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May 24, 2010


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You most certainly have made your point.
In terms of motorsport technology F1 has stagnated in the technology field.
Today F1 cars with their dependence on aerodynamics for performace in cornering and subsequent inability to overtake bear little resemblance to a true F1 car.
Having been an F1 fan through the glory years of the real innovators such as Colin Chapman,Ken Tyrrell todays F1 is predictable due to its processional racing.
Whether we like it or not, enviromental pressures will force these changes into all motorsport.
F1 should be leading the way by using all technology available to improve the spectacle of the racing and KERS has a leading role to play in all of these areas.

Petra L'ead

And yet, which is faster, the F1 car or the Porsche?

Having agreed with your initial point that F1 is a "spec" series I disagree that F1 does not have cutting edge technology.

There are still areas where F1 is way ahead of other forms of motor racing, in particular areodynamics, the black art of making the very air around the car work to improve lap times.

I'm sure too that the level of engineering design in F1, even within the technological restrictions you mentioned, is beyond that of the Porsche. Think how much money the teams throw at refining each and every component to make them ever lighter, stronger, better performing and more reliable. I know it's not sexy and you can't see it but I believe that F1 is extremely innovative within the restrictions imposed upon the designers.

A lot of the other technologies you mentioned were in F1 ages ago and were banned because they were perceived to adversely affect the quality of the racing. (The cynic in me sometimes thinks they were removed because Williams were better at them than Ferrari or McLaren and because Williams have never been very politically astute, but let's not go there....)

F1 is often accused of not listening to the fans, yet a number of these technological limits were introduced with the intention of making the art of driving more import, which F1 fans felt was being marginalised by the technology.

Indeed Frank Williams famously suggested that he wasn't prepared to pay extravagant salaries to drivers because the money was better spent developing the car. Given that Damon Hill and Jacques Villeneuve are commonly considered to be the worst world champions ever on many motorsport forums (not my view btw) he was probably right.

When KERS was introduced into F1 it was limited to 60kw, that's true. But what you fail to mention in your article is why that is so. It was introduced at a low level initially so as not to handicap the poorer teams. The intention was always to increase the amount of the power the system could deliver but to do so over a period of time, allowing the poorer teams to remain vaguely competitive as the technology was introduced.


Certainly the F1 car is faster.It is only half the weight of the Porsche.Secondly it has nothing like the aerodynamic qualities

But you hit on the very reason where all the money goes in F1.
It is pointless for teams to lighten any engine components beyond the current weight.
The materials used in the engine, steels, alloys etc are already controlled.No changes can be made there.
Even if they did, they cannot use them due to holomogation regulations.And the engines weight is mandated at 95kg which the teams have already achieved.
Gearboxes, and the very amount of time that the cars must take to change gear is regulated.
Hence the huge amount of money spent on aerodynamics.This is the one area which is relatively free of regulations,and incidently the most expensive to develop.

Petra L'ead

I agree that the teams are limited in the choice of materials themselves (and in all sorts of other preposterous areas) but I'd imagine with the sort of money and computing power F1 teams have available that they are building designs closer to material tolerances and that each individual component is more finely honed than that of the other cars. In what other series do teams regularly spend $400 million per season? Aero aside, what else do F1 teams have to spend their money on?

It might be pointless for the teams to reduce the weight of individual engine components, especially since even the centre of gravity is regulated but there is still huge mileage in improving the design, the longevity, the performance of each individual component.

Getting new parts through the homolgation procedure doesn't seem to be an issue, it just needs to be wrapped up in the name of "reliability" enhancements.

Look at Cosworth at the moment, they're finding that the performance of their engine tails off far more quickly than they had hoped but you can bet your bottom dollar that any fix they make will happen to add a few extra ponies by way of happy coincidence.

Ferrari are reported to have gained an extra 12HP when they fixed the problem with their valve train.

Ultimately the rules of F1 are forcing the teams to innovate in terms of optimisation rather than in broader scope (which is what I would prefer to see) but that doesn't mean that the teams are not innovative per se.

I have to say though that I'd still rather the rules were less restrictive.

Bill Higgins

love this discussion. I want to have a pint with you guys.


Your welcome Bill.Great to see you.Don't know where you are but anytime you want a chat just drop in.


I certainly agree that optimisation is about the only area left for the teams.
In terms of the properties of the alloys used in the engines, I don't think that there is anything left that the metallurgists don't already know.
Both Renault who were allowed engine equalisation to catch up and Ferrari with their reliability upgrades did find some extra performance.I have heard unsubstantiated reports that Renault redesigned their combustion chamber by altering the piston squish shape which changed the flame travel.Whether true or not, sounds about right.
Cosworth and loss of performance.Usual suspect for this is loss of compression.Either premature bore or piston ring wear,or valves seats eroding both of which would cause the engine to lose compression and consequently performance. performance.Spark plugs, coils etc can be replaced as a matter of course, so thats unlikely.Can't think of much else that would cause it.


Much as I have enjoyed this discussion, we have strayed a long way from the original subject.
I find the restrictive nature of F1 regulations completely pointless.If the technology is readily available, and what is more present on the ordinary family saloon car, yet in F1 it banned.
You don't hobble the world 100metre world champion to equalise the rest of runners.Its up to them to work and train harder to reach his level of performance.F1 is and always has been an expensive sport to participate in.If you can't afford it, you shouldn't be there.Toyota were until their withdraw were the highest spending in F1.What did that buy them.If the technology is available it rightly belongs in the premier class of motorsport.Which should be,but isn't F1
If aerodynamics were restricted to the point of providing minimal performace gains and engine and drivetrains were allowed development, we would see a return to real F1 racing and engineering innovation would occupy it rightful place.


I'm seeing a lot of finger pointing at the rules, but no suggestions as to what should be done (specifically) to make F1 more high tech.

I'd love to hear suggestions. I'll bet a lot of them have already been tried in F1, and then banned in the interest of racing. People love to talk about the 70s and 80s, but they also forget a lot of people died back then. F1 cars today are going much quicker with all their restrictions then when they had things like active suspension and ABS back in the early nineties. We don't need to make them any faster that's for sure.

KERS sounded like a good idea, but really what's the point. I don't think it's something any team would choose to implement unless told to. Remember, only the teams with enough money could even try it last season, and that was due to the stipulation that it would become mandatory the following season. Do you really think Lotus, HRT and Virgin would have actually made it to the grid this season if they had to run KERS?

Let's look at some of the other things you mentioned.

ABS brakes. Bad idea. The braking zones are already too short in F1 and that's why there's very little passing. As a matter of fact, I think they should lose the "high tech" carbon/carbon brakes too.

Traction control. Can we leave some part of the driving up to the drivers? I enjoy seeing them hang the tail out without it and it separates the men from the boys in the rain.

Engine size. You might get your wish with smaller displacement in a few years. I miss the sound of the V10s already.

Active suspension. Well actually I mentioned this one. Nigel Mansell got himself in trouble when he said a chimpanzee could have driven the '92 Williams to the championship. The car almost drove itself with all the driver's aids it had. All the other teams could do is watch them drive away. Hey - they were free to implement it as well weren't they.


There is a lot of truth in your comments.
And in any discussion of a technical nature, which this is you will see a lot of finger pointing at the rules.
The whole point of the article is to refute F1 claims that it is the pinnacle of motorsport engineering technology.
There are many diffent engineering solutions, which could be used to improve racing.But all of those are a different subject to what this discussion is a actually about.
To take just one point regarding ABS.F1 cars achieve their cornering speeds by aerodynamic downforce overcoming the physics of centripital force.
Simple answer is to remove aerodynamic grip and then you will see the cars tails hanging out, and cornering abilities will be subject to the drivers skill.
So how to improve the racing is a combination of allowing innovation, different engine configurations, which will give the the cars different torque and power curves, but still remaining within the 2.4 litre and 18000 rpm limit.


Should they remove the wings altogether? It seems they have much smaller wings and much less downforce than they had 10 years ago.

Even within the currect 2.4 liter V8 "spec" engine configuration, it's no secret some engines are making significantly more power than others. Open that rule up to support maybe a 2.4 liter V6 with turbo or something to that effect then I think that gap will widen even further. Some configurations just make more power than others while using the same displacement.

It would be very difficult to police and have the teams be competitive, which is sort of the crux of my arguement. With the restrictive rules they have now, some teams perform a lot better than others. I think that's partly due to some very high tech things they do with the restrictions they have.

Open those rules up and one team will be winning all the time, and we'll be longing for the days when there was only an 8 second gap between the regulars and the new teams.


Fair points.
Firstly, I am the wrong person to ask, should they remove wings altogether.Having attended my first live GP in 1955 at just ten years old, and the subsequent pre wing years, my animosity towards wings makes me rather biased.
No I am not saying that V6 turbos and and other configurations in that sense.
Keep the V8 if you must.Although from a technical point of view it is not the best configuration.
But allow different V angles, different bore and stroke measurements, and as many valves as the team can squeeze in.
Allow freedom in CoG in reference to the reference plane.This way each team can design an engine and chassiss to suit their choice of engine characteristics.Be it a very high revving unit, still within the 18000 rpm limit delivering its power at different crankshaft speeds.Or a torquier engine which would come into its own on lower speed technical circuits.
I would without doubt at least severely limit the down force generated by wings.I would much rather see monocoque design providing downforce, but not sliding wing ground effect.
I would ban carbon brakes.But I would allow ABS.
There is a lot that could be done.Lap speeds today are totally dependent on aerodynamic grip, nothing more nothing less.
True outright top speed mean very little in terms of lap times.
So to use an expression I dislike intensely, to seperate the men from the boys,I would remove as much aerodynamic downfoce as possible.Increase mechanical grip.Allow KERS without restriction, and allow four wheel drive.
By banning carbon brakes, even with allowing ABS braking distances would be much greater.
The cars cornering speed would solely up to the drivers skill.
There is not just one single issue which causes todays proccessions.
There are many factors involved.And although F1 engines are remarkably sophisticated are very highly tuned they are not that hi tech.
The fact that they can rev to 18000 rpm and the CA2006 could rev to 20000 rpm is not really suprising.The engines have an incredibly short stroke which makes this feat not such an engineering challenge.
Modern lubricants, dynamic component balancing and the alloys that they are allowed does make a big difference.
Its a big subject, and the answers are not that easy.
Depends what you want from F1.
Me, I want to see close racing,cars with ability to pass each other.And cars which can race each other at different sections of the circuit.This ability by engineering, not by aerodynamic confines.

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