Drivers will have a challenging time getting their heads around complex cockpit controls in 2011, especially when it comes to dealing with moveable rear wings and KERS, former grand prix racer Anthony Davidson (LEFT) says.
Davidson has good knowledge of the difficulties that drivers will face, having conducted early tests in Mercedes GP's simulator. He says that the number of buttons that drivers will have to operate in 2011 is going to make things very hard.
"It is going to be tricky for drivers to get their head around, and it is a bit of a one-man band [show] in the car," Davidson said. "We saw last year with the F-duct, drivers taking their hands off the wheel to vent off the ducting. Now there is going to be a switch or button somewhere, either on the steering wheel or somewhere on the car, to do the same sort of thing [with the moveable rear wing].
"You are pretty much going to be able to use it wherever you want [in practice and qualifying] and it is going to gain you anything up to 15kph on the straights, so there is going to be a huge discrepancy of speed."
As well as dealing with the moveable rear wing, drivers are going to have to carefully control the powering up and application of KERS, as well as their other more normal tweaks like brake balance and differential settings. Fernando Alonso said at the Ferrari media ski camp last week that although he was happy the new rules would help the racing he did have concerns about the complexities of pushing so many buttons.
"I am confident that it will work, the only difficulty will be buttons on the steering wheel and a very short time you have to make some decisions, to react to buttons and still drive the car," he said. "So in some of the cases in wet races, poor visibility, things like that, we need to check. For sure, innovations, new things in Formula 1, are always welcome. This is one of those – if everything remains as last year, we know our difficulties, our problems. As I said, all the changes are meant to improve Formula 1 sport, Formula 1 show, so I think at the moment, without trying, we need to be very open and very positive."
Davidson believes that the increased need to get things right in the cockpit will put a greater dividend on those drivers who have calm heads and the intelligence to deal with more than just driving flat-out.
"I can tell you now it is going to favor the drivers with more capacity – those drivers that are able to drive quickly but also think about all the other gizmos going on in the car," he said. "We saw last year that [Vitaly] Petrov chose not to run the F-duct on a track like Singapore, because it was just too much. So drivers that do have more capacity and are more at home with the circuit or the car will have a huge advantage – as will those drivers who have more time in the simulators."
McLaren test driver Gary Paffett agreed with Davidson's assessment, pointing out that there had already been concerns in 2010 that the F-duct alone was giving drivers too much to do in the cockpit.
"The first time you do it in the simulator, you press the KERS button, you press the wing button, you don't change gear, you hit the limiter, you drive off the track..." said Paffett. "You don't have time to do it all and you crash, basically, because you're trying to do all these things. It's very difficult.
"On top of that, you've got your brake balance to adjust, your switches to adjust. We saw Fernando [Alonso] driving with no hands last year trying to do things with the F-duct. This year it's going to be even busier than last year, and that's something they wanted to get away from by banning the F-duct."