Friday preview - fresh tests, protests & engines 06 Apr 2007
Will Kimi Raikkonens Ferrari require an engine change prior to the race, thus consigning the world championship leader to a 10-place grid penalty on Sunday afternoon?
That is one of the key questions doing the rounds in the paddock following a small water leak which afflicted his F2007 in the closing stages of its winning debut in Australia in March. Last night the Finns manager, David Robertson, conceded that it was More than likely, but a final decision has yet to be taken. Since the Malaysian Grand Prix is always such a hot race, however, it might be a major risk to retain an engine which is slightly suspect, and Ferrari may feel that caution is the better option, even if it does put Raikkonen into the dangerous midfield ground on the rush to the notoriously tight first and second corners.
The other talking points are a fresh complaint from Spyker, and clarification of the rules on bodywork flexibility.
The Dutch team protested the legality of the Super Aguri in Melbourne, albeit too late to make a difference. This time their protest against Toro Rosso, on the grounds that the STR02 contravenes the rules by bearing too much resemblance to Red Bulls Adrian Newey-designed RB3, was lodged in good time last night.
Meanwhile, there were also complaints from several teams after the Australian opener that certain cars floors have been flexing too much, thus conferring aerodynamic advantages that have been reflected in the lap times.
Under Articles 3.15 and 3.17.4 of the Technical Regulations, bodywork must be rigid and no freedom of movement is permitted at all. McLaren specifically have asked the FIA for clarification on the matter. As a result the FIA issued a statement which reads:
The test described in Article 3.17.4 is intended to test the flexibility of bodywork in that area, not the resistance of a device fitted for the purpose of allowing the bodywork to move further once the maximum test load is exceeded. Quite clearly, any such device would be designed to permit flexibility and is therefore strictly prohibited by Article 3.15 of the Technical Regulations.
We have no objection to a device in this area which is fitted to prevent the bodywork from moving downwards, provided it is clear that it is not designed to circumvent the test described in Article 3.17.4. Therefore, with immediate effect, we will be testing bodywork in the relevant area with any such devices removed.
Whether that results in action being taken against any of McLarens rivals remains to be seen later this morning.
The other interesting thing to monitor is how well individual cars generate tyre temperature in the Bridgestone control tyres. This was a problem for some in the relatively low ambient temperatures in Melbourne (around 23 degrees Celsius). It is less likely to be so here with expected highs of 34 degrees, and plenty of testing for all but Spyker here recently, so any problems in that area might suggest more fundamental problems with the suspension geometry.
The tyre issue is well worth watching, given that teams must use both compounds at some stage on Sunday afternoon. Speaking about the Australian race, McLarens Martin Whitmarsh said: I believe that Bridgestone had two good tyres in Australia; there were clear differences in first-lap performance and the development of degradation of each tyre over long runs. This meant they were quite different in characteristic, which you want them to be. It teased some teams into trying to make the option tyre work in the race, which was challenging. Overall it meant that most people were using their option tyres in the last stint. It turned out that BMW Sauber using the option in the first stint had an impact on our race, however it created something different in the race and perhaps it is another facet of interest for the public to understand during the race itself.