Another new season is upon us and as ever, if you stand still in Formula One, it’s as good as moving backwards. The pace of development in this sport is such that teams start brainstorming ideas for the new season as soon as the first race of the previous season. That shows to exhibit the bright, creative and clever minds those engineers have back at the factories.
Even a thoroughbred racing horse requires a jockey’s direction to focus its innate power into the right direction. On parallel grounds, those engineers are governed or restricted by the bounds of the rules and regulations and to keep them on their toes, subtle changes have been made to the regulations for the upcoming Formula One 2016 season.
From 2016 onwards, adhering to the outcries of many purists and fans, the FIA has passed a regulation which calls for a separate wastegate for exhaust gases to pass through, through another exhaust pipe whose position has been predefined by the FIA such that it cannot be exploited for aerodynamic use by the cunning teams. This change comes in for the sole purpose to increase the noise volume of the current hybrid engines so as to return back to the spectacle Formula One once was for the on-track spectator.
Also, a fifth power unit has been allowed for the 21 race calendar to compensate for the extra mileage. As Azerbaijan gets set to host the European Grand Prix, an old classic track returns to the calendar in the form of German Grand Prix taking the tally to 21. After an year of absence from the calendar, the German GP returns with Hockenheim ring.
Another new addition is that, in its first season a new manufacturer gets an extra unit added to its allocation, something Honda probably would have liked in 2015, while they also get a slightly more generous token spend. Units have to be homologated by mid-February with changes only allowed for safety, reliability and cost cutting reasons. Performance changes are to be conducted through the allocated token system.
It will now also be possible for old specification power units to be re-homologated for use by specific teams.
The major revamp is the reduction of pre-season tests from three to just two tests and restricting the amount of total mileage allowed per team to 15,000 km. Both these tests will take place on the Circuit de Catalunya in Spain.
Also on the agenda was the banning of private engine tests by engine manufacturers in cars that were designed for Formula One but were not owned by any of the teams. So it has been deemed illegal to use any car designed to the 2012-2016 regulations by the governing body of Formula One.
Pirelli have been granted 12 days of in/post season tyre testing. Therefore, Pirelli will conduct six tests of two days each with teams prohibited from carrying on their own development work while conducting these tests.
SAFETY AND DRIVING STANDARDS
To look for new avenues and continue down the path of making the sport as safe as possible for everyone involved, the FIA is focused on understanding crashes and what happens during a crash. For this purpose each car will be fitted with a high speed camera made by Magneti Marelli which will be used to study the drivers head movements during an impact. Additionally, drivers will now all have to wear in-ear accelerometers whenever they are in the car.
Also, the regulation about exceeding track limits has been reworded and the stewards have been asked to maintain a strict approach to corner cuts and track limits when it comes to penalizing the undisciplined drivers. Adding another dimension to race starts, any driver who causes the start of the race to be aborted will be required to start the race from pit lane at the restart, Hungary 2015 being a good example for the latter point.
By far and away, the biggest of the rule changes for the upcoming 2016 season.
First of all, Pirelli have added a new dry weather compound to their inventory called the Ultra Soft tyre which is supposed to a one further step below even the Super Soft. It’s going to have purple markings so as to be distinguishable to the public.
In addition to this, teams will now have more freedom with regards to their tyre strategies as Pirelli will be bringing three dry weather compounds to a race instead of just two.
Out of the thirteen sets available to the driver, two will be selected by Pirelli, one will be the softest tyre available that weekend and the rest ten, would be the drivers’ or the teams choice. Any amount of any tyre, multiple permutations and combinations. So in theory, two drivers from the same team can have different tyres during the race. These choices have to be nominated eight weeks before the actual race if the race is in Europe or fourteen weeks before if the race is outside Europe.
Of the two sets reserved by Pirelli, at least one has to be used during the race. The softest tyre that weekend will be made available to everyone who makes Q3, and for those who don’t, that tyre goes into their race allocation.
So, in theory, this opens up opportunities for drivers to run all the three compounds during a race or try one stop races, two stop races, and so on, thus widening the strategy aspect.
The FIA has clearly become a little suspicious of some teams aerodynamic development rate so now requires every team to supply two digital photos (front and rear quarter views one must assume) with a date stamp on them of the wind tunnel models before each run. The pictures have to show the entire working section with the model clearly shown in full to stop teams from illegally using other teams data or stealing information or exploiting any loopholes.