Tech progress behind the scenes in F1

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    This topic bugs me for a few days now in the light of Hamilton’s (and possibly Bottas’) faulty or incorrect so-called ‘start modes’ and the turmoil around the ‘driving style’ radio messages.

    I think both can be traced back to an enormous scale of technological progress in the sport, which had gone somewhat unnoticed – and sadly, it looks like it is still not picked up by the regulatory body (yes, FIA, I’m pointing the finger).

    Let’s see the ‘start modes’ first. It absolutely puzzles me that Hamilton was literally not able to accelerate away from the grid without huge loads of wheelspin when – roughly as he said – he had the device CONTROLLING all kinds of parameters at the start going AWOL. Supposedly, F1 cars should not have launch control, but the difference the presence of some kind of system on Lewis’ car made in Monza was alarming for me. Of course, I’m 100% sure there’s no program code bit called Launch Control on those cars (it’d be like the ‘Attack Here’ sign in the parody Scary Movie 3), but I’m sure as hell there’s something going on which – by the extent of its apparent advantage – went unaccounted for in the regs for a long time.

    Now as for the driving style broadcasts: I think F1 would move in ENTIRELY in the wrong direction if it’d a) introduce some kind of ‘ban’ on such messages (who are we fooling anyway), or b) drop the amount of team radios. It’s simply because neither of them is the source of the problem. The source of the problem is the massively unregulated monitoring technology which exists out there between the car and the garage. It’s one-way (passive, since a case some time ago), but very very advanced, that’s for sure. Take NASCAR, for example: they provide ample amounts of radio comm, but are absolutely hell bent on keeping severe control on the extent of sensory feedback car-to-pit, which keeps the pit wall from interfering too much.

    The example of NASCAR, in fact, takes us back to the real root of the problems, square one, if you like, which is the simple fact that in I think literally none other motorsport category in the world is – effectively – regulated by their own participants, starting with NASCAR. ‘Obviously’, F1 team are always came up with the perfect excuses and always will, such as ‘we need monitoring to ensure safety (from tyre ‘explosions’ – since when it’s not a kind of puncture!? – and the like)’. Which is a valid argument, but only half of the story – it’s there to feed and provide rational to the media on the lack of measures taken. Obviously there IS a way to dissect between the various channels of monitoring (and the kind of ‘hidden’ technology progress channels, such as the one which resulted in a seemingly de facto LC) without being leaving the safe side of safety.


    What about banning all alterations being made remotely to a car during the race? Teams can monitor and report back to the driver, but would not be able to make any electronic changes whatsoever.

    There is no need for them to do anything of this nature from the pitlane/garage. Let the driver drive the car they prepared earlier. If it breaks down, they’ll just have to live with it!


    Well, most of the pit-to-car changes are banned anyway, I think since about 1998-2001-ish, but yeah, that was for a completely different set of car components.

    On the other hand, some management of performance-enhancing elements is actually favourable – mostly that means ‘building energy around’ certain situations, a term Red Bull used on Ricciardo’s radio in Canada and I pretty much like it. It creates more overtaking or spirited defenses. And it helps putting energy revovery systems more into spotlight, which is exactly the kind of thing F1 needs to remain relevant in this new environment-conscious era (of car industry and motorsport).

    They are not easy to pull off in the first place. But obviously when we talk about stuff that makes life easy for the drivers, we don’t really want something that makes it too easy, such as the aforementioned kind of ‘launch control’. Or the engine mapping Red Bull used last year to absolutely nail that blown diffuser concept which practically worked – from the outside – like traction control in effect (without it, Sebastian would have hardly been able to have that distinctive style of ‘jabbing the throttle mid-corner to exit’ – as Horner once said in an interview – to maximise grip and traction on the way out of the corner).

    That’s what I talked about, there no need to go radical and ban something altogether, because there’s always a plus side and a flip side to everything. It’s a careful assessment of distinguishing between elements of this area that is needed – and most importantly, a change of approach in which a more independent (they can’t be fully independent, can they) regulatory body aims for good, exciting racing (the ‘product’ so they’d say) instead of serving the interests of the biggest teams.

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