who was going to replace Webber and all the talk about his Red Bull being the most coveted seat in F1. I’ve been wondering if that seat is really the best seat in F1 or perhaps the 2nd best seat. Then I saw the move that Vettel pulled on Hamilton at Spa and it created the flashback to 2011 where David Hobbs couldn’t believe his eyes as the Red Bull disappeared in one of the first corners at Spa the same way it just did in 2013.
Then I tried to think of a race where Webber put on a disappearing act like Vettel has done so many times. Sadly, I’ve seen his car perform a reverse disappearing act where it just drops back anytime it is close to Vettel on the grid thereby preventing a head-on race that we’d all love to see before Webber retires.
Now we know that Mark’s a much taller guy than Vettel so I’m thinking that his car is designed differently to accommodate him and different parts like KERS and other parts must be custom made for him otherwise he would be have to cut a few inches off before he got into the car. I think all shared parts between Vettel’s car and Webber’s car are the same. However, I think that custom parts which are probably made by suppliers, not Red Bull, are not the same. For instance, Part A (let’s label that as the one for Vettel) is not only a different part than Part B (the one for Webber) in the physical sense but it’s also a different part in a qualitative and performance sense. Given the reliability issues that Webber has had with KERS, I am willing to bet that Vettel’s KERS or the parts that integrate the with KERS are different.
Now I’m not saying that Red Bull did this intentionally. In fact, it could just be the result of them favoring Vettel and spending more resources on his custom parts and the integration of those parts with the rest of the car.
And we haven’t even factored in race setup which alters the car’s performance and characteristics drastically or the fact that a car is designed to favor a single driver’s style.