Analysis: Behind the scenes of the big decisions on F1 rules this weekend
Following the F1 Strategy Group meeting in Geneva yesterday, the FIA's Charlie Whiting sat down with the media at noon in Germany to give some back...
Following the F1 Strategy Group meeting in Geneva yesterday, the FIA's Charlie Whiting sat down with the media at noon in Germany to give some background information about the decisions reached, including the halo deferral and the U turn on team radios.
Those are the headline topics, but there are five main topics which arose from the Strategy Group, which have a bearing on F1 this year and next.
The halo is not loved by anyone, but the drivers were counting on it being introduced next season. Sebastian Vettel said on Thursday that 95% of the drivers had voted in favour of it and said F1 would be 'stupid' not to introduce it. The FIA did a presentation to drivers on it in Hungary and said it was technically ready.
This is based on testing, firing wheels at it at over 240km/h and they are satisfied that it would prevent large objets hitting the driver's head in 100% of such incidents. But only in 17% of incidents with smaller objets, such as springs, would it stop them.
The teams felt that the halo was unproven as far as driver vision was concerned and together with concerns from F1 Management, voiced by Bernie Ecclestone, it was felt that it needed a lot more track testing. Red Bull said it was not able to run more than two laps, for example, as the halo interfered with air intake to the engine.
So what has been decided is to implement head protection in 2018 and to test the halo extensively for the rest of this year and next during race weekends. Whiting wants all drivers to have had extensive experience of it and to analyse the feedback.
The point is that rather than rush into something which introduces unforeseen problems, because it hadn't been track tested properly, take the time to do it right.
Wheel tethers in F1 are already very strong and we rarely ever see one come loose now; for 2017 the tethers are being beefed up and it will be a remote possibility that a wheel will come off.
The objections to the aeroshield (not aeroscreen, that was a misnomer from Christian Horner apparently) are what happens when it gets oil or dirt on it and when it rains. It is the better long term solution and there will be work on that too.
Radio ban U Turn
Again responding to points raised by Ecclestone and the teams, that the fans were missing out on some rich content because of the clampdown on what can be said on the radio, Whiting said that the FIA is prepared to take a more relaxed view of the Article 27.1 of the Sporting Regulations about the driver driving alone and unaided. It also realised that it was getting increasingly bogged down in tedious arguments about what is and is not allowed.
The key here was in making all radio open to the broadcasters. Whiting would prefer that teams not be able to hear each other, but the change here is that the broadcasters have the opportunity to broadcast everything, which means that teams will be more careful in what they say anyway.
Whiting said that the change on radio rules was not another U turn, as such, but an example of responding to feedback and also realising that the regulation was becoming too complex and hard to police. Most of us could have told them that when the rule was announced, but F1 seems to think that this and the fiasco over qualifying was a positive experience of trying something and realising it wasn't working. Thinking it through better in the first place before implementation would have been even better. That seems to be what is happening with the halo; even if the drivers think that where safety is concerned the consideration is very different.
Drivers can't be coached before the start of the race, but otherwise it's now a free for all.
This comes in with immediate effect.
Starting a wet race
The drivers don't like the Pirelli wet tyres. The tread depth and nature of the tyres, leads to aquaplaning and the drivers prefer to race on intermediates when the track is ready for them. That is what happened at Silverstone. What has been resolved is that in a situation like Silverstone, instead of releasing the cars from behind the Safety Car when it is fit to race, there will be a standing start.
This needs to be approved by the F1 Commission for 2017 implementation.
This is a really thorny subject. Opinion is divided in the F1 paddock between those who want to be strict from junior categories upwards about staying within track limits and those who think the drivers should be allowed to do what they want. Whiting is against this, partly because the FIA is trying to improve young driver standards and partly because he feels that allowing drivers to run off the track reduces the amount of run-off area to the barriers and so it becomes a safety issue.
Force India's Bob Fearnley has proposed that F1 adopt the system that Jonathan Palmer has in his circuits, where an electronic 'cutter' activates for a second if a car goes off at a place where the limits are controversial - such as Turn 1 here at Hockenheim, which has become a banned area today - which takes away all advantage and in a race could lose a position.
Double yellow flags in qualifying
A simple solution to the problem that arose in Hungary was agreed that in a situation like Hungary, where Alonso spun in front of a number of cars, to take away the problem of how much a driver has backed off, the Race Director will now throw a red flag and that will be the end of it.This comes in with immediate effect.
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