Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Formula 1 technical changes during the years (2006-2011)

Part two follows, trying to delve deeper into 2006-2011 technical changes in Formula 1.

2006 was the last season that featured two tire manufacturers at the same time.
While Giancarlo Fisichella won his third career race in Malaysia, many of the teams faced an accusations about illegal "flexible" wings - something we are about to cover (and probably all of you already know) in 2010.
Changes in both rules and wings per se were introduced quickly to resolve that matter.

At some point during this season, mostly dominated by Renault and Alonso, FIA decided that the "Mass Damper" system used by the French team didn't meet the technical regulations and it was subsequently banned.
This decision was very disputable, as Renault claims that FIA was contacted and consulted prior to the system's development, hence its use was authorized.
The main argument was whether this system serves as aerodynamic device, or as part of the suspension system.

  • Notable change of 2006 was the engine displacement, namely from 3.0 to 2.4L and a reduce of cylinders from 10 to 8, hence arriving at the V8 area. STR was the only team allowed to run V10 configuration, in order to avoid excessive re-engineering cost, however, with limits placed on their units.
  • Tire changes during the race have returned in 2006.
  • Michelin announced they would withdraw from the championship after the 2006 season as tire supplier.
In 2007, a season largely overshadowed by the SpyGate Espionage controversy
there were two things worth mentioning on the technical front:
  • Both tire compounds had to be used during the race - hard and soft.
  • Engine development was frozen from the 2006 Japanese Grand Prix with the intention to have these the same for 2007 and 2008. 
2008 season witnessed couple of interesting tech points:
  • Single standard ECU was provided for all teams, produced by joint venture of Mclaren and Microsoft.
  • Traction and launch control totally banned, along with some other "aids", like "engine braking reduction". Part of that was provided by the standardized ECU, as in the past it was believed that many teams have been successfully able to circumvent the rules.
  • Testing was limited to not more than 30,000 km per year.
The 2009 season was mostly dominated by the controversy of the double diffusers with the title eventually won by the Brawn GP team, however, other significant rule changes are worth mentioning, too: 
  • Changes in cars design, resulting in wider and lower front wings, taller and narrower rear wings, and a reduction on aerodynamic bodywork.
  • Introduction of slick tires and KERS system. 
  • Toyota, Williams and Brawn GP were the only teams to have unconventional rear diffuser setup, henceforth known as "Double Diffuser". An official complaint was launched by the rest of the teams, however FIA declared the solution legal. 
  • Driver-adjustable front wings were allowed, however, only two alterations per lap were possible. 
  • On the engine front only 8 engines were allowed during the season at no penalty cost, with a detune from 19,000 to 18,000 RPM due to reliability reasons.
Prior to 2010 regulations announcement, the budget cap agreement was a point of major debates. Formula 1 faced the possibility of breakaway series introduction, with teams disagreeing with the $45 million upper limit.
  • On the technical side: refueling was disallowed for the first time since 1993. 
  • Ferrari and Red Bull were both accused of having front wings that flexed at high speed, pushing them closer to the ground than is allowed. Various pictures provided by different web sites were trying to prove that, however, no scrutinizing procedure was deemed failed. As a result, though, more stringent tests for the front wings were introduced.
  • F-Duct was interesting invention by Mclaren team - it was a clever loop hole in the rules, later copied by the rest of the teams. Eventually banned for 2011 season. 
Although 2011 is still to have 5 more races (today is Oct. 5, 2011), there are couple of technical stuff worth mentioning: 
  • Return of 107% rule for qualifications. 
  • Team orders are officially allowed, as they were existent in different coded / cryptic forms. 
  • Sole tire supplier Bridgestone were announced to leave Formula 1 after 2010 season, giving place to Pirelli. Currently there are mostly positive opinions on what Pirelli have delivered. 
  • F-Duct, along with some smaller aero devices first seen at 2010 were banned for 2011.
  • KERS was decided to be an optional device for the teams, notable point is self-developed KERS by Red Bull, which appeared to be problematic during races. 
  • 2011 season announced the introduction of the Drag Reduction System (DRS), which to date appeared to be criticized by many. Its use proved to be excessive on some tracks, while it didn't make much impact on other tracks. 
  • Additional wheel tethers (twice more) were introduced in 2011, as a safety precaution following two incidents. Sadly, one of them was the death of Henry Surtees in Formula 2.

Thanks for reading. 2012 rules aren't deemed to be much different than 2011, but this is still subject of change. I will update the thread as soon as the rules are published.

FOOTNOTE: Both articles aren't pretending to be extremely precise and conclusive, I was just trying to draw the overall technical picture of F1, in a short and digestible format.
I'm open to any comments, feedback, alterations and accusations towards my bad English :) 

Without Wax, 
The Author (Kiril Varbanov)