Strict rules haven't spoilt all the technical fun in F1

Browse pages
Current page

1

Current page

2

Current page

3

Current page

4

Current page

5

Current page

6

Current page

7

Current page

8

Current page

9

Current page

10

Current page

11

Current page

12

Current page

13

Current page

14

Current page

15

Current page

16

Current page

17

Current page

18

Current page

19

Current page

20

Current page

21

Current page

22

Current page

23

Current page

24

Current page

25

Current page

26

Current page

27

Current page

28

Current page

29

Current page

30

Current page

31

Current page

32

Current page

33

Current page

34

Current page

35

Current page

36

Current page

37

Current page

38

Current page

39

Current page

40

Current page

41

Current page

42

Current page

43

Current page

44

Current page

45

Current page

46

Current page

47

Current page

48

Current page

49

Current page

50

Current page

51

Current page

52

Current page

53

Current page

54

Current page

55

Current page

56

Current page

57

Current page

58

Current page

59

Current page

60

Current page

61

Current page

62

Current page

63

Current page

64

Current page

65

Current page

66

Current page

67

Current page

68

Current page

69

Current page

70

Current page

71

Current page

72

Current page

73

Current page

74

Current page

75

Current page

76

Current page

77

Current page

78

Current page

79

Current page

80

Current page

81

Current page

82

Current page

83

Current page

84

Current page

85

Current page

86

Current page

87

Current page

88

Current page

89

Current page

90

Current page

91

Current page

92

Current page

93

Current page

94

Current page

95

Current page

96

Current page

97

Current page

98

Current page

99

Current page

100

Current page

101

Current page

102

Current page

103

Current page

104

Current page

105

Current page

106

Current page

107

Current page

108

Current page

109

Current page

110

Current page

111

Current page

112

Current page

113

Current page

114

Current page

115

Current page

116

Current page

117

Current page

118

Current page

119

Current page

120

Current page

121

Current page

122

Current page

123

Current page

124

Current page

125

Current page

126

Current page

127

Current page

128

Current page

129

Current page

130

Current page

131

Current page

132

Current page

133

Current page

134

Current page

135

Current page

136

Current page

137

Current page

138

Current page

139

Current page

140

Current page

141

Current page

142

Current page

143

Current page

144

Current page

145

Current page

146

Current page

147

Current page

148

Current page

149

Current page

150

Current page

151

Current page

152

Current page

153

Current page

154

Current page

155

Current page

156

Current page

157

Current page

158

Current page

159

Current page

160

Current page

161

Current page

162

Current page

163

Current page

164

Current page

165

Current page

166

Current page

167

Current page

168

Current page

169

Current page

170

Current page

171

Current page

172

Current page

173

Current page

174

Current page

175

Current page

176

Current page

177

Current page

178

Current page

179

Current page

180

Overall, Sebastian Vettel’s second consecutive World Championship-winning season was rather less predictable than its outcome might suggest. Most races were quite close and exciting. They were, as Mr Ecclestone sometimes puts it, “a good advertisement for Formula 1”.

It’s only to the old lags, I suppose, that so many aspects of modern F1 lack interest and charm, not least with more petty rules and regulations than a 1960s motor sport subversive will ever happily accept.

Fines, drive-throughs, grid penalties many for little more than elbows-out proper racing have served to emasculate what used to be a man’s sport Now enmeshed with more girly rules and regulations than an EU electro-plater, it’s hardly surprising that some of us despair, or succumb to no more than resigned passing interest.

I still enjoy the technicalities of the cars and do not care one iota if Lewis and Felipe have just had another spat behind the bizjet shed. And while rules and regulations have closed off too many avenues of F1 development, those same restrictions have also driven ever-more ingenious ploys to gain advantage. Recently a veteran Fl design engineer still in harness admitted to me that, “Of course there are a whole host of things we are no longer allowed to do. So basically current road cars are much more advanced than race cars…” Then he could have added “but there is an up side”.

Imposed uniformity is now more stringent than at anytime in Grand Prix history. Any old-time pretensions to an effective ‘box-Formula’ in which almost any technical ploy was allowable within a proscribed cuboid of airspace are long gone. Such relatively common road car features as four-wheel drive, anti-lock braking systems, an entire catalogue of alternative engine types, systems and configurations are all completely verboten. This regrettable situation is only understandable if you accept that without such restrictions modern F1 car development would have priced most manufacturers into withdrawal, performance would have outstripped all venues save perhaps the Bonneville Salt Flats, and g-induced loss of consciousness would have written off most of the trained apes rash enough to conduct such missiles.

But if you consider the technical innovations not banned by the present morass of petty regulation there’s still a pretty impressive range in the F1 designers’ locker.

Not in any particular order these include (deep breath): Kinetic Energy Recovery Systems (KERS), composite suspension members (wishbones, pushrods, track rods), mechanical power-assisted steering, suspension systems with roll and heave springing separated out, electro-hydraulic thrattles, electro-hydraulic clutches, hand clutch systems, carbon-fibre clutches, electro-hydraulic differentials (which save messing around with Salisburys, ZFs, Torsen etc), even ultra-lightweight batteries.

And then we should add lightweight, ultrastiff composite gearbox casings, the capability to make safe clutch-less almost instantaneous gear changes, exhaust-enhanced bodywork designs, high-pressure fuel systems, position-sensitive dampers, frequency sensitive dampers, dynamic brake balance, quick-shift brake balance systems, brake ducts doubling as aerodynamic and tyre performance enhancers, and of course movable rear wings (Drag Reduction System DRS).

For the hard-worked human in the hot seat permitted advances have included those ungainly yet ettective HANS devices, built-in driver’s head protection butters, monocoque crash and anti-penetration panels and the tethering wheel-retention systems.

In manufacturing terms, Computer Aided Design (CAD), Finite Element Analysis (FEA), Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) and the colossal evolution of assorted aerodynamic solutions to meet (to the best advantage) continuous regulation changes have resulted in some of the most exquisitely well-built racing machinery our world has ever seen.

And in structural terms metal-matrix composites, aluminium-lithium materials and very high-temperature composites are all at the cutting edge, together with stereo lithography component construction (oh, look it up on Wikipedia).

My interest in racing car technicalities lacks currency, but J-dampers or Inerters’ have been a little publicised success story since McLaren initially adopted Cambridge Professor Malcolm Smith’s suspension-control concept in 2005 when Kimi Rӓikkӧnen’s Spanish GP-winning McLaren-Mercedes ran the system. Ferrari and Renault developed their own inerters, which later featured in the sad McLaren/ Ferrari ‘Spy-gate’ affair.

Looking like a third shock absorber the inerter accepts suspension jounce loads at each end, which it converts into spinning-up a flywheel as an energy store device, like a spinning top. Its effect alters the suspension system’s ride and stiffness qualities, enhances ultimate mechanical grip and can open ditterent avenues of car set-up.

So while we can bemoan the diminution of ‘our sport with all these pettifogging regulations, we can also be happy with its increasing though largely hidden technical sophistication. Motor sport at every level has always been a matter of gamekeepers vs poachers. And neither faction can currently feel too smug about which one is really ahead of which…

Doug Nye

You may also like

Related products