Technology has changed the world. From the first wheel to the next college-room hookup via Tinder, it has been continuously beating the human race about the head and neck for centuries. While it has saved lives and provided a better quality of life, it has also cost lives and ruined the lives of some. It’s a parallax really and depending on your vantage point, it could be saving or destroying Formula 1.
With the return of F1 from its long summer siesta, the sport moves to the Ardennes Forest for the Belgium Grand Prix. When the race starts, it will do so under the power of the driver with no help from the team as to where the optimum clutch bite point is or how to manage the launch. This is the new edict from the FIA in an effort to reduce driver coaching that has become so pervasive in 2014 and 2015 due to the big data harvested from the current cars as well as the enabler, which is the current power unit specification.
Mercedes driver and two-time world champion, Lewis Hamilton, has been critical of the new starting procedure suggesting it will be unpredictable and will not be the right thing for F1…it will bee to be adjusted.
His boos, Toto Wolff, has weighed in on the issue telling AUTOSPORT:
“We wanted to make the starts more variable and unpredictable, to give more responsibility to the driver and make it look less ‘remote control’ from the garage.
“This is the first exercise in tuning technology down for the sake of the entertainment, and all the steps which have been done are understandable.
“But is it going to cause drama beyond expectations, or variability beyond expectations?
“If so then it will need to be looked at again and adjusted.
“What none of us want is completely unpredictable starts for everybody which then completely devalues qualifying.
“It is going to be learning on the job, but Formula 1, the FIA and the stakeholders have shown in the past we are pretty flexible in adapting things for the sake, or safety, of the sport if required.”
There is a very serious undertow to the comment if you consider his words carefully. The sport is digressing in technology advancement for the simple sake of entertainment value. That somehow drivers will now have such disparate starts that we could see qualifying completely neutralized due to slow or very poor starts given the complicated nature of the power units and transmissions.
I enjoyed it the first time when it was called a race start and it reared its ugly head when man first began racing cars. In NHRA drag racing, it’s one of the single most critical elements. In Formula 1 it has lost races, podiums and dare I say championships. It has always been a part of racing—a great start is its own reward.
So now we hear the boffins contend that technology and the current big data era of racing should come first, entertainment and good racing second. Mercedes, who have been struggling with starts of late, are now worried that they may suffer unduly over this new regulation.
The governing body, FIA, have been known to chip away at a dominant teams advantage and could it be that the organization knows this to be a very sensitive area for Mercedes? Could this be similar to their blown diffuser ban, felxi-floor ban or J-damper ban? A change to reign in a runaway success? Or is it a public admission that the sport has gone too far with technology. That tech is not merely a additive to the series but a overbearing and boorish stain that is over engineering the racing and creating a wave of disinterest?
I work in technology, I like technology and I have for over 25 years but I detest technology that is created and deployed just because we can. It’s pointless technology and adds white noise to an already crowded industry. I have advocated technology with a purpose for a long time and F1 is no different in my opinion.
Can you harvest 1,300 streams of data in real time off an F1 car? Sure but should you? If it relates to safety and FIA regulatory oversight, then I say use it. If it relates to or promotes real time driver coaching, then ban it. Trying to ban the sharing of this data via a list of forbidden words to say to a driver…well, that’s just nonsense.
The car should be fabricated, set up and staged for a race to the best of the team’s ability. Once they are staging for the start, the amount of data and technology used to coach drivers and orchestrate outcomes should be minimized. Is this really road car relevant? I think the folks in the road car industry are doing just fine without F1’s help in data harvesting from their vehicles. The art of racing is man and machine, not team and machine with some dolt doing the driving and pressing the buttons you tell him to press and when he should press them.
Sure, the entire team is in play and it is a constructor’s championship but that is in the design, creation and support in running the car, not actually impacting the racing through radio commands demanding real-time changes and adjustment to the car. Managing a race from the pit wall is fine but managing the cockpit from the pit wall seems a bridge too far.
Hat Tip: AUTOSPORT