Archive for June, 2010

Enough already?

June 29th, 2010 No comments

2009 saw the biggest change in regulations in Formula One for many years. This was largely in response to the perceived need to “improve the specatacle” of Formula One. There was a general feeling that overtaking had become so hard that it was making the sport boring.

There is a possibility that much of this impression of F1 being boring stems from the “good old days” point of view; that things are never as good as they used to be. I am not so sure that the amount of overtaking in Formula One has really declined that much in the last 20 years, however, I think the regulation changes have, in general, been a success. 2009 was a fantastic season and 2010 is shaping up to be even better.

A number of changes for 2011 were announced in Geneva last week, one of which was clearly designed to increase overtaking. This moveable rear wing regulation has caused quite a bit of controversy with some drivers saying it will be dangerous and others saying it will kill defensive driving and reduce the skill required to pass.

After the Canadian Grand Prix there have also been calls for Pirelli, the tyre supplier for 2011, to provide tyres of a more extreme range of durability.

I am starting to wonder if enough is enough. Apart from Bahrain, this season has seen some fantastic racing at every Grand Prix, even traditionally boring circuits like Barcelona and Valencia. I am not convinced the rules need any further messing with.

McLaren boss Martin Whitmarsh expressed a similar view:

I think we have a great show, we should be careful not to spoil it, but we should always be thinking about how we create some entertainment. Both Lewis and Jenson have showed this year that you can overtake in F1 cars.

We like talking about improving the show. The show has been fantastic this year. We must not keep this obsession with improving the show.

Image: Red Bull

Categories: Opinion Tags:

Kovalainen gives Webber’s Red Bull wings

June 28th, 2010 No comments

The European Grand Prix produced the most entertaining race yet seen on the relatively new circuit as Sebastian Vettel drove practically unchallenged to his second victory of the season.

On a track where we have come to expect a procession, Sunday’s race provided plenty of dramatic moments. None more so than when Mark Webber’s Red Bull was launched into the air after ploughing into the back of Heikki Kovalainen’s Lotus.

It is testament to the safety of modern Formula One that Webber (and Kovalainen) were able to walk away unhurt from such a massive shunt but after the incident many seemed to hold Heikki responsible; they felt he should have moved over to let Mark through.

Webber later wrote on his website:

I understand as well as anyone that F1 isn’t a charity event; you have to fight for every position – but not when you’re five seconds off the pace and you have one of the quickest cars in the pack behind you.  I mean, how long was Heikki going to stay ahead of me? Another 15 seconds? He must be asking himself whether it was worth it.

Webber’s boss, Christian Horner, also held Mark completely blameless, as did David Coulthard. However, I agree with Eddie Jordan and Lotus technical chief Mike Gascoyne. The only time a car should move over and allow another car to pass is when they are being lapped. It doesn’t matter if a car is 5 or 10 seconds slower, it is up to the attacking driver to pass safely.

Kovalainen was not being lapped, and while there are rules about how you can defend your position there are no rules saying you should pull over whenever a faster car is behind you. It seems like Webber was just caught by surprise at how early the Lotus had to brake for the corner.

As Gascoyne said:

Should a Force India be letting a McLaren past simple because its faster? Where do you draw the line? It is a motor race, isn’t it?

Categories: 2010 Season Tags: ,

Adjustable rear wings and a new tyre supplier for 2011

June 23rd, 2010 No comments

In a meeting today, the FIA World Motor Sport Council made a number of decision that will affect the Formula One Championship in 2011.

Pirelli was announced as the single tyre supplier for three years starting in 2011. This won’t be the Italian company’s first time in Formula One, having last competed in 1991. Pirelli are also the official supplier for the World Rally Championship.

The minimum car weight has been raised from 620kg to 640kg. Perhaps to allow for the use of KERS.

A number of clarifications have also been added that are clearly targeted at recent events.

For Lewis Hamilton’s memorable qualifying for the Canadian Grand Prix:

With immediate effect, if a sample of fuel is required after a practice session the car concerned must have first been driven back to the pits under its own power.

And for Michael Schumacher’s creative overtaking of Fernando Alonso at Monaco:

With immediate effect, no car may overtake until it has passed the first safety car line for the first time when the safety car is returning to the pits. However, if the safety car is still deployed at the beginning of the last lap, or is deployed during the last lap, it will enter the pit lane at the end of the lap and the cars will take the chequered flag as normal without overtaking.

And for Lewis Hamilton’s “over-exuberant” off-track driving in Australia:

Competitors at FIA events must act as ambassadors for the sport, be aware their conduct on the road must be exemplary and respect road safety rules. The World Council agreed that the International Sporting Code be examined to ensure the Federation’s overall objectives and, in particular, its commitment to road safety, are upheld.

The F-ducts, first introduced and used to great effect this year by McLaren will be banned from 2011:

With the exception of the parts necessary for the driver adjustable bodywork, any car system, device or procedure which uses driver movement as a means of altering the aerodynamic characteristics of the car is prohibited from 2011.

Note, however, that this last point refers to an interesting new provision for adjustable bodywork:

From 2011, adjustable bodywork may be activated by the driver at any time prior to the start of the race and, for the sole purpose of improving overtaking opportunities during the race, after the driver has completed two laps. The driver may only activate the adjustable bodywork in the race when he has been notified via the control electronics that it is enabled. It will only be enabled if the driver is less than one second behind another at any of the pre-determined positions around each circuit. The system will be disabled the first time the driver uses the brakes after the system has been activated.

This is clearly an attempt to improve the ability of a car running close behind another to overtake. It sounds like a workable and interesting solution although we must remember the adjustable front wing was also designed for this and had little to no effect.

While I have greater hope for this new rule  I think we need to be careful about placing too much emphasis on aerodynamics and look at what made Canada such a thrilling race – tyres. It will be up to Pirelli to prove they can not only supply tyres that are workable but can also add to the spectacle of the race itself.

Perhaps taking onboard Luca di Montezemolo’s complaining about the new teams, there will also be a new 107% qualifying rule:

From 2011, any driver whose best qualifying lap exceeds 107% of the fastest Q1 qualifying time will not be allowed to take part in the race. Under exceptional circumstances, however, which may include setting a suitable lap time in a free practice session, the stewards may permit the car to start the race. Should there be more than one driver accepted in this manner, the grid order will be determined by the stewards.

Image: Pirelli

Categories: 2011 Season Tags:

BBC F1 video montages

June 22nd, 2010 No comments

Since taking over from ITV last year, the BBC’s Formula One coverage has just gotten better and better.

I love the fact that every practice, qualifying and race session is available on the web and the red button. I do miss James Allen’s commentary, but on the whole, the BBC team is first rate. The 5 Live commentary for the practice sessions is also really good, especially Anthony Davidson (although I’d rather see him back on the track).

One of the things I look forward to each race weekend is the little video montages that the BBC put together. They are pure, bite-sized pieces of F1 goodness.

Just take a look at this one from Turkey commemorating 800 races for the Scuderia.

Categories: Opinion Tags: ,