Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Formula 1 technical changes during the years (1994-2005)

PREFACE: This article will try to cover the most prominent technical changes / controversies during recent F1 years. In a nice and simple human-to-human format :)

I will start with 1994 for two reasons: 
  1. This is the year when we witnessed massive changes;
  2. I can't really be precise in explanations for years prior to 1994, as I didn't understand that much, or at least not to the extend that I wanted to. 
1994: The so called "driver aids" were decided to be banned, most notably active suspension, anti-lock brakes, traction control and launch control.
That was the year that re-introduced refueling back, for the first time since 1983. 
Sadly, that was the year that we lost Roland Ratzenberger and of three-time world champion Ayrton Senna in separate accidents.

In 1995-1996 we saw different chassis and totally different solutions altogether, with some of the cars arriving at the first GP with no testing all, having been shortly assembled prior to the race.
Then, there was the introduction of the "107% rule", in the way we have it in 2011.

1997 was the year that Bridgestone entered F1 and supplied five teams with rubber.

The 1998 season had introduced the groovy tires, and on the engine front every team was running 3.0L V10 configuration.

Entering into the new decade, the 2000 season saw some controversies: all the drivers in the top six with the exception of Fisichella were excluded because of problems with their wooden floors. 
The teams appealed the decision, and later, after FIA scrutinizing the cars again, all positions were re-instated, with the exception of David Coulthard, whose front wing was deemed to be illegal.
  • To keep costs down, the V10 engine configuration was made mandatory in 2000 
Prior to 2005, most of the events have been dominated by Michael Schumacher beating various wins records.
These were mainly attributed to the availability of the unlimited testing, which was effectively banned after 2004.
In 2005, however, Ferrari had hard times with their tire supplier Bridgestone, having struggled to find the right balance between performance and reliability.
  • Besides the curious drop in performance of Ferrari, BAR-Honda were banned from two races after scrutineers in San Marino discovered a hidden fuel compartment that allowed their cars to run underweight.
  • The "Tires" rules in 2005 were very curious, namely because of prohibiting tire changes during the race.  However, during practice for the US Grand Prix it became apparent that Michelin's tyres were not capable of handling the loads put on them through Indianapolis' banked turn 13. Controversy ensued, with the end result being the seven Michelin-shod teams withdrawing from the race after the parade lap.
  • On the engine life front the units were required to last at least two race weekends, while the aerodynamics part of the rules was modified to include different positions of front and rear wings, higher noses, and other changes that were intended to reduce the downforce by nearly 25%. Different clever solutions were achieved, however, and some of the teams have reclaimed that "lost" downforce.
 FOOTNOTE: Thanks for reading all the way down here. I feared that long article may turn out to be "tl;dr", so I cut down into two pieces. 2006-2011 article will follow soon. 

Update: 2006-2011 here