The FIA World Motorsport Council announced significant changes to the 2006 sporting regulations this week. What will be the impact for the teams?
Following the decisions announced by the FIA World Motorsport Council, Formula 1 will once again approach a new season with fresh challenges to be understood and mastered. Not only will almost the entire field be running brand new 2.4 litre V8 engines, but they will be tackling a revised qualifying format -- which includes significantly more running than the previous one-lap version -- and tyre changes will also make a return in race conditions.
So, we will have engines that last 1400 km, tyres for 100 km and a complex new qualifying format. What will it all mean for the engineers who will be tackling the challenge?
Reacting and adapting
"It may seem obvious, but the first thing to say is that the changes are fact," explains Pat Symonds, Renault's Executive Director of Engineering. "So what we have to concentrate on now is how best to respond. We had major changes to the technical and sporting regulations for 2005, and I think we proved that we adapt very well: the car was competitive from the first race."
"And it wasn't just the team, our partners did the same, Elf for example with the extended engine life, or Michelin and how they responded to the single-race tyre regulations. It goes without saying that when you are winning, you don't want to change anything. But I think our team -- and our partners -- thrive on the challenge that change presents, and we will tackle the 2006 season with the same determination we did 2005."
"Had we known about this regulation change some time ago, then I think the design of the cars would have been optimised differently," analyses Chassis Technical Director Bob Bell. "But in reality, it is too late to make any changes to the car, so it fundamentally has no impact. It is certainly a manageable change, because if anything you would want to reduce the fuel tank size relative to the single-tyre formula to take advantage of the likelihood of shorter race stints."
"But the real problem is the huge burden it places on the tyre companies, who will have to make significant investments to meet the new regulations. The question is whether that is appropriate in the current climate where all parties are talking about the importance of cutting costs?"
"The format has been conceived to increase the interest of the viewing public, and if it achieves that, then it will be very positive," comments Bob Bell. "It is, though, a more complicated format, and there are some subtle complications within it -- the tactical advantages that could be gained from qualifying around the fringes of the top ten rather than tenth, for example. We will need to present and explain the format carefully, to make sure that complication doesn't become confusion for the general public."
Changing engines, changing formats
"As engine builders, any changes to the regulations lead us to a rapid evaluation of each area that might have an impact on our work," explains Head of Engine Operations Denis Chevrier. "It is clear that the revised qualifying format carries the inherent implication of a higher mileage life cycle, which we can estimate as an increase of around 10%."
"Subsequently, multiple tyre changes will also lead us to re-assess how and when we use the engine's performance in the race, to take strategic advantage of new tyres. The changes will mean we adjust our dyno and track running during the winter to simulate these conditions but at this stage of the development process, they do not provide any insurmountable problems."