The FIA is fully open to tweaking Formula 1's movable rear wing rules to ensure they are a success, after setting out initials plans for a 600-meter passing zone at each track.
F1 teams have gotten down to work with the movable rear wing technology in this week's Valencia test, but there remains a great deal of uncertainty about how the concept will work when it is actually put into action in the races. However, teams have now been informed by the FIA about the plans for the first few races of the season as the sport looks to ensure it improves the spectacle without making overtaking too easy.
AUTOSPORT reports sources have revealed that the FIA's current plan is for the passing zone – where the wing will be made active in races – to be the final 600 meters of a track's main straight. The zones will be on the start-finish straights in Bahrain, Australia and Malaysia, while in China it will be at the end of the long back straight.
A driver pursuing a rival will only be able to activate his wing there if he is within one second of the car ahead of him at a timing zone that will be set up in the braking area for the corner before that main straight.
The FIA believes that the 600-meter passing zone is the right length to ensure that overtaking is possible, but is also not too easy. Early simulation data suggests that this length of track will result in a speed differential between cars of between 6-7mph, depending on car design. Drivers will be also free to use the wing at will during practice and qualifying.
To help Formula 1 fans and television commentators understand the implementation of the rules better, lines will be painted on the track to mark out the overtaking and timing zone. A single line on the straight will show where the zone starts, while two lines will be painted at the preceding corner to indicate the one-second time difference distance. This latter line will also serve as a visual back up for the FIA should the official timing transponders fail at any point.
The FIA plans to take a first look at the timing loop and speed data during next week's Jerez test, before a full-scale evaluation of the technology and overtaking zones during the final preseason test at Bahrain in early March. These tests will purely be, however, to ensure the FIA systems are working, since teams are unlikely to cooperate enough to try out real passing moves to see how the wings will react in race conditions.
Should the simulations of car speed in the Bahrain test show that the 600-meter zone is going to make passing far too easy, or Bahrain's race is affected by too much passing, then its distance will be shortened, as the FIA is keen to get the right balance of passing from the start. The governing body reportedly has told teams, however, that its current projection is to use the 600-meter for the first four races of the season before reviewing it for subsequent events.
Team Lotus technical chief Mike Gascoyne (fourth from left, RIGHT) reckons the movable rear wing success was dependent on the FIA getting the rules right.
"I think we have to be careful in its implementation and I think the governing body has to be willing to change the way it is implemented to ensure that it works in the way it is meant to," he told AUTOSPORT. "If you get a situation like you had in Indy cars, where they put in the Handford wing and everyone could pass everyone, you just sat there the whole race trying to be second on the last lap, because then you would win. That was pretty rubbish, so they got rid of it.
"We need to be careful that it is not seen as some great salvation. Very often we have done things like this and they have done more harm than good, so you have to be prepared to tweak it.
"You don't want it to be too artificial, because you can argue some of the greatest drives were with Gilles Villeneuve holding off everybody – and if you say that is never going to happen anymore, then you will lose some of the most iconic moments of the sport."
Renault team principal Eric Boullier said that teams were happy they had got the rear wing technology working right, and that the only issue now was the FIA's implementation of it.
"The pressure now is on the FIA because the teams are more or less technically ready for this," he said. "The FIA needs to fine-tune this system.