The Task of Keeping F1 Racing Honest, and Safe

0
23


Sometimes, what the inspectors find can affect the race.

After the 2011 Australian Grand Prix, both Sauber cars were disqualified when scrutineers found that the curvature of the rear wings was outside the parameters set in that year’s technical regulations. It was a manufacturing error that cost the team points.

And in 2014, Daniel Ricciardo of Red Bull finished second at the Australian Grand Prix and stood on the podium to collect his trophy before it was discovered that his car had violated the mandated fuel flow rate. He was later disqualified.

Teams can also request an inspection of rival cars they believe are bending the rules, and the F.I.A.’s technical department clarifies the rules via technical directives that can result in formerly strong cars losing performance when loopholes are closed.

Jo Bauer, the F.I.A.’s Formula One technical delegate who is in charge of scrutineering, has been working for the federation since 1997, pitting his wits against the hundreds of engineers employed by teams.

“That is really the fun of it,” Bauer said. “We have 10 to 12 people in our technical department, and every team has 50 or 60 engineers reading the rules and trying to find ways around them, how to get the best benefit.

“We are learning day and night in this business about new ideas. Sometimes they’re really bright ideas, sometimes really stupid interpretations. But it’s so interesting; I’m learning all the time.”

When the legality of a car is questioned, the scrutineering process is fairly simple, Bauer said. “We strip the car into bits and pieces until we find something or we don’t find something. We have found illegal things in the past, but sometimes it’s just whistle-blowing and there’s nothing behind it.”

Safety checks are a mandatory part of every grand prix weekend and are conducted by scrutineers overseen by the F.I.A.

“Initial scrutineering, which takes place at the beginning of the event, is just checking that all cars and drivers have got their safety equipment as requested by the regulations and that it is in working order,” Bauer said.

Photo

Drivers at the start of the Italian Grand Prix in September.

Credit
Srdjan Suki/European Pressphoto Agency

“During the race event, we have two scrutineers in every team garage, one just checking the tires with an electronic device, and the other noting all the activities the teams are doing: tire changing or suspension adjustments, something like that.”

He said that each of the 20 scrutineers would be responsible for one car, making sure it was not touched, just worked on as permitted by the regulations.

Teams are not allowed to alter the setup of their cars from Saturday’s qualifying session to Sunday’s race, to prevent teams from running cars in two different specifications to secure performance advantages. Instead, a compromise must be found between the single-lap pace needed for qualifying and the endurance needed for a race that’s about 190 miles long.

Every race weekend also involves random scrutineering. But Bauer said they couldn’t check everything during the year.

“It’s like getting caught speeding: How many times have you been speeding on the road, and how many times have you got caught?” he said. “That is probably the same here.

“We have to make our checks, we make them different so as not to be predictable, but I wouldn’t say that there is no cheating. The very dark gray area of the regulations.”

Marcin Budkowski, the head of F.I.A.’s Formula One technical department, helps devise regulations without the loopholes. As a former engineer for teams including McLaren and Ferrari, Budkowski turned from poacher to gamekeeper.

“The difficult bit is wording a regulation that is doing what you want it to do,” he said. “Making sure that it’s robust, that it is not going to have a lot of loopholes, that it’s going to achieve the objective. Occasionally we consult with our legal department; we have one person who is experienced in regulatory matters and governance matters, and he would help us doing this.”

Interpretation of the regulations is crucial to success on the track, and clever interpretations can lead to performance advantages if a concept can be integrated into a car’s chassis at the design stage, making it impossible for rivals to replicate.

Because the sport’s technological arms race can drive up costs, some people have campaigned for a simpler rule book, one that is more black and white than shades of gray.

Budkowski said that a simple Formula One rule book was a pipe dream. “Everybody would like to have five pages of technical regulations, rather than 100 or whatever,” he said.

“The problem is, it’s a very complex sport, and there are a lot of very clever people looking at it,” he said. “When we set regulations with the teams, people start to say ‘O.K., you can say this, do this, we might do that, some we might do that.’ There are more and more layers coming. Then you try to prevent people from abusing the regulations.”

“It’s the same for the sporting regulations. You can see the complexity of some of the regulations governing tire choice or racing conditions. They come from simple regulations, but then a loophole gets abused and then we say ‘Oh, we need to add this paragraph to avoid this,’ and then it starts to interfere with another clause, or you need to make exceptions to it, and it gets awfully complicated.”

The F.I.A.’s job is to ensure consistency of opportunity for all competitors, and to maintain a level playing field that leaves room for innovation and development.

It is a constant battle and one whose endless parries add another level of interest to a sport famed for celebrating the gray area.



All Credit Goes To : Source link

Comments

comments

SHARE