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27 Jun 2014

 

I'll start this article with a word of warning, this will likely turn into a rant. (I have however been told that some of my best work appears when I'm angry and that's likely due to the free flowing nature and speed at what I write).

Yesterday (26.06.14) the WMSC ratified several changes to the 2015 F1 regulations.

Changes to 2015 Sporting Regulations

Powerunits

  • The number of engines permitted by each driver in a season will be four. However, if there are more than 20 races in a season, the number will increase to five.
  • The penalty for a complete change of Power Unit will be starting from the back of the grid, not the pit lane.
This was always on the cards but it could be seen as a step too far too quick.  Reliability has been a little hit and miss so far in 2014 and at this stage Vettel, Raikkonen, Maldonado, Kyvat, Bianchi, Chilton and Kobayashi would already be on the precipice of receiving grid penalties following the 2015 regulations.

Aerodynamic testing
  • The number of wind tunnel runs will be reduced from 80 hours per week to 65 hours per week.
  • Wind-on hours are to be reduced from 30 hours per week to 25 hours.
  • Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) usage is to be reduced from 30 Teraflops to 25 Teraflops.
  • Two periods of tunnel occupancy will be allowed in one day (rather than only one).
  • Teams will only be able to nominate one wind tunnel in one year.
These restrictions are designed to curtail the rate of development available to the teams, making it difficult to get gains in those minuet areas.  This is of course primarily designed to cut costs, however vicariously it'll aid the smaller, lesser funded teams.  Of course the bigger teams and their partners will see this as a challenge, pushing resources into more efficient hardware and software. Meanwhile modeling is not time spent in CFD (solving) and so meshes will be built more and more complex in order to attain better results from this more efficient soft/hardware.

The nomination of one tunnel is another example of curtailing the later teams, with the big teams often using more than one to correlate their results. Ferrari for example used 3, their own once it was rebuilt, the Toyota facility in Cologne which they'd been using whilst their own was offline. On top of this they performed a few days correlation days in Saubers tunnel at Hinwil.

I totally understand what the FIA are trying to do introducing these regulations but they're stifling creativity at the same time. Convergence is becoming a much larger factor, which for me is a massive problem. If I wanted to watch a spec series I'd just watch GP2/3 or IndyCar. This (F1) is the pinnacle of Motorsport, the differential between the teams is bought about through engineering excellence, from those striving to be better than their competition.  Creating equilibrium through forced regulation may well help to cut costs but it inevitably leads to a closing of the performance gap.

Testing

  • There will be three pre-season tests of four days each in Europe in 2015 (currently teams are able to test outside Europe). This will be reduced to two tests of four days in 2016.
  • There will be two in-season tests of two days each in Europe (instead of the current four). Two of these four days must be reserved for young drivers.
Another cost cutting measure that unfortunately leads to pressure on the teams to cram important data mining exercises into a much shorter timescale.  Pre season testing cut backs are fine by me, it does however put more pressure on the teams to get things right out of the box and leaves less time to react to any unforeseen issues.  In season or post race tests provide some of the less funded teams the opportunity to run well funded (read as pay) drivers to both evaluate their credibility, cultivate relationships and essential receive money from for allowing them to drive.


Car specification at an Event

  • The current restrictions to the parc fermé will now apply from the start of P3 instead of the start of qualifying.
Perhaps one of the more interesting changes ushered through, this essentially makes Friday a practice day and for the evaluation of new parts, whilst Saturday will be completely locked down. This of course puts a further onus on the availability of parts with any damage resulting in no changes to specification of parts (just like we find when a driver crashes during qualifying).
This will of course prohibit teams flying in parts last minute (for FP3 evaluation) in the hopes of a small performance gain in qualifying, reducing costs once more but taking away another performance differentiator the larger teams have at their disposal.

Wheels and tyres
  • The ban on tyre blankets will be rescinded for 2015. This will be re-discussed if and when the wheel and tyre diameter increases in the future.
A welcomed climb down by the FIA on something that wasn't really required. It appears the sticking point was exposure for the tyre supplier, which has been resolved with the teams able to sell the space back to Pirelli for £200,000 per season (Williams showing their support for this in Austria).

Personnel Curfew
  • The Friday night curfew will be extended from six to seven hours in 2015 and will increase to eight hours in 2016.
What the FIA taketh with one hand they return with another, giving the teams some additional time with which to work on their cars to ready them for FP3. Clearly as a means of putting them from test spec (Friday) to Qualifying/Race trim as part of the aforementioned extension of Parc Ferme.

Safety Car restarts
  • Safety Car restarts will now be a standing start from the grid. Standing starts will not be carried out if the Safety Car is used within two laps of the start (or restart) of a race or if there are less than five laps of the race remaining.
Another ballsy yet quite frankly uncalled for move by the FIA....
I understand from a safety perspective why they're looking to do this. By calling out the safety car for any incident they are putting the Marshall's out of harms way (That's based on the assumption that the safety car will immediately lead the cars back to the grid).  Now this is only the start of the lunacy of this idea as lapped cars will clearly be out of position and so I ask what procedures have to be put into place to rectify the situation?

Regaining positions on the singular lap back to the grid would be labour intensive for the drivers and go against the idea of running to a delta.  Furthermore it risks more incidents as they try to get back into position (yes I realise they unlap themselves now under the safety car but this isn't done straight away due to the way the grid gets protracted).

The other option is to do it on the grid, with the drivers dash displaying where they need to form up, this of course is also fraught with issues and safety implications.

I have to say that the whole scenario smacks of a smokescreen and is really being used as an opportunity to mix up the racing.  Afterall fans aren't overly pleased when the lead driver controls the pack up to the restart line and then just scampers off into the distance...

There are several more issues to worry about on a standing restart for me though.  Let's say your favourite driver (doesn't affect me as I don't have one, however as I'm neutral it always irks me when someone unfairly gets mistreated) has been leading for X number of laps, when an incident means a safety car and standing restart, any number of issues could result in your favourite driver losing his position.  Of course this affliction could and probably will affect many drivers up and down the grid with loss of places from a standing restart causing issues.  The other issue I have with a standing restart is exactly what happens during normal race starts: Failures.

Changes to 2015 Technical Regulations

A number of changes have been made, including:

  • A number of new regulations for the noses to ensure improved safety and to provide more aesthetically pleasing structures.
Clearly the nose designs for 2014 were somewhat of a problem initially with what we like to call 'finger' extensions clearly have other names alluding to their resemblance to a gentleman's appendage amongst the fans ;) It's therefore of no surprise to see the FIA/WMSC try to rectify this going forward.  However I must say it was a glaring error that plenty of us outside of the teams picked up on ahead of the car launches, signaling just how poor a job the FIA had done in structuring that part of the regulations.  This is another prime example though of the FIA causing financial costs to the teams with the R&D to produce this years noses being throw away now.  The biggest issue for me that requires resolving with these changes is reducing the chance of submarining accidents.  The increased crank height of the new PowerUnits inevitably led to a higher crash structure, combined with a lower nose tip increases the chances of rear shunts forcing the car into the air.

  • A number of new regulations concerning skid blocks to ensure that they are made from a lighter material (titanium) and are better contained.

Edited upon the 2015 regulations release:
An interesting shift is a regulatory use of titanium as a material for the skids. This clearly fits the bill in terms of seeing sparks from the underside of the cars under load, (another false positive the FIA are trying to put back in F1 to 'increase the show').

The FIA are also clearly looking to make life difficult for the teams in terms of scraping the plank along the ground (and by virtue of that create downforce).  Titanium will wear much more quickly than the tungsten skids that the teams have been using, reducing the wear on the plank at the same time.

  • New regulations to ensure that the brake discs rotate at the same speed as the wheels.
I'm intrigued by this one, either a team has been very smart this season or enquired about doing something that the FIA have reacted to.  The only plausible solution that comes to mind presently is that due to the increased work rate of the MGU-K most teams have opted to reduce their rear brake disc a caliper capacity.  Thinking outside the box perhaps using the brake disc as a flywheel/freewheel (ie in motion whilst the driveshaft isn't)(Think about the rear gear cluster/cassette on a bicycle) would be advantageous in both terms of consistent aerodynamics and perhaps in the delivery of the Brake-By-Wire system.

  • A two-stage wheel fastener retaining system is now compulsory.
All teams have adopted this for 2014 but this becomes compulsory in 2015
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  1. I don't get why the lapped cars have to overtake the whole pack. You could let them be passed at the straights or by sending them trough the pits and just reset the positions to 0 laps behind.

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Whilst I'm trying to keep atop of the blog you may have noticed of late that there is less content appearing. For those of you that haven't realised, most of my work has now been moved over to Motorsport.com where I'm working with Giorgio Piola.

I'm still doing the technical image gallery for each GP with the continued support of friend of the site Sutton Images. However, as always my time is limited and so this might not be updated as quickly as it once was, so keep checking back.

As some of you may have found out already I'm also working with the Missed Apex crew on their podcast from time-to-time, either doing race reviews or dedicated 'Tech Time' shows.

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