All change in Barcelona: Your guide to what's changed on the cars this weekend
Your essential rundown on the different upgrades being debuted
By Sky Sports Online
Last Updated: 09/05/14 6:27pm
How do you possibly improve on a perfect start to the season? While, in theory, the runaway championship leaders have less extra performance to find in their dominant car than their flagging rivals, Mercedes have signalled their intent to increase their sizeable advantage still further and in Practice One debuted a revised front wing, which features a new winglet on the inside of the front-wing endplate. Judging by the results, with Mercedes topping Practice Two in customary one-two fashion, it's working.
"Our updates seem to be working well so far and we will keep pushing hard tonight to see where there is more performance to be found for qualifying and the race," reported Toto Wolff in the wake of Lewis Hamilton topping both sessions at Barcelona on Friday.
The car out front is still a W05.
The reigning World Champions have made no secret that they believe the key to closing the gap to Mercedes rests with continued upgrades to their Renault turbo engine and associated energy-recovery systems. Further steps from the French manufacturer have duly arrived this week, however in a significant sign that the team believe they are now on top of the cooling problems that afflicted the RB10 during pre-season, the car's rear end is noticeably more tightly packaged in Barcelona - a key design trait of Adrian Newey.
Meanwhile, one eye-catching change which isn't believed to be aerodynamically-related, is the fitting of a leopard-skin seat-cover to Vettel's RB10...
Sitting an impressive third in the Constructors' Championship at the start of the European season, Force India are another team to reveal upgrades to the rear of their car at Barcelona. The VJM07 has new rear-wing mainplane and endplates, which feature new-look strakes, and is also believed to be running with a reconfigured floor.
"We were able to evaluate some upgrades in the morning session and we were happy with the results, so we retained them for practice two," confirmed Deputy Team Principal Bob Fernley.
Confronted with a vast performance deficiency to Mercedes over the first four races, Ferrari have arrived in Barcelona with a raft of new changes bolted on to their cars. Fernando Alonso's F14 T ran a new front-wing during Practice One, while Kimi Raikkonen's car carried a tweaked rear-wing as the team ran comparison tests on their new configurations. Alonso then ran the new-look rear-wing in Practice Two.
Raikkonen's Ferrari also used a revised, larger exhaust on Friday, with the Finn seated lower down in the cockpit following his early-season struggles to get to grips with a car that hasn't always obeyed orders in 2014.
Bereft of competitive aerodynamic downforce in the opening flyaways, the MP4-29 has been rearmed with a series of tweaks this weekend. The car's rear-end has been repackaged, with an extra cut made to the bodywork in order to house a revised suspension arm, while the front-wing features a series of fresh endplates.
Of particular encouragement to the team, after their struggles to understand the team's behaviour in Bahrain and China, was the car's consistency during Practice One in Barcelona with Jenson Button's anguished report of understeer actually greeted with enthusiasm by his pitwall as it dovetailed with their predictions.
"It's encouraging to see that the package has been a useful step," said Eric Boullier. "It seems to have corrected some of the problems that affected us in China last month, but we're still only taking the first steps on a long journey back to the front."
Another team putting their car on a diet over the last three weeks. Somewhat under the radar, the team have tightened the FW36 for Barcelona, with the tweaks most noticeable around the shrink-wrapped bodywork housing the exhaust. "The parts we brought are working as expected or even better, which is key at a track like Barcelona where everyone is trying to find more downforce," confirmed Rob Smedley afterwards.
Never particularly keen on public pronouncements, Toro Rosso kept their cards very close to their chest heading to Barcelona but they are nonetheless running with a revised rear-wing, rear wing endplates and a new diffuser this weekend.
A new chassis for Jean-Eric Vergne was spotted arriving at the circuit late on Thursday night - but, true to form, the team have yet to divulge whether it was a brand-new chassis or a car that, a la Vettel, was previously used during winter testing.
Having gone from the back of the grid to Q3 during the course of the opening flyaways, Lotus are eyeing their first points of 2014 in Spain and have brought a number of updates to help them achieve that aim. The most eye-catching change to the E22 is a tower block of deflectors on the inside of their asymmetrical nosecone, while the Enstone team have also been busy working on new cooling and bodywork packages, including rear-wing tweaks, as well as engine mapping upgrades.
Having failed to trouble the scorers in the first four races of the year, Sauber have introduced a comprehensive range of upgrades this weekend. Their car now features a modified rear and front-wing, along with a new floor, and updated sidepods.
More dramatically, a brand-new chassis has been introduced which is reputedly 15kg lighter than the previous model - welcome relief to Adrian Sutil, in particular, after the German revealed he went without food for two days at the start of the season amid concerns that, as one of the grid's taller drivers, he was being penalised.
Striving to stay ahead of Caterham at the back of the grid, Marussia ran a range of small, but seemingly useful, new parts in Practice One with changes at both the front and rear of their car. But just the one: while Jules Bianchi debuted the upgrades, team-mate Max Chilton ran in an unmodified charger in order for the team to evaluate the effect of the new parts. Chilton and Bianchi will then swap roles on Saturday, starting in P3.
The CT05 features what team boss Cyril Abiteboul has described as "a typical Barcelona package" with revisions to both the car's front and rear wing, and floor. However, after their two cars propped up the timesheet on Friday, Abiteboul admitted the revisions were "not working great" as yet.