Formula 1: Rules Changes Changing Cars

As we’ve mentioned before in our periodic F1 updates on the blog, Formula One has banned refuelling during the race for the 2010 season. Teams now have to carry enough fuel to run the 300+ km of race distance or otherwise suffer an embarrassing end of their grand prix on the side of the road. However, that isn’t the only rules change happening this season and teams are plotting rules changes for 2011, as well.

The 2010 refuelling ban will force teams at nearly double the capacity of their fuel cells. They currently sit directly behind the driver. Literally on the other side of the bulkhead that forms the back of the cockpit will be a rubber bladder holding an estimated 230 litres or more of fuel.

The official F1 website has created a side-by-side comparison of the 2009 regulation car and an artist’s conception of a 2010 car.

In the diagram, the 2010 car is about 15 cm (almost 6 inches) longer to accommodate the larger fuel cell. The F1 website says that teams could move drivers forward or shrink the length of their gearboxes to minimize the increase in wheelbase. The shorter the wheelbase, the better the car changes direction. The only problem with moving the driver forward would be the shorter front crumple zone which would have to be built with more material to pass the crash test. That would put too much weight at the front of the car and upset the balance and handling. In F1, the closer the weight distribution is to 50/50, the better the car handles.

It should also be noted that the front tires will be narrower which will decrease the mechanical grip at the front end. The cars will suffer more understeer and likely require more front wing to perform their best. I would have thought larger tires would have been better so the cars were more reliant on mechanical grip from the tires rather than aerodynamic performance derived from the front wing.

The side profiles show one other significant rule change for 2010. The wheel shrouds have been banned after a couple of incidents last season where they came off at speed. Following the death of Henry Surtees and injury to Felipe Massa, the FIA has renewed its focus on safety protocols that prevent parts of the cars becoming projectiles. The shrouds were first introduced by Ferrari to reduce the amount of turbulence caused by the wheels and were quickly copied by the other teams. However, unlike other teams Ferrari’s was the only shroud that never left the hub which made it among the safest and best designed shrouds.

As for the 2011 rules change, it appears that the teams are planning on doing away with the controversial double diffusers. Autosport reports that the teams will propose a change to the technical regulations that will ban double diffusers. This was the major controversy at the start of 2009 because it provided a major advantage to the teams using them, especially Brawn GP. The thinking behind the rules change is that the cars will go slower through the corners which will reduce turbulent air from the cars in the turns which will allow the cars to follow more closely. This is contrary to my prior thinking that bigger diffusers meant cleaner air which meant closer racing. But I was a business major in school and an aerodynamic hobbyist so you can’t expect me to be perfect.

And while not a rules change, Formula One Management is making a big change in 2011. They will start broadcasting F1 in HD starting with the first race of 2011. There were rumours that last year’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix was to be the first race shown in HD but those plans never came to fruition. By then, NASCAR will be broadcasting in HD for the 7th year and numerous other sports (including soccer’s World Cup) will have select game broadcast in 3D. As always, change is a long time in coming in Formula One.

5 thoughts on “Formula 1: Rules Changes Changing Cars

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