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22 May 2015


Ok, so everyone is reporting the results of the Strategy Group (SG) meeting and what the discussed changes could have on the sport (just as I did here: http://www.planetf1.com/driver/3260/50399/Problems-Not-Solutions).

Firstly, I think it is important to say, we'd all like to see cars that are 5-6 seconds a lap quicker than we currently have, especially with many complaining that the drivers don't drive flat out all the time.  Frankly though, they never will, as there is always an element that requires race management, for the betterment of strategy.  The teams understand that sometimes to go faster you actually have to drive slower, meaning we get drivers driving to a delta and saving a pit stop, fair enough this has been exacerbated by the maximum fuel weight but I'd bet a sizable chunk of money that the drivers aren't starting the race with that maximum fuel weight.
That might sound ludicrous from the outset but fuel is weight and weight can be detrimental to lap time.  If you can complete a race distance in lets say 1hr 29 minutes by driving slowly, with 80kg of fuel owing to less tyre wear and therefore less stops, why would you take 100kg of fuel, take one more stop and complete the race in 1hr 30 minutes?  The example is obviously an exaggeration but it is something that must be considered.  Even in the V8 era drivers conducted fuel saving, it just wasn't so apparent, as there was no maximum fuel weight limit the trade off could be mitigated.

I'm not going to suggest I'm right or others are wrong but what I'd like to do here is make some suggestions on the direction I would like to see the sport go.  As most of you know I'm in favour of the current regulatory format but there are numerous tweaks I'd like to see to improve the racing.

Powerunits

The most complained about element of the current generation of Formula One cars, with many suggesting that the V6 hybrids were a mistake on several levels.  The powerunits (in most cases) actually provide a little more peak power than the outgoing V8's but also weigh considerably more too, reducing the power to weight ratio.  Reduction of the weight, however well intended by the SG's manifesto, is a fools errand, with the minimum car weight dictated by the dry weight of the car and powerunit.  Weight reduction is only really viable with their refuelling caveat, of which I'm really not a fan, as I want to see these guys racing out on circuit, rather than duking it out via strategy in the pitlane.  Personally I feel a return to refuelling may sound like a good idea from the outside, ie having less weight onboard, which allows the drivers to push, but instantaneously it leads to engineers thinking about preserving stint life, rather than pushing, just as they have come to do under the current regulations. 

I'd actually suggest that the fuel weight for each GP be increased to 125kg's, allowing a slightly wider performance window, enabling the drivers scope to push, although I think you also then have to have a minimum fuel weight too, as otherwise it'll sometimes be faster to be slower, ie less time in the pitlane changing tyres that you've worn out pushing hard.

Meanwhile the formula at 10,500rpm that currently dictates that the powerunits can't achieve usable power beyond 12,500rpm(ish) should be adjusted to allow the engines to rev out to the full 15,000rpm.  If fuel flow isn't sufficient to facilitate this then this be amended too.

ERS be expanded upon too, increasing the Energy Store from a maximum capacity of 4mj's to 6mj's, whilst increasing the upper power release from the MGU-K from 120kw's (roughly 160bhp) to 175kw's (roughly 235bhp).  This retains a similar formula to the pre-existing one but takes into account the extra electrical energy that can be harvested braking from higher speeds and the additional energy the MGU-H will require to assist the turbo.

These changes will require the homologation matrix to be relaxed and re-instated after the powerunits re-birth, as although the regulations permit 15,000rpm many of the components are currently designed with tolerances below this.  The changes should also increase the sound of the powerunits to a more acceptable level to both fans and track organisers.

Tyres

I don't care for the introduction of 18" wheels/tyres, if this is the only reason for Michelin to return then they shouldn't.  F1 has done enough pandering toward road relevance, after all when was the last time you saw a 200+mph open wheel road car?  In my opinion 13" wheels are fine and mean that the teams don't have to spend money developing suspension that can handle the change. IF we must increase wheel diameter then 15" would be the maximum I would suggest.
Pirelli have come in for some pretty harsh abuse over the years but did provide what was asked for.  Should they stay on as supplier past their current contract, which runs until the end of 2016, perhaps some revision of the rear tyres width could be made, something in the order of 425mm-450mm (up from the current 380mm) but this will clearly have an impact on the wake produced by the car, requiring some thought on how to counteract this through aerodynamic regulation changes.  Furthermore, I'd be interested to see proposals from Pirelli, specifically on how they'd like to improve things, perhaps expanding upon the number of compounds at their disposal to better cater for the varying track characteristics.  I'd also like to hear their ideas on a qualifying tyre, maybe a compound more aggressive than the lowest race compound, to increase qualifying pace.

Aero

A complex department that doesn't have a strict answer, whilst many are calling for more downforce to be added, all I remember is that it took the technical working group numerous years of research to come up with the 2009 regulations, resulting in a car with significantly less wake than its predecessors but still not enough to close the racing up.  This is why a technical working group (TWG) needs re-establishing, in order that research and simulation be conducted to assess what will and won't work.  Simply making bold statements like, 'More aggressive aero,' is fruitless, aggressive in what way? aesthetically or aerodynamically?

One of the blanket statements I see touted around the most is, 'We should return to ground effect," which appears to stem from an understanding that underfloor aero is free of drag and wings are just plain evil.  There is of course truth in that, but for F1 where extreme competition breeds a need to push the design envelope, the result could be catastrophic.  Just like the dimensional constraints currently placed on the diffuser restrictive regulations would need to be placed on the creation of venturi tunnels.  This is all feasible but requires R&D and an outside hand in the regulation framing.


DRS and other moveable aero has always been contentious to fans, and even more so to the hardcore element who find the whole concept an abomination.  Unfortunately, the wake currently produced by Formula One cars makes its use a necessary evil but something for me that no longer performs the function for which it was originally intended.  In my opinion DRS currently provides the means for a car on fresher tyres to dispatch one which is on worn tyres, returning the cars to the equilibrium they were in before the pit stop phase, which is not the systems original intention.  Its strategic deployment was neutered when the FIA stopped adjusting DRS zones after FP1 and prevented unlimited use during qualifying.

In my format I'd suggest that 'activation zones' be retained, but rather than allow only the chase car to have it at their disposal allow free use for any car.  The caveat is that drivers have a pre-determined time usage for DRS throughout qualifying and the race making it a tool for both defence and attack, whilst also a strategic device for qualifying, performing the undercut, a blitz lap out of the pits, etc etc.

I'd also suggest that the re-installed TWG look into the adjustable front wing design used in 2009 and canned in 2010 owing to the double deck diffusers, with the possibility of its reinstatement to facilitate close racing through the corners.

Sporting Regulations

Formula One's fan base is in decline and has been for some time, the racing can only be blamed in part for this, with viewing factors also coming into play.  Other sports conclude proceedings in a short time frame which holds the attention span of the viewer for that fleeting moment.  For example the typical football (soccer for my Amercian readers) match is 90 minutes not taking into account stoppages and/or tournament rules such as extra time and penalties.  Formula One's race alone can exceed this time frame and whilst most fans don't engage fully with Free Practice sessions, just as most football fans don't go to their teams training ground to assess their performance ahead of the game, we also have to consider qualifying as an important phase of a GP.

I understand that FOM and the FIA have other factors to take into account such as time zones and complimentary series' such as GP2/3 but I would imagine that the protracted race weekend is a factor for the younger generation.  FormulaE has circumnavigated this issue by compacting qualifying and the race into a single day and although this is also due to logistical issues with city centre racing it'd be interesting to see what a similar change would do to increase F1 viewership.  I'd therefore suggest a change of scheduling format with qualifying and the race on a Sunday, with a time gap between the two allowing other series and events to feature.  Furthermore, I'd make Free Practice two long time slots on Saturday, (rather than the current 3 session setup, split between Friday and Saturday).

Saturday
Free Practice 1 (F1) - 10am until 12 noon
12 noon until 3pm left for other racing series and/or events designated by the circuit promoter
Free Practice 2 (F1) -  3pm until 5pm

Sunday
Qualifying - 10am until 11am
11am until 2pm left for other racing series and/or events designated by the circuit promoter
Race 2pm until conclusion

This is just an idea for a shorter format (and something that would most certainly need adapting) but isn't only aimed at facilitating a spike in interest from a new audience / younger generation, but as a way of re marketing Formula One for the circuit promoters.   Fans will tell you going to a race is an expensive affair, not only do you have to find the funds for a the ticket(s), you either need to travel to the venue each day from home, which incurs costs, or you need to stay in a hotel which is even more costly.  Shortening the race weekend, should reduce the cost to those who wish to watch each session, whilst the inclusion of qualifying and the race on a Sunday makes the ticket more-or-less worth its face value.

Conclusion

There are no easy solutions or short cuts, putting loads of ideas in a hat and drawing them out randomly certainly doesn't fix F1.  Take stock, realise what we have isn't that bad and take measures to rectify its inefficiencies.
Tagged

9 comments:

  1. Nice article! I would be just slightly more prone to tyre diameter increase, though. It is true that any change in either width or diameter (among other factors) would carry new suspension developments, thus increasing costs for the first year or maybe even longer. But bigger wheels mean more drag, and could help overtaking. Larger wheel diameters, with lower "profile" (less rubber on the sides) would do two things at the same time: Increase cornering speed, and make driving more challenging. Both things are good for spectacle, IMHO.

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    1. The tyre diameter thing is subjective, I for one don't care for it and see it as something that defines single seater racing. However, I can see why some think it good thing, it may be more aesthetically pleaseing for example. It may well change cornering speeds but again I think research must be conducted to see whether this will actually help improve the racing.

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  2. I agree with the majority of this post. I too do not think the current format is that much of a problem. The proposed changes do not appear particularly thought through, large scale rule changes increase costs to react to them.

    I also don't understand why refueling would return when it was taken out mostly for safety reasons. Pouring fuel in a hurry into a hot racing car is not any safer now than it was before the rule change. As stated it just increases the strategic component of the race rather than improve the on track action.

    I think an increase in power would be enough, cars are most difficult to drive when they have more power than grip. Same downforce as now + more power would make the show better.

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    Replies
    1. Indeed, the increase in power (big power to weight) with the current, if not less downforce, should provide enough to challenge the drivers more

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  3. Well done article!
    I just miss one aspect, in former days cars with less Aero or not so critical Aero produced more thrilling races because drivers could fight each other side by side. Nowdays the cars couldn't follow each other without loosing hugh amounts of grip.....
    In my mind we should bring back this type of racing to generate again thrilling races.
    So Aero has to be limited to ensure that cars could follow each other again with minimum gaps.

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    Replies
    1. I totally agree, reduction of aero is more important than an increase in aero as the SG has seemingly suggested. When the FIA reduced the height of the rear wing elements in 2014 (20mm) I think they could have gone further. Reduction of rear wing box height should not only reduce downforce but drag too, making the cars quicker and more of a handful in the braking zone.

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  4. I agree. But couple of things. These PU are the way to go... going back to aspirated engines and that's it seems very antiquate to me. Big manufacturers are interested in this. And so the public. They should take out revs limitation or fuel flow too (on certain extent) at least during racing as the total fuel limit should stay and you need to manage your race and ... finish it.... Refueling cars means more strategies to play... but costs not to mention dangers. Customer cars to me is a no and it will be not good for the show at all... sorry Bernie... I actually would allow more freedom of type of fuels as well ( dream would love to see Audi using their special developed fuel on a diesel type engine) max use of electric power generated by the PU (why you want to limit that anyway). In my opinion if you supply a PU you should give it to two teams minimum (that is where there is an interest to have a fuller field): price of the PU should have a max price/cost too per year: that makes things more competitive (and difficult to the manufacturers but then you develop with certain things in mind as well). Aero is a crucial part on making things exciting... cars can be more difficult to drive more opportunities for drivers to show their skills ... sure you can easily make cars go faster but how many G's seriously a driver can pull and be functional... for an hour and half... taking curves that pull over 5G? I don't see it possible frankly.... I think the micro aero they are developing is great but isn't a little too much?

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  5. Nice article Matt.

    I agree the TWG should be implemented. The goal is also to make costs viable for smaller teams as well. With that in mind, I think the following areas would improve the F1 racing experience-

    These cars should be absolute beasts to drive-

    DRIVER WEIGHT-
    Create a "uniform driver weight" of 80 kilos. Require a standardized ballast system which does not penalize “normal” HWP people. Yes, they should be fit… Locate it behind the driver’s seat, with containers that have common set cockpit height & width to equalize center of gravity distribution so it does not become an advantage for lighter drivers. Require a simple ballast material like sand. I’m confident the engineering minds in F1 could come up with a solution that would be fair to all. Something to counteract the trend for drivers having to be "anorexic" horse jockeys.
    If possible lower the overall chassis weight.

    AERO-
    I like your DRS recommendations
    However, I would Limit the aero even more. Lower overall turbulence effect, by reducing the front & rear wing “cord” by 2/3 – 1/2. Allow only 6 horizontal elements per wing section (3 per side on the front wing) and 2 on the rear wing. Eliminate the “Monkey seat”.

    I also agree with C. Horner’s idea of eliminating wind tunnels & using processor limited CFD dev time for cost saving purposes.

    POWER UNITS-
    Increase the fuel flow, to allow for higher revving engines. Increase overall power output by the ICE / hybrid systems by +200 hp.
    Require using a single fuel map for each event.

    TYRES-
    Increase to the larger tyre rims & widths-
    (I like the idea of the suspension having to deal with mechanical grip issues, not sidewall flex.) I also think having extra compounds is more expensive and will not dramatically improve the on-track racing.

    PIT STOPS-
    Limit the total crew members allowed to work on cars during pit-stops, unless it goes to the garage.
    Based on cost/safety/competition, I’m not sure re-fueling is a good solution.

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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.

I've embedded the latest version of the podcast below and will update this a frequently as I appear. However, please head over to Itunes if you want it to appear in your player when episodes are available. The show is great to work on and has a great lineup of 'regulars' but has also enticed some bigger names recently too, with Will Buxton and Bradley Philpot on shows during the summer break.


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