It's safe to say that the buzz from both the punditry and the fans about this Formula One season has been, development. After the relative developmental paralysis of both the 2008 and 2009 seasons, be it because of uncertainty about the rules, restrictions like KERS and both McLaren's and Ferrari's weak start to the 2009 season. Development was not at the forefront of the discussions for both the media and the Formula One fans.
In 2009, this was particularly interesting because. As there were three different and diverging ways in which to develop a car. KERS, non-KERS, with a double diffuser or without one.
Ross Brawn's design was clearly the class of the field in the early part of the season mainly because of the extra downforce that having a double diffuser gave the BGP001. Even as the team ran out of money as the season went on the Brawn's advantage was great enough to hold back the charging Adrian Newey designed RB5.
The RB5 was the second fastest car on the grid throughout the 2009 season without KERS and without a double diffuser. If the RB6 is a clear evolution of the RB5 with a purpose built double diffuser, imagine what the boys from Milton Keynes could have done if they had the amount of downforce they have this year on last years car.
Now both McLaren and Ferrari were the only teams that stuck to using the Kinetic Energy Recovery System (KERS) throughout the season, while Renault only sometimes used it. The KERS equipped machines seemed to be have less balance and were harder to handle as shown by how much Luca Badoer and Giancarlo Fisichella struggled in the F60 and Kovalainen in the MP4-24 compared to Hamilton. They were never close to competing with either the Brawn or the Red Bulls even as the season came down the stretch.
Both giants of the sport adapted their chassis and the McLaren was able to take a win at high down force circuits like Hungary and Singapore and Raikkonen was able to win the Belgian Grand Prix largely thanks to a lack of downforce and KERS.
Talk of 2009 is important to this conversation, because it also sets up the intriguing developmental discussions of the 2010 which are both similar and largely very different from the 2009 edition. For 2010 the issue is F-Ducts v Blown Diffusers, or low drag v high downforce.
The RB6 has dominated so far this year at the very least in qualifying if not with the outright race "pace." The current technical regulations have been in place for only two years, but this will be the peak of what can be done with a Formula One car under 2009 regulations because the FIA has said it will ban the double diffuser and possibly the blown diffuser.
The RB6 takes the best attribute of the RB5 chassis which was good at almost every circuit in the course of the 2009 season, but especially in low downforce configurations mated with the BGP001 and added even more downforce to that formula by adding a blown diffuser.
While its main rival the McLaren MP4-25 introduced the so called F-Duct, in order to reduce drag during long straights which has resulted in the cars pace in low downforce tracks like Spa, Silverstone and Canada. That is the fight of the 2010 season, Red Bull against McLaren and each will have tracks that fit their cars coming down to the end of the season.
Ferrari and Mercedes are known variables so far this season, with the potential to be fast and no assurance of it and most importantly some very good drivers in their respective stables. However, they haven't proven to be up to par with the RB6 and the MP4-25.
Leaving the month of August and entering into September both the Drivers and Constructors championships are too close too call and a few precious points gained or lost in the next six races will be difference between victory and defeat and the team most capable of affecting the results of races against the top two teams is certain to be Renault and their low downforce configuration
In the six remaining races three will be at notoriously fast and loose circuits where low drag will be more important than high downforce and that is where Robert Kubica and the Renault R30 will become important and play a role of spoiler.
The R30 has no chance of competing with the Red Bulls at Interlagos or Singapore with many high downforce corners and not much place for it to use the new F-duct that was introduced during the Belgian Grand Prix.
However, at Monza, Suzuka and Abu Dabhi where low downforce setups will rule the paddock, the R30 will be able to reproduce some of its earlier results that have exceeded the expectations of people in and around Formula One. At Canada, potentially so after qualifying sixth at Silverstone and last weekend in Spa. Also don't count out Vitaly Petrov who has proved to be capable of some impressive race pace if not with consistency as of yet.
The battle of F-Ducts and Blown Diffusers will undoubtedly be influenced by teams other than the main antagonists in the fight and the new Renault with much competitive spirit and verve-and-vinegar will be more than happy to oblige and mess up the predictable order in the coming months.
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