We may not have reached the mid-way point of the 2014 season, but preparations for 2015 are well and truly underway, as the FIA World Motorsport Council have announced the new sporting and technical regulations. Just like last year, the announcement has been met by serious criticisms as a large proportion of the fans are once again disappointed. Considering the scale of the regulations, I have split this article into two segments – the first (which is the one you are currently reading now) will analyse the sporting regulation changes which are designed to increase the spectacle, while another article to be published tomorrow, will highlight the numerous changes in the technical regulations, as well as testing and research and development options available to teams.
*Cue collective groan*. Standing restarts have been an idea which has been circulating around the paddock for the last couple of races. The theory is that when a safety car is deployed, the usual rolling restart fails to provide the excitement which will keep fans interested, as unless a driver gets caught napping, it’s difficult to gain an advantage. Hence, the WMSC have passed the regulation highlighting that the field will line up on the grid at the end of a safety car period and make a standing start in the same manner to which the race start takes place, (assuming that it is not within two laps of a previous standing start.) This is both the headline, and most controversial, regulation change.
Here’s why its controversial and why I am one particular fan who is against this change. Firstly, it is a gimmick. Yes, DRS could also be placed in this category, but at least it does not defy convention. I am not aware of any other form of motorsport that uses a similar method of restart – The rolling restart is used all over the world. I can only liken it to a situation where the FA would announce that next season, the Premier League will allow a penalty to be retaken if it is missed the first time. Ludicrous, I hear you say, and that is exactly how I feel about standing restarts. You don’t see governing bodies of other sports changing the rules significantly every year, so why should the FIA.
However, all the blame cannot be attributed to the FIA and the WMSC. All of the regulations had to be initially passed by the Strategy Group, followed by the F1 Commission. Considering that the FIA usually just rubber stamp regulations, (despite the recent veto of the new Friday format), the teams are perhaps most responsible for failing to identify what the fans desire. In my opinion, I’m baffled that this idea has gotten this far!
The most frustrating aspect of this regulation is the fact that it shows that the teams and the FIA are focussed on improving the spectacle, yet are changing the aspects which are not broken. Rather than try and adapt a formula which has provided some excellent races this season, I feel that the teams should focus on cost cutting as the unsustainable measures which will be introduced in 2015 may not be enough to keep struggling outfits in business. But, that is a story for the cost cutting article…
Curfews and Car Specifications
Aside from standing restarts, a number of other minor sporting regulations have been altered in aid of improving the general operations of the weekend. Firstly, engineers and mechanics can enjoy an extra hour of sleep on Friday nights, as the curfew has been extended from six hours to seven hours. A very minor change, but it will mean a lot to those involved. Ultimately, I doubt we will be talking about it in years to come.
However, one aspect of the regulation upgrade that is of particular interest are the changes to Parc Ferme. Currently, Parc Ferme begins as the cars first take to the track in Q1, but the new regulations state that it will now begin following FP3. This is significant as it will mean that set-up work conducted on Friday will become even more critical as essentially, teams will lose one hour in which to finalise settings.
Consequently, 2015 could see a new approach to Friday’s, with more long running in FP1 and extended short runs in FP2, (when the track should be in better condition) to ensure that set-ups are completed before FP3. It’s certainly an unwanted headache for the engineers, but it could make for more on-track action on a Friday, which can only be a good thing in terms of the spectacle.
Wheels and Tyres
As predicted, the proposed ban on tyre blankets has been shelved. The plans were exactly as they first appear – Tyre blankets, which are used in the garages, on the grid and have almost become a part of the cars main life support system, were set to be scrapped. But why, I hear you cry. Well, it was another attempt to spice up the action on track. It was assumed that if drivers head out onto the track with tyres which are no warmer than track temperature, excitement will be increased.
Ultimately, the drivers have supported the fans perspective on this one and this is likely to have influenced the WMSC’s decision. Drivers have voiced concerns in recent press conferences, suggesting that it would jeopardise safety. Despite some highlighting that the fact that they managed without tyre blankets in lower formula, they also identified that they currently have a million and one things to do behind the wheel and adding an additional hindrance is hardly going to improve safety. My particular concern about scrapping the blankets would be that drivers heading into Turn one on a wet track using brake-by-wire and harvesting electrical power on cold tyres is a recipe for disaster. Round of applause goes to the WMSC for scrapping this particular idea for another year at least.
Be sure to return to the blog later this evening for my analysis of the new technical regulations, which will include an assessment of the reduction of wind tunnel usage, testing, as well as conversation surrounding noses, brakes, wheels, skid blocks and titanium.
One for you techies out there!