On tap for this week:
- The Hamilton-Rosberg rivalry in the Formula One series
- Mercedes technological edge
- Quote of the week: Why ignore the cost issue?
- Will F1 change the rules to boost Ferrari et al?
As Mercedes drivers Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg vie for the Formula One championship, they refuse to be at each other's throats off the track as they battle alone at the front on it.
There were several of tense moments in Sunday's Bahrain Grand Prix when Hamilton pushed his teammate wide and onto the runoff area as Rosberg tried to pass, but such hard driving tactics don't seem to damage their friendly relationship.
When Hamilton emerged victorious from his car in the Parc Fermé, Rosberg gave him a huge bear hug and playfully sparred with his teammate before celebrating together with the rest of the Mercedes crew.
Rather than spurring animosity, fighting so hard on track only brought back great memories of childhood, Hamilton said.
"I was just saying to [Nico] today," Hamilton said after the race, "in karting – our first race together – he was leading the whole way and in the last lap I overtook him and won the race. I thought today for sure he's going to do the same to me, and get me back. That's what was going through my head."
Tech Edge: How fast is the 2014 Mercedes? Following a safety car period late in the Bahrain Grand Prix that eliminated fuel concerns, the pair of Silver Arrows stretched their legs for the final 10 laps. And stretch they did. In a short 10 laps, Hamilton and Rosberg pulled out a 23-second gap on the rest by the chequered flag.
Just three races into the 2014 season, the Mercedes duo look to be the only drivers that have a chance at the 2014 title. The motor has also helped Mercedes engine customers, especially perennial mid-field team Force India, which moved into second overall in constructor's points after Sunday's Bahrain Grand Prix ahead of powerhouses McLaren, Red Bull, and Ferrari.
Reports filtering out of the paddock indicate that Mercedes is using an ingenuous split-turbo design to make its engine more efficient and smaller, which helps boost power output and improve aerodynamics.
The system apparently uses a long shaft that runs from the turbine at the back where the exhaust comes out between the cylinders to the intake turbine at the front of the engine. This means that unlike conventional turbo systems, the hot gases from the exhaust that spin the turbine at the rear don't heat the air flowing into the 1.6-litre V6 Mercedes engine.
Without the exhaust heating, the air goes in cool without having to be filtered through a big intercooler to lower its temperature. With a traditional turbo, the turbines sit next to each other and require a complex system to cool the air before it gets pushed into the engine.
The system produces up to 50 additional horsepower compared to its rivals.
The bad news for the rest of the field is that with a freeze in place on engine development, none of the other two motor makers – Ferrari and Renault – can try Mercedes' clever design until 2015. Instead, they must rely on optimizing the motors they have, which means they'll have their work cut out for them if they hope to close the gap to the Silver Arrows this year.
Quote of the Week:
"I have found it disappointing that there are so many negative comments about the new formula. I think the racing could improve but I don't think that's to do with power units and things like that. I think there are lots of other things. The tires have changed very significantly this year, but I think the thing that Formula One really needs to face up to is costs. It is costs that is going to kill Formula One and that should be the most important thing on our agenda right now."
– Williams chief technical officer, Pat Symonds, in the wake of comments by Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile president Jean Todt that teams won't be amenable to a $225-million spending cap.
By the Numbers: Ferrari chairman Luca di Montezemolo made the rounds in the paddock during the Bahrain weekend talking about F1 racers becoming more like taxi drivers. He's part of a move to shorten the grand prix races and or allow an additional 10 kilograms of gas into the tanks for races to ensure the drivers aren't limited by fuel economy, something that could extend Mercedes' advantage and be devastating for F1.
The Last Word: With a long history of ignoring rules or changing them mid-stream to help appease its most powerful teams – often at the expense of the sport – it's entirely possible that F1 will up the fuel amount as di Montezemolo wants or even try to force changes to the engine regulations to help the others catch Mercedes.
A decade ago, the Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile caved to Ferrari pressure and changed the way it measured the tires during the 2003 season, which handed the world championship to its driver Michael Schumacher. In that year, Ferrari used Bridgestone tires while his two main rivals — Williams driver Juan Pablo Montoya and Kimi Räikkönen of McLaren — were on Michelins and looked to be poised to unseat Schumacher as reigning champ.
Despite the teams using the same tires for almost two seasons, FIA changed the rule and forced Michelin to redesign its rubber. Schumacher went on to win two of the final three races and take the championship.
Three years later, the FIA was at it again, banning mass dampers with seven races left in the 2006 season even though they had been deemed legal for almost a year. It was a huge blow to the Renault team and its challenger Fernando Alonso, who had won six of the first 11 races that year and held a 17-point lead over Ferrari's Michael Schumacher when the ban was implemented.
Alonso managed only one more win in his mass damper-less Renault while Schumacher scored three victories in the last seven starts. In the end, a blown engine in the penultimate race in Japan sank Schumacher's chances of taking an eighth title, but he was only in that position thanks to the helping hand from the sport's governing body.
This story has been updated from an earlier online version.