Wednesday, 10 March 2010

F1 2010 Is Go !

Once again, as the nights get longer, and the temperature rises, up and down the country; enthusiasts, fans and those who have simply eaten too much roast beef and Yorkshire Pudding will be spending every second Sunday for the next eight months in front of the television, watching the twists, turns and tribunals of a new Formula One season unfold. As always, the series will no doubt, fail to live up to the pre-season hype, but surely, this year, there is more reason than ever to anticipate it with a little more excitement than one would normally reserve for such an occasion. For one, McLaren has two British World Champions spear-heading their campaign; with reigning drivers champion Jenson Button joining 2008 victor Lewis Hamilton. There are several new teams - more cars on the grid surely equals a little more excitement, if not incidents ! And of course, love him or loathe him, the undoubted king of Formula One in modern times, with a record seven drivers titles to his name, and after a three year "retirement" Michael Schumacher drives for "Mercedes G.P." (formerly known as "Brawn G.P."; who are the reigning Constructors Champions).

As with last seasons preview, I will be writing this item in two distinct parts. The first (which you are reading now) will deal with the technical changes and new rulings which have been implemented in time for the forthcoming season. Part two will deal with the team and driver line ups and my predictions for the year ahead, which should be online here tomorrow (Thursday). Watch out prior to Grand Prix weekends, where I will endeavour to share my tips for the top (of the podium !).

As ever, there are a plethora of new rules and regulations in place in the hope of glossing over "grey areas" in the rulebook, which were exposed numerous times last season, and also being implemented, as ever, in the hope that they will make the racing closer and more entertaining. The most obvious change to the casual observer will be that there will no longer be refuelling stops now (which were reintroduced at the beginning of the 1994 season), so there will be less of an emphasis on pit stop strategy, with drivers merely using the pit lane on race day to change tyres and repair minor damage such as broken wings. Expect to see the lightning-fast pitstops akin to those of the late 1980's - the heyday of F.1 in my opinion. The onus this year, as a result, will be for drivers to conserve their tyres rather than abuse them, as there will be far fewer opportunities to change them; this is bound to be a big deciding factor in many races where tyre wear is heavy. Clearly, this will favour sympathetic drivers with experience, rather than the devil may care, hell for leather attitude of the over-enthusiastic rookie. The "out-laps" (first lap on circuit following a pitstop) will also prove interesting, as restrictions over the use and design of tyre warmers come into play, meaning the overall outside area of the tyres will not be up to temperature (particularly the walls), in theory this should lead to some enthusiastic overtaking manouevres should two cars be in close proximity on track during the pitstop windows.

Testing, both in-season and in the winter pre-season, has been cut back even further this year, following huge restrictions which were imposed last year. Teams are now only allowed six days of aerodynamic testing (reduced from eight days in 2009) - and in turn, one day of testing may be substituted for a 24 hour slot in a wind tunnel. This marks a vast downturn of time alloted for wind tunnel and circuit testing in previous campaigns - a move made in an attempt to close the gap between teams at either end of the spectrum in terms of ability, potential and above all - finance. However, as was seen last year, particularly with Toro Rosso and Renault, in the interests of driver safety, should a substitute driver be required mid season, with no prior F.1 experience; they will be permitted to have one day of testing at a "non-calendar" circuit in order to familiarise themselves with the car. This is a sensible move, which can only prove to be beneficial to everyone involved in the sport.

There are also several other regulation changes, which the more involved fans will be more interested in (and no doubt can be enjoyed elsewhere in more detail), but to touch on these, they include: cars getting away slowly on the formation (parade) lap having to start from the pit lane rather than their designated grid slot; laps run behind the safety car having to be slower than a designated "base time"; further and harsher grid penalties for drivers who use more than their allocation of engines (two) in a race weekend; and equal allocation of pit and paddock space for ALL teams, rather than showing bias towards the more prestigious marques, which has been encountered in previous years. There is also set to be more consistency and fairness in how time penalties will be awarded and implemented during and after races, should they be required.

Both for the casual observer, and for those who like to put a few quid on the outcome of the championships, it is worth noting that there will be a new points structure in place for the forthcoming season. A statement in Winter 2009 from the FIA read:

"Due to the expanded grid of 13 teams, and further to the recommendation of the F.1 Commission, a new points system will be in place for the 2010 season."

Points will now be paid out down to tenth place in the following denominations:

25 - 18 - 15 - 12 - 10 - 8 - 6 -4 - 2 - 1

F.1 bosses believe that with such a sizable gap between first and second (in 2009, first place was awarded ten points and second gained 8), there will be more of a "race to win" incentive. It is my opinion, that should we have a dominant team in the early part of the season (in a similar mould to Brawn G.P. in 2009), then a succession of one-two finishes for their cars could see them extremely difficult, verging on impossible, to catch in the latter part of the year.

By no means is this an exhaustive feature - in a sport of constant evolution and ever changing innovation, I have barely scratched the surface in terms of technical changes. What I have (hopefully) covered here is the most important elements for the casual observer of F.1, and if this proves useful to anyone thinking of jumping in and having a punt on the championship, or indeed the opening race on Sunday 14th March in Bahrain, then I wish you good luck. The next installment, coming tomorrow, will detail how the teams line up, and my thoughts of what is to be a long (and with a stroke of luck) enjoyable rather than arduous, season.

Thanks for reading,
Mountain Man


moDtheGod said...

Ridic points system, that. I agree with you on the face of it. Seems to offer more possibilities for controversial "team tactics" too.

Hadn't heard about the pit stop thing. That'll shake things up. When I used to have an interest in F1, back in the 90s, pit stops were basically the be all and end all.

Looking forward to the next part. Make your tips better this year please :D

Mountain Man said...

Cheers Dom.

On with the second part this afternoon, it will almost certainly be later this evening when it is up and online. Trying to squeeze a few useful stats in, without making full on profiles.

The copy/paste function is still not working btw. Never mind, back to it !

moDtheGod said...

It's working fine for me.. :-\