IIRC the first half of 2012 - when Webber was more competitive and it seemed more comfortable with the RB8 than Seb - was the same as 2010? In that car was trickier as the downforce wasn't consistent (progressive might be more the better word?) especially when off throttle, which was why Seb tried the pre-season testing version of the exhaust setup (China?) as it gave a more consistent balance - and Seb more confidence - even though it was ultimately the slower setup?
FWIW I think Seb likes a mobile rear as long as he knows that it will stick ie. behaves in a consistent manner. But what I got from early 2012 was that rear downforce wasn't consistent which didn't give Seb confidence in how the car was going to behave and therefore unlock the speed which we know he can bring...
I will make it short as I have to go.
That story in 2010 never convinced me for quite simple reasons. We all know that Seb was clearly the faster guy in the first half of 2010 just as he was in the second one. We don't exactly now when which version of the engine mapping was introduced, and on top of that the RB6 had the exhaust entering into the DD tunnels above the diffusor, which wasn't quite as aggressive and direct as the RB7 path. IIRC JA did wrote that the 'first' engine mapping use was around Barcelona. Now Mark is traditionally strong in Barcelona (S3!) and in Monaco and Seb had some serious car troubles in Spain as well as that famous crack in the Chassis. In Turkey Seb was faster again. It is in my opinion impossible to make up a big theory based on such dubious and limited information.
AMuS made are a mess of their 2012 story but in this case we have a lot more data and direct information to work with even if those Pirellis with their very short window make the reading also very difficult. Still this question in their interview was great:
Auto wurde immer besser
Red Bull-Technikchef Adrian Newey brauchte eine halbe Saison, bis er aus dem RB8 wieder ein Auto gemacht hat, das regelmäßig Rennen gewinnen konnte. Davon profitierte hauptsächlich Vettel. Der Champion erklärt warum: "Ich habe mich einfach wohler im Auto gefühlt. Die Balance passte besser. Am Anfang hat das nicht so zusammengepasst. Das hat uns vor allem in der Qualifikation Probleme bereitet. Im Rennen bügelt sich viel aus. Auch wenn du nicht hundertprozentig happy bist, kriegst du noch ein gutes Rennen hin. Deshalb waren wir im Rennen immer konkurrenzfähig. Ich war lange nicht glücklich mit dem neuen Auspuff, obwohl der mehr Abtrieb bringt als die alte Version, die ich in China gefahren bin. Mit den neuen Auspuff konnte ich mit dem Auto nicht so spielen wie ich wollte, wie es für meinen Fahrstil passt. Ich nehme den Speed am Kurveneingang mit. Mark ist besser am Kurvenausgang. Erst die letzte Coanda-Lösung war näher an dem dran, was wir letztes Jahr hatten."
"I just felt more comfortable in the car ," Vettel explained.
"The balance was better for me than it was at the beginning, which caused problems especially in qualifying. In the race you can mend a lot. Even if you are not a 100% happy you can make a good race. For that reason we always have been competitive in the race. For a long time I was not happy with the exhaust, even though it brought more downforce than the old version. I couldn’t play with the car the way I wanted, to fit my driving style. I get my speed in the corners in the entry, while Mark is better at the exit. Only the last ’Coanda’-solution got me close to what we had last year," added Vettel.
Note that he doesn't say that Mark was better and in race pace he certainly wasn't. In qualifying, when it is more about pure pace and less about racecraft and where the engine maps are the most aggressive Mark could on average pull out faster laps. If we add in what Brawn said the following seems quite certain:
a) The Melbourne spec RB8 had troubles to consistently feed the tunnels which werer there to negate the drawbacks of the long ramp and ruined cokebottle. It was not progressive in the entry phase under braking where Seb gets his speed but behaved well at the exit where Mark does as under full throttle the long-ramped RB8 got a lot of downforce. 'Evil tongues' might call it a 'Webber'-spec.
b) From Melbourne onwards RBR worked very hard to better the strenghts and lessen the weak points of their rather unique approach. You had various minor tweaks of the exhaust package until we saw the big Valencia update, arguably best named V3.0. We saw for the first times a much more progressively shaped sidepod - tunnel inlet, new outlet positions and the tunnel seperation. At Silverstone the bulge was more marked and we could spot the the resonator chamber which might have been used before. Korea was a logical evolution, with a shorter, steeper ramp resulting in a smoother and pronounced coke-bottle. The RB9 is another step.
c) The McLaren approach, copied by almost all the other teams seems like the perfect fit for Seb as it has nowhere near those problems at the entry of the corner. So RBR developed a rare solution which did nicely counter the strenghts of their back-to-back WDC while playing to the strenghts of his teammate.
Of course the late RB8 conserved the bias towards the exit/acceleration phase compared the McLaren solution, at least according to Brawn words. Mark was indeed very competitive in Q3, with starts and race craft making once again the difference in points. And as Mark honestly stated the updates did not harm him, they made the car faster.
Edited by H2H, 17 February 2013 - 09:01.