Mirrors you say? Yes, mirrors! In 2006 Ferrari pioneered the radical and largely infamous outboard mirror concept on their F248, a design feature that in the following years would see almost every team copy. The feature was aimed at reducing drag (by sitting in the wake of the front wheels) and improve airflow to the rear wing, however it was often the cause of many otherwise preventable crashes; think the start of Germany ’09 or turn 1 at last year’s Australian GP.
Now you’ll recall Alonso being turned around in the latter (after turning in on eventual race winner Button), causing him to drop right to the back of the field. Thankfully for him he was able to recover to a highly credible 4th place by the time the chequered flag had fallen, but it wasn’t this that cost him the championship...
Fast forward to the Malaysian Grand Prix a week later and it was Mark Webber who made the most of his risky tyre choice in wet conditions in Q3 to grab pole, with Mercedes’ Rosberg and Vettel ‘s Red Bull sister car not far behind. When the 5 red lights went out the following afternoon it was Vettel who got the better of the front row sitters and shot to the inside of the track. While Webber was still in P1 as he approached his braking mark, the complete lack of visibility his outboard mirrors offered meant he was totally unaware of Vettel being positioned for an easy pass up the inside. As such, Vettel made that pass and cruised to an easy victory ahead of the Australian. Had Webber had mirrors that were actually half useful on his car, then no doubt he would have covered the inside line and seen himself cruise to an easy win. A fact the young German even admitted after the race.
Now while it may seem totally irrelevant with regard to Fernando Alonso’s championship bid, had Mark won the Malaysian Grand Prix with Sebastian coming home in second then the final championship positions would have been as follows:
1st – Fernando Alonso – 252
2nd – Mark Webber – 249
3rd – Sebastian Vettel – 249
Now think back to December 2005 when Joe Italian was chilling out in Maranello, with his feet up on the desk, a pen and paper in hand, having just been entrusted by with the job of designing the mirrors for the following years F1 car. I’m sure he never thought his ‘good’ idea would cost the team a championship now did he...?
With 2011 being the first full season in which outboard mirrors will be banned, Fernando should be feeling pretty confident. Then again, maybe not!