Posts Tagged ‘regulations’

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:

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:

Mercedes drop their Monaco appeal

May 18th, 2010 No comments

In a statement released today, Mercedes have announced that “in the best interests of the sport” they will not be appealing the decision of the stewards at the Monaco Grand Prix to hand Michael Schumacher a 20 second penalty.

On Sunday, the stewards declared that Schumcher’s opportunistic pass of Fernando Alonso after the safety car had pulled into the pits on the final lap was in breach of article 40.13 of the sporting regulations.

Section 40 deals with the rules for safety cars and here is what that particular rule says:

If the race ends whilst the safety car is deployed it will enter the pit lane at the end of the last lap and the cars will take the chequered flag as normal without overtaking.

The confusion over the interpretation of that single sentence seems to come from the opening words: “If the race ends whilst the safety car is deployed”.

Here is what Mercedes felt happened:

MERCEDES GP PETRONAS were fully aware of article 40.13 which states that no overtaking is permitted if the race finishes under safety car conditions. However we believed that the combination of the race control messages ‘Safety Car in this lap’ and ‘Track Clear’ and the green flags and lights shown by the marshals after safety car line one indicated that the race was not finishing under the safety car and all drivers were free to race.

I can see how both sides could have come to different conclusions about this (although the ‘safety car in’ message and the green flags are pretty persuasive) but I’m a little disappointed Schumacher was penalised. I thought it was a gutsy move and a flash of the old Schumacher cunning that some have started to think has vanished.

I would also have hoped that Damon Hill’s influence might have swayed the decision in Michael’s favour. I don’t seriously think Hill would maliciously penalise Michael as some have stupidly suggested and I would have hoped the racer in Damon would have appreciated the move.

In fact Hill has voiced concern that the role of the driver on the stewards panel should not be to interpret the rules but merely to offer a driver’s opinion of any racing incident.

Mercedes seem to have accepted that Formula One can do without results being changed by a court after the race but they have scheduled it for discussion at the next Sporting Working Group and I wouldn’t be surprised if we saw the rule clarified to support the stewards decision.

My own view is this: unless a move is blatantly unsafe or against the rules then drivers should be given the benefit of the doubt and any overtaking should be encouraged.

Categories: Opinion Tags: , ,

What’s new in 2010?

February 15th, 2010 4 comments

2009 saw one of the biggest shakeups in the Formula One regulations for many years. New aerodynamic rules changed the shape of the cars dramatically. Slicks made a return after ten years of running on grooved tyres. KERS was introduced along with driver-adjustable bodywork.

Some teams like Brawn GP and Red Bull adapted quickly to the new regulations. Others like Ferrari and McLaren took a while to return to their winning ways.

There are not as many changes for 2010 but some are just as significant.

Perhaps the biggest change is the ban on refuelling. Mid-race refuelling is only a relatively recent tradition, having been re-introduced to the sport in 1994. I’m reserving judgement on this change until we see how the races play out. On the one hand I think refuelling can add excitement to a pit-stop (especially when they get it wrong) and it can also introduce an element of strategy to the race. On the other hand, drivers will still need to stop to change tyres at least once and it may well introduce an exciting new aspect to the race as drivers struggle with a heavy car off the line and also have to manage their tyre wear throughout the race.

We will also see some fantastically fast stops. Who will be the first team to break 3 seconds for a pit stop this year?

The cars will remain basically the same in 2010 although most have grown to accomodate the larger fuel cell. KERS is gone as are those ugly wheel covers but the driver adjustable flaps remain. It would be nice to have some kind of onboard graphic to see when the driver is actually using these as at the moment they really add very little from the viewer’s point of view.

The other big change is the points system. Last year Bernie Ecclestone wanted to introduce a medals scheme to encourage drivers to go for wins instead of points. Thankfully that didn’t come to pass but in 2010 the points system has been modified to give greater emphasis on winning a race. The new points system for both Drivers’ and Constructors’ titles is now like this:

1st : 25 points
2nd : 18 points
3rd : 15 points
4th : 12 points
5th : 10 points
6th : 8 points
7th : 6 points
8th : 4 points
9th : 2 points
10th : 1 point

With 26 cars (hopefully) and four World Champions on the grid, 2010 is shaping up to be one hell of a season. It all kicks off in less than a month in Bahrain.

Can’t wait!

Image: Mercedes GP

Categories: 2010 Season Tags:

Wheel covers to be banned in 2010

October 9th, 2009 No comments

David Coulthard's brakes glow red, China, 2008Along with KERS, it seems the teams have agreed to ban wheel covers for 2010.

This is a good thing!

Extended rim shields first started to be used on the rear wheels in 2006 and were designed to increase brake cooling and reduce turbulence.

In 2007 Ferrari added covers to the front wheels of their F2007. These front rims or ‘spinners’ were different from the rear rims in that they were designed to direct airflow underneath the car to the diffuser and so increase downforce.

Williams’s technical director, Sam Michael, has said that the wheel covers can have “quite an adverse effect on the following car” and this is no doubt the reason behind the ban.

Personally, I think there is an even better reason for banning them. They look awful.

Wheel covers look bad on road cars and they look even worse on racing cars. At least Ferrari painted theirs to look like the wheels they were covering. Those fluorescent yellow things on the Brawn cars make me want to claw out my eyes.

Image: Red Bull

Categories: Cars Tags: