In a bid to make F1 drivers less reliant on team engineers, the FIA has tried to implement various new regulations. Pit to car communication was reduced from the 2014 Singapore Grand Prix. Now, starting from the 2015 Belgian Grand Prix, the F1 clutch-start rules have been changed.
Previously, after leaving the garage on their way to the starting grid, the drivers could use a “bite-point finder” to optimize their starts after leaving the pits. Changes could be made as late as the formation lap of the race. Along with that, the race engineers tend to give the driver the best settings to use at the start for the best pull off the line. The driver will in all probability make use of that, and adjust accordingly, depending on how the start plays out. Come the Belgian Grandprix, this will no longer be the case.
Under the new clutch-start regulations, the clutch-bite point will be fixed as the car leaves the pits and will not have a provision to be changed. The engineer will thus not be able to help the driver by providing the best clutch settings for the perfect start. Full control of the start will now rest in the hands of the drivers.
The new regulations have met with mixed reaction from the Drivers and Teams.
Reigning World Champion, Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes Boss, Toto Wolff along with Sauber are not happy with these changes.
Hamilton believes that the new system is a good idea but needs to be worked on. He thinks the starts will now be more “unpredictable”, with “more weaving” and the worst case scenario at the start (one of the riskiest moments of the race) could be more “disastrous”.
His sentiments are echoed by team boss, Toto Wolff. In an interview with AUTOSPORT he said
“I think what he [Hamilton] says is right,”
“We wanted to make the starts more variable and unpredictable, to give more responsibility to the driver and make it look less ‘remote control’ from the garage.
“This is the first exercise in tuning technology down for the sake of the entertainment, and all the steps which have been done are understandable.But is it going to cause drama beyond expectations, or variability beyond expectations?If so then it will need to be looked at again and adjusted.”
“What none of us want is completely unpredictable starts for everybody which then completely devalues qualifying.It is going to be learning on the job, but Formula 1, the FIA and the stakeholders have shown in the past we are pretty flexible in adapting things for the sake, or safety, of the sport if required.”
Sauber is another party that might suffer owing to the new regulations. They are the only team that has no simulator, giving little or no practice to their drivers. Both drivers feel they will be on the back foot. If there is any consolation to the Swiss side, they are set to try and strike an agreement for the use of a F1 simulator.
On the other hand, Nico Rosberg and Jenson Button are more pleased with the new rules.
Speaking regarding these rules, 2009 World Champion Jenson Button feels it will not be a massive issue.
“I don’t think that is going to be a massive issue,The issue is we only have one clutch pedal. That is an issue. That is very different to what we are used to because obviously using two clutch pedals – as everyone does – you can manipulate the start a little bit more with dropping one pedal and holding the other.
So, that is the bigger effect and the bigger issue for us and it is definitely more in our hands. I think that is very exciting, a positive.”
Nico Rosberg is another, happier party. He feels that the new regulations will give him a better fighting chance against Lewis Hamilton for the 2015 Title.
“I like it because it gives me the opportunity to try and beat Lewis in that area, whereas until now it’s difficult because it was not really in the driver’s hands.
“It’s going to be a challenge, it really is, because up to now it was so controlled by the engineers, who were doing the settings and everything. Now, to be completely on your own, it’s a big change, so it will be interesting. It’ll be easy to do it, but it will be complex to do it well.The procedure is the same but you have to be more reactive because the clutch won’t be in the perfect position because it’s not been set perfectly – it just gets set and you’ve got to deal with it. It’s going to be quite complicated, for sure.”
Lewis Hamilton has correctly pointed out, that the starts will be more unpredictable. But that unpredictability will spice up the race and the drivers can really show their skills at the time of commencement of the race.
Edited by Aashna Bakshi