MATTEO DALL'OMBRA

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F1 Review: What’s Coming In 2015

December 6th, 2014

Just few days after my 2014 F1 review, the FIA published some of the changes will be seeing in the new season next year. Let’s have a look at the most interesting.

Points

Points for both titles will no longer be doubled for the final Event of the Championship.

Seriously? I swear I laughed really a lot when I saw this. The first item in the list abolish the most controversial rule that we had in 2014. It was first introduced to provide a ‘better show’ but it only mathematically relegated Rosberg to a desperate final race. Even without the technical issues there was no way on earth he could have won.

Glad it’s gone.

Standing Restarts

After consultation with the Teams who raised a number of safety concerns, Articles 42.7 and 42.8 on standing restarts have been rescinded.

Never really understood the need for a standing restart. Usually Safety Car spells are where we see most of the action nowadays. Plus there’s the technical issue of stopping all the cars and starting them again. Not just mechanics running around on the pit straight, but also consider the implication of letting the car suddenly cool down just to heat up again few minutes later. I could see a lot of engines suddenly going up in smoke!

Virtual Safety Car (VSC)

Following tests of the VSC system at the final Events of 2014, the introduction of the system has been approved for 2015. The VSC procedure may be initiated to neutralise a race upon the order of the clerk of the course. It will normally be used when double waved yellow flags are needed on any section of track and competitors or officials may be in danger, but the circumstances are not such as to warrant use of the safety car itself.

This is a very interesting new article. Safety has always been at the centre of the FIA actions and this feel like a major leap forward. The essence is that with the VSC procedure, cars can be slowed down remotely in case of danger, without having to rely on the drivers. It’s not that we don’t trust drivers to do the right thing, but they are still professional drivers fighting in the ultimate championship: they will always try to meet the minimum requirement still trying to gain something out of it (meaning: not really slowing down that much). By removing the human decision we can make sure all the drivers can be safe and everybody will experience the same delay, meaning that no one will be more penalised than other.

Power Unit Penalties

[…] If a grid place penalty is imposed, and the driver’s grid position is such that the full penalty cannot be applied, the remainder of the penalty will be applied in the form of a time penalty during the race (not at the next race as was previously the case) […]

I like the idea of preventing penalties from being carried over in subsequent races. If something wrong is detected the penalty should be reflected in the same event the fault was discovered. Porting it into the next race never made much sense.

Qualifying Procedure

The qualifying procedure was clarified: for cases when 24 cars are eligible seven will be excluded after Q1 and Q2, if 22 cars are eligible six cars will be excluded after Q1 and Q2, and so on if fewer cars are eligible.

I have mixed feelings toward this clarification. In very basic terms it explains how many cars are excluded from every session depending on the total number of participating cars. This was clearly done in response to the chaos brought by the sudden disappearance of Catheram and Marussia. Now it’s clearer what to do if the number drops. My question is: why instead don’t they work toward making sure that we always have the full number of cars on the grid? Also why starting to count from 24? Even with all the teams in we had 22 cars. Are they laying the ground for 3-cars team to cover the defection of other manufacturers? This was only a rumour; we’ll see what will happen.

Safety Car: lapped cars

Once the last lapped car has passed the leader the safety car will return to the pits at the end of the following lap, the race director will no longer have to wait for all the lapped cars to reach the back of the pack behind the safety car.

Again, a welcomed change even if still doesn’t fully solved the problem. Since a couple years ago lapped cars have to up-lap themselves and take their position at the back of the group, making sure that all cars are within a certain more compact space. This wasn’t the case and it had always been ok. If you were lapped you stayed lapped. You only had to stay where you were and wait for the restart. Having cars unlapping the leaders creates confusion and causes massive delays in the restart. With this new rule at least the delay is removed, still the confusion stands.

To read the full text of all the new rules, you can visit the Official F1 website.

Another One Bites The Dust

November 24th, 2014

Are you ready,
Are you ready for this
Are you hanging on the edge of your seat

The Queen were singing this in 1980 and this is how I was feeling in March before the start of the 2014 F1 Championship. Over the years F1 has always been a passion for me, but this year in particular I made it a “mission” to watch as many GP as possible. 19 races after, I’m year to reflect on that choice.

After Sunday’s race Hamilton was crowned World Champion for the second time, after managing to successfully beat his team-mate Rosberg in the race for the prestigious title.

Was it a deserved win for Hamilton? Absolutely.

Despite the technical superiority of Mercedes, both Hamilton and Rosberg had to deal with quite a few issues along the way that prevented them to score any points. On the other hand the British driver always made the most of any chance that came his way. Every time he was behind Rosberg he always tried to overtake the German any almost every time he had been successful in doing so. Rosberg instead only managed to win if he was already ahead of his team mate, never managing to overtake him from behind.

Was it an enjoyable win for the spectators? So-and-so.

Thanks to the technical superiority of Mercedes the Constructor Championship was clearly headed toward the Silver Arrows after the first two races. Combine the technical factor with having two of the best drivers around will give you a team that on average was a second faster a lap compared to everybody else. Only Williams was able from time to time to stick around generally for the third place or a second if something went wrong with one of the Mercedes.

All of this meant that from a spectator point of view, there wasn’t much to see. I can hardly remember any memorable over take, if any at all and even in the back rows the fight wasn’t there (if you exclude the truce battle for the 18-19th place).

This wasn’t new. If you have been following F1 you know that this happen periodically. We saw it with Ferrari and Schumacher, Brown GP and Button, Red Bull and Vettel and this year with Mercedes and Hamilton/Rosberg.

When any team gets its magic formula right, there’s nothing the competition can do to fight back. Everybody else on track is simply a spectator to other’s wins. The difference that I feel compared to the past is that nowadays there’s no fight at all. The only real competition you see is during the Qualifying sessions. Chances are that you are going to finish around the same position you’ve started from.

Of course it’s easy to complain as I’m doing right now without offering a solution in return, but I feel that recently I’m not the only one bringing this issue forward. The very same Bernie Ecclestone, the head of F1 operations, complained few times over this year about the lack of excitement. F1 is made by drivers, mechanics and cars as much as it’s made of its public. Without one of the two components the show wouldn’t go on.

Will 2015 be different? Maybe.

There aren’t massive changes in regulations as wed had for 2014, so teams should now be better prepared for next year, which might improve their competitive levels.

In addition to that, few surprises have already been unveiled for next year.

  • McLaren will go back to its historical partnership with Honda for the engine. Great things were achieved by the two together (1988 F1 Championship with Ayrton Senna behind the wheel), so we might see a new spark of life from that team.
  • Speaking of McLaren, many rumors are surrounding next year’s drivers line-up. There was a sense of farewell from Button and many think that Abu Dhabi was his last race with the team and possibly in F1. With him out there would be space to welcome Alonso who has officially left Ferrari without announcing a new destination.
  • Big changes in Ferrari as well. With Alonso out, it’s time to welcome the four-times World Champion Vettel. As of today, the Scuderia has also a new boss: Marco Mattiacci (brought in 6 months ago to replace Domenicali) has been officially replaced by Maurizio Arrivabene (VP Consumer Channel Strategy and Event Marketing at Philip Morris and part of the F1 Commission).
  • We still don’t know what will be of Catheram and possibly of Marussia for next year. The former came back in the final race after missing the US and Brazilian GPs while the latter is still under administration, without a bright future ahead. This could also trigger a clause in some team’s contract to bring in a third car to avoid running the season only with 18 cars.

These changes, plus other I’m sure will come before next March have the capability of giving us a good 2015 for F1.

I know that I’ve only complained so far, but despite everything I’m sad the Championship is over and I can’t wait for the 2015 season to start.

Are you ready,
Are you ready for this
Are you hanging on the edge of your seat

The Last 18

October 29th, 2014

After few weeks of speculations the FIA has made official that both Marussia and Caterham will not participate in this week American GP in Austin. The two teams went into administration after not being able to secure enough funding to keep the operations going.

It also still remain to be seen if the two team will be able to take part in the final two races in Brasil and Abu Dhabi.

Both Marussia and Caterham joined the Formula One grid in 2010, originally as Virgin and Lotus Racing respectively. Both have enjoyed only limited success, with Marussia securing their first world championship points in this year’s Monaco Grand Prix and Caterham yet to score in 93 race outings.

This came in as a very sad news for the sport because it will prevent 3 young and promising drivers to do their job and entertain the crowd in Austin.

In the modern era of F1 this is the first time the two teams fail to participate to a GP for financial reasons, which also highlights one of the biggest problem of this sport: money. At the moment there’s only a very high ceiling for maximum expenditures, which create huge disparities between bigger and smaller teams. In addition to that, the lack of major technical sponsors for smaller teams and the non-equal distributions of TV rights has always been a matter of concern for the second half of the grid.

At this point there’s not much that can be done if not waiting for the two teams to sort out their financial issues. Let’s hope that this “disease” won’t spread too much among other teams. F1 already has a good amount of problems, dropping teams is certainly not another one that we want to add to the list.

Double The Points?

December 10th, 2013

 

2014 is going to bring a lot of changes for F1. New engines and new cars are the obvious ones, but the FIA has also launched new additions for the rules.

Among them, one in particular is standing out: double points for Drivers and Constructors Championships on the last race in Abu Dhabi.

Double drivers’ and constructors’ points will be awarded at the final race of the Formula One season – Abu Dhabi for 2014 – in order to maximise focus on the championship until the end of the campaign

If you ask me, this looks like a sign of desperation.

To be honest, in the recent years F1 has lost some of his appeal to me. It’s still a great sport and I still enjoy watching races a lot, but you can easily feel that the show has dial-down quite a lot.

It’s not just the Red Bull dominance, all the drivers have been severely limited by the tyres and without having to stop for fuel anymore, the strategy has been leveled across the teams. You can now estimate with almost 100% accuracy when the teams are going to do their pit-stops. There’s no more element of surprise and there’s no more room for “crazy” ideas that can make or brake a race.

Why a sign of desperation then? Well, doubling the points at the last race feels like a direct response to this year’s Vettel victory. It also reminds of the rule changes applied to stop the Ferrari dominance a few years back.

A change that I like is the proposed cap on teams’ spending for 2015 onward. On one side by limiting the amount of money that can be used there will be a comprehensible reduction in R&D, obliging teams to more wisely spread the budget around; but on the other side I think the aim of this new rule will be to reduce the gap between the first and the second half of the grid.

Right now many F1 races are really divided in two: division one with the big names fighting for a chance of winning the title; division two where all the younger drivers currently are, trying to shine but ending up fighting for the 13th place.

In my opinion, leveling up these differences would be key to really turning tables and make everybody really competitive again. It wasn’t just Vettel running away from lap 1; even in the back rows you could rarely see someone overtaking (except when they use DRS or Kers).

I’m really looking forward to the new season, I have hopes that it’s going to be a great competition once again!