The second part of my 2015 regulation analysis is finally here, and as I mentioned in the partner article analysing the sporting regulations, this is one for the techies. Slightly less controversial than standing restarts, the new technical regulations see re-profiled noses introduced, new brake disks and a two-stage wheel fastener retainer system amongst other adaptations. Meanwhile, I will analyse the remaining sporting regulations which will affect Formula One from a technical standpoint, with aerodynamic testing restrictions being increased alongside power unit changes and new rules regarding testing. Certainly a lot of food for thought…
With cost cutting being the buzz words in modern Formula One, its no surprise that the 2015 regulation changes centre around halting the ever escalating costs. One simple method of reducing costs is to reduce testing. It seems to be the perfect option – It does not impact on the spectacle, as the vast majority of fans fail to follow testing anyway, (particularly the in-season tests) and therefore, this fails to detract from the spectacle of the sport. Its unquestionably a better option compared to reducing Friday running to just one session.
The regulations identify that all pre-season tests in 2015 will take place in Europe and this was almost an inevitable move. All teams, from Mercedes to Caterham, wanted to remain in Europe during pre-season. The two Bahrain tests were necessary this season, as teams did not want to enter a campaign without any representative data for the new powertrain. However, testing in the middle-east was far from ideal, as pre-season costs soared, with parts having to be shipped across the additional miles. In addition to this 2015 change, the WMSC have already laid down plans for 2016, highlighting that only two pre-season tests will be held in two years time. This is to further combat costs, however, this is perhaps a step too far. Run plans will be severely restricted by this and it ultimately means that drivers may only have four days of pre-season running prior to the curtain raiser – and that’s a maximum of four. This could well mean that third drivers may not receive as much track time during the winter. With drivers such as Felipe Nasr gaining his superlicence during pre-season tests in 2014, this could stall the development of young talent. However, with the sport plummeting into financial crisis, some aspects of the sport will have to be sacrificed. Winter running is obviously one of them.
In addition, aerodynamic testing has also received similar cutbacks, with teams restricted to just 65 hours of wind tunnel operations per week. This is a reasonably small reduction from the 80 hours which teams are permitted to run this season. Ultimately, it shouldn’t have a major impact, which means that it is another excellent cost cutting measure. It’s all about reducing costs for minimal costs – if you get what I mean…
Powertrains, powertrains, powertrains. The 2014 campaign was always going to be all about the new V6 hybrid power units and as teams begin to understand the many characteristics under the skin of their cars, regulations regarding these powertrains are set to become even tighter. While teams have five of each component available to them for the season, this is set to reduce to four in 2015, (assuming the number of races on the calender remains below 20.) In addition, the penalty for changing an entire powerunit will be starting from the back of the grid as oppose to the pitlane.
The decrease on powerunits available to teams makes a lot of sense. These units are unquestionably too expensive, so reducing the number that teams have to purchase is a totally logical move. Now that teams are developing a true understanding of the equipment available to them, reliability will naturally increase – teams will not make the same mistakes twice.
And On The Surface…
The 2015 technical changes do not just affect aspects of the sport that cannot be seen by the naked eye. The regulation which will perhaps prove most popular to fans is that ugly noses will soon be a thing of the past. In 2015, new regulations will see more aesthetically pleasing noses while further improving safety. I’m being vague, because that is exactly what this regulation is at the moment – at least in the public domain. However, I would be willing to suggest that modesty panels will be introduced, similar to the saviour of the stepped noses of 2012, (remember them!) Its easy to forget that stepped noses still exist, and this will surly be the case with anteater noses once this regulation is enforced.
Meanwhile, a two-stage wheel fastener retainer system will now be compulsory in 2015, and again, this is a no brainer from the WMSC. I doubt they had much debate over this one. With three unsafe releases in 2014 so far, where tyres have not been correctly attached, (Ricciardo in Malaysia, Vergne in Spain and Gutierrez in Austria), the teams are clearly concerned for safety, as is the FIA. This will not mean that such pit-stops are eradicated but it should mean that they are reduced. Similarly, tyres will now be locked by an even more sturdy retainer system than ever before. I doubt anyone will have a problem with this particular regulation.
Lighter skid blocks, (to be made from titanium) and brake discs which will rotate at the same speeds as the wheels will also be introduced.
On the whole, the adaptations to the regulations in 2015 make a lot of sense, particularly from a safety standpoint. Formula One continues to make great strides in terms of safety development and constant evolution in this critical area is essential.
However, the cost cutting measures introduced are largely unsustainable. Take the reduced in-season testing, for example. Young drivers will not be given enough track time and these concerns have been voiced by the likes of Felipe Nasr already – the regulation has not even been introduced yet! Its important to cut costs but when it is at the expense of something as pivotal as driver development, it is not ideal. While reducing wind tunnel usage and the number of powerunits required will aid the cost cutting cause, these regulations as a whole will not quell those who suggest a cost cap is a more sustainable option. I am certain that we have not heard the last of that particular idea, but with teams unable to agree, it is somewhat of a pipe-dream.
Oh, and in regards to standing starts, don’t get me started…