Start, Hungaroring, 2015

How the new start restrictions will work at Spa

2015 Belgian Grand Prix

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Start, Hungaroring, 2015Drivers are being given greater control over how they prepare their cars for the start of the race under new restrictions introduced by the FIA.

Both Ferrari drivers started well in the last race at the Hungaroring, taking first and second positions on lap one after lining up third and fifth on the grid.

The team’s technical director James Allison explained how the teams’ start procedures worked previously during today’s FIA press conference and explained how they will be changed by the new restrictions:

“When you go with the car, from stopped to going, there’s a certain amount of grip available on the track: the tyre’s got a certain amount of grip, the track’s got a certain amount of grip. You want to go as close to that available grip as possible but not over it and you don’t want any under it otherwise you’re not making as much performance as there is available.”

“If you were super-duper skilful you might have fingers that could judge exactly where that grip is but it all happens very fast. So a perfect start is one where you can just let go of the clutch, let go of it and it closes to the perfect point where it delivers exactly the right amount of torque, such that the tyre doesn’t light up and spin but neither does it give less torque to the road than the road is capable of taking.”

“So our job during the weekend is to try to judge exactly how much grip is available and to adjust our clutches so that when the driver says ‘go’ the clutch closes the perfect amount to deliver the perfect amount of torque to the road, and then off it goes. And that’s not something that happens without the driver adjusting stuff. He doesn’t fiddle around with his fingers.”

“The way that we used to do that in the past was there are two clutch paddles, one which he holds all the way in, keeping the clutch fully open, and the other one which he holds in a partially closed and open position. We then as engineers adjust the clutch so this partially closed and open position is at exactly the right point to get this magic start.”

“And then when the light goes green he lets go of the first clutch and the clutch closes to the point that is being held by the second paddle. Off the car goes.”

“All that’s changed is that now we’re not allowed to advise or make any adjustments to make any adjustments to that biting point between when the car’s on the grid preparing for the start of the race and when the driver actually does it. So the parade lap start and the real start is done all by the driver and if he thinks it’s not closed enough or too open the clutch, he has to make his own judgement about that and make the calls. We can be sitting in the garage going ‘no, don’t do that’, but we don’t have any power to stop him’.”

Mercedes’ executive director for technical Paddy Lowe endorsed the change, saying it will put more responsibility in the hands of the drivers.

“I think we will see a little bit more variability,” said Lowe, “but the big thing for me is that to a larger extent if the driver has a good or a bad start, that will be down to his skill and less dependent on the team’s performance in configuring the start.”

2015 Belgian Grand Prix

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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49 comments on “How the new start restrictions will work at Spa”

  1. The last sentence sums it all – drivers will be responsible for bad starts. That is what us fans were asking, and we got it. No point to complaint.

    1. New rules are masquerading as entertainment gimmickry.

      1. Exactly how is it gimmickry to give the driver more control and be responsible for his own starts?

        As far as I’m concerned its one of the better rule changes we’ve seen in a long while.

      2. @scepter DRS = gimmick, I get that. Letting the drivers be more responsible for their start = gimmick, I don’t get that.

        1. It’s gimmicky because the rule was issued for entertainment purposes, just to spice up the start, and not because it was deemed driver coaching was bringing the sport down.

    2. While I agree with you it’s what the majority of fans wanted. I still take issue with this constant need for F1 to change the rules mid season. When was the last time we had a season without someone pushing a rule change through in the summer break?

      There’s always at least one mid season rule change in one of the following forms:
      1. The show isn’t exciting enough – change the rules now!
      2. Somebody interpreted a rule in a way we didn’t expect and is winning – change the rules now!

      Rules should be fixed once a season starts. Otherwise when we look back at a season we have to remember “oh yeah, that was the season where they insisted the driver carry a tarantula in the cockpit from Spa onwards to make the show more exciting, and Rosberg hates spiders so that’s why his performance fell off a cliff”.

    3. The engineers used to determine the amount of grip on the start position and setup the clutch accordingly. Now the engineers do the same thing, but they have to guess the amount of grip.

      Not sure how not being allowed to make any changes to the clutch settings means that the drivers will be allowed to make changes, but apparently even then all they could do is adjust the setting the engineers prepared a tiny fraction.

      The start is still 99% based on the technology.

  2. Is there a “no, don’t do that!” error code (or suitable picture of the engineer) that can be made to appear on the steering wheel?

    1. Formule One Car Telemetry is one-way only (car-to-pit).
      But I reckon Mercedes steering wheel display does indeed support GIFs.

    2. I wonder how would Lewis react to an angry Niki Lauda in his SW :)

    3. teams might try scret codes, like a cough, or a question about something completely different.

  3. Wow, this is such a brilliant explanation. Such an easy to understand language. First time, I have technically understood what the changes mean.

    1. Keith should hire James Allison x)

      1. I think Ferrari would demand 10 million euros to release James’ contract and the next article would be James saying that these rumors destabilized Ferrari
        ;-)

      2. @paescli And let Mercedes dominate F1?

      3. Haha. Brilliant.

        Yeah, it’s great when you finally learn that thing that everyone was talking about. Great explanation.

  4. ColdFly F1 (@)
    21st August 2015, 18:38

    Great explanation, and I fully support this change. Control back in the hands of the driver.

    Actually, I would go further, just have one clutch, and the drivers have to use their ‘fingerspitzengefuühl’ with throttle and clutch to get the best start.

    1. @coldfly I was thinking about that, and I feel 50/50 on it. On the one hand, I like to see the drivers having to do more. On the other hand, F1 cars are supposed to be the best cars in the world and I feel the two clutch starting mechanism is a part of that. Having said that, I’m sure I’d get over it if they ever did go to the single clutch.

      1. the 2 clutches though is akin to traction control, just a mechanical traction control instead of electronic, and traction control is banned in f1. I think engine mapping and the second clutch should be got rid of. f1 cars are not supposed to be the best cars in the world, rather the fastest, best sounding and most entertaining.

    2. Well as Alison said, it happens too fast to really get an advantage by skillful modulation of the clutch. It’s about sensing the spin or bogging off the dummy grid, and then making an adjustment for the position of paddle 2 for the start. It’s more like sweetening your tea after one sip and trying to get it right.

    3. sunny stivala
      22nd August 2015, 6:14

      This new directive is just the beginning of more to come next year, I believe that both the bite point finder and the twin clutch paddle system will be gone next year.

  5. I felt Buxton’s explanation was a little more clear:

    1. That’s clear alright!

  6. “but the big thing for me is that to a larger extent if the driver has a good or a bad start, that will be down to his skill and less dependent on the team’s performance in configuring the start.”

    I’m afraid people will take this literally and run with it praising the drivers for good starts and bashing them when not. Up until now teams had all available data to make the best starts and they are always going wrong. 20 cars on the grid and there will be some always better than others. What chance do drivers have to do formation lap start and make a decision – I assume no scientific data is available on small lcd steering wheel screen? Gut feeling is all it will be, which will most likely make starts a lottery.

    1. That’s part of what 3 practice sessions are for, or we could just go back to traction control.

      1. Those work on different tarmac and are only to test the start system itself.

        Agree with Ivan, this chanbges nothing but turn it into more of a lottery. Which is the entertainment factor FIA desires anyway.

    2. I’m afraid people will take this literally and run with it praising the drivers for good starts and bashing them when not.

      They already do this

  7. The bigger concern for me is still that were going to have drivers sitting on the grid knowing there going to get a bad start if they did the practice start on there way to the grid & found the clutch settings were completely wrong & no amount of driver feel or skill is going to improve it.

    And like anthony davidson said on sky today if the clutch settings are set in the dry & it rains on sunday (or vice versa) there is going to be serious safety risks when they try & get away with everything setup completely wrong for the conditions on the day.

    f1 is getting so dumbed down & over-regulated its ridiculous.
    absurd restrictions in technology, absurd restrictions with what can be said on the radios & considering absurd restrictions on telemetry ( could mean less information for us fans who get telemetry on the tv feeds, i love having that data & listening to radio communications). its just all completely ridiculous just because fans don’t understand that f1 is, should be & always had been about advanced technology.

    1. fans don’t understand that f1 is, should be & always had been about advanced technology.

      F1 has always been about advanced technologies being banned, as these articles from the archives demonstrate:
      http://www.f1fanatic.co.uk/category/regular-features/banned/page/2/

    2. The bigger concern for me is still that were going to have drivers sitting on the grid knowing there going to get a bad start if they did the practice start on there way to the grid & found the clutch settings were completely wrong & no amount of driver feel or skill is going to improve it.

      Is that actually true? My understanding is that the team will still help to get the correct baseline settings for the start of the formation lap. It’s just then up to the driver to tweak for the real start based on what happened in the formation lap. The driver has to gauge how good the formation start was, and why it was bad if it was, and make the more/less tweak for the actual start.

    3. F1 is about advancing technology, but not to the point of having the computers do the driving. I don’t think reverting to driver-skill can be called “dumbing-down”, going back to side valve engines, carburettors, drum brakes, cross-ply tyres would be dumbing-down.

  8. So now the drivers are responsible for their starts 100%?I mean the race engineer wil give still some advice for the start but not in this section.I say do 2 burnouts or 3 or I don’t know how it was until now.In my opinion this clutch thing is good because the drivers should realise when is the optimum moment for maximum grip and to feel the car not just to do what it says from his engineer.Thanks in advance.

    1. In my view this is a far better way to add some uncertainty and mix up the order than mandating lousy tyres and pit stops.

  9. I’m very interested to see how the McLaren starts since they are the only team (I believe) that only has one clutch paddle on their steering wheel

  10. People have been saying that this mid-season change is made to hurt Merc. I can’t see how, the rule only forbids Sunday changes. It shouldn’t be a big deal. If anything it may disrupt the guys that were consistently good on starts like Hulk and Massa. In the end it won’t make someone who was good at starts, awful.

    1. Not a single thing I agree with here:

      People have been saying that this mid-season change is made to hurt Merc.

      What people?

      I can’t see how, the rule only forbids Sunday changes.

      That’s the day you get points… so if it’s not important on Sunday then when?

      It shouldn’t be a big deal. If anything it may disrupt the guys that were consistently good on starts like Hulk and Massa

      Teams spend Millions to go a tenth quicker, losing starting position is basically undoing those gains. How is that not a big deal? and talking about Massa and Hulkenberg like they are not important… F1 isn’t just about the winning team / driver.

      In the end it won’t make someone who was good at starts, awful.

      Yes it will, remove the people who were responsible for clutch settings and it’s a different game now.

  11. People are suggesting that starts are going to be a lottery as if 20 of the best drivers in the world will completely screw up getting off the line. 30 years ago, they managed to start their cars and leave the start line, maybe one or two drivers buggered it up, but, pole was pole and people still won races from starting on the 1st grid slot.
    Yes this procedure is different, and yes we may see some wheel spin, or some drivers bogging down, but because there is a limit in what the reactions/reflexes/feel of the drivers fingers can do, I predict a fairly mundane start, where pole and 2nd place battle it out for La Source for the first time.

    1. And 30+ years ago they controlled the clutch with their foot and changed gears with a mechanical lever, I don’t think this is too much to ask of a driver.

      1. Don’t tell me the grammar police wont let me start a sentence with a preposition.

        1. Or maybe they think HoHum must be chinese and is referring to a crutch when he writes “clutch”.

          1. original answer is for @dragoll.

    2. Because the start is still pretty much entirely based on the start system of the car. There is no technical change.

      All that has changed is that the engineers have to guess the clutch settings upfront and that they might get it wrong more often than before. Which means this rule change indeed will only create a lottery effect at best.

    3. The concern I’ve been having is that it sounded like the drivers would have to set the bite point before they left the garage– Which means it would essentially be a guessing game as to whether they could match the grip levels on the grid.

      If the driver can actually set the clutch correctly themselves between the formation lap and the race start, then that seems pretty reasonable.

  12. When F1 cars started to have 2 clutch paddles?
    I really want to know!

  13. Ecclestone again said: “I don’t know about Monza at the moment. I have meetings there in September so we will see. I hope we don’t lose it but I think there is a good chance we will.”
    What about the government support? How is it not enough for the race to be held in Monza? What is this guy doing??!!!!

  14. Why have we never heard the term ‘magic clutch’ before! It’s great.
    I think all driver aids should be prefaced with the word from now on. ‘Magic wing’ = DRS. ‘Magic engine’ = kers boost. ‘Magic wheels’ = retained wheelnuts
    At least then people would stop complaining about the magic being taken out of F1…

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