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New teams: are they safe to share the track with?
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New teams: are they safe to share the track with?
Posted By: James Allen  |  12 Mar 2010   |  7:57 pm GMT  |  95 comments

There has been a lot of discussion today in Bahrain about the new teams and their pace, or lack of it.

Today the fastest car, Nico Rosberg’s Mercedes lapped in 1m 55.409 and the slowest, the Hispania of Bruno Senna managed a 2m 06.968, only just over a second faster than the fastest GP2 time today.

Hispania were still building the cars as practice started in Bahrain


The FIA has made it clear that it would like to re-introduce the 107% rule for qualifying, whereby any car which cannot set a time within 107% of the pole is not allowed to race. Senna’s time was outside the 107% time, which is 8 seconds slower, but the Virgin and the Lotus were well inside.

This 107% rule was dropped when qualifying with race fuel on board was introduced, but FIA president Jean Todt has just said that he wants to see it back. But he accepts that there is no way to get the 100% unanimous vote among teams required by the rules in order to make it happen this year. To pass it for 2011 requires just 70% majority, which means all the established teams, leaving the new teams in the minority.

Ferrari team principal Stefano Domenicali is also in favour and believes that it should be pushed through for this season on safety grounds if required.

But there are two fundamental problems with the 107% rule. The first is that it comes at too late a stage in the weekend. The most dangerous time is the first part of qualifying, where the cars are being driven on the limit and you have a combination of inexperienced drivers, high closing speeds and traffic.

The slow cars are eliminated after Q1. To have them in a race where all the cars are fat with fuel at the start and it all takes time to get going, is not so much of a problem. So why allow them on track at the most dangerous time of the weekend in order to stop them being there when everyone is travelling more slowly?

The second problem is that if you say a car travelling at 7% off the pace of the fastest car is a danger, how do you square that with free practice, where you can have some front running cars on low fuel quali simulations while others are full of fuel and lapping five or six seconds slower, as we saw this afternoon? That is almost 7% of difference.

In other words, although it might seem a good time to bring it back, in practice the argument is undermined by the conditions in practice.

There will be discussions and it is quite possible that the rule will return for 2011, more to set a benchmark for future entries than anything else, but I think that the Hispania car will get up to speed in the next few races and will be well inside the cut off anyway. As its driver Karun Chandhok has pointed out, the car is built by Dallara, who build GP2 cars. So with a lot more downforce and almost 200 more horsepower the F1 car must be substantially faster. People are underestimating Hispania. Let’s see where they are in four races time.

If voted in, the 107% rule will apply next year for the team which wins the 13th grid slot, which will go out to tender in a few days.

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1

I don’t see any reason why the new teams are a “real threat to safety”. Yes, they’re all new to the sport, but all have pulled in plenty of capable people. Out of interest why do you regard Virgin as cowboys? John Booth has won tons of championships in the lower formulae with Manor; Nick worth is former chief designer and aero guy at Benetton. These aren’t exactly novices to the world of Motorsport.

Hispania have got Colin Kolles and Geoff Willis. Lotus have Mike Gascoyne. All recognisable names in the worls of F1. To write them off so soon as “dangerous” is crazy in my opinion. Admittedly HRT have had to rush things a bit, but nevertheless their times were less than a second outside the 107% mark and I have no doubt that they will make that up very quickly with the help of Dallara.

I do agree that they would have been better off if they had been allowed to turn up in Barcelona, but that’s the way the financial situation played out. Penalising them at this stage helps nobody. For now I think everyone should be patient and not write them off until they’ve had a chance to show what they can do.

One other point on the driver side is that lack of experience doesn’t seem to historically have been that linked to danger. You couldn’t regard Buemi as a danger, for example- he kept his nose pretty clean in his first year. So did Alguersuari. By comparison Sato, Karthikeyan and others (who did benefit from coming in before the testing ban) were wild and crash-prone in their early days. Pace may be a problem, but safety- I’m not so sure.

(On a side note I am a little bit reminded of the laughs of derision when Vijay took over Spyker, and look at them now!)

2

We have to have new teams, but what we are seeing at the present is a real threat to safety. The FIA have to give these teams far more time in shake down to be able to safely compete. Lotus seem the most professional and although slow, I believe they are an acceptable risk. Hispania should never be let near a grand prix and they should be allowed extensive shake down time to get them up to speed. The real cowboys to me are Virgin, the mistakes we are seeing being down to a lack of professionalism they should be beyond with their resources.

3

There’s plenty Rolex Cup and ALMS races that are just a couple hours like an F1 race. They are not always 100% incident free either but neither is F1 especially in turn one

4

Hi James

Anybody you know at FOM who you could point out the lack of TV captions to today?

There were no positions down the left hand side on the world feed so none of us knew what was going on during qualifying!

5

Why aren’t the new teams, mainly the HRT given 3 days of testing during the season in order to get some much-needed milage?

6

This new Bahrain layout will highlight the slowness of the new teams a lot more than anywhere else. Particularly in the middle sector where the slowest cars were a clear 5 seconds off the pace in Q1.

The new teams need as much track time as possible. But having a test session when others are trying to race is in no ones best interest.

7

So why not drop GP2, let all comers build cars that comply as F1s, perhaps with a rev limit for second rank, and go racing? Those that finish high in a second rank championship or race get a chance to qualify and race in the main event, prequalifying against the slower F1s. Slow F1s get relegated to second rank.

8

Let them do it just like Saturday Nights at the local dirt track: anyone that shows up and passes tech inspection can attempt to qualify. None of this FIA “selection process” bs. *Then we’d see who can start a new team!

9

I was fairly impressed with Lotus and Virgin, they put in a good number of laps with respectable times for a new team. HRT were are different story though. I don’t think the issue is ‘should we bring back the 107% rule’ but should untested cars be allowed on the track at all. Testing is essential for performance and safety, the deadline for when a car is fit to enter should be, at minimum, the last test weekend.

10

What we need are Non Championship races, one before the first race of the season and one mid season. The big teams get to run setups and drivers they wouldn’t in a championship race and the new teams get to hone skills without getting in the way of a World Championship battle. Which is what all this is realy about of course. Ferrari have a long history in f1, so long in fact that they have forgotten that Enzo started off running someone elses cars (Alfa) and were happy to run “cast offs” (Lancia) when it suited them. They have also on occasion been very off the pace.

Nice to see Lotus doing well, although that bit falling off (the diffuser?) was a bit worrying but traditional. Early Lotuses were always a bit fragile. There is a book “Theme Lotus” that gives a great insight into the early years of the team. If Mrs Chapman approves of the new team using the name them there should be no dispute, if it wasn’t for her £50 there wouldn’t have been a Lotus!

11

Of course. It’s a question of percentages

12

As for the slow cars, it’s very obvious that drivers should allow passing professionally although all will not be perfectly executed. Main concerns are falling parts which is much more dangerous than getting lapped. Let’s hope all goes well during quali and raceday. We will see. A couple of hours to quali, finally the season begins.

13

Falling parts were nuts and wheels!

14

James,

If the 107% rule is brought in either this year (unlikely) or in 2011, what happens if say Hamilton or Alonso have a mechanical problem in Q1 and they can’t post a time fast enough to get them inside of 107%? Are they excluded from the race or does some other course of action come in to play?

15

And there’s rub. No doubt they will try to put in some “refinement” to “handle” such a case (probably in form of a wink and a nod from… take your pick) if the rule is brought back.

16

I think they should have something like a tweaked pre-qualifying where you have to participate if your car’s fastest lap through practice 1,2,3 is less than 107% of the fastest lap through practice 1,2,3 and then you dont get to go to proper qualifying but are automatically sent to the back of the grid. On the other hand the team whose driver set the fastest lap from practice 1,2,3 is automatically through to Q2.

17

I think a 107% rule and the current restrictions on in-season testing would be a ridiculous combination.

Perhaps both cars in a team failing to make the 107% could trigger some sort of testing allowance.

18

I heard that HRT are using steel brakes and wishbones. If this is true then there is some tie to be had via weight saving and also braking distances. Have you heard of any of this and how much time they will bring to the car?

19

John Ross Harvey, Duane, Red Andy,etc. After having read your comments,I agree with you! My experiance in F1 says you summed it up nicely! In the 70’s and 80’s there were as many as 17 teams at,one point in time,and clearly not all were front runners. We ran full fuel loads and no pit stops. Yes their was a 107% rule but it diden’t effect to a great degree. This is Grand Prix and at the top you should be able to handle moving chicanes. As was pointed out, they sure as hell do in prototype!!!!These new teams need time to improve, not cribbing.

20

If these ‘Elite of the Elite’ drivers can’t handle what goes on in sports car series around the world all the friggin time then perhaps they are not so “Elite” after all?

My response to them would be the same as to Ferrari’s bitching: just shutup and drive.

21

Add my voice to the chorus of much ado about nothing. Again, these are supposed to be “the best drivers in the world.” As others have pointed out, endurance racers deal with more traffic, and for much longer, in every race they run.

Drivers in all the “lesser” series can handle traffic. It speaks poorly of F1 drives if they can’t.

22

“drivers”

23

no, just don’t mention it, please..

24

Just a word on old teams. ..

Sutil really stole Alonso’s thunder in Practice 1. It may have been just a glory run by Force India, but Alonso himself is partial to glory runs of this sort as we know.

Or maybe the F I is on the pace?

25

In other news Damon Hill will be a steward at 2 races. Can you imagine Hill stewarding Lewis Hamilton or lack thereof?

26

Surely the fia can’t have this both ways. They want new teams and yet to have both the testing ban and the 107% rule would make that nearly impossible! It’s a vicious circle, if a team is too slow to be allowed to race but they aren’t allowed to test the car to make it better how can they ever hope to actually start a race?!

27

Do we want new teams or not? If we do (and I say yes)then you have to expect that hey are not going to be on the pace straight away, or even after several races. If the FIA expects new teams to come in and be racing at the same speed as the top teams, then frankly you have to say the FIA are naive. Wake up, smell the coffee. New teams are going to be slow. That is the nature of this pinnacle sport. Oh and Ferrari, grow up. If everything is not going your way 100% you have to have a bitch and a moan. This is F1 not junior sports day!

28
Prisoner Monkeys

“Safety grounds”? Who is Stefano Domenicalli kidding, other than himself? Ferrari don’t care about “safety grounds”, they just want to see the new teams out.

29

I may be mistaken, but wasn’t the 107% rule mainly in force back in the dark days when competitors had to ACTIVELY lap the slower cars? Unlike today where they get 3 waved blues to get out of the way? The rule isn’t required today IMO.

I’m sure Hispania will be close to the pace of Lotus and Virgin soon. The chunky back end of the Lotus worries me though – looks too big to ever be quick.

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