Tuesday, 24 March 2009

F1 Preview Part 1 - Technical Stuff

With the dawn of another Formula One World Championship season upon us once more, it looks set to be one of the most unpredictable. I am hesitant to say exciting, as F1 often promises much in its pre-season hype, but more often than not fails to deliver excitement as every second Sunday we are treated to a ninety minute parade of cars driving around some featureless autodromes with less overtaking opportunities than on a single track country lane in rural Lincolnshire.

Year after year, the blundering beaks at the F.I.A. endeavour to inject excitement into what is the Blue Riband event of Motorsport by implementing a plethora of new rules and regulations, and this season is no different, with a whole host of technical changes being introduced in the hope of increasing overtaking opportunities and creating closer racing.

Firstly, and perhaps most controversially, is the new points scoring system, which was only finalised ten days ago. Although the points scoring system will remain the same as it has done since 2003, with 10 points for a win, 8 for second etc down to a point for eighth place; the Drivers World Championship will be decided solely on who scores the greatest number of wins. That is to say if, for example, Massa scored 132 points and 6 wins, whereas Hamilton scored 126 points and 7 wins, Hamilton would be crowned champion. The reasoning behind this is to encourage drivers to push for race wins rather than tour round scoring consistent points. The logic sounds promising enough – maybe drivers will take more risks in going for the wins rather than settling for a safe second or third. However, my feeling is that in a field of 20 cars, where little more than half finish the race distance on average, that paying points down to eighth place is rewarding endurance, rather than out and out wheel to wheel racing. Why not revert back to merely paying out the top six, and have points for the win significantly higher than those for second place ? Incidentally, the Constructors Championships will still be decided simply upon the total number of points amassed rather than the number of wins scored.

Now onto the technical changes. Firstly, and in my opinion, a welcome change for 2009, sees the use of slick tyres which had been outlawed since 1998. Once again, tyres will be supplied solely by Bridgestone, and like last year, both soft and hard compound tyres will have to be used in race trim, slicks in theory offer more grip allowing for higher cornering speeds, owing to more rubber being on the road than with the previous grooved tyres. Complex aerodynamic changes have also been introduced, to put it most simply, front wings will be lower and wider, whilst the rear ones will be higher and narrower. The aims of this are, in theory to lower aerodynamic grip, and coupled with the slick tyres, which should increase mechanical grip, will allow for easier wheel to wheel racing which should see cars pull off overtaking manoeuvres more frequently. Another new feature is that drivers will be able to adjust their front wings by up to 6 degrees to allow for aerodynamic change (e.g. to lower downforce on fast straights) but this will be allowed only twice per lap. Quite how this will be implemented and monitored I fail to see, but will certainly listen with interest when such an item is revealed.

The “K.E.R.S.” system has been much talked of, and has caused no end of problems for numerous teams during pre-season testing; and it is thought only one or two teams will take advantage of using it in Australia. The idea of K.E.R.S. is a revolutionary one, which is a regenerative braking device, which stores some of the cars kinetic energy, which would normally be diffused as heat under braking (i.e. when you see the carbon brake discs glowing red hot). The recovered energy will be stored in a capacitor, battery or mechanically on a flywheel. Ingeniously, this stored power will be able to be used as an incremental boost under acceleration, controlled by the driver, giving an increase of around 80BHP for a regulated six seconds.

There is much less development and testing time at the teams disposal this season, gone are the three and four day tests at the likes of Barcelona, Monza and Jerez, in favour of eight days testing on straight airfields. Also severely restricted is the use of wind tunnels, and engines must last now for three races instead of two (otherwise grid penalties will be imposed). Also, drivers are limited to using no more than eight engines in total throughout the season, to aid their reliability, their RPM has been reduced from 19,000 to 18,000.

From a purely personal perspective, I am delighted that terrestrial coverage of F1 will revert to the BBC. No more commercials in the middle of races ! My hopes for the season are that it will be fair rather than farce; and that races are settled on the track and not in the court room.

Coming soon will be my guide to teams and drivers taking part this season; along with my tips for the titles and for the Australian Grand Prix, which is the opening round, this Sunday 29th March.

Thanks For Reading,
Mountain Man

1 comment:

Will Walsh said...

very interesting Tim-good work. Look forward to part 2