The banning of traction control and other electronic aids for 2008 and 2009 was greeted with enthusiasm from purists, who wanted to see a greater emphasis upon driver input, but some of the sports top drivers are warning of an expected increase in accidents in very wet conditions with the removal of such driver aids.
The Formula One drivers have had a chance to drive the latest cars, and they spoke about their concerns in the latest issue of Autosport magazine (the source of their quotes).
"The only worry I have about driving without traction control is racing in wet conditions," stated Honda's Jenson Button. "It's going to be very dangerous. We couldn't have raced in Fuji without TC - there would have been people spinning on the straight."
Ferrari Driver Felipe Massa has said, "In terms of safety, this is a big step backwards. For sure, we will have more accidents and racing in wet conditions will be very dangerous. I've spoken to Michael Schumacher and several other drivers and they've told me it will be more dangerous driving a car without TC now than in the past. Another race like Fuji would be very dangerous."
David Coulthard commented on the subject: "At the end of the day, we all want to race in wet conditions because it gives opportunities to the smaller teams," said the Red Bull driver. "But you don't want to give somebody an advantage because someone else has been hurt."
The concerns particularly revolve around the scenario of another wet race like Fuji 2007, where several cars aquaplaned off the track, even with traction control.
The current F1 engines have a very peaky power delivery, which it is believed, will make controlling them more difficult than ever.
With the removal of traction control drivers will have to be very careful with their rear tyres. Presently the drivers can are able to let the electronics do some of the work. Drivers that have good throttle control will fare better under the new regulations.
Traction control has been seen in F1 cars in various guises since the 1980s. Nigel Mansell's championship winning-car, the 1992 Williams-Renault FW14, featured a host of technical driver aids such as computerized active suspension and traction control.
Traction control was first banned in 1993.
The Grand Prix of Spain 2001 saw the official reintroduction of traction control systems to F1 due to the suspicion that teams were circumventing the regulations by using sophisticated engine management systems.
It was considered very difficult to ensure that teams were not running such systems and agreement was reached with the teams that the regulations should be removed to promote a level playing field.
The latest rule change has been made possible with the introduction of a standard ECU for the 2008 season. The FIA now have access to all the data from any car so it would be much more difficult to hide such systems. The new ECU, to be used by all cars, is produced by Microsoft in collaboration with the McLaren race team.
The FIA's World Motor Sport Council brought in the new technical changes in March 2007 after agreement was reached with all the teams.
Article 9.3, in particular, has been amended to include the following:
"No car may be equipped with a system or device which is capable of preventing the driven wheels from spinning under power or of compensating for excessive throttle demand by the driver. Any device or system which notifies the driver of the onset of wheel spin is not permitted."
With the focus switching to the environment in future seasons, energy recovery technologies are likely to be introduced. This may present the opportunity for teams to effectively reintroduce traction control systems back into the cars as the related electronic controls are introduced.