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2012 F1 Technical: Q&A with FIA’s Charlie Whiting

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Q: Why do the 2012 cars have the ‘platypus’ nose?

CW: The height of the survival cell in front of the driver was 625mm – and we wanted to reduce that to 550mm. Our intention was to ensure the nose is lower than the cockpit sides, to protect the driver’s head in the event of a ‘T-bone’ accident. Some teams complained that lowering the whole car forward of the cockpit would force them into a radical redesign. We agreed a compromise that the 550mm height would only apply from a point 1950mm in front of the rear edge of the cockpit template. This achieves the objective equally well, and without requiring the teams to fundamentally overhaul their suspension packaging. They do all look like ducks though…

Q: Measurement tolerances have been tightened. Why?

CW: We used to measure tolerances across the flat bottom, the step and reference planes with a margin of ±5mm. The tolerances were there to allow for manufacturing discrepancies but teams were designing to the limit of the tolerances, contrary to the spirit of the rules. We have therefore reduced the allowance to ±3mm.

Q: The obligatory weight distribution rule was only supposed to run for one season. Why has the rule been continued for a second season?

CW: We had this rule last year to allow teams to begin designing their cars before they knew the characteristics of the Pirelli tyres. The teams have indicated they would like to keep the rule in place for the second year rather than make expensive wholesale changes to their cars for 2012. We have no problem with this.

Q: The size and position of exhaust exits is now specified. Why stipulate this area of the design?

CW: Our objective is to prevent teams operating a blown diffuser, which under certain circumstances infringes Article 3.15 (moveable aerodynamic device). In combination with additional constraints on engine mapping, as described in technical directive number 36 and incorporated into the SECU code, it will limit designers’ ability to exploit exhaust gases for aerodynamic effect. However teams will not unlearn the knowledge they have gained and it is quite likely this area of regulation may need to be revisited again in 2013?

Q: Why are there new dimensional constraints for suspension uprights?

CW: This is to stop uprights protruding too far from the wheels and being used, in effect, as wings.

Q: Why has helium been banned from use in wheel guns?

CW: Powering wheel-guns with compressed helium instead of compressed air saved fractions of a second during a pitstop. Now everyone is aware of this, it would have been a very expensive method of gaining no advantage.

Q: Why have active torque measuring systems been banned for wheel changes?

CW: We want the wheel gun operator to be responsible for the action. Once the torque is applied he should be making the decision to disengage. The latest torque guns show a light when the correct torque has been applied. That is as far as we want to go – we do not want any further automation.

Q: Why have the intrusion panels increased in size?

CW: The panels were installed 100mm-500mm above the reference plane, they are now 100mm-550mm about the plane. The forward one was 400mm high and is now 450mm high. This change should improve driver safety in the event of a T-bone accident.

Q: How and why have the tests for front wing deflection changed?

CW: The rules state the wings (as well as all other parts of the bodywork) must be rigid. We have halved the permitted deflection. Previously the wing was tested with a 1kN load and allowed to deflect 20mm. As a result of this the teams were testing wings until they found a design that deflected 19.9mm under a 1kN load. Our allowances are only a guideline for us and we felt the teams were operating outside the spirit of the rules and clearly designing their wings with flexibility in mind. In our view Article 3.15 takes precedence over Article 3.17 where the deflection limits are quantified. Article 3.17.8 allows us to introduce new tests if we feel our guidelines are not being following in an appropriate manner. The new test therefore moves the pressure point rearwards by 10mm and inboard by 5mm with the permitted deflection reduced to 10mm. We have also told the teams that we may apply the load to just one side of the front wing, an asymmetrical test.

Q: There has been a technical directive on the subject of ride height systems. Why have these been banned?

CW: The systems in question used braking torque to affect ride height changes. If these changes are made primarily for aerodynamic benefit they would be illegal under Article 3.15.

Q: Finally, there were some additions to the regulations ratified by the F1 Commission at the World Motor Sport Council on 9 March. Can you expand on those? 

CW: The changes weren’t substantial and the amendments were in three areas: firstly, we decided that one set of dry weather tyres can now be carried over to Saturday if both Friday practice sessions are declared wet. The reason for that is simply to give the teams the opportunity to run more laps on Saturday; we also decided that we would clarify things with regard to DRS use so that we can prohibit the use of the adjustable rear wing if we feel that visibility is too poor in wet conditions. We did that on safety grounds because of concerns about the speed differential between cars. Finally, we just clarified things with regard to the curfew works to make sure that rest periods remain constant throughout the season, irrespective of the timing of practice sessions at some events.

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