Start, Suzuka, 2016

Drivers ‘will make more mistakes at the start’ in 2017

2017 F1 season

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Formula One drivers will make more mistakes at the start because of new rules on how their clutches work, according to Marcus Ericsson.

From 2017 the regulations require clutch control to be linear which will make it harder for teams to optimise their tracks according to the grip available.

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, Circuit de Catalunya, 2017
Testing day six in pictures
The Sauber driver predicted drivers will find it harder to make consistently good starts and make more mistakes.

“I believe it’s going to be more difficult just because now it’s impossible for the teams to help us out with the tricks we could do before to make it to be consistent with the starts,” he said. “Now it’s basically you have a linear clutch and that’s it, you just have to play with the throttle and your feel through your hands.”

Ericsson said his starts have improved with practice but hitting the sweet spot in the pressure of a live race will be a different matter.

“I found it very difficult at the beginning of the test to understand it and get a feel for it,” he said. “Then we’ve done a lot of starts and now I’m starting to really get the hang of it.”

“It’s definitely more inconsistent than it’s been before. I think there’s a lot bigger chance that the drivers will do mistakes just because you don’t have this system to rely on. Now it’s just purely down to your hand movement and your foot movement.”

“And especially when the pressure’s on in the race car as well it’s going to be easier to make a mistake and do a bad start. I believe we will see more people doing mistakes in the start.”

Start, Hockenheimring, 2016
Why manual starts are the quiet success story of 2016
The margin for error is now “super-small” according to Ericsson. “It’s a fraction of a millimetre almost, it feels like..

“Before you could have a big plateau of where you could have the drop to where you could have a decent start. Now you don’t have that.”

“It’s really easy to over-release it or not release it enough. To be able to that with a good reaction and hit the right spot depending on what grip level you have on the grid, which is different from every track, every compound, everything, all these things make it really difficult to be consistent in your start performance.”

“So I think we will see someone make a great start, another guy make a poor start, and the next week it’s the other way around. I think it will be difficult to be very consistent. Which I think is what the aim was, to make it a bit difficult for us.”

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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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  • 22 comments on “Drivers ‘will make more mistakes at the start’ in 2017”

    1. Interesting. Good for putting cars out of position so should see some good racing, but potentially dangerous – many stalled/very slow cars on the grid have been hit before.

    2. This feels like a very artificial move to make races more exciting. Pure chance, really. Although I do like how it forces teams to refocus their efforts on actually simplifying some of the procedures in their cars.

      1. @hahostolze I agree about the artificiality. The old rules were great because they changed a technicality within the rules to make it driver-based, but the overall rule on how it works was basically unchanged. This is certainly coming across as an artificial move – although it could be asked, what defines ‘artificial’ in such a context?

        In terms of simplifying procedures, well, this is F1. Teams will no doubt be working on the most technical way of getting around this rule as best as possible. I’m not too familiar with this new rule, but from what Ericsson said, it sounds as though there is still leeway the teams can use, so no doubt the engineers will be trying their best to avoid simplifying it.

      2. @hahostolze @strontium I think you guys are calling it artificial because you don’t really know how it works or what it means.

        http://www.autosport.com/news/report.php/id/128411
        The clutch will now work more like a normal car where pressure is proportional to the pedal, or in this case finger lever.
        These levers are fully electronic so engineers could easily program a non-linear map into them, effectively giving more resolution for the driver to modulate the clutch right at the bite point. This really was artificial.

        But eventually the drivers will get used to it (the good ones at least), just like they had to get used to driving with no traction control, active suspension, etc when those got banned.

        1. First, the regulations say the relationship between the lever and clutch engagement can be non-linear, but must be fixed (ie, not adjustable).

          The need for a non-linear map is because the electronic clutch levers have no feedback, and very limited range. You’ve got a very small range that you’ve got to accurately control by pulling with your fingertip. Also, the clutch *has* to react within 50ms– try measuring that.

          I think, though, reading through the regulations, that there’s a bit of an oversight– I see nothing that says you can’t have a clutch mechanism which can auto-calibrate itself– pump the clutch lever twice, and the clutch (not the ECU) auto-finds the minimum possible range for “fully engaged” to “fully disengaged”, and that becomes the travel distance for the clutch the next time it’s used. Add to that a bell-shaped curve for response to maximize sensitivity in the mid range of the clutch lever, and it should at least be easier for the driver to get smooth clutch engagement.

          For all I know, the teams are doing this already– I’d be surprised if no one else has thought of it.

        2. @mantresx @strontium When I say it’s artificial, I mean that this regulation is designed to mix up the order at starts. Now, I get that the technique is fairly comparable to that of road cars. But clearly F1 cars aren’t road cars. So I’m not sure what this regulation brings. Basically if it’s as difficult as it’s being described, it renders much of qualifying null and void. That’s really artificial.

          1. Tony Mansell
            9th March 2017, 12:20

            Yeh we should just get launch control and let the computers set the optimium speed for corners so the driver just puts his foot down to the floor.

            This rule TAKES AWAY from the artificial control. Can you not see that.

            WHoooooshhhhh

            1. You’re a perfect example of why society is falling apart. There is no middle ground. Any assistance whatsoever to the driver, and it’s “launch control with computer controlled cornering”– which absolutely no one has suggested in any conversation on how to make F1 better.

    3. I was all for drivers having to master doing a start properly under the old rules, but how long is it before it becomes seen as another gimmick introduced to create a lottery, like chewy tyres? It won’t be a lot of fun seeing more reward in a good start than can be found in a good qualifying (although it’s true that they are not mutually exclusive). It is good to see mistakes every now and then, mixing up the order, but if it becomes a frequent thing fans will no doubt become frustrated, and the excitement of bad starts will soon wear.

      However, I am largely speculating. I shall reserve complete judgement until I have seen it in action enough times. I hope F1 proves me wrong.

      1. Roth Man (@rdotquestionmark)
        21st March 2017, 8:14

        There isn’t any lottery about this, it will be a skill and test of nerve from what I read.

    4. I don’t know if this is gimmickry, I tend to believe that now it will be more about driver input/feeling than before, where it was possible to have a fine tune of the clutch release with more scope to limit possible driver error. Every time I hear a rule about more driving input, and a simpler system, I’m all for it. I tend to believe the best drivers will cope better with this. It’s a bit of a silly comparison, but it’s like a H pattern shifter vs. a semi auto shifter, the hardest one to master give an advantage for the most skilled driver, so I’m all for it.

    5. A good start should always be down completely to the driver and not a computer system, this is good to hear.

    6. One day they will explain to us how has this almost casual lottery of a clutch anything to do with difficulty in driving

      1. How is it a lottery to use driverskill instead of an computer in the starts?
        Do you want traction control and abs aswelk because manual braking and throttlemanaging is a lottery?

        1. Couldn’t agree more, @rethla

    7. mark jackson
      9th March 2017, 0:42

      Bad news for Lewis!

      1. I’ve been wondering if there has been any buzz about Mercedes improving thier clutch. Seems like they would make fixing it a high priority.

    8. I want to know how F1 knows teams are not using traction conctrol.

      The electric motor could be used as a sensor for wheel spin, even if no other sensors are allowed. It could also provide a very effective (and stealthy) way to control wheelspin. Or increase torque if needed.

      Finally, I don’t see how you prevent it. Like the emissions tests VW and others cheated on, the start is a specific, easily isolated event. The traction control software could be programmed to delete itself based on time, throttle inputs, etc.

      1. @slotopen: and like the VW emissions test scandal, the consequences of getting caught should be dire. Using loopholes and grey areas is one thing, but I’d like to think that directly contravening a rule in the way you suggest would lead to exclusion from the WCC at least.

        Does anyone know if the software used by F1 teams is audited? Or if the FIA has access to the telemetry gathered? I’d expect that the telemetry data would reveal any traction control system through reaction times.

        1. Weren’t Ferrari caught with traction control software in the 1990s and nothing came of it?

          I am curious about the software and rules. I’m guessing there are enough separate circuits in the drive train to make auditing or monitoring them very difficult.

        2. Weren’t Ferrari caught with traction control software in the 1990s and nothing came of it?

          I am curious about the software and rules. I’m guessing there are enough separate circuits in the drive train to make auditing or monitoring them very difficult.

    9. Not a bad rule – whether it creates randomness of the order or not. If some teams can’t master it – then is a foot pedal clutch still even allowed in the rules for the start?

      F1 has such a difficult task of preventing too many driver aids – but as long as they are the fastest cars on the planet then I’m okay with stuff like this. But I probably would have banned tyre-blankets first. Surely saying that’s a safety-risk is a bit silly, considering the fact they are introducing added standing starts this year along with more chance of blowing the start completely !

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