Brawn admits design error hampering Schumacher
Ross Brawn says changes Mercedes is set to make to the W01 for the Spanish Grand Prix should help improve the car's weight distribution, after admitting it was one area the team got wrong on the car.
After lagging behind its three chief rivals at the front of the field in the opening flyaway rounds, the reigning world champion Brackley-based squad is aiming to start closing the gap from the next race when it will introduce a particularly big car upgrade.
Mercedes has struggled with understeer with the W01 so far this season – issues that have hampered Michael Schumacher’s performances in particular.
Team boss Brawn admits that in the design of the car the squad didn’t come up with a weight distribution that allowed it to get the most of out the narrower 2010 front tires that were eventually introduced, prompting the changes to the car that will be made for Barcelona.
“The problem actually is not the wheelbase per se, the problem was the weight distribution – we got the weight distribution wrong,” the Englishman said when asked if he regretted the fact the W01 was a shorter-wheelbased car than its rivals’. When we got to start trying these tires we realized we didn’t have the correct weight distribution. We immediately went to the limit of what we could achieve with the car.
“So it’s not the wheelbase as such, it’s just that the weight distribution is not what we wanted.
“The tires changed quite a bit: we had the small front, then there was a rear and then the rear changed again.
“None of us had the opportunity to try these tires and we didn’t make as good a guess of what we wanted in terms of weight distribution as some of the other teams.
“We’ve got a modification of the car coming for Barcelona which puts us into a better range for the weight distribution we can achieve.
“So it is being done for that reason, not wheelbase per se.”
In its bid to improve its car’s competitiveness, Mercedes also tried out a rear wing-stalling device at the last round in China as teams try to copy the F-duct concept pioneered by McLaren which helps increase straight-line speeds.
Brawn says the wing system it trialed last week was only an interim solution, however, and hopes the full F-duct will be ready to be incorporated onto the W01 early into the European season.
“I think the McLaren system, which is a very clever system, is quite complicated to get to work properly,” he said.
“Basically it means you can reduce the drag with a driver action at any particular time. So as soon as you get on to a straights you are not traction limited, so you’ve reached a point where you have got enough grip, you can turn the rear wing off.
“That of course loses you drag and gains straight-line speed. It is a complicated system and one that McLaren has obviously conceived their car to accommodate and it’s not so easy to put into cars that have already been designed.
“What we had today and will probably have for a race or two is just a simple passive system - it’s not a driver-operated system – and it’s an interim [solution] which is not as effective as the McLaren system, but is a little bit better than nothing at all.
“We’re still working on the proper system which we’re having in Barcelona or Istanbul. There’s no point in having it in Monaco.
“But it is complicated to get to work properly."