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Media Briefing with FIA Race Director Charlie Whiting

NEWS STORY
04/07/2014

(John Noble - Autosport) In Austria there was a new policy regarding driving standards. I think [this was] more of a step back from you regarding driver punishments. [However], we saw the [Sebastian] Vettel incident getting investigated. Could you clarify just exactly what the changes are and why Vettel still got investigated as I think you said beforehand it would only be in incidents where one driver was clearly to blame?
Charlie Whiting: It didn't mean that the incident wouldn't be investigated because you can't establish whether you feel one driver was wholly or predominantly to blame until you have looked at it. The stewards said it was under investigation and they had a look and they deduced from that that no further action was warranted. That is the procedure.

Charlie, for two years in a row we've had very ugly cars. I believe that one of the WMSC regulation changes is that the aesthetics of the cars will be looked at. How will you define what is beautiful and what is ugly and how are you going to enforce it?
CW: We can't legislate against ugly cars but what we can do is to try to get closer to what was originally intended. We've done that by first of all making the cross sections of the nose larger. They can't get any smaller the further they go back, as there are minimum cross sections: 50mm back and 150mm back from the tip of the nose. They have to be a certain height and a certain width and they must be symmetrical about the car centre line.

We have also taken some measures with the crash-testing regulations in order to prevent the very soft noses, with which there was no deceleration, no energy being absorbed over the first 150mm. We want to make sure that it is the low bit that interacts, in the case of an accident, with a wheel. The cross sections should prevent the sort of designs we've seen this year. However, you can't unlearn things and aerodynamics will rule, but we have arrived at what we believe to be the best solution to try to achieve the primary objective, which is safety.

Obviously we've only had one race so far with the drivers freed up, in theory, to race a bit more. How do you see that working so far, what kind of feedback have you had from the drivers, do you think there is a bit more freedom on track in how they're responding?
CW: I've had no feedback from drivers, but I have had lots of positive feedback from people at the initiative that has been taken.

What the initiative says is that unless the stewards feel that a driver is wholly or predominantly to blame, no further action will be warranted. Therefore, it's still a decision of the stewards; the stewards are the ones who decide whether they think a driver was wholly to blame. Where it's clear to everybody that there is no driver clearly to blame the matter won't go to the stewards, it won't go as far as summoning the drivers to explain what happened. There will simply be no further action. We'll see how it goes. However, when this came up in the Formula One Commission, where everyone felt it was a good way to proceed, I had to point out that we usually only act on matters we are asked to take look at, so it's up to the teams to make sure they don't ask us to investigate small incidents as well. We all have to play out part.

(Andrew Benson - BBC Sport) Can you explain the substance and intent of the titanium skid block regulation please, including whether other parts of the plank will still have other kinds of material in the skid block?
CW: To explain: the plank is the long bit of wood, the skids are bits of metal within the plank. The skids have formerly been made of a heavy metal, which has been very resistant to wear, and they put the skids around the points in the plank where thickness is measured. Planks have to start off at nominally 10mm thick and they can't be less than 9mm thick. However, we only measure them around certain holes in the plank. So they position the skids around those holes.

This metal is extremely heavy and when pieces detach they can be extremely harmful. We saw two punctures in Spa previously because of bits of this metal that lay in a kerb and caused damage. In a worst case scenario they could fly off and hit someone.

The purpose of making them out of titanium is threefold: Firstly, it's safer, because if they do come off they are about a third of the weight of the existing ones. Secondly, the titanium wears some 2-2.5 times more quickly than the metal currently used. Thus cars will have to be run a little bit higher to manage wear and teams won't be able to drag them on the ground quite as much as they have in the past. The third effect is that you will see a lot more sparks, which some people think will look a little more spectacular.

(Alberto Antonini - Autosprint) Two questions. First, could elaborate on the problem that slowed down Sebastian Vettel at the Austria Grand Prix because I understand it came from the standard ECU. The second question is: what led you to think that the standing restart for next year would be a sensible, convenient solution?
CW: The bug in the standard ECU software was exactly that. [Sebastian selected] the overtake mode - which gives him a different map. However, the software refused to accept the map, deciding that it wasn't a legal map. In fact, it was a legal map. However, when the ECU deemed it to be illegal the result was he had no power at all - 0 Nm.

Two things will take [the ECU] out of that mode. The first is a timeout, which is 60 seconds. The second is braking. Having selected the overtake mode on a straight when the driver then brakes at the end of the straight for a corner the ECU will revert to the previous map.

However, because Sebastian was going uphill, he didn't have to brake and therefore he had to wait for the 60-second timeout, after which power came back. It was unfortunate. No one wants to see a bug in software but it does happen from time to time. I think I'm right in saying it's the first time that anything has so overtly affected a car since 2008 when the standard ECU was introduced.

The other question was about the safety car standing restarts. What must be remembered is that this was a suggestion from a team. I put it to the other teams and they all agreed that it was a very good idea. In fact, I've rarely seen such enthusiasm for a new idea.

The idea is based on the rationale that the start is the most exciting part of the race in the view of most people and if you can have another one it would also be extremely exciting. This idea was embraced by all the teams at team manager level. It was then discussed by the Formula One Strategy Group, which unanimously felt it was a very good way to go to improve the spectacle of Formula One. It then went to the Formula One Commission and finally to the World Council. They also felt it was a good thing for Formula One. The teams were 100 per cent behind it.

I have heard some drivers express concerns but I think we can allay those fears. Their first concern was in regard to fairness. They felt that a race leader was more likely to lose his lead from a standing start than he is from a rolling start. Equally, however, if you are in second place you might actually like the idea of being able to take the lead, which you probably wouldn't do with a rolling start.

There was also some concern about taking a standing start on worn tyres. However, until you get to the point where there is a standing start, the safety car procedure will be exactly the same as before. As happens now any driver on worn tyres is likely to pit. If you've just made a pit stop then you probably wouldn't do it, but anyone else will, as they will want to take the advantage of what is effectively a free stop. I think the chances of any driver resuming the race from a standing start on very badly worn tyres is very low. Those are the only concerns I've heard so far.

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READERS COMMENTS

 

1. Posted by nonickname, 04/07/2014 13:14

"It is the same thing over and over.Regulations change everywhere,some,however work.
Once again I point to MotoGp who allowed a non works division at top level. It has worked beautifully and they all sound wonderful.
I don't think F1 will ever recover...not under the management of ANYONE currently involved.
Hope I am wrong...can you publish the updated TV viewership figures after each GP so we can track the fans reactions?"

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2. Posted by ratchet69, 04/07/2014 12:54

"All that can be said of this is that they are the sort of platitudes that spring forth from the lips of politicians all the time.
"Of course we listen to what the fans say
('and if what they want agrees with our thinking then we will do it and claim that it was what the fans asked for')."

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