Tuesday, 3 August 2010

The Silly Season of F1

August must be the most annoying month for Formula 1 teams. They force themselves to go on holiday for two weeks (to "keep spiralling costs down"), stopping all development and literally closing the gates of the factories. Some teams even disable their email servers to prevent people from not enjoying themselves.

Yet this enforced exodus happens at just the wrong time and this year is a classic example. We're two thirds of the way through the season and suddenly it's a three horse race for the championship. Ferrari's decided to get focused at Maranello. McLaren's been left rather embarrassed by their performance at one of their strongest circuits and Red Bull's taken a big step forward, courtesy of another gem from the hat of Adrian Newey.

Red Bull's flexible front wing, which bends downwards at high speed to boost down force, is the talk of the town. Flexible bodywork on a car is not permitted within the regulations laid down by the FIA. Yet the Red Bull wing passes the governing body's flexi test because the test doesn't put enough load on the front wing during the examination, certainly not the kind experienced by F1 cars at 200mph. The wing conforms to the permitted amount of deflection at a certain load, but at much greater loads bends significantly more to give the performance advantage. There have been suggestions that the front part of the car's floor might even be flexing, allowing the wing to dip towards the ground.

The controversy has prompted the FIA into a rethink after complaints from a couple of rival teams (the real complaint of course being they hadn't thought of it first). Come the next race at Spa at the end of the month, the FIA is reported to have a new test for the front wing. The critical question is how they'll test it, as explained in depth over at jamesallenonf1.com. So there's an awful lot for Red Bull to think about, yet that thought can only remain thought for the bulk of the month with this development break. How annoying.

Amid the silly season, there are serious elements. Michael Schumacher's dart to the right at Hungary, leaving Rubens Barrichello literally kissing the concrete wall at 170mph, earned the German a ten-place grid penalty for Belgium. He said "sorry" to Barrichello, via his website, and that word is pretty rare indeed from Schumacher. It came after what was said to be a "disappointing" performance from Schumacher at the stewards' inquiry. He escaped disqualification from the race only because the incident happened just a few laps from the end.

But the absence of work can be just the tonic for the best thoughts for work, so I'm certain F1 teams will return to their factories all guns blazing. And once those minds are properly "interfacing" with their development tools, we will enjoy the fruits of their work with a fascinating end to the season. Well hopefully anyway.

Thanks for reading, time for a snooze...

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