Tuesday, March 30, 2010

F1 IT 2010

A quick link to a CompuWorld article on IT in F1.


Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Rules Proposals

An article from a couple weeks back: Why F1 doesn't need the 107% rule.

The argument in favor of the 107% rule is that the dangerous situation on the track is where you have slow cars and fast cars together, and the speed differential is what can cause the problems.

The thing is that the 107% rule does nothing to address the most dangerous situations of all during a race weekend -- during free practice when fast cars are light on fuel to set-up for qualifying, and slow cars are heavy on fuel to set-up for the race.

In race situations you generally end up with the slower cars starting behind the faster ones, and everyone is on race fuel so the loads are comparable. So there is much less "danger" to be worried about.

The other problem is that you apply a 107% rule to Bahrain this year, and only the HRT cars would be disqualified, and the faster of the two would be disqualified by less than a second.

Excluding slower cars would only make it harder for them to gain the exposure needed to raise sponsorship, which would again make it harder to do the development needed to improve speed, which increases the likelihood of failing to qualify...

So really, there's no point.

On a related note, there's talk of removing the blue flags shown to slower cars when being lapped. Personally I don't like this proposal either, for two simple reasons.

First, if there isn't a rule saying you can't impede cars lapping you, then lapped cars will start impeding for strategic reasons. Before the blue flag rule, team blocking was a matter of course. Lapped cars would take their own time getting out of the way of the lapping traffic, on the grounds that being too cooperative costs too much from their own races.

Second, the cars have enough trouble passing each other as it is, even if there is a performance differential between the cars. Look at Bahrain, where McLaren couldn't get Hamilton past Rosberg, despite the fact that the McLaren was a second a lap faster in clean air. If we are looking at some back markers like HRT being lapped four, five, or more times in an event, that is a lot of opportunities for something to happen. I know people want to "improve the show" but having leading cars taken out tripping over back-markers is artificial action at best that will in the long run devalue the sport.

Yes, part of the problem is that the tracks don't encourage passing. While windy-back-and-forthy tracks make for great visuals of F1 cars sweeping around at high speeds, it doesn't do anything to help the car behind close, and then pass, the car in front. But the aero/mechanical rules today mean that cars can't follow each other closely and that there are not going to be many mistakes granting opportunities.

If the cars can pass each other more easily, especially with a clear performance differential, then we can talk about removing the blue flags.

(I am classifying this post as F1 2011 because any rule change this year would have to be unanimously approved by the teams. I think it is unlikely that the slower cars would agree to the possibility of being disqualified, and I think it is unlikely that the faster teams would agree to the possibility of being impeded by slower cars.)

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

An Aerodynamicist's solution: Reduce Mechanical Grip

James Allen has an article where aerodynamicist Frank Dernie makes the case for reducing mechanical grip, not aerodynamic grip.

His view of the problem:
[...] that the “overtaking problem in F1″ is not the aero, but the mechanical grip from the tyres and the lack of mistakes made by drivers on gearshifts due to semi automatic gearboxes.
His ideas as a solution:
  • Manual gearboxes. If you miss a change, the car behind gets a chance.
  • Rock-hard, spec, no-change tires. If the tire is required to do a full race distance, it will have to be rock hard. It won't degrade as much, but since it has to last it won't be as grippy either. This has a knock-on effect that since the tires are not degrading, fewer marbles are getting created and there's less rubber bedded in to the racing line. Both effects reduce the penalty for driving off-line.
  • Less effective brakes. Longer braking zones give drivers more chances to get in front and more chances to make mistakes.
  • Single lap qualifying (my hero!). Drivers get one chance to set a qualifying time. Naturally, some will make mistakes, meaning you'll have "faster" cars mixed in with "slower" cars, a situation which can lead to passing opportunities.
Interesting ideas.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Desert Racing Extra Dry

Back in August of last year I said I was worried about the racing in 2010. The fact of the matter is that the cars just are not built to follow each other closely enough to effect passes -- witness Hamilton's efforts to pass Rosberg, despite having a car capable of going a half- to a full second faster per lap than the Mercedes, he couldn't get on terms to make the pass and had to do the business in the pits. The combination of the double-diffuser development with the intricate changes made to the front wings on the cars mean the following car just isn't as efficient as the car in front is.

I also noticed that there seemed to be a lot more flip-ups and aerodynamic "things" hanging on the cars than there were last year.

Even the "extra" action brought on by the new teams retiring at an increased rate did little to improve the show, although Senna's HRT car made it almost half way through the event, which is a decent enough amount for what was effectively its third day of running.

And while Ferrari had an almost perfect weekend -- missing out only on the pole position as an accomplishment -- one is left to wonder if their slow reeling in of Vettel was due to Ferrari pace or Red Bull exhaust issues slowly manifesting themselves.

I also have to comment on the graphics shown through the event -- a lot of the time it was difficult for me to understand what they were trying to tell me. I guess putting everything in stylishly slanted boxes is the coming thing.

One race is not enough to condemn an entire season, even if there are rumors about hastily amending the rules to make a second pit stop mandatory. Artificially trying to manufacturer more "show" is always going to result in silliness.

One just hopes that the FIA resists the urge to continue the silliness that was a hallmark of the Mosley years.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Lets Review:

These are new the teams selected by the FIA for inclusion in the 2010 F1 World Championship:
  • USF1: Dead and finished. Probably permanently.
  • Manor Racing: Now Virgin Racing. This may or may not be a buy-out, it is hard to tell. They have introduced, and started testing, a real racing car.
  • Campos Meta: Now Hispania Racing Team, or HRT. Original owners no longer involved. Still waiting for the Dallara-designed and built car to be introduced, although that is allegedly going to happen on Thursday or Friday, a week before Bahrain. This means the first time it does any running, trivial or not, will be free practice session one at a race weekend.
  • Lotus: so far the most stable of the lot. No ownership changes, and they have introduced a (plain, slow) F1 car and done some testing.
  • BMW-Sauber: lost their entry while BMW was trying to exit involvement, only to gain it back when Toyota abruptly departed. Perhaps the most ironic team on the grid, since BMW is not involved at all any more, and the engines are Ferrari. Probably the best prepared of all the "new" teams since they really are not that new. We can't really count them as in trouble because all their drama happened last year.
So from five teams, you have one outright failure, possibly two total ownership changes, one very uncompetitive team, and one moderately successful team which again doesn't count because they are not really that new.

Oh, and the FIA has decided that Stefan GP won't be participating this year, even though USF1 has failed.

Now to be fair, part of the problem is that the first group of teams to sign up for 2010 did so when the FIA was planning the spending cap rules. The championship formula that eventually was decided on was very different, meaning that all these teams were suddenly underfinanced. USF1's Ken Anderson claims that the delay in sorting out the regulations for 2010 (there wasn't a peace brokered until mid- or late July 2009) meant that the new teams had no idea what set of goal posts they would actually be working towards until very late.

So you end up with a truncated timeline to meet a standard that suddenly would cost a lot more money than initially planned.

With these factors in mind, it isn't much of a surprise that the new teams would have difficulties.