Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Changing Them Goalposts

The FIA has changed the direction of car development for 2011 by deciding that blown diffusers are to be deemed "movable aerodynamic devices". They do this by once again defining the obvious:
To push this regulation change through, the FIA has deemed that throttle use will be allowed only for the purpose of increasing torque, not for 'aerodynamic performance'.
Some people give this feature credit for Red Bull's dominance over the rest of the field, but it remains to be seen if this will actually change anything at the front.

The FIA has thus far been silent as to the reason behind the change in rules interpretation.

Update, perhaps 20 minutes later: Or not:
Formula 1 teams have been given a reprieve to continue using blown diffusers freely from this weekend's Spanish Grand Prix, AUTOSPORT can reveal, after the FIA had a rethink about going ahead with a major change to the regulations.


A high level source indicated that the decision had been taken because a number of 'unforeseen and unintended consequences' of the ban had been brought to the FIA's attention.
Want to bet one of of those "unforeseen" consequences was the Red Bull being relegated to running with the Lotus cars?

Monday, May 9, 2011

What We Learned: Turkey 2011

Well that was fun, wasn't it? Thoughts and reflections on Turkey, 2011:
  • Nice Circuit, Shame About The Place: Turkey has consistently provided entertaining races; however it's location in the middle of nowhere in a country without enough interest to make the race a viable concern for the organizers means we may not be back in future years. This is sad because Turkey introduced a good circuit into the schedule. While F1 may not miss the event, I think the larger population of vierwers will.
  • Go Go Gadget Racecar: this year with DRS and KERS in fine form we got to see many passes that in previous years wouldn't have happened. And yet it wasn't an automatic-pass system; cars had to have more than a trivial advantage over the car they were chasing to make the pass good. This is good for sporting's sake -- the faster car should get in front of the slower car -- but it means that we may be denied epic battles for position where a driver can keep his faster opponent back. Overall though it is definitely different from the racing we've had in the past. I'm not entirely sold on DRS, but I'm entertained.
  • Ferrari Circuit: For some reason, the Ferrari team goes well at this circuit, with Alonso providing what is only the team's first podium of 2011. Consider Massa's domination of the event with three wins in a row. The Ferrari still has qualifying issues, but in race trim it is... well, it is faster. Personally I think that had McLaren not had issues with Hamilton's car and had Button been on the more competitive strategy... well I don't think the Ferrari would have been third. But being positioned to take advantage of other team's mistakes and bad luck is the first step in being lucky yourself, and Alonso is giving the Ferrari everything he can.
  • Tired of Tires: Personally I'm starting to have doubts about the Pirelli tires. Having tires that are only good for 20 laps or so, with a restriction on how many sets a team can use over a weekend... this to me is not a good combination. Some of the shots of turn 8* showed a field of large marbles, and this was early on in the race. For a series that is trying to become "green" and "environmental", requiring the use of these extremely disposable parts that are nothing more than an entertainment gimmick perhaps is not consistent.
  • Past His Best Before: Schumacher's comeback continues to underwhelm. His banging wings and wheels early on in the race defending against already-done passes does little to redeem his lack of qualifying pace. The TV commentators observed that Schumacher needs at least a podium from this return to avoid losing face, and that's probably true. Schumacher is definitely not having fun these days. I agree that even if this return ends up being a waste of time that it will not damage his ultimate reputation too much, his records will stand for at least as long as it takes Vettel to eclipse them.
  • Speaking Of Whom: Vettel was mighty this weekend, going from a crash on Friday morning, to pole, to winning convincingly. This is definitely the driver and car to beat so far in 2011.
  • Opposite Ferrari: While Ferrari qualifies poorly and then races well, the Mercedes seems to have the opposite problem. Rosberg is qualifying well, but is perhaps getting let down by the Mercedes' lack of ultimate race pace.
*= leaving aside the crazy idea that a single "turn" can be three apexes separated by individual straight segments.