Tag Archives: Technical Working Group

Ground effect and turbos to return for 2013 with new regulations?

Formula 1 teams are closing in on finalising the regulations for the sport from 2013 onwards, which is understood to include the reintroduction of turbochargers and ground effect. This is being done for two reasons: To improve the spectacle for the fans, and also to make the sport more environmentally friendly.

The F1 grid looks set for huge rule changes in 2013

The F1 grid looks set for huge rule changes in 2013

The most interesting changes being suggested, and nearly definitely being introduced, involve the complete reshuffle of the engines of the cars. The engines will be 1.6 Litre 4-cylinder models, and boosted by turbochargers. These new power plants should produce 650bhp, and should be powered by numerous energy recovery systems. While this last section cannot be fully explained, I would guess that it would involve the revival of KERS, as well as generating energy from exhaust gases.

Also added onto the engine regulations is a plan to limit each driver to 5 engines a season. On the environmental side of the engines, there will probably be a fuel flow limit introduced, which will limit and reduce the amount of fuel entering the engine. This will make the engines more fuel efficient, as Sam Michael, Williams technical director, explains:

"Rather than dump as much fuel in as we can at the moment, there 
will be a fuel flow metre - so you won't be able to blow more 
than a certain amount of fuel. It is a good chunk less than we 
had at the moment."

As for the cars themselves, Patrick Head, co-owner of Williams, and Rory Byrne, a former designer for Ferrari, are working with the FIA to write up new rules. On the safety front, the cars are being planned to have greater crash protection at the front, with the sidepods being moved forwards being the main objective.

Also, all of the teams are collaborating on changing the aerodynamic setup of the cars to improve overtaking opportunities, and ground effect is the main suggestion in this area. Put simply, ground effect reduces the pressure under the car, meaning that the area above the car will have higher pressure, therefore pushing the car onto the ground. This produces a huge amount of downforce when it is used correctly, and also does not turbulate the air as much as rear wings, meaning the car behind has a better chance of following the car in front.

While it cannot be 100% guaranteed that these changes will be implemented, I would still say that it is very likely. Personally, these all look like great changes, especially the ground effect, as the aerodynamic flow of air to a car running behind should be much cleaner, and could well be a good idea to improve overtaking without making it too easy (ie. proximity wings).

Also, Formula 1 does have a role to pay in promoting environmentally friendly technology for the road. While KERS technology is being implemented on a good few road cars already, the cars’ exhaust gases are certainly untapped in terms of power potential. I will note though that the cars themselves weren’t awful in terms of efficiency (the entire F1 grid, over an 18-race season, uses less fuel than a single Boeing 747 trip from London to Japan), it is a good improvement to make.

It is still unclear when these new rules and regulations will be fully released.

Why don’t they just leave the rules alone?

This time in 2009, Bernie Ecclestone unveiled his new idea for F1: the medal system. Cue outrage around the world. The idea was dropped two weeks before the season opener in Melbourne, but the controversy over it never really left. This stupid idea from Ecclestone was eventually left alone, but still revealed the Achilles heel of Formula 1: inconcistency.

At no point over the last decade have the rules and regulations been left alone for a long period of time. So many pointless changes, like the horrificly awful qualifying format for 2005 and the difference in tyre compunds in 2009 show how Formula 1 never learns.

At the moment, we are inundated with F1 leaders talking about “improving the show”. What’s this all about? Formula 1 isn’t a show, it’s a sport. In 2009, we saw one of the biggest overhaul of the technical regulations in recent history, to improve overtaking, which, after all the mad changes we saw, failed. This year, the F1 teams want to force the top ten qualifyers to keep their tyres into the race. They say that this will create a mix-up in the field. The crucial word in that last sentence was “create”.

Great racing isn’t created by constantly fiddling with the rules until it happens. Unfortunately,  everyone in FOTA, the FIA, Overtaking Working Group, and Technical Working Group seems to think it works. This means that, for years, we will be seeing more and more rule changes, to try and create artificial racing.

Just look at the tyre compounds at the start of 2009 for example. Here, Bridgestone decided to have one compound in between the ones they would be using each weekend (eg super-soft and medium, soft and hard). Since both compounds had to be used in a race, it would mean a huge difference in performance over stints. In Australia, we saw the super-softs disintegrate after 8 laps, and the medium tyres struggle to get heat into the rubber. What we ended up with was lots of action, as the field was constantly struggling with the tyres. Then, near the end, the inevitable happened: Vettel, who was struggling for grip, crashed into Kubica, and took them both out.

This is not only unpure racing, it’s just dangerous. It took Bridgestone nearly half the season to get the message, and finally reverted to the old tyre compound procedure. But, even though its gone, it simply guarantees my thoughts that these sort of rule changes are terrible for the sport.

Of course, the leaders of our sport never learn. So, for 2010, let’s go back to the Q3 “same tyre for race” rule. It hasn’t been approved yet, but almost certainly will be. This means that we will see a mix up in the grid, between drivers who go slower on more consistent tyres, or drivers who go quicker on fast-wearing tyres.

Isn’t this what we just banned with the refuelling ban? We wanted an end to seeing light-fuelled cars on pole, and the faster cars penned back because of a heavy fuel load. So what the hell is the point of ditching that, and introducing something which will end up exactly the same?

At the end of it all, it simply makes no sense. Maybe it’s too early to complain about the tyre rule changes, but seeing how other changes have gone down, I’m not confident. However, at some point, the Overtaking Working Group will get their wish. We will see a season filled with overtaking, action and incidents. The tv audience will be glued to their seats. And it will be hollow, because we will have artificially ruined Formula 1.

Double-decker diffusers banned for 2011

Williams' double-decker diffuser

Williams' double-decker diffuser

The infamous double-decker diffusers, the centre of the contreversy at the start of the 2009 season, has been banned for the 2011 season.

This rule could not be implemented for the 2010 season, as it was too late and the F1 cars had been nearly completed. However, technical rule changes for the 2011 season have meant that the undertray slots, which allow double-decker diffusers to work, have been outlawed.

Artwork of Toyota's double-decker diffuser

Artwork of Toyota's double-decker diffuser

The F1 Technical Working Group has been the reason these rule changes could be implemented, as it is a meeting of all the F1 teams. However, Christian Horner, boss of Red Bull, believes the rule changes should be further beyond simple tweaks:

“I think the most important thing is to set clear objectives – as to what do the governing body and the promoters want F1 to be,” he told AUTOSPORT last weekend. “What do they want the F1 cars to be able to do?

“Then rather than cherry picking at bits and pieces, we can look at the package as a whole to encourage more overtaking, and to enable the cars to follow more closely.”

“I think looking at components in isolation is often quite dangerous, so I think it is important that the overall objective is clearly defined and then worked on by the various technical groups.”

It is expected that the effective outlawing of double-decker diffusers will slow the cars down in 2011 by up to 2 seconds per lap.