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Thursday, June 16, 2005

FIA Announces New Technical Regulations for 2008

The FIA announced a new philosophy for technical regulations for Formula 1 in 2008.

Semi-automatic gears, where a computer actually articulated the clutch and changed the gear, will be outlawed and drivers will be expected to manipulate their own clutch pedal. This is exiting because it puts more pressure on the driver and allows him to rely on the exotic computer technology now prevalent in F1 much less. Watch any other formula of auto racing, NASCAR, IRL, CART, WRC, and you will notice from time to time someone getting ahead of himself and missing a gear. Mistakes mean more opportunity for passing and more interesting races.

Slick tires will be back in conjunction with a reduction of downforce to 10% of current levels. Cars will be more reliant on mechanical grip, that grip gained from the balance of the car and the “stickiness” of the tires, instead of that produced by the wings, body shape, etc… that rely on "clean air." Cars will be able to follow one another much more closely on the track, allowing for drivers to attack in corners with higher probability of success. More passing, more exiting races.

Small teams will be allowed to purchase from larger teams complete cars, instead of just engines as is now allowed. This will allow the privateers (small independent teams that are not works projects of major manufacturers, i.e., Jordan Toyota, Minardi Cosworth, Sauber Petronas [a.k.a. Ferrari], who all buy their engines from the larger teams) to keep costs under control by not making them develop a completely new chassis every year.

Unfortunately, these rules will not take effect until at least 2008. It appears, however, that FIA and Formula 1 have finally figured out that having an entertaining series that is somewhat less expensive is a better long-term bet than a series that is wildly expensive that no one cares about.

In addition, the rumor is that Danica Patrick, of Indianapolis 500 fame, will take a demonstration lap in a BAR Honda car on the Friday before the U.S. Grand Prix at Indianapolis. I’m sure that the powers that be would love to see Ms. Patrick compete, or at least test, in F1, but I don’t know that she would enjoy the same competitive advantage she gained in IRL. In F1, the minimum weight includes the driver AND the car. In IRL, minimum weight is just calculated with the car.

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