The new regulations that were introduced into Formula One racing this year have created a number of new challenges for the teams. In particular, the art of second guessing what the opposition might be doing in the race in order to produce the best...
The new regulations that were introduced into Formula One racing this year have created a number of new challenges for the teams. In particular, the art of second guessing what the opposition might be doing in the race in order to produce the best possible race strategy for your own team.
It is nothing new for teams to use special computer programs to calculate setup and race strategy both before and during a race weekend. However, the uncertainty created by the one lap qualifying and having to start a race with the same fuel and tyres that the car finishes qualifying with, has created a whole new twist to planning race strategies.
In fact, it has created what is effectively a new job, that of a race strategist, a man upon whom the Ferrari team counts upon to lower the odds of making wrong decisions - sometimes with only a matter of seconds to make them.
That race strategist at Scuderia Ferrari-Marlboro is Luca Baldisserri, an electronics engineering genius who now has the job along with his team of three other men in analyzing as many as 1,000 different data parameters from which Technical Director Ross Brawn can base his decisions.
Work on a race begins the week before during testing where fuel, tyre and aerodynamic information amongst other things from the latest testing session is gathered and fed into the statistical program that is based on the information gathered from the previous year's race. "It takes a couple of days to prepare the strategy for the coming race."
"As we are using the same car and we have a good idea what compensations to make from improvements we have made since 2002. We can arrive in Brazil with a fairly accurate idea of what we need to do to the car to optimize performance," points out Luca.
However, the new regulations have made the task of choosing the right race strategy considerably more complicated and the shortened practice time before the race, plus the less sophisticated section timing available now that there is no digital TV and circuit loop, have made that task even more difficult.
"We have to manually enter all the section times from the TV now that we do not have "live" timing any more. The track time we have to calculate tyre wear rates, full tank runs and aero set-up changes etc., and factor those parameters into the program, is also much less," explains Luca, the team obliged to run two different testing programs with each car during free practice in order to optimize the amount of information they can gather.
The team are working on a live link to the factory where Luca and his team would normally be working from during a race weekend, but for the first few races of the year he has to be at the race to make sure things run more smoothly.
The new regulations have added to the number of parameters that have to be monitored and data bases that have to be established, which now even takes into account individual driver performances during one lap qualifying, so that the team can have an idea if it's the fuel load or the driver himself that's contributing towards a slow of quick lap time.
The difficulty of gathering so much information during a race weekend is the speed at which it can be entered and analyzed, the Ferrari team currently working closely with Genoa and Modena universities to create a program that will analyze the data more speedily and efficiently in the future and take the guesswork out of racing.