A MOVABLE FEAST?Adjustable rear wings, F1's latest technical solution for spicing up the passing action, gets a cool reception from the drivers, who worry about gimmickry overtaking sport
The push to enhance the “show” of Formula 1 has led to the introduction of new aerodynamic rules for next season aimed at increasing passing. Drivers have expressed major reservations, however, suggesting it could make the racing false and, more seriously, lead to safety worries.
The FIA gave the green light in June to a plan put forward by the Formula One Teams Association for an adjustable rear wing to be introduced in 2011, with drivers able to open up the slot gap in their rear wing for a straight-line speed boost to help pass cars ahead of them. With the rules dictating that the leading car will not be able to respond if his pursuer has gotten within one second of him in the previous sector, current drivers worry that the move could detract from the purity of F1.
“It is good for the PlayStation, I think, but I don't know how well it is going to work in F1,” said Mark Webber. “We need to put some good research into it, understand it and make sure it is beneficial for everyone.
“Overtaking moves should be about pressuring, being skillful and tactical. Yes we want to see more overtaking, but we also need to keep the element of skill involved in overtaking and not just hitting buttons, like KERS, like adjustable rear wings. We need to get the balance right in having skillful races between each other, and not an IRL [IndyCar] race where you pass each other four times per lap and everyone gets bored with that.”
Robert Kubica agreed. “If the wings move a lot, we will see the cars overtake in a straight line and I don't think there is a lot of excitement to see that,” he said. “The [adjustable] front wing was introduced to help overtaking by following the other cars, and we have seen it didn't work out.”
McLaren boss Martin Whitmarsh defended the radical step.
There was a lot of fan-based pressure to do something and this [the wing idea] is something that we believe can be implemented fairly, simply and safely,” he said. “We have a great show and we should be careful not to spoil it, but we should always be thinking about how we can create some entertainment.”BUILDING A FASTER FERRARI
F-ducts were just a starting point for the Scuderia as it stepped up its development program in other areas to bolster its World Championship charge
Beyond the more obvious reasons, Fernando Alonso was so infuriated by the safety car controversy that ruined his European Grand Prix at Valencia because it dashed hopes that had been re-energized by a series of changes to his Ferrari F10. The revised car features a very different rear end, with the low exhaust configuration that most front-running contenders are now looking at. The low exhausts help channel air through the diffuser for improved downforce – the concept that has been put to such good use by Red Bull Racing so far this season.
One element of Adrian Newey's Red Bull design that Ferrari will not be copying, however, is the RB6's pullrod suspension configuration. This would be extremely difficult to pull off midseason, as gearbox specification is frozen at preseason homologation, meaning that it would be virtually impossible to relocate the suspension pick-up points.
However, Ferrari team principal Stefano Domenicali affirmed the update package was just the beginning of a more aggressive development push by the team. He admitted that in its rush to copy the F-duct straight-line speed enhancement pioneered by McLaren, Ferrari let other areas of development slip – and is now focusing on recovering that lost ground.
“It was clear that we had concentrated too much effort on this blown rear wing – we spent a lot of effort there, being not focused on the other areas of the car. From Valencia onward, the focus will be to develop other areas of the car apart from this blown rear wing, because it is a complicated system that took a lot of resources out of our team.”
Ferrari also upgraded the human side of its challenge, hiring Pat Fry away from McLaren to serve as its assistant technical director, serving under Aldo Costa. Fry, 46, had worked for the McLaren team as chief engineer for 18 years.
Perhaps mindful of the need to stay on the good side of officialdom ahead of what he hopes will be another title run, Alonso quickly backtracked from his angry postrace denunciation of the race stewards in Valencia. The Spaniard was furious after the race, suggesting that the FIA had favored Lewis Hamilton by taking too long to hand him a punishment for overtaking the safety car early in the event. Those delays meant Hamilton was able to take a drive-through penalty without losing position. But, two days later he clarified his position.
“Obviously, in the clear light of day, I am much calmer than I was in the moments immediately following the race,” said Alonso in his blog on the official Ferrari website. “At the time, I reacted emotionally and in that situation, it is all too easy to adopt a tone and say things that can be interpreted wrongly, giving rise to suspicions, something which I had no intention of doing.”
He was further mollified by the FIA's convening of F1's Technical Working Group to consider ways of avoiding safety car snafus in the future.
MAY THE BEST TIRE MANAGER WIN?After winning the battle to become F1's new tire supplier, Pirelli promises to test the drivers' tire conservation skills
It's hard to get more than a paragraph or two into any F1 discussion without the subject of tires coming up – which explains why Pirelli and Michelin both fought so hard for the right to succeed Bridgestone as the sport's tire supplier when the Japanese company withdraws at year's end. After a number of twists and turns, Pirelli finally got the official nod in mid June, and the Italian company, which last fielded an F1 tire in 1991, promised to make the most of the opportunity.
“We are going to try and be aggressive – provide one ‘safe' option and then an aggressive one to try and create a show,” said Pirelli's motorsport director Paul Hembery. “Bernie [Ecclestone] is keen for that. The fans, I am sure, are keen for that.”
Hembery added that Pirelli had taken on board the lessons from this year's Canadian Grand Prix, which was turned into a great spectacle largely because of rubber that was difficult to manage.
“Canada was a good example of what you can do if you provide an extreme solution,” he said. “From a tire maker's point of view, you wonder if the public perceives that as a bad tire, but in the end that is about communication. It is a skill that we used to talk about – of drivers conserving their tires, managing their tires. Over the years, we have all developed technologies that mean they can go flat-out for much longer – and that skill has maybe been lost along the way.”
WILL THE THIRD TIME BE A CHARM?After booting CART and the first-generation IRL, New Hampshire Motor Speedway prepares to try Indy cars again
The IZOD IndyCar Series' return to New Hampshire Motor Speedway next season is a bold statement by the league that it will not abandon its commitment to ovals.
After several years of circular tracks falling off the schedule in favor of road and street courses – most recently, Baltimore's temporary street circuit that incorporates the Inner Harbor area and Oriole Park at Camden Yards, which will host its first race in August 2011 – the Indy cars will take center stage on the one-mile oval. CART ran there from 1992-'95 before being replaced by the IRL from 1996-'98, but neither captured the hearts of the Northeast fans who regularly pack the place for NASCAR.
The unequal standing between two sanctioning bodies was underscored when track general manager Jerry Gappens had to get Helton's approval for Dario Franchitti to run three demo laps in his Dallara-Honda during the prerace ceremonies for NASCAR's Sprint Cup at NHMS, following the formal announcement of the July 31, 2011 IndyCar race at the track.
“He said, ‘Tell Dario not to crash or blow an engine and mess up our racetrack,'” Gappens related.
On the other hand, Helton said he would not rule out possible NASCAR/IndyCar doubleheaders, which have been mooted as a potential way to get the open-wheelers back to tracks such as Fontana, Michigan and Phoenix.
AT THE TURNING POINTHas Kimi Raikkonen found the handle on rallying?
After a predictably difficult beginning to his World Rally Championship career, Kimi Raikkonen delighted his Citroen Junior team at the Rally Lanterna. The Finn finished only 5sec behind teammate Sebastian Ogier in the national rally event – by far his best result since leaving Formula 1.
“It was a good experience,” said Raikkonen, who led for many stages. “The car was fun to drive and this day will be very useful to me to get ready for the second part of the [WRC] season.”
“We've made a lot of progress,” declared team boss Benoit Nogier. “I would like to highlight the performance of Kimi, who set some very good times. We expected him to feel more at ease on asphalt and that has turned out to be the case. It's very encouraging for the future.”
Particularly for Raikkonen, since Red Bull Racing's recent re-signing of Mark Webber appears to have put the kibosh on his chances of returning to grand prix racing anytime soon.
THE KING OF RALLY GETS A NEW RIVALSebastien Ogier dusts his teammate Loeb in Portugal
The World Rally Championship has been seeking someone – anyone – to give Sebastien Loeb a run for his money. Even the Frenchman himself seemed to be growing bored and branched out, racing at
Le Mans and testing an F1 car. Now, though, it looks like Loeb has plenty of challenge where he is. On his own Citroen team, in fact.
Sebastien Ogier marked himself as perhaps the main obstacle to Loeb's seventh straight World Rally crown by defeating his countryman straight up in the Rally of Portugal. “To win my first rally like this, after a big battle with Seb, is just perfect,” said the new Seb. His teammate noted the significance of the moment.
“I know that he is a big rival – and maybe the strongest rival, I think,” said Loeb, who freely admitted he could not match the junior Citroen driver's pace. “He's shown since a few rallies ago that he's stronger than anybody else in the championship. So there will be some good battles.”
AMERICA'S NO. 1 IN GP3Alexander Rossi hits the ground running in new series
Formula 1's new GP3 support series has proven to be an ideal platform for America's Alexander Rossi to make his case to be the nation's next grand prix driver. The 18-year-old Californian was third in points behind fellow Formula BMW USA grads Esteban Gutierrez and Robert Wickens after the first six races.
The Barcelona series opener established Rossi as a title contender, as he started from the sprint race pole and led all the way. Following an early safety car period, Rossi built a 0.6sec lead on the first green-flag lap, and then set a string of successive fastest laps that extended his advantage to 10.5sec by the end of the race.
Rossi isn't putting all his eggs in the GP3 basket, though. At Monaco, he made his debut in the World Series by Renault, and ran a strong fifth in the race before clipping the barriers when his tires overheated.
“It's very important for me to know Monaco, and the only way is to race it,” Rossi declared.