The Benefits of Leaner Times

It has become commonplace in recent years for fans, the media and the teams alike to complain about the ever increasing restrictions placed on Formula One.  This trend has been going on for some time, such as the switch from 3.0 liter V10s to the 2.4 liter V8s back in 2006. It took a much more visible and drastic turn however with the new aerodynamic regulations introduced in 2009.

Many balked at the simplicity, the newly awkward proportions, the lack of all the nifty aero appendages that developed over the last decade. At first I agreed with these sentiments, but have since changed my mind. Two seasons in and the new generation of cars is evolving quite nicely, the ever changing regulations, the resource restriction agreement, the lack of funding and testing has all forced the teams to be increasingly clever, to get by, despite their whining about it, with less.

And it is getting by with less that is precisely the hidden blessing of lean times such as ours. With the recession and increased global instability, with controversial budget cut backs, with growing emphasis on climate change, with revolutionary fervor sweeping the Middle East, perhaps Formula One teams like the rest of us can learn to do a with a little less.

I for one think they are doing splendidly, for they have come up with some of the most clever design and engineering solutions the sport has seen in ages. I’m not just speaking on double diffusers, F-ducts, blown floors or flexing wings, I’m talking about the package as a whole.  For instead of focusing on a myriad of chimneys, flip ups and winglets to tack on, F1 designers have concentrated not on limbs, but on the body of the car itself.

Look at the machines of the early 2000’s such as the simplistic Jaguar R4

Image credit: Mark Thompson/Getty Images

Or the machines at the height of the aero era like this horned devil covered in spikes, the BMW F1.08

Image credit: Jose Mª Izquierdo Galiot

Compare those to the intricate solutions designers are finding today such as the Toro Rosso STR6’s uniquely elegant double floor.

Image credit: Pirelli

Ultimately they are all three fast, they are all three beautiful, complex racing machines. Which is better is largely up to what your opinion of F1 racing should be. What they highlight however is not up for debate, they are loud, living proof that in both boom times and lean times Formula One will be there, pressing the limits of engineering know how and creative design for all the world to see and enjoy.

Posted in Design, Formula One | 2 Comments

The only thing we have to fear is fear itself

This weekend Renault F1 driver Robert Kubica suffered serious injury while participating in a rally race in Italy. He suffered major trauma to the right side of his body and had lengthy surgery to reattach his right hand. With the F1 season kicking off in Bahrain in a little over a months time, Renault team Principal Eric Boullier has taken some heat for allowing his lead driver to participate in such dangerous activities as rallying so close to the start of the Formula One season.

Boullier defended his decision saying,

He just as easily could have been knocked over by a bus.  Robert is a racer, he loves cars and lives for nothing but racing…it was agreed among us that Robert would do rallies as well as F1. It  was vital for him. His strength comes from that passion.

On this subject I must agree with Boullier. Many team principals since the accident have commented how they would never allow their drivers to compete in such dangerous side pursuits while racing for them in F1. But I love that Kubica was doing rallies, I am sad that he has been hurt, but I think it is a good thing Boullier allowed him to do what he wanted.

As far as the question if F1 drivers should be allowed to pursue other dangerous sports, I say that yes they should. Kimi going rallying, Kubica rallying, racers from other series branching out to Le Mans and Grand Am racing, to me it is a good thing. To stop them from doing so is putting a limitation on their freedom, something they have given up much of just to get to F1 in the first place. Don’t take the rest of it away from them. After terrible accidents it is commonplace for the public to shy away from dangerous and challenging pursuits, this is what has given rise to the overbearing nanny state we live in today. But if we deny ourselves that which we desire because of possible negative consequences we deny ourselves the joy of life. And doing that is the gravest mistake of all.

“The only thing we have to fear, is fear itself.”

Posted in Formula One, Rallying, Safety | 3 Comments