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The Reign Maker

FEATURE BY MAX NOBLE
02/05/2022

Ross Brawn has stated that last year's car was not a racing car. So, to remedy this new rules have been crafted of which Mr. Brawn confidently stated there would be no double-diffuser moment, because he, and 'The Lads' had thought of everything.

Yet... Hello World! Size triple-zero Mercedes' side-pods. Oh, 'The Lads' didn't see that coming. Hubris thy name be ageing FIA Brains Trust... Now the concept is not working quite as planned... yet, but Toto assures us all that the concept is not wrong. The continuing flow of causality will no doubt reveal the truth.

Returning to Ross... Not a racing car? Really? Is it that we have non-racing humans? Those who do not, cannot desire to move swiftly, and on the other side of the track racing humans that desire, and do? Surely we call it the human race for a reason, for is racing not encoded within our DNA?

One can race an orange-box cart, a skateboard, or even a NASCAR if one so desires. Heck, some people even elect to race on foot, and do not use a vehicle at all, imagine that! Not a racing car indeed! I'm sure the fine pilots on this year's grid would cheerfully race electric scooters, ride-on lawn mowers and 1960's Trabants simply for the fun of the race. So let us consider the latest (overly) prescriptive rules now we have a few laps under our collective belts to consider.

As noted in my previous feline themed missive, if one splits the grid into thirds, being remarkably named segments of upper, middle, and lower, then the only movement of significance is Alfa hauling themselves into the middle, at the expense of Aston who have slid gracelessly into the lower.

While the colossal change in the upper tier is that of Mercedes releasing their terminator style grip on the top spot to glide with all the grace of a stuffed Elk to the bottom of the top.

My Lord! The plan must have been more cunning that Baldrick's greatest plotting for Blackadder to achieve such mighty changes in but a lone season break! My little grey cells flutter more than Poirot's moustache in a hurricane at the very idea of such intellectual mastery!

Yes, gentle reader, I jest...

Two years in the making, countless millions of dollars spent across companies not ring-fenced within the cost cap universe, plus all those frantic accountants inside the cost cap ring-fence, and here we are with the biggest rule change in generations delivering... well... delivering racing that for all the world looks just like last season.

DRS trains still steaming out the station? Check.

Drivers squabbling to not be the first over the DRS detection line? Check.

Any driver questioned still moaning about the tyres? Check.

Fans gazing in wonder as the safety car is deployed for lap after lap, when multi-million dollar digital TV cameras cannot detect a blade of grass out of place around the entire circuit? Check.

Overtaking at about the same rate as the last few seasons? Check.

Until finally, the Good Lord himself (no, the unseen one, not Bernie) deems for the rains to fall, kissing the blessed and unblessed in equal measure, and we finally have a race!

The ultimate Rain Maker gives us races, while Ross the Reign Maker changes champions for us. Actually not a bad double act to be honest. Vettel passes the Golden Chalice to Lewis on a rule change. It would now appear that Lewis is going to pass on the Holy Grail because of another rule change. Indeed, all hail Ross the Reign Maker for getting a new name on the driver's trophy. Yet, all due respect to the Rain Maker for actually crafting an interesting race, a skill which appears to elude Ross.

That chipper demi-God Bernie was a delightful mix of 1,001 characters currently trying to run F1. He made the suggestion of installing sprinklers somewhat in jest, yet it would have delivered drama and high tension for many a race. While most of his rule changes were for the better. Well, he and Max Mosley were the motor racing duet version of Lennon and McCartney, compared to whatsisname and the other guy who currently run the FIA and Liberty to such stunning effect.

Ross and his brain's trust, 'The Lads', have managed a minor shuffle of three teams within the pecking order. Jolly good show lads!

With all these rule changes Miss Physics is on a bus-person's holiday this year, with the delight of new prescriptive rules forcing designers across the paddock into rethinking how they get their love-child to dance on the edge of the possible with all of Miss Physics' little helpers maintaining immutable laws. From vortex swirl to tyre scrub it is all change this season for how to address Miss Physics and her immutable demands.

Or is it? The DeLoren is back out the garage as we dive headlong into the 1980's and return to ground effect. The four winds yawn at such 40 year old thinking.

The FIA banned active suspension, which would tame the porpoise effect in milliseconds. So now F1 must use non-adaptive suspension, last seen on a road car near you about twenty years ago, to solve the problem! I mean there is more software technology in the road going McLarens than the track ones these days! Not to mention, as dear Niki Lauda loved to highlight, it was only the stereo and the in-car phone one really need consider within a road car! With this season's continuing DRS trains I believe a number of drivers will be asking for both in their race cars to aid with passing the time.

Larger wheels! Gee!! Here in "I've never met a V8 I didn't love" Australia, a significant number of home-grown heroes have been rolling on 20, 21, and 22 inch rubber for, well, decades. Even the trusty Germans and Italians are now producing 20 inch as standard on many models with larger options for a similarly enlarged fee... So finally Formula One goes to 18 inches! Both my wife's and my son's cars roll on 18 inch rims, to the local pub, the gym and Costco no less. Both are considered "pleasing sporting sedans". Ummm. Looks like F1 is keen to impress the sports sedan buyer of ten years ago with their grasp of early 2000's tyre technology.

Miss Physics sternly reminds people it is all about unsprung mass, tensors (angular momentum), and whatever these beasts then do to mess with airflow, and are all an interrelated puzzle of subtle compromise. So not only are 18 inch rims very late to the party, they are also a size one cannot now specify on a spanking-new Porsche, Ferrari or Aston of any merit. And while watching on screen the initial races of this season, did any reader honestly find themselves endlessly drawn to the hypnotic beauty of the new wheels, which, being round, and shod by Pirelli, simply look just like last year's when viewed from a televisual distance?

No impact, and, one could argue no point, for this change. Yet I'm sure it has impacted the complexity of sorting the bouncy-bouncy issue with all revised suspension settings to cope with revised tyre-wheel combinations, and no doubt resized and re-weighted brakes.

Unsprung mass is that which is not carried by the vehicle's suspension, hence "unsprung" (as opposed to the members of AC/DC prior to the album jail break... but I'm really drawing a long bow on that musical reference). It has all sorts of impacts on just how the vehicle will react as it weights and unweights through corners, down valleys and over crests. Huge impact on feel and dynamics. So the variation in weight here would, for a normal car, make a huge difference.

Yet, two points to consider. On a bicycle lighter wheels are one of the greatest upgrades because a reduction in the spinning mass in the rims has a higher impact on effort required to move, and change direction, than shaving a few grams off the non-spinning weight of the frame. Second, as a Formula One car at speed is carrying more than its own weight in down force the relative percentage impact of the unsprung mass is reduced compared to a road car that produces minimal down force.

The biggest impact of the larger rims is on the suspension set-up which now needs to provide more give as the give of the old, tall tyre sidewalls has been lost. Net impact on the engineers? Huge redesign effort. Net impact on fans? Nothing at all. Net impact on Pirelli? Cost saving by using road going tyre moulds from the 1990's to generate F1 tyres aligned to standard Porsche issue 1992... Zero out of five rubber ferrets for this change.

Aero! Ah, laminar flow thy name be invisible temptress! Same old air, different hole punched therein. His minor deity, Adrian Newey calling on the Gods of Zephyrs past, and the goddesses of smooth flowing laminar curves, has unleashed a near blemish-free beast upon the tracks of the world. Subtle is the dark art of the Bernoulli effect, and boundary layer incantations which keep Miss Physics with eyebrows un-raised, and finger un-wagging.

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1. Posted by Max Noble, 07/05/2022 6:18

"@ancient70! -
Recommend you checkout the latest three-wheeled jogger prams built so that parents can go for a run with their babe in a pram. Large wheels and very stable… Nothing like having a young mum pushing her off spring flying past you on an early morning run to remind one that youth is now a very spent dream…

“Bump over-steer” was a constant problem in my customised RX-7. Had more mid-corner heart attacks in that car than any other I’ve owned. Totally agree with your view on the 18 inch “so what?” Wheel change.

Ah - Alonso at speed “Back in the day” - yup. You need high definition slow-mo these days to see the one thousandth of a second the car is three microns sideways just through the apex… Yet for the most part Prost never looked fast… He was the first of the super smooth refined drivers… and here we are…"

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2. Posted by ancient70!, 06/05/2022 10:38

"I must say I agree with Ross on the racing car statement. The current generation are actually technology demonstrators, which while fast are also big and heavy! I agree that in effect you can race anything, I could race my grand daughters pram, baby included! But that was not optimised for racing at the design stage. In the “good” old days the designers had a set of regulations and went on their merry way to build the smallest, lightest, most powerful and effective racing machine they could come up with. The previous seasons cars i always referred to as slugs, those things that leave slimy trails on walls and paving. The cars were not slow, but were glued to the ground and looked lethargic. This was brought home to me when Alonso did his demo run in his championship winning Renault. Everyone went on about the sound, and yes the current cars to my ear sound like a highly distressed bleating goat, what impressed me most was the way the car looked alive, dancing around the track! These days if you don't have sector times as reference, it’s hard to tell if the driver is really on it during a lap.
I don't get the fuss about the 18 inch wheels, its not the wheel diameter that’s important, but the tyre aspect ratio, lower aspect ratio gives more direct handling, at the expense of compliance. As many a souped up street racer has found out, once his pride and joy is fitted with lowest aspect ratio tyres he can find, plus stiffer springs and shocks, to improve the handling, it suddenly becomes extremely allergic to cobblestone roads!
Otherwise I am keen to see how the current iteration of cars develope, at least they don't look like slugs but more akin to kangaroos."

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3. Posted by Mortulmo, 05/05/2022 20:20

"Why no prototype? Why did the designers of the new car not test the concept with a full scale car. It's not as if the FIA cannot affort it. Flawed design. Now the teams must solve Porpoising with a budget cap in place. Good timing FIA ! Why do teams have to use all tyre choices instead of just the tyre that will allow you to RACE FASTER. All these changes SAME result.... F1 is the LEAST interesting Motorsport to watch. Only 1 or 2 teams have a real chance to win. What did these rule changes accomplish ?? Why does the rest of the grid even show up? Do they not race to WIN ? If the cost to produce a good F1 car is so astronomical..The rules are the problem. Huge expense to race, 0 results. DRS is a gimmick ! I frequently watch old races from the 70's-80's on Youtube....good passing no DRS. They should rename DRS to sitting duck mode ! F1 is forever changing rules for the same results. The commentators should be paid extra for the fake excited voices for another DRS pass. P.S. I'm still not over the Red Bull cheat to win finale last year !! ( How to make an 11 sec lead disappear with a few phone calls !To me Max will always be a Fake News Champ. Excellent racer but illegitimate winner) My favorite motorsport is truly trying my patience."

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4. Posted by Max Noble, 05/05/2022 4:38

"@Spindoctor - quite indeed! I still believe well crafted bounding limits (weight, size, power output), and the need to pass all safety requirements, would provide far more varied racing, even within an, ah, “Cost Cap”.

@Kenji - quite agree it is exciting watching all the frantic activity to fine tune the 2022 beasts! Also agree too much domination is a bad thing… or rather uncontested domination is a bad thing. If Federer had spent a decade beating one, and all 6-0, 6-0…. It would have been a dull decade. He didn’t he was pushed to his very limit on regular occasions. Contest is what we need! As per my comment to @Spindoctor - I believe we would have this level of engineering excitement return every season if we have less prescriptive rules… Hey ho…"

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5. Posted by kenji, 05/05/2022 0:10

"It should be born in mind that these new designs are only four races in and already it is evident that there are variations on the amount of aero instability being suffered across all teams. That should rightfully be a thorn in the side of those who profess to have been 'king of the kids', in the past. Sacrifices need to be made in the short term if no solution is found. Personally i'm finding this situation enthralling to say the least. Hopefully all teams will find a form of solution in which their performances are enhanced as the season progresses for the sake of competiveness. Complete domination by any one team is boring."

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6. Posted by Spindoctor, 04/05/2022 16:02

"Loved the Baldrick reference & the punchline (ouch!) in the following paragraph. That really is the nub of all this nonsense: plus ca change, plus c'est la meme chose. Or, to put it another way: Deja vu, all over again. Not sure why the French have all the best lines here....

On the evidence of the 1st few races the lads "solved" the problem of following closer but made the dominance of DRS as the "push to pass" panacea even worse. To add insult to ineffectualness it seems that the "tactical" use of the DRS train is now a thing....

As ever Ms Physics won't be cheated and your musings on Unsprung Weight & suspension design ring horribly true. The sub-Luddite attitudes of those who are happy for teams to spend $hundreds of thousands developing minor aero tweaks but won't countenance any kind of "active" aero or suspension are largely to blame for this lamentable situation.

More & more I'm convinced that the levels of prescription in Mr Brawn's Regulations are the heart of the problem. It would be less damaging if there were more in-season testing to enable the amelioration of "unexpected" problems...
"

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7. Posted by Cobra Driver, 04/05/2022 10:42

"DEBACLE......thy name is Ross Brawn.
"

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8. Posted by Max Noble, 04/05/2022 3:54

"@Kenji - Reminds of when Kirk told Spock that his suggestion was “inhumane” and Spock raised his eyebrow… Quite…

I think your suggestion falls somewhere in the “adaptive aero/active suspension” universe. As such I’m sure the FIA are 100% against it. Given the electro-magnetic dampers on some road cars, and air suspension on others, it all comes back to how quaint it is that F1 cars are fully mechanical…

“Set the car higher, and please grit your teeth.” Hardly seems like the sort of solution that “The Pinnacle of Motorsport” should be getting excited about… But then may-be that’s the “Super Bowl Experience” they are trying to generate… :-) "

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9. Posted by kenji, 04/05/2022 2:42

"@Max...considering your proposition re 'the human race' then if we acknowledge that link in our DNA are we not all 'race ists'? As for the aero quandary relative to the bouncing wouldn't some form of 'downforce relief' sensor controlled operation, set to achieve a degree of equilibriom be a cheap antidote to some, if not all, bouncing? Yes, it would most likely be seen as a 'movable' device but one that would apply equally to all.I guess that in the long run those teams who have somewhat mastered the 'bouncing' would be most irritated if any quick fix was introduced. I know that I would be if I was Alfa or McLaren."

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10. Posted by Motorsport-fan, 03/05/2022 9:55

"The only real progress that has been made over the years is on the car safety front, other than that F1 just spends millions trying to fix the problem of overtaking and as pointed out despite all the changes to the cars, DRS is the only option that provides overtaking, so all the recent expenditure on these new cars is a waste.
As I have said previous it is unfortunately the tracks that need huge investment in track layout to promote racing / overtaking in the modern era, on the car front all we need is 1000 bhp F2 cars. "

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11. Posted by Max Noble, 03/05/2022 9:16

"@Lapps - Ah, I can sleep easy. Someone got the reference!
@Tardis40 - Anyone under 60 is looking young these days… :-) It is the creative spirit not age that defines… :-)
@rtw1951 - Yup, I’m back on the tap water right now… :-(
@kdxrider - actually you’re right. The uncontrolled bouncing would be horrid… I’ll text Sir Lewis my Chiropractor’s number… :-)"

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12. Posted by Lapps, 03/05/2022 7:26

"Now, now, Max. Mercedes have enough problems currently without you bringing up the dreaded Elk! "

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13. Posted by Tardis40, 02/05/2022 21:08

"Need to get rid of the old geezers and put some youth in charge."

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14. Posted by rtw1951, 02/05/2022 14:15

"Give 'em hell Max. Is there any reason Australian Supercars should not be the World Championship of Racing?
I have always thought they were some of the finest racing to be seen. Kittens on crack in a tuna factory? No red for you tonight."

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15. Posted by kdxrider, 02/05/2022 14:08

"He! He! He! Good one Max --- only thing I would comment on, is it's a good job they are using the 18" rims, can you imagine the result of the porpoising if they were using the 13" rims and balloon tyres ---"

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