By: Jeremy McMullen
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By: Jeremy McMullen
| After the 2006 season it was widely believed Honda would be Formula One's dark horse for 2007. However, for most of 2007 Honda looked more like the black sheep of the F1 fraternity. In 2006 Honda was competitive, regularly competing with the top teams for the higher championship points. However, in 2007, even the now defunct back-marker team, Spyker, would challenge Honda for positions at the back-end of the field. In fact, for the first half of the season it seemed as though Honda and Spyker were merely a four-car team.
Perhaps the performances were all political. Perhaps Honda was merely trying to make a point. The all-black paint scheme with only the earth painted on it was meant to raise awareness of humanity's need to take action and to take care of the planet. It could have been that Honda's performances were meant to be a metaphor for just how bad things apparently have become here on earth. But whatever the reason was, the fact was Honda was not becoming more competitive like BMW Sauber. The fact was, things went bad and fast. 2008 would not be that year of being on the cusp of being a title contender. 2008 would be, in all respects, a rebuilding year.
It's tough to design a car for the 2008 season though. Some of the parts of the 2007 car were dropped in favor of its older 2006 design. So instead of building upon last year's car, Honda, for all intents and purposes, would basically have to start all over with a totally new design. It becomes even more difficult when the regulations for the 2009 season will require even more all-new designs from each team. So the time Honda has to get the 2008 car up to competitive form is very short, if not impossible.
To be competitive, it all starts with the car. If the car isn't balanced and cannot react well to changing environments then it really doesn't matter who the driver is—the car just won't work. To help provide a balanced car the design team went to work throwing out, adjusting and redesigning aspects on the new car. And when looking at the RA108 there is very little the same between the pokey 2007 chassis.
Affecting many of the changes in the 2008 design besides last year's performance is this year's newest sporting regulations. Gone this year are many driver aids. Traction control is gone. Electronic control of the car has been greatly diminished, and therefore, stability and traction take on a higher priority. What was lost due to traction control had to be made up through downforce and design elements to make the car as stable as possible for the driver. Much of Honda's woes in 2007 were due to stability issues, the car's inability to apply power to the pavement and to efficient control airflow. So Honda had to go to work overcoming their failures with last year's car.
At the team's launch the changes were immediately noticeable. The RA108's nose was substantially different from its 2007 predecessor. The nose itself sits higher. The nose design appears to be a marriage between the higher design that was on the RA106 and the wider pillar placement that was designed into the RA107. Then, when the team tested at Barcelona in April the hood-ornament 'wings' appeared, a design feature that has remained an integral part of the RA108's design much of the season.
Surprisingly, while many of the other teams are implementing full-cascading upper-wing profiles over the nose, Honda has actually simplified its front wing design. Toward the end of last year Honda tried dramatically designed upper wing profiles. Initially, last year's car started out with only partial upper profile wing elements, but this year, the front wing has a simple, rather standard double-deck design that will be contoured and reshaped for each race to maximize downforce and low-drag. The only real addition of 'wing' elements have come out on the endplates.