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Bahrain latest: Prost becomes a steward and 107% rule could return,
Bahrain latest: Prost becomes a steward and 107% rule could return,
Posted By: James Allen  |  11 Mar 2010   |  6:30 pm GMT  |  79 comments

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.

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Never really liked the 107% rule.

It sounds like a good idea in principal but I think there’s a possibility that it could badly hurt the new teams.

If a team turns upto a race & fails to qualify it hurts there chances of finding more funding & there are sponsors who may not want to pay sponsorship money should a team DNQ.

The new teams also need mileage in order to find the problems that need fixing on the cars & if they don’t make a race or a few there losing miles that they desperately need.

The new teams seem to be 5-6 seconds off the lead pace based on test times & Minardi & Jordan were about that far off the pace only 5-6 years ago. Heck back in the Early 90’s that was the gap amongst the top 10 with the full 26 car field could be seperated by 10 seconds+.


The funny part is that in the states the racing I’ve been watching so far this year is the sports car racing at Daytona 24 hours and Homestead. These are the races with both prototype and GP classes on the track together.

It gets ‘interesting’ at points when drivers overtake slower cars. But I don’t see anything fundamentally wrong with it. The drivers seem able to handle it.

The strange thing to me is that F1 has this system where teams have to buy their way into a limited number of grid spots. To me, once they do that, they should be there.

The other way to do it would be to say all races are open to anyone who can build a legal car and qualify in the top 24 spots. That way, the speeds get controlled. If someone watches an HRT crawling around the track and then says “hey, I could do better than that”, then they show up someday and bump them from the grid. To me, that’s racing. No Concorde agreements or applications to the series. Just race with the fastest 24 cars that show up.


PS … the ban on testing plays into this too. If you don’t allow teams to test on a track outside of races, then you have to give them some leeway to let them run laps at the races to get the knowledge they need to get up to speed.


A very good point


As the HRT’s are likely to break down in the first 10 laps the 107% rule becomes a mute point for the first couple of races. And hopefully they’ll then be up to the Virgin / Lotus level.

Personally I think this talk of “slow cars damaging our drivers chances of winning” from some of the teams is daft. All the top drivers will have to pass the slow cars, and these are supposed to be the top drivers in the world. If they are not capable of passing a slower moving car they shouldn’t be there themselves.

I also think the same is true from the safety aspect, the faster car coming from behind is the one responsible for saftey and passing the slow car. Again, these are supposed to be the top drivers. Stop whinging and race, thats what us fans want to see, and a mobile chicane adds to the drama and excitement IMHO


How do the new teams stack up to the cars from other series lets say the GP2 series or A1GP (which was based on the Ferrari 2003 GA I think)?

Will a stock Bugatti Veyron or a Ferrari FXX beat these cars around the track?


One of the US announcers jokingly announced during practice that the lap time of one of these new cars would have put it 15th on the GP2 grid. That was early in practice though, so I don’t know if it ended there.


It’s really disappointing from a governance perspective that Whiting and the stewards can have different opinions on legality. We’re going to have another bunch of GPs that aren’t over until the lawyers sing.


LOL is overused, but I did literally Laugh Out Loud at the description of how the McLaren wing works.

Gordon Murray famously said that he couldn’t design modern F1 cars as the rules are too restrictive, but what I love about F1 is that you still do get great examples of lateral thinking, even today.

Unfortunately this will probably result in even more tightly defined restrictions on what designers can do… let’s hope the engineers can continue to outwit the lawmakers!


I can see arguments both ways re the proposed 107% qualifying to race cutoff.

On one hand the new teams need time to get established. The fact that testing is now so limited and from this point on, not possible in 2010, the newbies will need practice, qualifying and the races to do their testing and hopefully garner speed and reliability improvements from there.

On the other hand, without a qualifying cutoff, there is a real possibility we could end up with one or two teams tooling around at the back of the field 8 or 10 seconds per lap slower than the leaders, getting lapped 4-6 times per race. It not only looks bad but it brings up significant safety issues as closing speed differences could be very dramatic. Add to that the fact that some of those drivers (the HRT boys in particular) are F1 novices and they could become accidents waiting to happen.

As it stands, it seems certain, at least for the first few races, that we will have up to three races in each GP; Class A will be the established teams doing what they always now do, lapping within a couple of seconds of each other. Class B will be Lotus and Virgin, 4 to 6 seconds per lap adrift and then poor old HRT all alone in Class C, a few seconds per lap further back.

I am also expecting speed differential will amplify over the course of a race. If Hamilton sits on Pole with a 1.18.5 with one of the HRT’s in the final slot @ 1.26.0, halfway through the race the Mclaren will still be pulling 1.22’s but the boys at the back, struggling with compromised and untested cars could be falling well into the mid-30’s; that my friends is ‘mobile chicane’ territory.

And that is why 107% will need to be, sooner rather than later, implemented.


I’m glad the FIA is standardizing the stewards (or so it seems). Just hope Prost doesn’t still harbor any ill feelings toward McLaren or that wing might be deemed illegal.

On another note – I heard David Coulthard’s view on how the new point system takes away a lot of the history of the sport, so why not talk about percentages rather than points – this way it will still be comparable and applicable to history?


Re USF1 and FIA “taking the apropriate action”, —- I would hope they’d welcome them to next season and offer them all the assistance they can! It’d be fantastic (to use an F1 term) to have an American team on the grid! Not to mention 1 or 2 race meetings there as well, also Canada.

To me, it would be grossly unfair and unsporting for FIA to penalise them!

Most of us identify with the Yanks far more than we do with some of the foreigners that seem to be getting involved in F1 with their funny tracks that hardly anyone goes to watch without corporate invitations and free tickets!



Have to agree with you. If HRT can be allowed to race with a brand new car then why not US F1.

Besides they were chosen over established outfits like Prodrive and this should have been done based on facts and figures. So either the FIA agree that their selection policy was a farce or help US F1 to get to the grid


I’ll be very happy to see a minimum performance % introduced. 107% might not be exactly right, though.


It will be interesting if Ferrari are one of the teams complaining about the McLaren rear wing when they have the wheel crowns which you could say have bent the rules.

This is one of the negative aspects of F1, when one team comes up with a clever idea the teams who have not thought of it cry foul and try to get it banned.


Colin Chapman’s quote “rules are for fools to follow and for wise men to interpret” holds true. I think you’re right about the negativity, but it’s doubly clever using the homologated components to try to hold an advantage for the year. Without that, they’d be copied and perhaps leapfrogged race to race as per the diffusers last year.


Whatever next? The FIA not hindering a McLaren advancement?

If and in my head it’s still a very big if, Todt’s FIA proves to be honest & not favour or hinder ANY team then I would have to eat my words.

I suppose the real teat will the many Schumacher incidents during the year, then’ll we’ll see if his FIA stays honest & fair but so far so good.

1st qually only a few hours away!


Hi James,

just a thought, but can’t the FIA force the 107% rules through on the basis of safety, as they have done with several other rules in the past? And for once, if they did, it would actully be a legitimate use of the safety card!!


McLaren may have been clever but in the heat of a race, Lewis is using his leg to get the reduction in drag and increase in speed to stay ahead of Alonso, both switch to hard braking for a tight corner, downforce and drag really needed. Lewis’s legs are being pulled in all directions and he somehow has to cover an airhole in the cockpit!!

If its as simple as that then this could be entertaining…. It must be more than just the position of your leg?


We may see the two of them strolling the pit lane with plumbers’ plungers duct-taped to their knees!


A couple of years ago they were trying to get Rossi to move over from motorcycle racing. Maybe they should think about this again. After all, a motorcycle racer is controlling aerodynamics with his body all the time during a lap.


Whilst I applaud McLaren for this innovative wing design, I can’t help feel it will get banned eventually, I don’t want to see a Formula 1 where drivers are controlling all sorts of valves and snorkels with various bits of their body. It’s not what F1 is about, requires no skill and adds nothing for the fans. 2 pedals and a steering wheel (albeit chic full if buttons) should be the only input mechanisms for the driver.


Well, i think that what you like is F1 of old times….in my opinion, it’s easier for a driver not to have extra gadgets to control. The real test is when a driver has more things to care about! Technology is not as bad as many people think! surely i don’t miss the F1 of the 80’s…today’s drivers could easily “destroy” the likes of past drivers (except the great Senna, i guess…)


Not a fan of 107%. It will severely hinder the new teams chances to get a foothold. It will just mean we will have some races where we are back at 20 cars – the larger field is one of the reasons I’m so looking forward to this season.


The wing setup surely looks interesting. The question is whether it brings speed.

I guess we have to wait till saturday qualifying to see some speed traps.

Does any body how much is being faster on the straight by 5-10km/h actually gives you per lap time?

go already:)


I rather hope they do not enforce the 107% rule, at least early in the season. If one of the new teams fails to make a couple races it could put them out of business. At least give them some time to get it together. I think the restrictions on testing are ridiculous for the off-season. The newer teams should have had at least an extra season to try to get on the pace. It helps everyone for these teams to be at least respectable. To have them fall away and close during the season would be bad for the sport me thinks.

Alistair Blevins

I hope that there are not silly protests and that the stewards will see sense should any come along.

It’s always struck me as odd that protests can only be lodged over race weekends, and that despite the part being passed by the FIA, rival teams still feel need to take this route.

It’s becoming somewhat of a habit, and not a good one.

On the other hand, I’m can’t wait to see who draws first blood tomorrow, although I can see HRT (still gets me that name) being a bit of an embarrassment – not good for the sport, or the return of the Senna name.

James – is their a dominant topic in conversations for media and teams?

One would imagine there is a lot of focus is on the new teams, and the return of Michael Schumacher.


That’s the one thing I’ve always found odd about F1. Well, not the only thing. 🙂 It seems like it would make sense to put someone like Whiting in total charge of what’s technically legal on a car. I’m surprised there isn’t an FIA crew that goes from race to race with the series and does all the car inspections. Having different race stewards do this at each event just seems weird.

That way, Charlie Whiting’s word a month ago would have been the last word on this. Well officially anyways.

What I’m tired of is every year the teams that come with the slower designs whining and complaining about the ‘spirit’ of the regs. The rules are written down for everyone to see and work from.


Also, someone on the SpeedTV forums made a good point: if they are going to crucify a non-existent USF1 team for signing the Concorde Agreement and failing to show up for Bahrain, wouldn’t they have to do the same to Toyota Gmbh, who committed the exact same offense? If the answer is “no,” then why? Is it because the announced they were failing to show up a few months earlier than USF1 did? Again, both teams committed the exact same offense separated by a only few months.


Its all about the money. Toyota has it, and Bernie would probably love to see them back in F1. This little privateer team didn’t have money.

I don’t have any great sympathy for USF1, but I do like to see rules consistently applied.


2010 looks to be a unique year. Everyone may be calm as James reports but more than in previous years every driver in every team is under pressure and has to justify his place in the team.

The youngsters will be out for blood: Kobayashi, Hulkenberg, Senna. No one’s seat is safe from these if he fails to deliver and I’m including all the champs and their teammates in this.

Then there’s also the absent champ Raikkonen who will be invited to replace anyone who slips up, apart from the two at Ferrari perhaps.

Doubtless there will be great things from Schumacher, or am I a hopeless romantic?

Things may be calm at the minute, but some storm is in the brewing!


RE the Mclaren wing, that is an incredible piece of invention, but how exactly would other teams find this out considering its controlled by a leg movement in the cockpit!?


The rear wing idea is in exactly the same vein as the brawn/toyota/williams diffusers of last year, an interpretation of the rules. It’s exactly what F1 is about, good on the designer I say.

We will of course see other teams using the same trick now though.



is the little hole on the cockpit surface in front of the driver where the air comes through for the rear wing.

If so how does the driver moving his leg make a difference there?


i think the 107% rule is a silly idea, with the amount of blue flags around slower cars shouldnt have an impact on the results.

If they are not aloud to race, with no in season testing, how will they ever improve?


McLaren Brilliant! Presumably a transistor type effect where a small airflow switching on or off affects the direction of a major flow. Something I haven’t seen used for 20 years or more probably on Tomorrow’s World. Though I have a feeling it was used in mail sorting offices.

I predict it will be added to the tech regs next year excluding it.

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