Tuesday,23 April, 2019
Current issue | Issue 1384, (8 - 14 March 2018)
Tuesday,23 April, 2019
Issue 1384, (8 - 14 March 2018)

Ahram Weekly

What’s up Formula 1?

The new 2018 season packs lots of changes aiming to increase competition

During the last couple of weeks the global community of motor heads have been monitoring in anticipation F1 news and revelations for the new season, reports Mohamed Abdel-Razek.

The two big questions are whether the new rules and modifications serve the excitement and entertainment side and would the other teams like Ferrari and Red Bull be able to overcome the mighty Mercedes? The answers are in short supply but at least there are some hints until the official kick off on 25 March in Melbourne, Australia.

Flashy changes do not always have something to do with performance. There is always room for safety features when it comes to the cream of motorsports, the F1. The topic has been around for years, closing the driver’s cockpit for safety. For experienced F1 fans and observers hearing about this brings back bad memories of fatal modern F1 crashes that took away lives of great drivers -- Gilles Villeneuve in 1982 when he was thrown out of his Ferrari when it rolled over; Ayrton Senna when metal debris smashed into his helmet and killed him when he crashed into the fence in Italy 1994, and Jules Bianchi in 2015 when he crashed into a truck on the side of the track injuring his head and dying at the age of 25.

So to save the future of current F1 drivers, the halo protection system is introduced as mandatory for all cars. The system aims to protect the driver from flying debris and in case the car runs into something from the front and both sides, and also if the car rolls over during a crash. In all such situations the halo is designed to protect the driver. The system is designed to withstand two kilo tons of stress. The most comes from its top point 116KN.

The system of course adds to the weight of the car so the overall minimum weight this season is increased by 6kg to 734kg. The design of the halo will be standard with all cars except for the upper surface which will be free for all teams to add aerodynamic body work on them according to each team’s setup, so it should appear different from one car to another.

Teams are allowed only three power plants per driver instead of the four of last season. It means that the development engineers in every team have already adopted a new strategy of building more reliable engines, fast but more reliable, aiming to play just on the closest point to the limit, not over it, which would risk the loss of the whole season. This new rule will definitely close the gap among the teams a little bit, especially among the top three: Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull. It will rearrange the load of effort on developing and enhancing the performance during the season, to be less concentrated on the engine and more on other factors like the front and rear wings, engine air-duct body work and tyre strategies. From another angle, Fernando Alonso might be sunbathing for most of the season, if you can relate.

The FIA also disallowed the system used in the front suspension by Ferrari and Red Bull, which tweaked the ride height and steering angle serving the aero performance for faster corners. Extended shark-finned engine covers are a design of the past, along with the T wing, which will not be allowed on all the 2018 designs.

Ferrari SF71H

On the tyres section, Pereli the sole tyre provider for all the teams, added to its wide range of tyre compounds, giving more freedom for teams to play with their strategies. Each team is allowed three compounds to take to the circuit in each Grand Prix but this year the variety is richer with the new tools, the pink colour marked hyper soft, and the orange colour marked super hard to make it seven slick tyres for each team to choose from, including last year’s range of the ultra-soft (purple), super soft (red), soft (yellow), medium (white), and hard (blue). Pereli says that the new hyper soft compound can bring lap times up to one second faster, and the whole range will reflect on the strategies as a whole, avoiding the one pit stop races which happen quite often throughout the season.

In 2018, many teams are coming from Mercedes and Ferrari’s innovations of last season’s cars. One of the main copied features is the sidepod wings but here’s the question. Will it really help teams inch closer to Mercedes and Ferrari by copying them? Or will it drive them further away by getting the formula all messed up? Red Bull already suffered a malfunction with their sidepods during the testing in Spain and retired for the day.

Most cars have been modified for a better outcome than that of last season but for Mercedes and its “Diva” they didn’t need to alter a lot in the W08. It was the same wheelbase, the same everything except for converting it to the new regulations and working on enhancing the nature of the car in which drivers Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas had most of their concerns. It appears there is massive confidence by Mercedes and Toto Wolff the team manager in their new W09 car, believing that it’s already miles away from all competitors even with all the alterations they might be doing to their cars. The Mercedes, they claim, will be faster. We’ll see.

On the Ferrari camp, the car gets a longer wheelbase, but not too long; just enough to keep the car comfortable on tight and wide tracks. The Ferrari SF71H has a lot of cool detailing which for sure will serve the aerodynamic performance of the car like the newly designed mirrors that act to enhance the aerodynamic characteristics of the car, and the wing attached on top of the halo.

The performance of the engines can’t be judged by observing the preseason tests but this season what is obvious is that there is much to be done other than just throwing a good driver in a fast car in order to win the race and eventually the championship. All what can be sensed is that the new engine notes sound fantastic and hopefully it will be an entertaining season.

Can’t wait for the Australian Grand Prix.

add comment

  • follow us on