Another change in the Formula
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The sports reports are full of Super Rugby, the evenings are getting shorter, the Warriors fans are kidding everybody that “this will be the year” with even the top stars of the sport saying that they will win the league, and to top it all, Brussels sprouts are in the shops already.
What can that all mean?
Yes, of course, the Formula 1 season is nearly upon us, as the teams get into preparation overdrive.
In just one month, over the weekend of March 24-26 in Melbourne, we will see just who has been telling the truth in testing, who has been sandbagging, who has work to do and just who will be the fastest.
Crucially, we will also find out which team has made the best of the new rules package and has the best looking car, as the old adage that “if it looks fast it usually is fast” still holds true most years.
Before we get to Melbourne we will get some idea of the shape of things to come during the two scheduled track tests at the Circuit de Catalunya, Barcelona, this month and early next month.
Bearing in mind the cars that are revealed to the public on the launch dates of each team are normally different to those at the tests, and those at the tests are normally different to the cars that will take to the track, and those cars on track at the first race will be considerably different to those on track at the final race of the season; I am not sure too much can be taken from simply watching the tests.
However, it will be the first time we get a look at how the new regulations have been interpreted by the design teams. We’ll definitely get a clue as to which team has a peach and which a lemon.
The new regulations are, in Formula 1 terms at least, far-reaching. Put simply, these changes could affect the sport more than any others for some time as they give the designers something new to aim at.
For years now the cars have effectively been designed by the regulations with little scope for real innovation. True innovations have been as rare a humble Hamilton or a bashful Bernie.
Now and again, whenever some clever design group has come up with something a bit revolutionary, it’s likely the other teams will get wind of it.
And when they find they cannot come up with something better, or even similar, the habit has been to appeal to the FIA to see if the new innovation is within the rules.
That has forced the FIA to look at the situation and make a declaration of legality, or not, which then gives the appealing team the heads up on how to go about copying the idea.
Unfortunately, as in the past weeks with a major discussion going on about certain suspension innovations, that appealing team has often been based in Italy with cars decorated mainly in red.
Although the cars will not look startlingly different, they may look a little bit more like racing cars.
That seems silly to say but the first thing we will notice is the wheels and tyres and they will be around 25 per cent wider.
That also goes for the car, that will be some 200mm wider in overall width with the front wing width also increased by 150mm.
In my opinion, that is a retrograde step as smaller front wings would have looked better and helped overtaking.
The rear wing will be lower by 150mm and the underbody aerodynamics will also be much more powerful and effective. Good for cornering.
The cars will be heavier by approximately 20kg to the new minimum weight of 728kg, that weight also being approximate depending on the tyres fitted. There are other changes that affect the bodywork and some engine regulations governing how replacement parts are introduced but essentially that is it.
It doesn’t sound much but the difference to 2016 will, we are told, be dramatic.
The teams have been hard at work for weeks, assembling the cars, doing endless pit stop practices, getting used to new personnel and some new drivers, new bits of pit gear, new uniforms and countless other changes.
Though the work is hard and more than a few all-nighters will be done, it will come as a major relief to the engineers and mechanics, not to mention the drivers, to get the cars on track.
One bizarre news report had a prominent Formula 1 team principal, who happens to be in charge of a satellite fizzy drinks team, suggesting the Mercedes teams should be prevented from making improvements to the engine until the other engine manufacturers could catch up.
Oh please! If you cannot do the job properly, don’t try to nobble the people who are.
The object of the exercise is for the slowest to speed up, improve and compete — not for the best to slow down and wait.
Just get on and do a better job!
Simple, really. But when has Formula 1 ever been simple?