The 2005 regulations: "Tweaks to make, but not fundamental revisions" After the opening race of the season in Melbourne, Renault's Pat Symonds sat down to discuss what he thinks the strengths and weaknesses of the new regulations have been, so...
The 2005 regulations: "Tweaks to make, but not fundamental revisions"
After the opening race of the season in Melbourne, Renault's Pat Symonds sat down to discuss what he thinks the strengths and weaknesses of the new regulations have been, so far.
Q: There has been much debate, and criticism, surrounding the modified regulations and format for 2005. What is your opinion?
Pat Symonds: There have been lots of changes for 2005, and it is important not to confuse them when we discuss their impact, so let's take them in order.
Firstly, I think the aero rules have done the job they were intended to. The aim was to contain escalating speeds around the lap, and Melbourne gave a first indication that this has been achieved. The fastest race lap in 2004 was 1:24.128, whereas in 2005 it was 1:25.683.
When we take into account that on organic year-on-year gain in performance is of around one and a half to two seconds a lap, then Melbourne indicates that lap-times are three or more seconds off where they would have been had we not acted. Indeed, we seem to be at around 2002 performance levels, when Rubens Barrichello took pole in a time of 1:25.843.
Secondly, the engine rules. The ideal of running an engine for two weekends is, I believe, a good one, but the loophole that has been left, of being able to change the engine if you do not take the flag, is ridiculous.
To change the engine in the event of it being damaged in an accident, or failing, without incurring an additional penalty, seems to me reasonable. But otherwise, teams should keep the engine for a second weekend. A simple change to the interpretation of the existing wording of the regulations would suffice, but the loophole will continue to be exploited until it is closed.
The new tyre rules worked reasonably well. I would like a third set available on Friday, as it would allow the teams to do more running, evaluate the tyres properly and provide the spectators with more on-track action.
In race conditions, though, the need to preserve the tyres means we will not see people stretching out big leads as it is important not to push your tyres any harder than you have to, so any mistake could cost positions at the front; equally, at a more demanding circuit, I think the tyre rules will generate late-race passing; and their was plenty of action in Melbourne between cars rejoining the circuit after pit-stops, with colder tyres, who found themselves immediately involved in battles with competitors out on track.
Finally, looking at the format, there are two strands: aggregate qualifying times, and the timetabling. I do not think there is anything intrinsically wrong with the former, as it has made the first qualifying session relevant -- something we failed to achieve in 2003 and 2004.
Also, the system doubles the "chaos factor" before the race, which I do not think is intrinsically bad. It may have seemed complicated, but that is a matter of improving the presentation -- not the format itself. I think people will get used to it.
The only real criticism I have is the timetabling, because I think we have got the rhythm of the build-up to the race wrong. The Sunday papers should be able to give fans a considered and meaningful judgement of what is going to happen in the race that afternoon -- which means knowing the qualifying result.
Equally, from a team point of view, the Sunday workload is perhaps too intense: there is very little time to plan strategy, and repairing a car damaged in qualifying will be a very hard task.
The benefit of the Sunday session has been increased on-track action, but in my view, that is the point and purpose of support races, something racing enthusiasts also enjoy. Sunday morning should feature junior formulae, such as the GP2 series we will see this year and some saloon racing, to build up to the Grand Prix as the pinnacle of the event.
Q: So, what solution would you propose?
PS: Leaving aside the additional test session we ran that year, I would like to see us revert to the 2003 timetable this season, with qualifying on Friday and Saturday, but with aggregate times. However, I don't thing the current format is by any means drastically wrong.
To maintain credibility, I think we will only get one chance to make further changes to the format this year and for that reason, it will be important not to rush into anything. We have not yet seen how the format works with constant conditions through the weekend and it is still too early to make a definitive judgement. There may be tweaks to be made, but they are not fundamental revisions.