In some respects, as a simple watcher, I sometimes wonder about the reasons for the races that have been grafted onto the traditional races in Europe that used to form the F1 world tour. That’s not a hint that they shouldn’t be there, more that their effect seems to be something of a lottery, as their weather and climatic conditions are so different from the rest of the season that the rules of F1 mean that there must be design compromises – and that seems a bit odd for something that calls itself Formula 1. Having the opening races there means that the upgrades for the new season don’t reach the cars until they return to Europe, and this means we see even less clues as to how the season will develop.
I’m not a Ferrari fan, but it was disappointing to hear the various commentators dismiss the team at this stage. The team has lost or changed many key staff, and it is the start of the season. My vision isn’t blurred by red, but I see no reason whatsoever to make disparaging remarks about the team, write them off, or suggest they will be nowhere to be seen at the end of the season. At this stage, a complete reversal of form is by no means off the cards.
Brawn’s performance was possibly the most interesting of the weekend. I didn’t hear anyone else mention sandbagging or misdirection, but the result and performance of the cars and drivers suggests some intriguing tactics played over the weekend. Despite reports of chassis changes which were said to cut away all the advantageous diffuser bits from below the cars, and precise temperature figures being quoted for maximum air temperatures that would mean the engine cooling – and therefore power – would be compromised, that temperature was exceeded, and the car carried on to a comfortable win.
Much as the opening races in faraway countries are fun, I look forward to the relatively stable period in Europe, where it’s possible to get a more balanced view of just how each team performs over an extended period.
The KERS system is something of an anomaly, even a disappointment, possibly a handicap rather than a potential advantage. If you use it, you have to carry the weight for the whole race, but can only use the recovered energy for a few seconds. This makes it artificial, as the rules can make the period so short that it is next to useless, or so long that anyone who doesn’t have it fitted has no chance of winning. In effect, the rulebook could define the winner.
I can’t help feeling that it should be ditched, or made a compulsory part of every F1 car, and rather than being time-limited, it should perhaps be given a maximum weight.
This would allow the teams to choose how they balanced the mix of generation versus storage. Their design problem would them be similar to that of their current refuelling strategy choices where they have to balance fuel/weight versus number of pit stops and lap times.
Their KERS weight limit would then force them to decide whether they wanted a big generator (and less battery storage), which would charge the batteries quickly, but they would have little duration, or to have a small generator (and more battery storage), which would take longer to charge the batteries, but they would then have greater duration.
Flywheel systems are inherently weight dependent, but could have further rules determining their dimensions and how that weight was distributed on the flywheel, since a given mass distributed further from the centre of rotation stores more energy than it would at a lesser radius.
And you can complicate things further by mounting the flywheel in a vacuum, and spinning it at tens of thousands of rpm – really dangerous in a crash, so demanding a heavy safety enclosure.
This could keep the F1 rulebook writers busy for years – maybe we should ban them now, and just go for electrical systems.