Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Formula1 2011 - Rule changes

This year the formula of Formula 1 changes quite a bit.

The biggest change are the Pirelli tyres that are all set to spice it up with their infamous quality of wearing much faster than last years Bridgestones. Hamilton and Alonso think the tyres would mean that the drivers cant push as hard as they have been able to in the past, but it should make for some interesting racing. We surely want more than the customary single pitstop that became the norm at most races last year.

It was the teams that asked for the tires to be faster wearing than the Bridgestones were last year, and we will have to see how they perform in a race situation to see how wrong or right Pirelli got it. The outcome of the races are going to depend on how much each driver pushes their tyres while conserving them for the longest time. The fastest will not necessarily win and that is going to provide quite a few surprises on the podium at each race. Jensons smooth driving will increase his odds of a better result when compared to his teammate, with Hamiltons wring-the-car-by-its-neck style, not necessarily being the ideal way to go with the Pirellis.

They were hoping to have the first race in Bahrain, as they expected the tyres to perform better in the hotter temperatures and have blamed the excessive wear of their tyres in testing on the cold weather in Spain through February and the first week of March.

Picture Courtesy -
The logo on the tyres will have colour codes for viewers to differentiate from the various compounds : Wets - Orange, Intermediates - Light Blue, Super Softs - Red, Softs - Yellow, Mediums - White and Hards - Silver.

The reintroduction of KERS (Kinetic Energy Recovery System) after a break of 1 year should satisfy some sections that believe that F1 has not been seen as doing anything in moving development of greener technology. The systems have been improved since their inception in 2009, with them being made lighter and more compact, which allows for better weight distribution and packaging. Ferrari and Mercedes have the most advanced system and had a pretty reliable system by the end of 2009. It was Ferrari's KERS that allowed Kimi to overtake Fisichella, in the KERS-less Force India, at Spa and take their only win of 2009.

Renault also ran their KERS in 2009 and should not be too far behind the development race of the system. They would be the one's providing the current World Champions, Red Bull, with the KERS for this year, and Cristian Horner and his boys will definitely want a competitive package in their bid to defend their world titles.

Williams have had some trouble with their unit during testing, but seemed to have ironed out all the kinks in their systems and they are go for Australia. The smaller teams will be doing without the systems, though Force India, Toro Rosso and Sauber should get good deals from Mercedes and Ferrari, being that they buy their power plants from them. Team Lotus, Virgin and HRT are going to ensure they can run their cars properly on gasoline, before they invest in the KERS.

With the removal of the adjustable front wing from 2010 has come the most controversial change this year - The DRS (Drag Reduction System) or the adjustable Rear Wing. The system, works by allowing the driver to electronically change the angle of one of the plates on the rear wing at certain predetermined points on the track, thereby stalling the rear wing. This has been implemented on a suggestion by FOTA to increase the chances of overtaking at specific points on the track, when the car following is 1 second behind the car in front. The system can only be used after the first 2 laps, and cannot be used on restarts behind a saftey car. The driver of the car behind will be notified via control electronics when he is in a postion to use the device and it will be deactivated the first time the driver applies the brakes after activating the system.

The FIA plans to review the use of the system and will tweak the rules governing the system as they go along, to ensure that the purpose is met. The introduction of this rule continues to be strongly debated, and I feel that it unfairly impedes the driver in the front. I mean, he has qualified ahead of another guy because he was faster, and the guy behind has the opportunity to overtake and a better chance of actually pulling the move off, solely because he was slower. Shouldnt the guy in front be allowed to have the same opportunity to defend his position.

But, then again, through the last decade, the driver in front has had the advantage of the dirty air behind his car not allowing a potentially faster car to get close enough to overtake, so this may just help level the field and allow more overtaking - But the jury is still out and it will take a few races before we can see if the system will work or not. Malaysia and China with their long straights should suit the system better than tracks like Melbourne, so we might have to wait a couple of weeks longer.

The FIA have also reintroduced the 107% qualifying rule, where any driver lapping the track 107% slower than the leader will not be allowed to start the race.

Schumachers last lap move on Alonso, at Monaco, has pushed the FIA to clarify that there can be no passing on the last lap if the race finishes under safety car conditions, even if the saftey car comes in at the end of the last lap. But a driver can overtake from the line where the safety car enters the pits during the course of the race.

Formula1's cost saving ideologue has not been forgotten, and gearboxes are supposed to last for five races this year instead of the four races that was allowed last year.
An additional wheel tether is to be added to ensure that the wheels do not break off in the event of an accident as the single tether has not been as effective as assumed.

Mechanics of teams are not allowed onto the circuit between midnight and 6 AM, when practice starts at 10 AM, while they will not be allowed between 1 AM and 7 AM when practice is scheduled to start at 11 AM.

Finally the team orders ban has been lifted as the WMSC and FIA have deemed the rule "difficult to monitor".  Teams bringing the sport to any disrepute due to their actions, still stand the chance of being rapped on the knuckles. But I doubt any team (read : Ferrari) that has a clear distinction between its No. 1 and No. 2 drivers will be too concerned about a fine that runs into a coupla hundred thousand Euros, if it could potentially put them in a better position to fight for the World Championship.

1 comment:

  1. My main worry is that the DRS might encourage the F1 equivalent of Luca Cadalora 250cc tactics (sit behind the leader lap after lap, refuse any invitation to lead, overtake on the last lap on the designated section so that the other driver has no rhythm or time to pass you again).

    I expect Button to do well with the new tyres. This season is his best chance to win another title - I don't see him challenging seriously after this.

    On the topic of rule changes, do you know if there has been even minimal talk about capping aerodynamic grip levels at some point in the future?