Melbourne, 6th March - There have been several changes to the technical and sporting regulations for this season. The ones which will have the most visible effect as far as spectators are concerned are firstly the need to run just one engine per...
Melbourne, 6th March - There have been several changes to the technical and sporting regulations for this season. The ones which will have the most visible effect as far as spectators are concerned are firstly the need to run just one engine per driver all weekend and secondly, the fact that both qualifying sessions now take place on Saturday afternoon with just a two minute break between the end of the first and the start of the second. The one engine rule will see cars do less laps on Friday, while still doing enough to work on chassis set-up and identify a tyre choice, which must be completed by Friday evening. 'It’s true to a degree that the one engine rule means we have to manage the number of laps much more carefully than in the past,' said Scuderia Ferrari Marlboro’s Technical Director, Ross Brawn. 'We have to manage the engine over the whole weekend, while in the past, you did as much mileage as you could on the Friday and the Saturday morning, prior to changing engines just before qualifying.'
The team has to make a decision balancing mileage against performance, not just performance in terms of the engine, but in terms of the whole package. 'Because if you do too little mileage, you won’t get the car properly set up, you won’t understand the tyres,' adds Brawn. 'You have to judge how many miles to do in free practice over the weekend and try and get the balance right. For this year, the FIA has stipulated that you have to make your tyre choice by Friday afternoon, to ensure that cars do go out on Friday. If that was not the case there would be very little action for spectators. I think it could mean that Saturday morning free practice will be very quiet as we will want to do most of our mileage on a Friday.'
Having the two qualifying sessions two minutes apart on Saturday afternoon, starting at 2 pm, means that tactics can come into play for qualifying. With both sessions on the same day, it will be possible to have a relatively accurate weather forecast. For example, if there is a chance it will rain at the end of the second session, a driver might chose not to go too quickly in the first one, so as to make his final run in the second part before the rain arrives. 'The big question is will people try and go as fast as they can with low fuel in the first session, or will the teams treat it as a practice for the second session, because the running order in a two hour session is not super critical,' adds Brawn. 'If you decide that the running order is not critical, then it is better to concentrate on the technical issues with the car.' By this Brawn means placing a greater emphasis on the ideal set up for the race, rather than focussing too much on the first part of qualifying.
While the one engine per driver per weekend rule is seen primarily as a cost cutting exercise, it’s effect extends to the way the drivers will tackle the first qualifying session. If a driver goes off the track in the first session, his car will not be brought back to the pits in time for the second one. 'Therefore everyone is going to be very careful in that first session as having to use the spare car carries a penalty of moving 10 places back on the grid,' confirms Brawn.
One further change brought about because of the new rules is that the pit lane now operates in race conditions during qualifying: because of the very short break between the two sessions, the teams are authorised to refuel the cars using their race refuelling rigs, so that everyone in pit lane has to wear fireproof clothing and all non-essential personnel are banned for the duration of the session.