Zurich Gnome

The journal of a Swiss-based motor-racing enthusiast.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Rules and Tank Tape

You have to hand it to the FIA. They've apparently fixed the loophole in the new qualifying regulations. In an article I wrote at the beginning of November, I hypothesized that the FIA would have to make a change, and I'm impressed to say that they've done it before the season, rather than after the first GP.

But their "solution" has all the style and elegance of National Health glasses held together with sticking plaster. Of course, this is motor racing, so I should say tank (or gaffer) tape, but you know what I mean. Patching up bad regulations with more bad regulations is not the way to go. It makes it so much harder for the casual spectator to understand, and the commentator's job that much harder. "Villeneuve's just gone off at the last corner and got dirt on his tyres, not only has it screwed his lap time for this and the next lap, it could well cost him 4.5 litres fuel credit". Do you want to hear that kind of thing? I don't.

By adding a new regulation, it gives the teams something else to exploit. Hopefully the new regulation (which allows teams to add a fixed amount of fuel for each lap that they complete within 110% of their best lap) refers to the entire qualifying, and not just the last session. Otherwise we might see a team that believes that tenth is likely to be its best position driving round consistently slowly to gain fuel credits for the race.

But the main sufferers may be the poor software engineers. They now have to produce a new simulation program to calculate how the drivers should drive in the highest gear possible to save fuel, without exceeding the simulated best time on full fuel. And as the time taken to complete a lap is highly dependent on the exit speed of corners (and Max knows this) we'll see people on the ragged edge of corners and then tootling down the straights in top gear. Other drivers on hot laps won't know what to expect. Engineers will have to consider whether it's worth risking running the engine lean in qualifying. I'm sure there will be other options. None of them will cut costs.

For God's sake! Twelve lap qualifying, fastest time counts. Choose the fuel afterwards. If the FIA wants to ensure that all of qualifying is watched on TV, then split it into two 30 minute sessions, with the top ten finishers from the previous race running in the second session. If you put all the F1 fans in the world into a room (admittedly a very, very big one) and asked for a show of hands, you'd get a better than 90% acceptance with that. So why not give us what we want? Please.


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