Drafting the Circuits
Formula 1 Report
Monaco Preview/FIA Strategy Meeting
By Steve Aibel
The Grand Spectacle and the kick off to the greatest day of racing is here. As we arrive in Monte Carlo, the dominant news last week surrounded the Formula 1 strategy meeting. This was a big one as it was intended to improve Formula 1 for the teams, the drivers, and the entire show for the fans. Toto Wolff of Mercedes described the meeting as one, which should create the “fastest cars that ever existed”.
The strategy meetings for Formula 1 include Bernie Ecclestone who represents the commercial interest of the sport, Jean Todt, President of the FIA, and the top six teams from the previous season. This year it includes Ferrari, Williams, Mercedes, Red Bull, McLaren, and Force India.
For many, this meeting was expected to address cost control issues. Essentially, address what is needed to provide some semblance of equality for the teams who are struggling to find adequate funding to compete on an even plane with the super teams such as Ferrari, McLaren, Red Bull and Mercedes.
Unfortunately, this did not seem to be the primary focus of the strategy group!
The highlights of the meeting surrounded the following changes that are intended to improve the show and make the cars more exciting.
Perhaps the initiative that has gotten the most attention is refueling. At this point, Formula 1 cars carry a full fuel load and do not refuel during a race. Bringing back refueling would enable the cars to carry much lighter fuel loads which should bring more performance to the tires and obviously bring additional pit stops and and strategy into play.
Remarkably, the teams are also expected to perform the refueling in the same period of time that it currently takes to changes tires, which is under three seconds! For this to occur, it would appear that a significant investment would need to be made in technology. Refueling was eliminated in 2009 to decrease costs to the teams. Bringing it back now will be a significant offset to any cost reductions that new regulations might bring forward. For this reason, I am unsure that refueling will be approved.
What has probably gotten the attention of tire supplier Pirelli, is the teams having free choice of 2 dry tire compounds during a race weekend. On the surface, this would appear to create choices that each team would make and allow for a riskier race strategy to pay off with a points paying run. In truth, as Pirelli’s Paul Hembery explained, it will probably be riskier and compromise safety.
With the amount of data the teams have available and the recommendations of Pirelli, most of the teams would probably arrive at the same compounds as they work out the fastest combination for each circuit. This is another regulation that may not see the light of day and if it does, it might be a one year fly by night similar to the wildly unpopular double points.
What I think we will see are the regulations regarding an increase in tire size. In order to change the look of the car, the strategy group arrived at wider tires and an overall wider based car. Wider front wings with double end plates and wider rear wings would hopefully contribute to a more modern looking car that would hopefully appeal to the younger race fan.
The strategy group also agreed on a lighter car, which would save weight in the gearbox and electronics. They also addressed the woefully inadequate noise produced by the current V6 engine. These are good steps, especially working to increase the sound production.
Finally, launch control was addressed. At this point, the launch at the start of a race is controlled and greatly influenced by software programs and calibration. The thought is to give more control to the driver who would be in control of the clutch. Good move here!
Some of the teams had campaigned to add a 5th power unit this year. Red Bull was especially pushing for this rule change as they are struggling with the unreliable, and low on power, Renault engine. This was not permitted and the teams will all remain limited to 4 power units for the 2015 campaign.
Further research is to be conducted on customer cars. Frankly speaking, this worries me! Part of the allure of being involved in Formula 1, is constructing the car and the championship that goes along with this aspect of the competition. Further evaluation of customer cars truly gets to the heart of the issue in Formula 1, which is finance related.
How are costs going to be controlled so that the middle and smaller teams are able to compete with the larger legendry teams? If customer cars are brought forward, we may be saying goodbye to some of the middle teams and certainly some of the minnows who take up residence at the tail end of the pack.
This is the tipping pot for F1 that hopefully will be addressed soon. I am hoping that F1 decides to implement some measure of cost control so that teams such as Force India, Sauber, Lotus and Manor are able to compete on a leveled playing field. However, when strategies for the well-being and future of the sport are being created by teams that have an understood self-interest, it is unlikely that what is best for F1 will be where the rules land.
The strongest statement might just be a win or podium from one of the middle marker teams on the grand stage of Monaco this week. Force India, Lotus, Sauber and Manor are all shouting the words of the tiny little Who’s from Whoville.
“We are here! We are here! We are here! We are here!”
- Lewis Hamilton 111
- Nico Rosberg 91
- Sebastian Vettel 80
- Kimi Raikkonen 52
- Valtteri Bottas 42
- Felipe Massa 39
- Daniel Ricciardo 25
- Romain Grosjean 16
- Felipe Nasr 14
- Carlos Sainz Jr. 8
- Nico Hulkenberg 6
- Max Verstappen 6
- Sergio Perez 5
- Marcus Ericsson 5
- Daniil Kvyat 5
- Mercedes 202
- Ferrari 132
- Williams 81
- Red Bull 30
- Sauber 19
- Lotus 16
- Toro Rosso 14
- Force India 11
- McLaren 0
- Manor/Marussia 0