"It will be an extremely interesting first racing weekend. It will be something that will be completely unknown for everybody. A new evolution in Formula One. We will start with a clean sheet of paper and a new motivation to show that we can do...
"It will be an extremely interesting first racing weekend. It will be something that will be completely unknown for everybody. A new evolution in Formula One. We will start with a clean sheet of paper and a new motivation to show that we can do the best job in the shortest time," says Ferrari's Sporting Director, Stefano Domenicali, talking about the opening race of the 2003 F.I.A. World Championship season in Melbourne, Australia, on March 9th. Sweeping new changes to the regulations, which includes single-lap qualifying, less track time and, above all, draconian limitations on the time and amount of work allowed on the race and spare cars, will completely change the approach to a race weekend from now on, even if the objectives still remain the same.
"After qualifying ends, the teams will have 2h 30 minutes to work on the cars until they are returned to a parc ferme for the night. Other than minor necessities, that will effectively be the last time the cars can be touched before the race starts on Sunday afternoon," explains Domenicali. During the week before the Ferrari team departed for Australia, both he and Nigel Stepney have been working out a new logistical program for the race weekend, which has seen the amount of work to be carried out considerably reduced.
"Although we have two and a half hours to work on the cars after qualifying on Saturday afternoon, I would expect we could be finished in a lot less than that if there are no complications because we are so limited as to what we can do on the cars. We can replenish fluids other than fuel, check the cars over mechanically, download data and make electronic adjustments but very little else. Each garage will have an FIA delegate controlling that no team does more to their car than is allowed in the new regulations," points out Stefano.
"For sure we are going to have a lot more time on our hands on Saturday night and Sunday mornings than we have had in the past and we must find ways to keep the team active before the race when everyone will then have to be at their peak."
Although the workload will be lighter with only 1 hour of free practice on Friday and 90 minutes on Saturday, plus the qualifying laps, the team will still maintain its usual 60 personnel working directly on the cars throughout the race weekend. "We will still need the same number of specialists responsible for different tasks even if their work load will not be as heavy as it has been in the past," he points out.
Even the team responsible for the spare car will be in place, although the use of the spare car will be strictly forbidden unless the race car is badly damaged before race day or there is a re-start to the race due to an accident. The spare car may then be used, but will have to start the race from the pit lane, where it will undoubtedly have been used for many Sunday morning pit-stop practices as the team try to stay focused on the race ahead.
There are sure to be a lot of open questions to be resolved, like that of whether or not teams are allowed to change fuel loads once qualifying has started. "There will certainly be a lot of questions raised as the weekend progresses and we will all have to have those questions resolved by the FIA stewards," points out Stefano. With the cars now forced to start the race with the same fuel load and tyres as they finish qualifying with, teams will even be keeping their pre-race engine running and systems checks to a minimum in order to save fuel. "Effectively, we will now have to count qualifying on Saturday as the first stint of the race. It will be an interesting and new challenge for us all," he says.