You may not have realised it, but there are big changes afoot for the coming F1 season. Some good, some odd. Here’s a summary:
For the first time since 1993, refueling will be banned, although drivers will still need to come into the pits to make a compulsory tyre change. The cars will be sporting a larger fuel tank of around 250 litres (70-95 litres was a typical fuel fill in 2009). This has led to a wider and longer chassis design to accommodate it. Coupled with a change to a smaller front tyre (reduced to 245mm width from 270mm), the cars will therefore run a different weight distribution.
Verdict: Never mind about saving money, removing refueling takes away some of the spectacle. Pit stops will be much quicker, with teams estimating between 3-4 seconds. The drivers and their engineers will have to carefully manage their tyres and brakes on heavy fuel loads.
It was 1995 when Formula One last had 26 cars taking part in a race, but with 13 teams entered for the 2010 season the grid will be larger than usual. To comply with a new Resource Restriction Agreement the number of trackside team personnel teams can have has been restricted. For Saturday’s qualifying session, eight drivers will be knocked out of both Q1 and Q2, leaving 10 drivers to fight for pole position in Q3.
Verdict: The more the merrier. Should add enormously to the racing and we might even get some overtaking. Imagine that! However, let’s see how many of these ‘new’ teams actually make it to the grid.
To take into account the increased numbers of cars, the points system has been amended. The previous system (10, 8, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1) will change dramatically in 2010 with the race winner being awarded 25 points and the top ten drivers awarded points (25, 18, 15, 12, 10, 8, 6, 4, 2, 1).
Verdict: I suppose the logic here is to encourage drivers to fight more for position. Going for the win, rather than, say, settling for second. Let’s see what happens in the first race.
The minimum weight of the car in 2010 will be 620kg compared to 605kg in 2009. This was introduced to offset the disadvantage faced by taller, heavier drivers in KERS-equipped cars. However, by mutual agreement, KERS will not be used in 2010.
Verdict: Shame KERS won’t be around. I thought it was a good thing. Anything that helps overtaking is fine with me. Of course the cars will be heavier because they’ll be carrying fuel for the full race distance. Tyre wear will therefore become an even bigger factor.
Only four pre-season winter tests were permitted with the ban on in-season testing remaining in place. The winter tests took place at Valencia (1 – 3 February), Jerez (10 – 13 February; 17 – 20 February), and Barcelona (25 – 28 February). One day of testing will be permitted by the FIA if a new driver is required to drive for a team during the season. To qualify, the driver should not have participated in an F1 race in the previous two years and the test will take place on an FIA-approved track not used for a Grand Prix.
Verdict: I’ve never understood why track testing was dropped. To me, it’s not just about the wealthier teams improving their performance, more about safety. After all, we don’t want bits coming off cars because they haven’t been tested in real-life conditions as thoroughly as they might have been, now do we? There’s a limit to how much you can achieve using CFD analysis and wind tunnel. Whatever data a team has they only find out how good their car is when they run it on a track. One day’s testing for a new driver is also not enough, by a long way. But, then again, what do I know?