After COTA things were looking pretty good. Aston, Porsche and Ferrari could all challenge for the victory. The Ford was fast but struggled over a race distance.
Interestingly, the system decided that Fuji required no adjustments. I think we can all agree that the top 3 should be satisfied, but Ford might be a little miffed at that decision.
There’s not much we can take from the Fuji results, as the weekend was one of those classic Japanese washouts.
Understandably the system didn’t make any changes to the BoP from the Fuji results. WEC lined up in Shanghai with the same BoP as it did at COTA and Fuji.
Shanghai is an interesting one. The top 4 on the grid was a mirror of the bottom 4 on the grid. Aston top and last, Porsche second and second last, etc. Is the Auto-BoP getting to the point where the individual teams performance is having a greater effect than the balancing system?
The race was the closest so far. The #92 Porsche retired after an incident, but was comfortable in the pack when that happened. Every car finished within 1min 50 seconds of the leader.
Aston Martin struggled the most in the race, even after taking pole in qualifying. But realistically the gap was not that large. 110 seconds after 6 hours is around 12 seconds per hour.
Are Aston struggling due to the age of the car? Is it struggling with things during a race that the new cars aren’t? For example, is the Aston harder on its tyres? It certainly appears to be, especially on the high wear Shanghai circuit. Is that even something the BoP could address?
The final round of the year at Bahrain did see a BoP Change.
- Porsche +2 kg
- Ferrari +2 kg
- Ford + 2kg
- Aston Martin -5 kg, +0.2 mm restrictor
Things are now balanced enough that it’s pretty easy to see why the changes are being made. The Aston Martin gets a weight break of 5 kg, whilst everyone else gets 2 kg heavier. Is this to counter the Aston Martins high tyre wear?
The gaps in the race are not representative of the actual gaps due to the field being lapped by the overall leader towards the end of the race. The gap between the 3rd place #67 Ford and the 6th place #97 Aston Martin was around 72 seconds.
Although Ferrari appeared to have an advantage at Bahrain, the biggest loser was Aston Martin. Despite gaining power and losing weight, they just weren’t able to challenge the other cars. Aston consistently run strong in qualifying, proving the car has pace. But it’s a completely different story in the race, and they simply cannot compete with the newer cars.
Conclusion – Did it work?
It’s safe to say, yes it did. When you look all the way back to Silverstone and Spa, the gaps in the GTE field were quite large at times. The Aston Martin especially was struggling – sometimes finishing 2-3 laps down. This gap shrunk significantly by the end of the season, and whilst the Aston Martin was still struggling, it was closer to the field.
What Aston Martin shows is that BoP is far more complex than what many people think it is. The Vantage was given significant performance breaks throughout the season, and took several strong pole positions because of this. But those qualifying performances rarely translated into race pace, and the car dropped down the order.
This sort of performance drop off suggests that the car doesn’t take care of its tyres as well as the others. Impressively, the Auto-BoP algorithm seemed to notice this and gave the Aston a weight break, and added weight to the other cars. From that we can be happy knowing that the Auto-BoP isn’t simply looking at fastest lap times.
I think we can all agree that the Aston Martin Vantage is getting a bit long in the tooth. It’s the oldest car on the grid by a significant margin, and it’s clear that the other cars now have advantages that the BoP system cannot realistically balance.
The other car that had a rough time was the Ford GT. It didn’t struggle as much as the Aston, but it didn’t quite have the performance to match the Porsche and Ferrari. However there’s more to the story than that. Ford were perhaps the unluckiest team on the grid and had reliability and door issues at various points.
New cars for the Super Season
One of the reasons we did these articles is to show how much the Balance of Performance in WEC has improved over the years. 2016 was a low point, but by 2017 the ACO had designed and implemented a brand new system and eliminated the problems.
2018 will see 2 brand new cars introduced to the WEC grid – the new Aston Martin Vantage and the BMW M8. Both of these are new front engined cars, so it will be interesting to see how the Auto-BoP copes with balancing new front engined cars with new mid engined cars.