The radically different 2009 F1 cars, currently under testing, are the sign of things to come in a season that will see a host of regulations introduced by FIA
MUMBAI: Just a fortnight since the 2008 Formula One season ended, the preparations for the next season have begun in all seriousness. However, what is different this time is that the cars, which are currently being tested at the Circuit de Catalunya in Barcelona, have undergone a radical design change.
So much so that some of them are almost unrecognisable. This is the result of the number of new regulations that the sport’s governing body, FIA, has introduced for 2009. The changes are so dramatic that many are terming it as a new revolution in Formula One.
Former F1 designer Peter Stevens certainly thinks so. Stevens, who was associated with Williams F1 team, thinks the new changes will dramatically alter the performances of cars. According to Stevens, the new regulations have been introduced to cut down the mindboggling expenditure and provide more overtaking opportunities.
“The most striking features of the new cars are the front and rear wings and the tyres,” he said. The new cars will have slick tyres that are broader. Also, the front wing is slightly broader and has a bigger ground clearance.
“Both (the changes) compliment each other. Currently, as the front wing is extremely close to the ground (more downforce), the car in pursuit finds it difficult to get a smooth air flow. As a result, the grip gets lost and overtaking becomes an impossible task,” Stevens said.
With higher ground clearance, wider front wing and narrower rear wing, the downforce will get reduced. The lesser down force will enable the pursuing car get a tidier airflow that would make an overtaking maneuver a much simpler task.”
In order to balance the reduction of aerodynamic grip, slick tyres will be introduced so that the cars get a better mechanical grip. “The increase in mechanical grip will allow drivers to show their skill,” he remarked.
The new cars will be without the aerodynamic aids that has become the feature of F1 cars in recent years. This is primarily a part of FIA’s cost reduction initiative. According to Stevens, these parts account for huge electricity and monetary expenditure.
“Teams operate three 8-hour wind tunnel shifts to test these parts. A small village consumes as much electricity as a wind tunnel does. Also, the fact that these parts have to be constantly manufactured ads to escalating costs,” he remarked. The other element that has forced all the designers to the drawing board is KERS or Kinetic Energy Recovery System. KERS will allow the cars to recover some of the energy that is lost during braking.
However, Stevens feels it is not easy as it looks. “Though KERS will help reduce lap times by 210th of a second, there are many other factors that the teams will have to consider. The KERS set-up will weigh around 40 kg.”
Also, with KERS on board, the teams will prefer drivers who weigh less. Perhaps, for the first time, the weight of the drivers will become a crucial factor in the deciding team strategy,” Stevens said.
Stevens said that though KERS was an exciting concept, it is likely to cost a bomb. “A Team Principal recently told me KERS is an engineer’s dream but an accountant’s nightmare,” he said.
Stevens though feels F1 purists won’t be too excited by these changes. “Formula One is not about overtaking alone. Engineering excellence driven by constant R&D is as much a part of it as is racing. In the bigger scheme of things, I don’t think these changes are good for the sport,” he said.
7 months ago