F1’s 2011 technical changes, neatly summed up

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kers
It isn’t quite as much fun as imagining a Toro Rosso pairing of Ralf Schumacher and Karun Chandhok, but the official Formula 1 site has a neat little package on the 2011 technical changes up. Some of them we’ve talked about at length (tires) and at least one — from my point of view — hasn’t featured much in our F1B conversations (flexible rear wings). Well, here they are:

Farewell to F-ducts and double diffusers
Two of the most overused technical watchwords of the past two seasons will be made redundant next year, as both double diffusers and F-ducts are banned. Indeed any system, device or procedure which uses driver movement as a means of altering the aerodynamic characteristics of the car is prohibited from 2011.
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The return of Pirelli
Following Bridgestone’s decision to withdraw at the end of this season after 13 years, the Italian company will take over as the sport’s sole tyre supplier from 2011. The Italian company, last part of F1 in 1991, will provide all teams with rubber for the next three years, in compliance with existing F1 sporting and technical regulations. Last week’s two-day test at Abu Dhabi gave the teams a good gauge as to how similar/different Pirelli’s rubber is from Bridgestone’s, though ongoing development means the compounds they run in Bahrain next March are likely to be quite different. The handling characteristics of the new tyres could be quite different, and the teams and drivers who adapt best will be looking to benefit. One constant across teams, however, will be front-rear weight distribution, which is expected to be regulated to 46.5% front, 53.5% rear.
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Adjustable rear wings
Under new moveable bodywork regulations for next season, drivers will be able to adjust the rear wing from the cockpit, with the current moveable front wing due to be dropped. The system’s availability is expected to be electronically governed and under initial proposals it would only be activated when a driver is less than one second behind another at pre-determined points on the track. The system would then be deactivated once the driver brakes. It would be available at all times throughout practice and qualifying and, in combination with KERS (below), should boost overtaking. Also like KERS, it won’t be compulsory.
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A comeback for KERS
A badge of honour for some, a bugbear for others on its debut in 2009, KERS is to be reintroduced next season after the teams mutually agreed to suspend its use in 2010. KERS – or Kinetic Energy Recovery Systems – take the waste energy generated under braking and turn it into additional power. This is then made available to the driver in fixed quantities per lap via a steering wheel-mounted ‘boost button’. The systems will be essentially the same as those seen in ’09, with no increase in the maximum permitted power (though that could change in subsequent seasons). The challenge for the engineers this time round will be packaging. Last time KERS was run, refuelling was legal. Now, with it banned, fuel tanks are larger and finding room to accommodate battery packs etc won’t be as easy. Hence don’t be surprised if bodywork grows in places, relative to 2010. On the plus side, minimum car weight will be upped by 20kg to 640kg next season, meaning larger drivers won’t pay the weight-distribution penalty they once did in a KERS-equipped car.

Is there a particular change you think will be the most influential? Might it depend on the team and driver (ala tires and Michael Schumacher)? Is there a change you think will make the sport better or at least more interesting for fans?

The easy money is on the tires — after all, as I bet Paul Charsley would tell you, they are the only part of the car that actually touches the ground. So they’ve got that going for them.

KERS, too, could be a difference-maker among the mid-pack teams, I think. An extra boost in qualifying and maybe a pass (or, heaven forbid, a block) or two during races.

Perhaps the money question: Does anyone think either of the titles will come down to a team getting one of the changes really right?

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