It’s been a busy day at Bahrain, albeit totally lacking in tension. The drivers and teams all seem very calm ahead of the new season. The new teams are understandably a little more edgy, but generally I am amazed how calm everyone is.
That doesn’t mean that there hasn’t been a lot going on. Alain Prost is to act as a steward this weekend, alongside three of the more traditional steward types, in order to add credibility to penalties handed out to drivers.
Also the World Motor Sport Council has today been discussing the 107% rule and decided to look into reintroducing it, in order to weed out cars which are far too slow in qualifying. Basically any car which did not qualify within 107% of the pole sitter, will not be allowed to start the race. On a track like Barcelona this would mean that if the pole was a 1m 19s lap, cars would have to lap faster than 1m24.3s. We will find out on Saturday how far off the pace the new teams are and how pressing this issue may become.
I understand that the 107 % rule has a lot of support within the FIA. For it to happen this year all the teams would have to agree to it, which the new teams are unlikely to do. For it to happen next year they would need 70% of the teams to agree, which is possible.
In a separate development, there are strong signs from the FIA that they are going to come down very hard on USF1 for failing to make it to the race track. It was discussed at the WMSC and FIA president Jean Todt has been mandated to “take appropriate action”.
Little has been seen of the Hispania team today, the garage doors were shut when I went to look, but it has been confirmed that the car has passed scrutineering and Bruno Senna said that they are planning on going out in the morning to do as many laps as possible. I will post tomorrow on what they will have to do to prepare an untested car for a race.
The debate over the legality of the McLaren rear wing continues. Three teams have spoken to the FIA’s Charlie Whiting, who has inspected the wing today and said that he is entirely satisfied that it is legal. If the other teams choose to protest it after the race on Sunday, it will be up to the stewards to decide whether it is legal, but they will be guided by Whiting’s view, clearly, as assessing these things is his job.
It is emerging that the cleverest thing about this wing is actually something very simple; the airflow from an opening in the cockpit to the slot in the back of the rear wing, is carried down a pipe in the sharkfin engine cover, but it needs to be “switched on” on the straights. To have any kind of mechanical device would be illegal. The solution? It is controlled by the driver’s body. When he moves his left leg in a certain way, it allows air flow through, which shoots into the slot on the back of the wing and separates the airflow underneath the wing, causing it to shed drag, so the car goes faster down the straight. It’s a bit like the brake steer third pedal McLaren had in 1997, but even more simple.
I will post more on this tomorrow.
I’ll be trying out a live Twitter “Ask James” chat at 9-30am UK time on Friday 12 March. You can follow it on my Twitter aggregator site, http://twitter.jamesallenonf1.com/live/askjames.
To send in a question, go to www.twitter.com, then follow @jamesallenonf1 and send me your question. I will try to answer as many as I can in the half hour.