He said what?! – Spanish Grand Prix edition

Rather than a recap of the race, which you can read on any number of sites – see the links in the column on the right – The Parade Lap is going to explain a specific thing that someone said (or did) during the race which may be confusing to new F1 fans.  We’ll also offer a few comments on the race weekend as a whole.

For the first installment of this series, we’re going talking about vanity panels.  BBC commentator Ben Edwards mentioned them on lap 53, saying that Caterham had added the panels as part of their upgrade package for the Spanish GP and that their cars “no longer have that sort-of duck-billed platypus look”.

At the beginning of the 1990s, the noses on F1 cars angled down, almost touching the ground.  Over time, though, teams began to raise them higher and higher, increasing the amount of air that flowed under the car and improving the aerodynamics.

90s williamsPhoto credit: Netcars.com via Flickr

Eventually, the noses became so high that there was concern they could endanger the driver by penetrating the cock-pit if one car t-boned another.  For the 2012 season, the FIA introduced a rule that the tips of the noses could be a maximum of 550 mm off the ground.  To maintain the airflow under the car, though, most teams introduced stepped noses, with a notch mid-way between the end of the nose and the cock-pit opening.

Picture 62011 and 2012 Force India noses

Photo credits: Whiz Kris and slitzf1 via Flickr

As the cars were unveiled before the season, there was a significant (and not unwarranted) outcry about how ugly the stepped noses made the cars look.  Most F1 fans prize sleek design in the cars, and the new noses were anything but.

For the 2013 season, the FIA introduced a compromise: the vanity (or modesty) panel.  The panels are light-weight pieces of laminate which cover the step in the noses, making the car look more aesthetically appealing and, as Mr. Edwards put it, less like a duck-billed platypus.

Picture 7Photo credit: Pitlane02 via Wikipedia

Spanish Grand Prix notes

  • Congratulations to Fernando Alonso, who became the first driver to win his home grand prix since Felipe Massa won the 2008 Brazilian GP (Alonso did win the European GP last year, which took place in Valencia, Spain).
  • Sauber’s Esteban Gutierrez had the best drive of his young career, leading the race, setting the fastest lap and nearly scoring his first point in F1.  Trailing 10th-place Daniel Ricciardo by 14 seconds with 10 laps to go, Gutierrez closed the gap to under half-a-second by the final lap, but was unable to pass the Toro Rosso at the end.
  • McLaren’s early-season struggles continued, although they did have both drivers in the top 10 for the second consecutive race.
  • So far this season, only one driver has won from pole position – Sebastian Vettel in Malaysia – through five rounds in 2012, three of the winners had come from pole.

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