Symonds dicusses technical proposals

Dossier: The Proposed 2005 Technical Regulations Renault Executive Director of Engineering Pat Symonds discusses the rules package announced by the FIA last Friday, and what implications it will have. The FIA announced a proposed package of ...

Dossier: The Proposed 2005 Technical Regulations

Renault Executive Director of Engineering Pat Symonds discusses the rules package announced by the FIA last Friday, and what implications it will have.

The FIA announced a proposed package of rules changes for 2005 and beyond last Friday. These include changes to the chassis, engines and tyres. Pat Symonds sat down to discuss their implications.

Q: Pat, what is your reaction to the package of measures published on Friday?

Pat Symonds: It is fair to say we have accepted that unless changes are made to reduce speeds, we would by next year have reached the point where we would not feel comfortable with safety levels at some venues. We should not be looking to make radical changes at distant intervals, rather smaller changes at smaller, regular intervals, and the Technical Working Group (TWG) has worked with this in mind in recent years. I think the changes published on Friday represent a good intermediate position for 2005, which will effectively take us back several years in terms of lap time, before a more fundamental shift in 2006 with the change in engine architecture.

Q: Looking at things in a little more detail, what will be the impact of the chassis and engine changes?

PS: On the chassis side, the measures go a little further than the TWG proposals and while we will not know the full extent of their impact for a few days, it would appear that the FIA has deliberately gone slightly further than the initial recommendations. They will make the cars more difficult to drive because there will be less grip, but it will not be a great leap - the speeds are only being restrained to the level they were at a few years ago. On the engine side, the V8 will be an interesting technical challenge in the medium term, while 2005 will be something of an interim year. The main impact of two-weekend engines will be to slow development, as resources will be allocated to making the V10 last 1300km rather than producing more power.

Q: Will the changes achieve their objectives?

PS: Personally, I think the engine changes will see a reduction in average power over the race weekend, rather than diminishing peak power: outputs in qualifying and short periods of the race could well remain at similar levels to this year. The aero changes will, as I have said, make the cars harder to drive, and also reduce drag. Potentially, this could actually mean top speeds increase at some venues but balanced against this are slower corner exit speeds.

Q: What about the changes to the tyres: how do you assess them?

PS: I think the tyre situation is the biggest unknown factor. Tyres have contributed to the escalation of speeds in recent years more than any other single aspect of the car, but making the tyres we now have go four times as far may not mean any dramatic increase in lap time. The tyres will need to be a bit harder, the cars will be slowed down, and the levels of degradation will be lower. But it should not be forgotten that even now, wear rates are not that high: we remove tyres that are perfectly good only because it is strategically advantageous to use better ones. The other important thing to remember is that the use of the tyres is linked to the qualifying rules: these will affect the design of the car, and we do not yet have them in any final form.

Q: Will race strategies also change?

PS: The tyre rules will certainly alter strategies, but exactly how we cannot yet say because other elements, such as the qualifying format, are not fixed. Currently, F1 races are a series of short sprints, and I believe things are likely to become more conservative. Firstly, I think we will be making fewer stops, so there will be less passing as a result of strategy, and also strategies will be less varied. Secondly, the drivers will have to look after the car more - with heavier fuel loads, areas such as brakes will become more critical, and that may oblige the drivers to be more conservative. However, on the other side of the equation, I do not think there is anything in the package that will significantly help overtaking - the downforce reductions will not dramatically improve the racing on track.

Q: Do you feel the engine equivalency formula will effectively give rise to a two-tier Formula 1?

PS: I think the equivalence formula is to be viewed as a stop-gap measure that will enable a smooth transition from one engine format to another, as the V10 will surely be restricted in such a way that it cannot provide any competitive advantage. Realistically, I think a two-tier Formula 1 already exists, but I do not expect this measure to cause the gap between the top teams and others to widen in any way.

Q: Finally, a deadline of September 6th has been mentioned for any changes: how much movement do you expect to see before then?

PS: I don't think we should expect a significant amount of movement. Certainly, I think most, if not all, teams will be working from the assumption that the package will not be altered from its present form.

-renault-

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Series Formula 1