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.)