Technical Briefing with Charlie Whiting

fiaWith less than two months before Formula One revs back into action at the season-opening grand prix in Melbourne, FIA Race Director Charlie Whiting explains the rationale behind this year’s sweeping regulation changes and assesses their impact on the racing spectacle.

Amid growing concerns about the safety implications of such drastic change, most notably the introduction of Kinetic Energy Recovery Devices (KERS), Whiting explains why the risks are necessary and reveals what is being done to prevent any problems occurring.

REVISED AERODYNAMICS

What was the idea behind all the changes we ll see this year in this area?
CW: This was all a result of the work done by the Overtaking Working Group, as it was called, made up of the technical directors of Renault, Ferrari and McLaren, plus myself. After a lot of research, we came up with a package that gave a following car less disturbance and would make overtaking less difficult.

p90044826-zoomThe key element of this is, first of all, a neutral section of the front wing (the middle half metre of this device is a prescribed section). The incidence of that profile and its position relative to the reference plane are carefully prescribed. It s the most critical part. The front wing is wider and there are no turning vanes or bargeboards: the area where you can put them has been severely restricted, because there s only room for very small devices.

Also, the diffuser has been made smaller, and the rear wing is higher but narrower. I can t go into the specifics of why these things were done, but we arrived at this package by five sessions of wind tunnel work. It s been carefully thought through. Now, we ll have to wait and see how it works on the track.

What has been the loss in terms of downforce of these measures?
CW: The target figure was 50% less. But, as ever with these things, one never knows how much the engineers have managed to claw back.

Have some unexpected devices already appeared on the new cars?
CW: You know, we write the rules to enable the teams to design cars as close as possible to the technical spec. They ve been working in areas they hadn t previously been trying to work in, so there s not much we can do about that. I m confident we ve achieved a fairly significant reduction in downforce, but that s not the critical thing: the critical thing is the effects. As long as we have the effects, we should be okay.

SLICK TYRES

Presumably, these effects have to be considered in conjunction with the slick tyres…
CW: Yes. An increase in mechanical grip and a decrease in aero grip were what we wanted. We should achieve 6 to 8% more mechanical grip with slick tyres, but it ll clearly depend on the compound because Bridgestone will provide a range of tyres -4 different ones to be exact. They are still developing these, so we don t know exactly how it s going to work out.

p90044802-zoomIs it true to say that Bridgestone is working on a bigger gap between the available compounds at each race?
CW: Yes. This year, once again, each driver will have to use two different types of slick tyres during the race. We wanted to have a bigger difference between them. Sometimes, in 2008, this gap was a matter of one or two tenths. We thought it would be better if it was bigger. The Bridgestone engineers are working on that.

There seems to have been some talk during the winter tests about this difference being massive…
CW: What happens in winter testing is probably not indicative of what will happen in the warmer conditions of the first four races. It s something we ll have to look at, as we certainly don t want too big a difference between the two types of tyres available at each race. This said, I think it would be to everyone s benefit if there were a slightly bigger gap.

What would be this ideal gap?
CW: My personal opinion is at least half-a-second. But it s only a personal opinion. Sometimes, in 2008, the difference between the two types of tyres was negligible wasn t it? One couldn t see the difference between the two, really.

KERS SYSTEM

A lot of teams seem just about ready to use their KERS system now. Is it worrying?
CW: The reason for KERS is very clear. We want to showcase technology. I think F1 using this sort of system will help manufacturers. Obviously, Formula 1 is going to be doing something to speed up the development pace on road cars. The other thing, obviously, is overtaking. For a driver to be able to use the extra horsepower at his disposal for overtaking has, I think, the potential to improve racing and that s what we re hoping for.

Team are using very different solutions in this area. Is it healthy for Formula 1 to have so many dissimilar ideas for a new technical challenge?
CW: Difficult to say. Presumably the teams involved have done things for their own good reasons. Obviously, the best solution will emerge, eventually. This is what always happens when we have something new. All the teams have significant simulation tools at their disposal. They ve used these the best way they can to find and arrive at the best technology. There s no clear leader as we speak but one will emerge, I m sure.

Also, I think KERS will add significant interest to Formula 1. It s going to be very interesting to see how the drivers deploy it, because the rules state that the release of the power has to be under the complete control of the driver – that s the important part.

Some people have raised some concerns about safety with KERS. What has been done, as far as the FIA is concerned, to make sure the system won t cause any problems?
CW: “Through the Technical Working Group, we set up a KERS Safety Working Group chaired by BMW. They‘ve met quite a few times and they ve come up with a long list of suggestions, parts of which have already become regulations, and some of which will form the basis of a comprehensive document we ll circulate to all circuits and tracks hosting a grand prix.

The teams are taking this very responsibly for their own safety, of course. They re also looking at how the marshals will respond to broken-down cars. There will be things like the KERS status warning light that will be on all cars. Marshals are going to be educated by the documentation we ll provide.

Also, the systems themselves should be safe. If there s a risk, it should be clear to a marshal who walks up to the car. He should approach the vehicle, look at the KERS status light and, if it is in the wrong state, he shouldn t touch the car. Also, people working on the track are being briefed about how to pick up parts, which will be clearly identified by colour coding. If they potentially contain high voltage, they have to know how to move them. They will also wear gloves, which are good for a thousand volts.

What about safety in the design of the KERS components and their integration in the cars?
CW: The teams are coming up with this themselves. All the electronics experts are talking to one another and coming up with various ways to make sure they don t get into any kind of difficulties.

UPGRADED ENGINES

REN2007012411071 PVThere s also some king of uncertainty recently about the number of engines the teams will be able to use over the season…
CW: It s eight engines for the whole year. A driver will only incur a penalty if he uses a ninth engine. So the teams can use the engines as they like. There s no three consecutive race rule because there doesn t seem to be a need for it any longer. The engines will not have to do three complete events now.

In the past, as you know, the two-race engine was used only on Saturdays and Sundays. Now, for 17 races, the eight engines will have to do the three days of each grand prix. What the teams will do is to have a Friday engine that ll probably do the first four races or something of that nature. They ll then take the engine out and use another one for Saturday and Sunday. All we ve got to do, – it ll be extra work – is to make sure that these engines remain sealed and are untouched.

So, once you ve started the event with one engine, you will be able to change it whenever?
CW: Exactly!

In terms of performance gains, can you say what has been allowed for the teams, especially for Renault?
CW: As you know, I can t really give you confidential information. But we gave all the teams the opportunity to submit a list of things they would like to change in order to achieve engine parity, because there seemed to be some disparity between engine performance, which was not intended. Then, with Honda s withdrawal they appeared to be the ones down on power the engine manufacturers agreed among themselves that they would not seek any engine parity changes, and they would allow Renault to do something. It s what I would describe as a minor upgrade. It s a one-off thing; it s not an on-going thing. Now, teams have submitted their list; we ve agreed to it and that s the end of it until 2012.

SAFETY CAR RULES

It was difficult to follow some races in 2008 because of the safety car rules. Will you change them this year?
CW: Yes. The rule introduced in 2007 was a bad one, and we ve gone back to the 2006 regulations. The only difference is we intend to implement a minimum time back to the pits. When we deploy the safety car, the message will go to all the cars, which will then have a “safety car” mode on their ECUs. As soon as that message gets to the car, it ll know where it is on the circuit, and it ll calculate a minimum time for the driver to get back to the pits. The driver will have to respect this and the information will be displayed on his dashboard.

If you remember, the reason we closed the pit entry was to remove the incentive for the driver to come back to his pit quickly. That s gone now, as you won t be able to reach the pits any quicker than your dashboard display allows you to.

PRIVATE TESTING AND USE OF WIND TUNNELS

What other measures have been taken recently in order to reduce costs?
CW: What we ve done, as far as regulations are concerned, is to slash the maximum amount of testing from 30 000 to 15 000 kilometres. Moreover, there will be no in-season testing. That means no testing between seven days before the first race and 31st December of the same year. So no testing whatsoever except for eight days of aero testing in a straight line.

This might be a big problem for young drivers who want to get into F1. They won t be able to get any kind of training…
CW: There s provision for a few days of young driver training as well.

Finally, there s a big cut in wind tunnel testing…
CW: That s right. No more than forty hours per week for each team.

Why was this measure taken and what does it imply?
CW: This is simply because some teams were running twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week with three shifts -including model makers- and all that sort of thing. Quite clearly, it s very hard for a team that hasn t got that kind of resources to keep up. Forty hours a week seems to be something everybody can cope with.

Will you be able to check that nobody uses a sub-contractor to do extra work in a private facility?
CW: We re obviously looking into all those things: if it emerged that anyone had been doing something underhand, they would be in very serious trouble. Also, we re putting measures into place in order to make sure that people don t have any incentive to do so.

2009 Preview: BMW Sauber

P90044828-zoomBMW have met their targets in 2007-08 with methodical and clinical-like precision, taking their maiden win ahead of schedule in Canada last year. For 2009, nothing but the title will do for the Hinwil outfit. But does a team who got it so wrong with their driver objectives towards the end of last year really have the strategic capability to topple McLaren and Ferrari?

By Dan Barnes

This year’s sweeping rule changes offer all the teams something a blank canvass. BMW are probably best prepared of all the teams in this respect. After Robert Kubica s maiden win in Canada last year, BMW Sauber deemed their season a success: “The one-two in Canada and 11 podium finishes set an exacting standard. In 2009 we are looking to maintain our first class reliability record while also enhancing our performance levels so that we can be at the front of the pack on a consistent basis.”

Shifting resources

p90044802-zoom

The win in Canada allowed the team to switch development to the F1.09 at the expense of the F1.08, not to mention Robert Kubica’s title hopes. In contrast Ferrari and McLaren concentrated on their 2008 title efforts by developing their 2008 cars. Meanwhile, BMW threw all their resources at 2009. Logically, this should give BMW Sauber an early advantage, whether it is enough to actually pull out a lead over McLaren and Ferrari is another matter.

Indeed, despite the team’s early preparation Mario Thiessen is still weary of Ferrari and McLaren s experience: “Ferrari and McLaren possess vast reserves of experience and have been operating at the top level for many years. That is what our team is trying to emulate,” he said.

p90044791-zoom

In winter testing in Jerez BMW were the first team to run KERS, spectacularly electrocuting one of their engineers and causing his hospitalisation. BMW were also the first team to run a simulated 2009 aero package featuring a 2009-spec front wing in pre-season testing – fruition it seems of BMW s early switch to the demands of 2009.

Confidence in KERS

Towards the end of 2008 the Formula One teams led a push to delay the introduction of KERS to 2010. BMW Sauber were the only team to vote against the motion, thereby vetoing a delay in KERS. It was a demonstration that BMW has significantly more confidence in their KERS technology than the rest of the grid. Although KERS is just a third of the rule changes it s benefits could reap reward for BMW.

McLaren-Ferrari Threat

The only apparent problem BMW might face throughout 2009 is being out-developed by Ferrari and McLaren. Despite an emphatic start to 2008 where BMW showed in Malaysia and Bahrain to be on pace with McLaren they were soon out-developed by McLaren and were left in no mans land, way ahead of the midfield but not quick enough to challenge for the wins on outright pace. Instead BMW were opportunistic and reliable turning McLaren and Ferrari blunders to their advantage.

p90044822-zoom-1

In 2009 BMW want to consistently challenge for wins and the title on merit. If the pre-season build up is anything to go by, they are well-placed to do so. But the team’s methodical approach under the watchful eye of Mario Thiessen will not allow them to get carried away. progressive targets are still the order of the day.

Can Piquet shine in ’09?

Nelson-Piquet-Jr Not many F1 drivers would admit to being daunted by the transition to the pinnacle of motorsport. Which begs the question, is Nelson Piquet Formula One material?

Forumula1.com asks whether the Brazilian can step out of Fernando Alonso’s shadow in 2009, and perhaps more importantly, that of his father’s too…

By Daniel Lawrence

Nelson Piquet s 2008 season was a disappointing one to say the least. He failed to pick up any points in his first seven races, and even more worryingly he only finished two of them. Amongst growing speculation that he may be replaced, not to mention public discontent from Renault, Piquet was resilient in the latter half of the season, enjoying good if not spectacular results in the final few races.

Using an interesting metaphor, Piquet recently admitted to being intimidated by the graduation from GP2 to F1: “coming from GP2 to F1 (it felt like) I had three Playstation controls stuck together, and now it’s like I have five.” The Brazilian may well feel overwhelmed, he certainly has a lot of pressure on him. Son of three times F1 world champion Nelson Piquet Souto Maior, “Piquet Junior” has a family history of success to live up to. Pressure does not just come from the past though; his team-mate is no less than two time world champion Fernando Alonso. Alonso vastly outclassed Piquet last season, finishing seven places higher than him in the final championship standings.

Piquet recently acknowledged the challenges of having Alonso as a team-mate and feels this pressure will only increase now they are teaming up again for a second season; “In the first year it was only good for me. Obviously I had a team-mate that was very strong and I had to push myself very much, but I could really see where I had to push myself and when I was quicker that I was in a good position. I think in the second year it will be tougher because now is the point where the team will have to give the same chance to both drivers and with all this testing system right now, where we are only allowed one car and limited days, that’s going to be a bit tricky.”

It is clear that Piquet realises that he cannot spend a second season as an understudy to Alonso, Renault will be hoping he can step out of Alonso s shadow this year. He will certainly have to prove himself worthy of a team that will want to provide healthy competition to McLaren and Ferrari.

However amongst all of this pressure and doubt Piquet displays calmness and quiet ambition. He concedes that his first season was a disappointment but sees last year as valuable experience; “The first to the second season makes a huge difference, both by knowing the tracks, and also being more relaxed, having done 18 starts already, knowing the procedures. It’s going to be a much easier season.”

Surrounded by triumph, from his father s to his team-mate s, Piquet will hope that this season will be the one where he emulates the victories of his father and team-mate. He certainly displayed ambition for the 2009 season he was recently quoted as saying; “Obviously if the car is able to win the championship then I am going to want to be there as well.” Renault will desire that 2009 will be the year that Piquet lives up to his heritage and finds the success that has eluded him so far.

Force India on schedule with new car

jForce India are confident that their new car will be ready for a pre-season shakedown at the final two tests of the year in Spain before the Australian Grand Prix at the end of March.

Having ended their engine deal with Ferrari late last year, Force India are now in a race against time to adapt their 2009 car for their new engine suppliers, Mercedes-Benz, as well as a new gearbox unit from McLaren.

However, Force India’s Technical Director James Key is confident that the team will have the car finished in time for a pre-season shakedown in Jerez at the beginning of March.

“It’s obviously very tight, because of what we’ve had to do,” Key said. “But the plan is to hit the last two official team tests before the season.”

Key has said that work on parts of the car to make the switch from Ferrari to Mercedes-Benz were fairly straightforward, while other bits were more complicated.

“Some areas of the car matched very well with the new packaging requirements we had, while in other areas it was significantly different,” he explained. “Effectively we have had to redesign quite a bit of the car, and starting in November, that’s been quite a major undertaking.”

“I think it’s just getting everything together. McLaren have been absolutely excellent, they understand that we’ve had a lot of work to do in a short time. They’ve been extremely supportive, very helpful. We’ve had a lot of meetings, and there are day-to-day discussions on the gearbox and all the associated parts such as the cooling.

“McLaren are a very big organisation, established for some time, Force India are on the smaller side and are up and coming. It’s good to see where the common ground is and where fundamental differences lie in our thinking and operation.

“And equally Mercedes have been extremely accommodating. They have helped us out as much as they possibly can, so the relationships have started out in a very good way.”

Moss: Points must underpin medals

lewisstirling-aSir Stirling Moss welcomes Bernie Ecclestone’s proposed medal scoring system but says that drivers and teams need to be awarded with points as well as medals to ensure a healthy championship battle throughout the field.

Under the proposed system, in which the drivers’ championship is awarded to the driver with the most wins or gold medals rather than the most points, Moss would have been crowned the first British world champion in 1958 having won more races than Mike Hawthorne.

The former Mercedes-Benz, Maserati, Vanwell and Cooper driver was four times a championship runner-up during his ten year career in Formula One and his aggressive all-or-nothing racing style is precisely that which Bernie Ecclestone is trying to promote with the scoring system.

“Formula 1 is the pinnacle of world motorsport and only the best driver should win the title,” Ecclestone said at the end of last year. “Being a Formula 1 world champion is not about being a consistent and reliable runner-up. It s about racing hard, taking chances and not settling for second best.

“It shouldn t be possible for someone to be crowned world champion without winning a single race, but that really could happen unless we change the scoring system.”

Moss welcomes the proposal but says that medals should be underpinned by points to ensure that all drivers and teams are encouraged to compete over the course of a season.

“So as long as the drivers are awarded points as well I think it will be terrific,” he told Forumula1.com.

“I think you need to keep both. I understand where Bernie is coming from, and it would be most important to have gold, silver and bronze medals, but you need to have points in there as well because it makes quite a difference in terms of drivers and teams building them up over the course of a season.”

The FIA announced at the end of last year that market research would be carried out to assess the appeal of the idea. An initial analysis by the FIA highlighting the historical impact of the scoring system shows that the outcomes of past World Championships would change considerably. Only 22 of the 59 World Championships to date would have the same top 3. The other 37 World Championships would be different. The World Champion would be altered on 13 occasions.

The medal system would create three “new” World Champions who did not win the title using the various points systems. The overall effect would be to reduce the number of World Champions, concentrating the titles in a smaller group. The results that would change are largely before 1990. The last 20 years would be largely unchanged.

In the overall assessment the list of World Championships per driver would be altered as follows:

1958 Stirling Moss instead of Mike Hawthorn
1964 Jim Clark instead of John Surtees
1967 Jim Clark instead of Denny Hulme
1977 Mario Andretti instead of Niki Lauda
1979 Alan Jones instead of Jody Scheckter
1981 Alain Prost instead of Nelson Piquet
1982 Didier Pironi instead of Keke Rosberg
1983 Alain Prost instead of Nelson Piquet
1984 Alain Prost instead of Niki Lauda
1986 Nigel Mansell instead of Alain Prost
1987 Nigel Mansell instead of Nelson Piquet
1989 Ayrton Senna instead of Alain Prost
2008 Felipe Massa instead of Lewis Hamilton

The FIA was also quick to point out that under the proposed medal system Bernie Ecclestone’s former team, Brabham, would not have won the world championship

Key historical changes:

  • Brabham under the ownership of Bernie Ecclestone would have won no Drivers Championships.
  • Stirling Moss would have been the first British World Champion.
  • Jim Clark would have won four titles, rather than two. He would have won three consecutive titles in 1963-64-65.
  • Mario Andretti and Alan Jones would each have won two titles instead of one.
  • Niki Lauda would have lost two of his three championships and would have just one title to his name.
  • It should be noted, however, that the 1977 result is skewed by the fact that Lauda left Ferrari as soon as he had won the title and did not compete in the final races. If the scoring system had been different the result would almost certainly not have favoured Andretti.
  • Nelson Piquet would have lost all three of his World Championships.
  • All four World Champions between 1981-1984 would have been different.
  • Alain Prost would have won five World Championships but they would be different to the four that he actually claimed. His titles were won in 1985, 1986, 1989 and 1993. With the medal system they would have been 1981, 1983, 1984, 1985 and 1993. He would have won three consecutive titles in 1983-85.
  • Nigel Mansell would have won three World Championships instead of one, adding to 1986 and 1987 to his 1992 triumph.
  • Ayrton Senna would have won the 1989 title and thus would have had four consecutive titles between 1988 and 1991.
  • The duration of the World Championship battle would have been altered in 22 of the 59 seasons. The medal system would have had no effect in 37 of the 59 World Championships.

Championship length

Fourteen World Championship battles would have been shorter (1955, 1970, 1978, 1987, 1992, 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 1997, 2000, 2001, 2003 and 2004).

Eight World Championship battles would have lasted longer (1973, 1977, 1979, 1980, 1990, 1991, 2001 and 2005).

In terms of World Championship final race showdowns, there would have been five lost (1955, 1994, 1996, 1997, 2000) but six gained (1977, 1979, 1980, 1990, 1991 and 2005).

Three new champs under medals system, FIA reveal

fiaSir Stirling Moss, along with fellow title bridesmaids Didier Pironi and Felipe Massa, would have been crowned champion under Bernie Ecclestone’s proposed medal scoring system, an analysis by Formula One’s governing body, the FIA, has revealed.

The former Mercedes-Benz, Maserati, Vanwell and Cooper driver was four times a championship runner-up during his glittering ten year career in Formula One. He narrowly lost out to Mike Hawthorne in the 1958 championship despite taking more wins than the British driver and in the 1955-57 campaigns he was usurped by the legendary Argentine driver and tripple world champion Juan Manuel Fangio.

Moss’s aggressive all-or-nothing racing style carried him to several historic victories over his peers, but a lack of restraint and conservatism at times is viewed as one of the factors that cost him ultimate championship success.

Fifty years on and Formula One supremo Bernie Ecclestone is trying to re-introduce the Moss mentality to grand prix racing through a medal scoring system.

The scheme, which some say is more about trying to align Formula One with the Olympics and secure government funding than anything to do with the racing spectacle, has been pursued relentlessly by Ecclestone and would see the drivers’ championship awarded to the winner of the most wins or gold medals, not the driver with the most points.

Currently there is only a two points difference between finishing first and second. The medals system, it is argued, would increase over-taking by encouraging drivers to be more aggressive and race to win, rather than to settle for second place and preserve the car.

“Formula 1 is the pinnacle of world motorsport and only the best driver should win the title,” Ecclestone said at the end of last year. “Being a Formula 1 world champion is not about being a consistent and reliable runner-up. It s about racing hard, taking chances and not settling for second best.

“It shouldn t be possible for someone to be crowned world champion without winning a single race, but that really could happen unless we change the scoring system.”

Moss himself welcomes the proposal but says that medals should be underpinned by points to ensure that all drivers and teams can battle it out over the course of a season.

“I think that so as long as the drivers are awarded points as well I think it will be terrific,” he told Forumula1.com.

“I think you need to keep both. I understand where Bernie is coming from, and it would be most important to have gold, silver and bronze medals, but you need to have points in there as well because it makes quite a difference in terms of drivers and teams building them up over the course of a season.”

The FIA announced at the end of last year that market research would be carried out to assess the appeal of the idea. An initial analysis by the FIA highlighting the historical impact of the scoring system shows that the outcomes of past World Championships would change considerably. Only 22 of the 59 World Championships to date would have the same top 3. The other 37 World Championships would be different. The World Champion would be altered on 13 occasions.

The medal system would create three “new” World Champions who did not win the title using the various points systems. The overall effect would be to reduce the number of World Champions, concentrating the titles in a smaller group. The results that would change are largely before 1990. The last 20 years would be largely unchanged.

In the overall assessment the list of World Championships per driver would be altered as follows:

1958 Stirling Moss instead of Mike Hawthorn
1964 Jim Clark instead of John Surtees
1967 Jim Clark instead of Denny Hulme
1977 Mario Andretti instead of Niki Lauda
1979 Alan Jones instead of Jody Scheckter
1981 Alain Prost instead of Nelson Piquet
1982 Didier Pironi instead of Keke Rosberg
1983 Alain Prost instead of Nelson Piquet
1984 Alain Prost instead of Niki Lauda
1986 Nigel Mansell instead of Alain Prost
1987 Nigel Mansell instead of Nelson Piquet
1989 Ayrton Senna instead of Alain Prost
2008 Felipe Massa instead of Lewis Hamilton

The FIA was also quick to point out that under the proposed medal system Bernie Ecclestone’s former team, Brabham, would not have won the world championship

Key historical changes:

  • Brabham under the ownership of Bernie Ecclestone would have won no Drivers Championships.
  • Stirling Moss would have been the first British World Champion.
  • Jim Clark would have won four titles, rather than two. He would have won three consecutive titles in 1963-64-65.
  • Mario Andretti and Alan Jones would each have won two titles instead of one.
  • Niki Lauda would have lost two of his three championships and would have just one title to his name.
  • It should be noted, however, that the 1977 result is skewed by the fact that Lauda left Ferrari as soon as he had won the title and did not compete in the final races. If the scoring system had been different the result would almost certainly not have favoured Andretti.
  • Nelson Piquet would have lost all three of his World Championships.
  • All four World Champions between 1981-1984 would have been different.
  • Alain Prost would have won five World Championships but they would be different to the four that he actually claimed. His titles were won in 1985, 1986, 1989 and 1993. With the medal system they would have been 1981, 1983, 1984, 1985 and 1993. He would have won three consecutive titles in 1983-85.
  • Nigel Mansell would have won three World Championships instead of one, adding to 1986 and 1987 to his 1992 triumph.
  • Ayrton Senna would have won the 1989 title and thus would have had four consecutive titles between 1988 and 1991.
  • The duration of the World Championship battle would have been altered in 22 of the 59 seasons. The medal system would have had no effect in 37 of the 59 World Championships.

Championship length

Fourteen World Championship battles would have been shorter (1955, 1970, 1978, 1987, 1992, 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 1997, 2000, 2001, 2003 and 2004).

Eight World Championship battles would have lasted longer (1973, 1977, 1979, 1980, 1990, 1991, 2001 and 2005).

In terms of World Championship final race showdowns, there would have been five lost (1955, 1994, 1996, 1997, 2000) but six gained (1977, 1979, 1980, 1990, 1991 and 2005).

Dennis: Independent team model ‘anachronistic

Ron Dennis has conceded that the independent business model in Formula One is all but dead with teams now ever more dependent on financial and manufacturer backing for their survival.

Dennis, who still plans to attend the majority of grand prix in 2009 despite stepping down as McLaren Team Principal, was speaking to the official Formula One website about his new role at McLaren and the future of Formula One more generally. He stressed that Mercedes were a hugely important part of the organisation, as for other teams, but denied that the German marquee would increase its influence after his handover to Martin Whitmarsh.

‘I firmly believe that the business model of a Formula One team operating as a financial entity on its own is an anachronistic one…[but] little will change in terms of Mercedes-Benz’s involvement. Mercedes-Benz is a fantastic shareholder and partner of McLaren, and has been for many years. We’ve achieved a huge amount together, Dennis told the site.

Dennis words will come as a surprise to many, who might have thought independent teams to be in the ascendant after the global financial crisis effects on the car industry. Cost-cutting measures will also favour smaller teams like Williams. But Dennis insisted there could be no success without manufacturers in the future.

‘I firmly believe, as I’ve said, that the successful Formula One teams of the future will be sustained and supported by entities other than merely their shareholders and other partners, he said, implying that car makers were indispensable.

Dennis also recognised that this reliance on manufacturers made teams more vulnerable, referring to Honda s situation.

‘For teams that are wholly owned by major car manufacturers or other multi-billion-dollar corporations, an unsupported business model can still work – as long as that major car manufacturer or other multi-billion-dollar corporation wishes to continue to finance its Formula One team.

Analysis: 2009 a year of technical controversy?

514107In the past week or so F1 fans have seen two or three controversies emerge over the legality of the 2009 cars. Forumula1.com delves deep into the grey area between competitive innovation and rule-bending as Formula One ushers in a revolutionary new technical era.

First came Ferrari s visible exhausts, which are widely believed to be illegal and so illegal, some say, that the team withdrew hastily to Mugello to remove them (see HERE). And then came the Williams and Toyota diffuser controversy (see HERE). These teething problems are nothing particular out of the ordinary in a season where regulation changes are a big talking point. But do the problems mean everybody is in for a season of technical squabbling?

From time to time F1 has a season where technical controversy abounds. Is so-and-so using traction control? Does so-and-so have a mass damper? Are so-and-so s front wing endplates too high? And so on. Recriminations become the norm, and races are sadly decided in the stewards office, or even worse in an FIA courtroom, rather than on the race track.

This is somewhat inevitable, however, considering the sheer amount of technical expertise the engineers have, and the resources they have available. It s effectively taking the world s most talented people in their field, putting them in a room and asking them to solve a set of problems. If they think they can get away with it, they are going to bend, find loopholes in and sometimes even break the laws.

In 1994 when traction control was banned, Benetton were widely suspected of using launch control and an illegal system to regulate the engine s power supply to the drivetrain. Nothing was proved in that case, but many suspected the team of having bent the rules somewhat. Nowadays, many believe that F1 suffers in the same way as athletics is alleged to do. In that sport. performance-enhancing drugs are said to be streets ahead technologically of the tests designed to find them. Similarly, in F1 it s the design gurus and technical wizards who have had years of the best technology and funding known to humanity, against a less knowledgeable and worse-paid set of stewards and inspectors.

The solution to this is twofold. For one, budgets must be reduced. Some standardisation of parts which has tentatively been agreed on would reduce the opportunity for cheating, as would reduced costs. Secondly, the FIA should tighten up its regulations why not have an ex-engineer (for example Mike Gascoyne) on a panel to lay down the law in minute detail – before the cars are designed.

But the truth is that as long as F1 remains a team sport, in which the cars are the stars as much as the drivers – fans can expect shady goings-on behind the scenes. As long as performance-determining parts are made by each team separately, one of them is going to be better and slightly less legal than another. This is what makes the sport interesting. If fans didn t have anything to complain about, or suspect another team of doing, the sport would be a duller affair all round.

Renault: Improvements on R29 necessary

26y1439-300x200Renault have admitted that they will need to revamp their R29 considerably to avoid a poor start to the season. Speaking to Autosport, technical director Pat Symonds recognised that the team s first test in the Algarve had been underwhelming and that they would need to make some changes.

“I was disappointed. It wasn’t a great test. We didn’t really have everything quite the way we wanted it on the little bit of dry running we did.

Although the conditions made it tough for all the teams, Alonso and Piquet suffered from a lack of grip and turned in poor lap times, some of which were two seconds off Williams efforts. Symonds played down the significance of the poor performance.

‘Obviously I don’t know what the fuel loads were, but they were long runs, so I don’t think there will be a huge difference. I do think at the moment that the Williams is probably quicker than us, but I don’t think it’s by two seconds.”

Renault has some time in which to improve the car, and Symonds considers the final tests to be the most important for an evaluation of where the team s true speed is relative to its competitors.

“We can do better, which will make the car easier to drive and therefore better. But I really think this year more than ever it will be those last couple of tests that are the indicator.”

The Enstone-based team was on a high after its positive end to 2008, but the R29 s performance and less than charming looks have had many wondering about its pedigree.

Honda could receive UK government money

The embattled Brackley-based F1 team previously known as Honda could qualify for UK government aid as part of the car industry, the Guardian revealed today. The government will allocate a significant amount of money to help the car industry, of which a portion could find its way to Honda, providing they fulfil the necessary criteria. Today’s report in the Guardian suggests that Honda do indeed meet the requirements.

The team has been the subject of much speculation in recent weeks after the manufacturer’s withdrawal from the sport, and despite much interest, are yet to find a buyer. Various figures have been linked with the team, but as yet nothing has come to fruition. The team is considered value for money as they stand, but would expect a long term investment programme from any saviour. Government money could help in the short term but is unlikely to be a long term solution to the problem.

The government has four criteria to be met: the company must have a turnover of more than £25 million per year; they must be at the forefront of innovation; jobs must be created; and a move to reduce carbon emissions is also required. The team fulfils all of these, but the political implications of pouring taxpayer money into the sporting arena might be a disincentive for the government.