News and views on motorsports

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Another Look at 2008

Reading Geoff Collins' latest posting on Zurich Gnome, I wondered how on earth would people like BCN Competicion and Racing Engineering can afford and have enough expertise to engineer Formula 1 cars if their entries were accepted for 2008. As quickly as I thought about it, I realised the answer. They don't have to. The 2008 rules allow for the purchase of complete chassis from other teams and manufacturers. They'd need race engineers and mechanics of course but they wouldn't need so much engineering depth as the teams do at the moment.

I wonder why the rules forbidding the purchase of cars was brought about in this first place. Its quite silly and probably is the single largest reason for the demise of a number of old teams. With the current rules, teams spend a fortune on manufacturing facilities with attendant production engineers, material handlers and engineers, aero technicians and a whole host of other personnel. With teams allowed to purchase cars, all these personnel would be surplus to the requirements of the smaller teams. And then they can concentrate on where it matters most that is running the cars in testing and race weekends.

Alright, some might aruge the situation becomes like Champcars in the 90s and sportscars. But really, what is so wrong with that? After all, those series were lots of fun and excitement. Plus, if the cars are still high tech then it'll still be Formula 1. IF they were still high tech. Max however wants to severely limit the tech.

I think, going for spec ECUs and restricting materials should have been enough. The secret of such high specific outputs of Formula 1 engines depend a lot on these factors. Special alloys are required for minimal weight and maximum strength but they in turn need special production processes to forge and manipulate.

Spec ECUs are a favourite target of the critics but with almost everything in the engine tied to the electronics and further development depends on these what better to restrict engine development than this? Also, how can one guarantee that gizmos like traction control, electronic diffs, launch control, all expensive stuf, can be eliminated. Tie in spec ECUs with rev limiters and I should think that you could really limit the pace of engine development.

Lets face it, that pace of development needs to be limited else you end up with a safety factor and then more rules are introduced to slow the cars down which leads to more expensive development. However, I firmly disagree with severely restricting mechanical developments by way of spec centre of gravity, v-angles, cylinder limits and others. There has got to be a way for the engineers to play.

I think the new rules can potentially be made right but it'll really be up to the parties involved to come to their senses. And of course, Max needs to give up trying to be the fuhrer. There's really no need for that. And remember, whatever happens it is the teams and manufacturers who end up spending billions to compete. They ought to have a say and a right to decide on the new rules as well.


Checkpoint10 said...

Obviously I don't have numbers right now to back this up, but I don't think it'd be difficult at all for any GP2/Champ Car/IRL team to compete in Formula 1 if only they were allowed to. It does not take a massive budget to hack together a car that minimally conforms to F1 specs; you could build one in your garage or buy one from the back pages of Autosport; of course you wouldn't be very competitive at all, but history has shown that there are plenty of teams who wouldn't mind racing near the back. Super Aguri has shown that you can be reasonably competitive with a 4-year-old chassis, a decent driver, and a team that has existed for less than a year. We don't need to cut costs; we just need to let 'em in and they'll sort themselves out.

Gerald V said...

I think an analogy can be drawn between restricting development and the old "12 Metre" yatchs of America's cup racing. With the yatchs the engineers had no where to go. The boats were so resticted by design that there was almost nothing the engineers could do to improve them from one cup series to the next. They got boring and eventually had to be put to away.

If you cut off the top or cap the top to which engineers can add improvements then you leave them nothing to do but come up with hugely expensive individual parts to raise rev limits because you resticted them in all other areas of engine development.

Or you end up with endless tinkering with barge boards and wing configurations to gain minimal advantages, instead of real development to improve performance.

I am conflicted in my arguement because I would like to see the elimination of all electronic aids and leave the driving up to the drivers. I think the winner of any race or championship should come down to who could drive his car the fastest.

Drivers are a very variable factor in any race. That is what I want to see, drivers driving advanced cars against other drivers. Not one teams engineers ECU against another teams ECU. Driving is being able to "launch" with your own skills not computer aided and the same for traction control. When a driver comes out of a corner he needs to have to modulate his throttle and not be able to jam it to the floor and let an rev limiter or traction control device control his wheel spin. Make them completely drive the car.

Qwerty said...

Yes, I made the argument for getting rid of the electronic gizmos based on cost. But you're right, the main argument is so that it'll be a test of driver skill instead of sophisticated electronics.

I do advocate that engineering development be allowed. However, it ought to be on the mechanical side not software