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Wheels Within Wheels

It looks as if Ferrari-style wheel inserts are indeed going to be used by other teams in 2007, if this photo of the Renault in testing is anything to go by.

Inserts

Although a protest was never mounted against the inserts, it can hardly be denied that they serve an aerodynamic function, whether or not they assist in brake cooling. This is the official F1 site’s view on the matter:

Ferrari 248 F1 – brake cooling drums

This interesting feature used in Malaysia is an evolution of similar devices seen on cars last year, but Ferrari have taken it to its extreme. The cooling drum not only covers the brake disc and calliper, preventing heat being transferred to the wheel rim, it also creates a seal of sorts with the wheel itself. It completely fills the space inside the wheel rim, not only improving brake cooling, but also dramatically reducing the vortices generated by the rotation of the wheels, hence making this area more aerodynamically efficient.

At least that is an admission that the inserts do have an aerodynamic effect. I suppose the argument is that this is not their primary purpose; they are there to keep the wheel rim cool and any aerodynamic effect is purely incidental. Which is fine until you notice that the inserts are used only on the rear wheels.

Something seems wrong there – the front brakes do most of the work as all the weight of the car is thrown forward as soon as it begins to decelerate. And that means they get hot, considerably hotter than the rear brakes. Surely any heat protection for the wheel rims should appear on the front wheels first; and, if the system is that effective, why not put it on all the wheels?

Of course, the wheel wells on the rears are much deeper than on the fronts and so they produce stronger vortices and drag and this would argue for putting the inserts at the back before bothering with the front. But would not that call into question the primary intent of the inserts? It is all very mysterious.

Not that it matters, of course. If everyone is going to use them, the playing field is level and we can forget the whole business. But it does make me wonder what the next dubious brush with the regulations will be. That’s part of the fun of F1 after all – watching the engineers and designers slip their tweaks past the FIA.

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Honda’s New Livery

I am trying very hard not to enter the Great Debate on Honda’s silly new color scheme, honest. All the expected criticisms and plaudits are flying around anyway, so there is little point in adding to the fuss – that would be giving Honda exactly what they want: news coverage.

Honda

Honda RA107

It is becoming quite difficult to keep silent, however, especially when a little-regarded news item about changes in the FIA regulations for the future floats across my screen. The World Motor Sport Council is delaying until 2011 introduction of some of the green rules for engines. Well, that is no surprise, in view of the fact that they sound good but are almost impossible to put into practice.

Perhaps I should explain why it is so difficult for me to bite my tongue over these ridiculous issues. My problem is that I do not accept the first premise of the global warming theory – that humanity is causing the planet to heat up and will ultimately destroy civilization through climate change and the melting of the polar ice caps. Since I am actively involved in another site, Global Warming Latest, that points out the lies and misinformation propagated by the global warming activists, I can hardly go along quietly with all the lip service paid by the FIA and Honda to a theory that depends much more on the scare-mongering of politicians than the actual findings of highly-qualified climatologists.

But I am trying to remain silent, I swear it, and, if sometimes I cannot help myself and shout “Baloney!” at some ignorant and preposterous statement from anyone in charge of the future of F1, please remember that it was not I who introduced the subject in the first place.

So, ignoring the alleged green-ness of the Honda paint job, I should point out that it is, in fact, mostly blue. The black bit at the back is obviously to indicate the curvature of the earth and is not for sponsor logos – they have made other arrangements for those, it seems. Overall, I have to say that the look of the car is not bad; it’s a bit too fussy for my tastes but a whole lot better than the other pictorial representation on the grid – Toro Rosso’s cartoon bull. But it leaves the BMW Sauber in undisputed top spot, regardless of the result of F1 Fanatic’s survey of opinion (yes, I voted – you can guess for which team).

I admit that the Williams is pretty tasteful too, almost a negative version of BMW’s scheme, but then it comes down to whether you prefer dark blue or white as the predominant color. And the thing about white is that it allows you to see the shape of the car underneath – dark colors hide interesting bits in shadow.

To return briefly to the Honda, however, I cannot resist pointing you to the best comment I have seen so far. Have a look at this.

Now that puts things much more into perspective I think!

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How Many Races Makes a Season?

Over at F1-Fanatic, Keith Collantine has asked the question, How many races does F1 need?, and thereby saved you from my proposed rant about Honda’s new colours. I feel inspired to be awkward, irascible and downright objectionable over the idea of increasing the number of GPs and, as usual, I cannot resist an opportunity to play devil’s advocate. So here we go.

Rouge

Will the added circuits have corners as good as this?

It is easy for us to say, “Yes, give us more races,” when it costs us nothing and adds to the entertainment we crave. But the teams have a point when they say that more races means more expense for them – and this at a time when the FIA is trying to reduce costs. Even Bernie’s upper limit of twenty races may be pushing the envelope too far for some of the teams involved – and that means the little ones that tend to be more popular (Williams, for instance).

Before we shout too loudly for more races, we should consider carefully what effect this might have. It is not just a matter of expense; there is quality to be considered too.

Some will remember the days before the advent of cable and satellite television in Britain. Believe it or not, there was a choice between five channels, take it or leave it. With the arrival of new TV technology, suddenly we were presented with hundreds of channels and we thought we’d entered a brave new world of unlimited entertainment.

The reality turned out to be very different. Sure we had choice as never before, but what was worth choosing? From having a limited TV service that we continually assured ourselves was the best in the world (and it was – remember the annoyance of having two great programmes on at the same time?), we progressed to limitless choice between channel after channel of pure tripe.

The lesson is that there is only so much quality in the world; you can concentrate it or spread it thinly but nothing will increase the amount you started with. I will admit that, with perseverance, it is possible to find one or two channels on satellite TV that are pretty good but are you not then right back where you started? So quality collects into little bundles while the dross spreads out, offering no real choice at all.

This has some relevance for F1, believe it or not. If we increase the number of races, we also increase costs and cut down the amount of time and money that can be spent on developing and testing the cars. Yes, NASCAR has 40 races in a year but they are racing primitive machines that could never be regarded as the pinnacle of technology. And the danger is that allowing more races will lower the pace of development in F1 cars.

Look at this off season that is now drawing to a close. Cars that were designed at the beginning of last year are only now hitting the tracks in test sessions and the teams are struggling to get them fully prepared before the first race of 2007. Some will not be ready. And the result of less testing time is more failures and underperformance.

Does anyone remember how frustrating it is to see a talented driver lose race after race because of breakages on his car? Go back thirty years and you will find countless races in which the driver who deserved most to win was sidelined through mechanical failure. We are spoiled in this age of almost perfect reliability and have become used to seeing the best driver in the best car win with regularity.

There is the matter of familiarity breeding contempt to be considered too. Increase the number of races too much and they will begin to look the same, especially as the new ones added will inevitably be the anodyne, squeaky-clean chicane fests that are designed these days. Boredom will creep in as we realize that the circuits all look the same and they might as well hold all the races in one place. I would rather have a season of ten races on the great circuits of old than thirty held on brand new featureless tracks that provide no challenge at all.

So let us think carefully before providing a knee-jerk response of “Yes, yes, more races, always more races.” If we are talking about additions that are genuinely interesting tracks that provide a real spectacle, then yes, perhaps we could have a few more. But I think twenty must always remain the upper limit – any more than that and the quality will begin to decline.

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All Eyes on BMW

With Nick Heidfeld going fastest on the second day of testing in Bahrain, BMW continues to look the most likely team to upset the status quo of previous years. Consistently quick and now seemingly reliable, the F1.07 is obviously very good and team manager, Mario Theissen is having to work hard to keep the hype at a reasonable level, insisting that they are not yet in a position to challenge for the championship.

It is a sensible approach to the season; far better to exceed expectations in the actual races than to underperform after having set your sights too high. If the car races as well as it has tested, the results will do the talking for the team.

The big question mark must be over BMW’s choice of drivers. Heidfeld is certainly quick on occasion but can he maintain the speed throughout a full season? I cast doubt about Nick’s motivation in an earlier post and it remains to be seen whether he can prove me wrong.

And Robert Kubica is still an unknown quantity, raising hopes with his few race performances last year but not quite as quick as his teammate in testing. He’s an ugly blighter too but that never seemed to hold back Michael Schumacher.

In fact, a part of his looks that he shares with Michael and some other supreme sportsmen is that his eyes are too close together. Don’t laugh – this trait appears again and again in top athletes and might be a very visible sign of potential sporting prowess. Think of Bjorn Borg’s near-squint and Jochen Rindt.

Faces

Well, okay, I mention this very tongue-in-cheek but it might be an interesting area for scientists to investigate – probably a more useful field of endeavor than chasing polar bears around the Arctic. And it does remind me that, in the sixties, there was a scientific study of F1 drivers to see whether they had anything in common that was different from the normal run of humanity.

They measured and tested and experimented but, in the end, could come up with only one difference: blink rate. It seems that you and I and most of humanity blink about four times a minute – but F1 drivers blink only about once every two minutes. Which may have something to do with levels of concentration but also shows that it’s all in the eyes.

With further investigation of this phenomenon, they might even be able to devise a test to see whether a driver will make it into the big time. That could put a stop to the usual ladder of karts, Formula Renault, F3, GP2 and so on, meaning that F1 could get them even younger.

Hmmm, on second thoughts, forget I ever said this…

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