VTEC.net Honda F1 Prixview - European GP - 2002
The formula 1 battle returns to the European Theater of Operations this weekend. The arena for this weekend's struggle: The Nurburgring! Built within the perimeter of the old Nordschleiffe (The "Real" Nurburgring), the ring is a twisty, moderate speed track with many slow corners and no real flat-out sections. This track is considered quite "sedate" by many of the drivers, including Jacques Villeneuve. Jacques puts it bluntly when he calls the ring a "Mickey Mouse" circuit. Despite his scorn, the Nurburgring has been relatively good to Jacques. Jacques and Michael Schumacher are the only two drivers to win multiple races on the modern ring.
Welcome to the Ring!
Last year, the two Honda teams suffered reliability problems, with only Jacques Villeneuve able to finish the race. Jacques was able to bring the BAR-Honda 003 home in ninth place at the end, despite a hard drive. He struggled with excessive tire wear for the duration of the race. Among the Honda DNF's, Heinz Harald Frentzen was the last to go, with his traction control system cutting out on a slow second-gear corner on lap 47. Before him, Jarno Trulli was forced to limp back to the pits on lap 45 after his EJ11's clutch packed up for the day. The first Honda driver to go out was Olivier Panis, with a gearbox failure on lap 23. The big disappointment of the day was Jarno Trulli's retirement, as he had been running in sixth place at the time and was even closing in on Mika Hakkinen's McLaren.
European GP 2001 - Panis
Looking ahead to this year's visit, things are looking good for the Honda powered teams! BAR's revised aerodynamics package proved to be very effective! More on this later in the article with pictures to highlight differences and additions. Jordan have introduced new suspension components, a new front wing, and a revised hydraulic manifold (the faulty predecessor was the bane of Jordan's challenges for the last year and a half!) in the last few races. With their newfound reliability and improved pace, the Jordans have begun a march up the grid, with Giancarlo Fisichella having taken three fifth place finishes in a row! Way to go Fisi!
Hat Trick of Two Point Finishes for Fisi
Honda, for their part, have fought through the worst parts of the season, with a brand-new engine starting out the year under heavy rev-limits. Continually this season, the Honda powerplants have been the butt of many a jouno-joke. Slowly but surely, Honda has improved the early spec of the RA002E engine to bring it up to speed. It now seems to produce horsepower that's at least on par with the majority of the power units on the grid.
Rumors and press releases had raised hopes for a heavily revised specification for the Canadian Grand Prix. Unfortunately, reliability concerns stemming from lack of testing miles forced Honda to delay the introduction of the "Montreal Spec" engine. The Honda press release for this weekend's GP announced that they will be bringing the new-spec engine to the race for practice and qualifying. We will have to wait and see if this engine is able to help BAR and Jordan continue their drive forward up the grid.
RA002E Exhaust System
The Nurburgring itself is another high-downforce track. With its several slow corners and complexes, it requires good midrange power from the engine, efficient aerodynamics (for speed on its straightaways), and a very well balanced car. So far this season, the Jordans have shown good pace on these kinds of tracks, while the BAR's have lagged behind badly. However, with the major revision to the aero-kit for BAR, it remains to be seen how competitive they will be. The last race, at Montreal, seemed to suit them fairly well; all eyes will certainly be on the revised 004 this weekend as the new package is tested by a much higher-downforce circuit.
BAR's revised package
BAR introduced a new package for Montreal. The revised pieces were: Bargeboards, Sidepods/Engine Covers, Transmission, Diffuser, and Rear Suspension Mounts. In the pictures below these changes are shown in some detail. Notable differences are: The small ramp-shaped "flip ups" at the rear of the sidepods are gone, replaced by more gradual, integrated wings that roll up off the bodyside (note: in my opinion, this is a LONG OVERDUE change!!!). Also, the race cooling exhaust system is a chimney system, much like what Jordan and McLaren use. Other notable differences are the removal of the large bargeboards that have been a fixture of the BAR since its inception and the new bodywork to the side of the exhuast system. The bargeboards MAY make a return for this round, since the track is not as "high speed" as the Canadian circuit (no bargeboards for low drag). The new body work outboard of the exhaust is a welcome addition, as it seems to do a lot to seal the rear wings off from the turbulence coming off the sidepods and rear wheels. The other differences are hard to see and do not show up in the available pictures, but the changed transmission and rear suspension have changed the wheelbase of the 004. Hopefully they've also improved reliability and rear-end grip
We should do well this weekend, with the revised BAR package making its debut at its first high-downforce track. Honda is bringing the new engine for Friday and Saturday, and the Montreal-spec engine for the race. Jordan has shown a great improvement in fortunes in the last few races. The challenge this time around will be to get all the cars to the finish. The weather is supposedly going to be rainy, so it will be important for the drivers to keep the cars pointed straight. Takuma Sato has taken a lot of flak, some of it deserved, for his crashes this season. He'll be doing his best, I'm sure, to keep the EJ12 on track, as he did in Canada (solid drive from Taku there!). Stay tuned, the corner has been turned. It's onward and upward from here, boys!!!
Giancarlo should be the fastest, then the BAR pair, then Taku; once again. I'm not going to make predictions for the actual places on this one, because I really don't know what to expect this weekend! It should be an interesting weekend!
GO TEAM USA!!!!