Motorsports? In THIS blog?dodgethis | March 8, 2009
For this year, I have decided to add a new feature to our lineup. I fancy myself as a gearhead of sorts, so starting from this month, I will be covering some motorsport events that interest me, primarily the Formula One championship and the 24 Hour of Le Mans. If it’s coming back this year, I may head down to the local Formula Drift event as well. So, now, you have something new to look forward to as well.
Some thoughts about this year’s F1 after the jump.
This year’s rules see a massive change from last year’s, in terms of aerodynamics and tyres, two of the most important components in in a race car, barring the driver, in my opinion.
Let’s start off with tyres. After a long absence, we see the return of full slick tyres to the lineup. This promises to introduce faster cornering speeds and provide for very tense moments at the right time. Compared to the grooved slicks of previous years, full slicks provide for maximum contact of rubber to the race surface, increasing levels of grips tremendously. Felipe Massa, in testing last year, showed a two second improvement in lap times in Jerez when he ran the F2008 on full slicks, as compared to the grooved ones.
Of course, full slicks have a massive problem. The lack of grooves mean that they cannot push away water from underneath them at all when it starts to pour. At least, with grooved slicks, you could at least push some water away. Imagine a sudden downpour like what happened at the Nurburgring in 2007 where it went from dry to tsunami in a matter of two minutes. Seven cars went into the gravel of the first corner in the same lap and made for massive lulz.
Gravel trap: OM NOM NOM NOM NOM.
‘Even at slower speeds behind the safety car, this is not going to help anyone when the entire field has no grip of any kind because of the reliance of car on downforce to help press the tyres down on the surface. Imagine a close race between two cars and the rain starts coming and both cars are running slicks. Both have to pit and neither can afford a single mistake, both on the track and in the pits. Ah, rain, the great equalizer, when Force India cars begin to outstrip even the Ferraris.
With no grooves, there is no simple visual aid for the driver or pit wall the to determine how worn the tire is. With grooves, one could gauge the difference in depths of the grooves and contact patches or the presence of the white line required for softer compounds (read: hardness). It will now all boil down to the driver and his ability to feel the tires.
Your last, Alonso, savour it.
The second change is the reduction of aerodynamics effects for the cars. Max and Bernie have dictated that to encourage overtaking attempts by drivers, cars now have to run aero packages that are drastically different from 2008. They claimed that because of the dirty air that the older packages created in their wake, many drivers were too afraid to follow too close behind the car in front. These new regulations have quite big impact on the performance on the car. I remember Nick Hiedfeld saying that previously he could take Eau Rouge of Spa (a 300km/h chicane at the crest of a hill) flat out but with the new regulations, he would have to completely rethink how he did it, perhaps even needing to use his brakes.
Cars are now permitted to with front spoilers that have adjustable aerodynamics. Depending on the situation, a driver can choose a downforce setting that suits him best, even changing settings for different corners. The rear spoilers are now much narrower and higher than before. The narrower spoilers do not allow as much air be caught as before, reducing the downforce on the rear of the car by quite a lot. However, the height of them would allow the spoiler to catch cleaner, less turbulent air. Of course, changes to aero packages mean a whole new esthetic to the look of the cars. I am somewhat divided on this issue. I think the rear spoilers look great, giving the head on view of car a meaner look. With the front spoilers, I don’t know. Sure, they’re functional but the void just under the nose irks me.
Think of downforce like a person pressing down on an object, only that this pressure only comes into play when a car is in motion. Downforce is a give and take thing. Running on higher downforces allows a car to run more stable in straights and permit them to take corners at much higher speeds. However, due to the parasitic nature of downforce which induces drag, a car’s top speed is reduced with a higher drag co-efficient. While downforce also helps to push a car down, increasing tyre contact with the surface, this can result in much greater tyre wear, reducing the number of laps a driver can run before needing to pit. Conversely, with lower downforce, think of all the previous but reversed. All tracks are not created equal, thus all require different aerodynamic requirements.
Edit: I think I left out a very important new component that has been included in the new regulations. As part of the FIA’s initiative to go green and encourage new environmentally friendly technology, cars may now be fitted with a device that converts energy generated during braking into electrical energy, known as the Kinetic Energy Recovery System or KERS (pronounced curse, hur). This energy is normally stored in the form of a battery in road cars but in F1 cars, the energy can be stored in a mechanical form as well.
Taking a page from A1GP, this energy can be used to momentarily to boost the car’s power at the push of a button. While this is a huge advantage, the extra weight of the system (a whopping 60 kilos, when a car weighs just under 600) has the potential to drastically change the the handling characteristics of the car under certain conditions. Another major concern with KERS is safety. I believe there was incident last year with the BMW car of Kubica’s and a mechanic when the electrical energy was discharged into the poor sod. In addition, the additional electrics required for the system increases the potential for fires and electrical failures. Whether the new system would be a boon or curse, remains to be seen.
Now let’s get on to predictions on this year’s championship. Needless to say, I am hoping that Ferrari would take both drivers and constructors championships. I am reserving my judgment until the mid-season once I have a good understanding of each team’s strength and weaknesses. This year even more so due to the drastic rule changes.
More of these shots this year, Lewis. Loser.
I am hoping that Sebestian Bourdais would do a lot better this season. He came into F1 after winning the CHAMP car series four years running. I have nothing to say about Hamilton after his win last year. Glock ought to be shot (pun intended) for his role in that travesty. Alonso is fast but he’s a prick and deserves to race only in the support races. Vettel and Kubica are drivers to look out for this year, along with Rosberg.
So until, the first race in Australia, here’s to Ferrari. May our cars run strong and the rest of field have their engines blow on the formation lap.