Is ‘driveability’ key for first 4 races?

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The raft of regulation changes has provided us with new words for our Formula 1 lexicon such as MGU’s and ERS and McLaren’s new favorite, “driveability”.

We spoke about Jenson Button’s usage of that word in our latest podcast and today I saw it make a curtain call in Edd Straw’s piece at AUTOSPORT:

“It’s true that downforce on the car will bring pace, but driveability of the car and powertrain, and power unit management, is also going to give you pace, at least until everyone is up to speed,” said Boullier.

“The other parameter is the fuel situation where you have to adjust settings and driving style to make sure that you match numbers.

As I dug a little deeper—still not satisfied that we’d done the term credit in our interpretation of Button’s usage—I think it may be more pointed toward the changing elements of ERS, brake bias, MGU performance, torque control and power delivery coupled with aerodynamic downforce.

Perhaps the meaning could be more holistic than I was originally thinking. Drivers will not be adjusting the rate at which the ERS harvests energy—at least that’s my assumption—because it would have a serious impact on the braking of the car etc. Trying to change parameters of energy recovery would be a really tough thing to do at 180mph. Perhaps a mapping or automated program could handle that but I’m not even sure that would be legal per the regulations if memory serves correctly.

So what a driver is left with is a tricky combination of energy harvesting and deployment in the guise of pure torque that is applied with an equation that the teams will have to develop. When the throttle (or torque control) pedal is pressed, how much of that initial power will come from the engine and how much from the ERS?

The application of ERS power would have a different characteristic than the internal combustion engine (ICE) and the combination of the two will have a different feel than one or the other independently. So finding this balance and coupling that with aero efficiency in straights and both high as well as low-speed corners could be the overall conversation of driveability that they refer too. Then again, I may be way off the mark.

Regardless, the question still remains for the first flyaway races of the 2014 season, will ultimate pace win the day or will teams be more focused on power, fuel and ERS calibration as well as reliability? According to Edd’s story, ultimate pace is secondary to the notion of finishing races, being competitive and finding the driveability of the cars.

What are your thoughts about the quest for driveability in these new F1 cars given the rash of new regulations and the tech that goes into hustling the 2014 chassis around a track?

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