Yesterday, the FIA confirmed that the proposed changes to the F1 regulations for 2015 had been approved by the World Motor Sport Council, thus prompting plenty of snark in the sport’s community.
Said snark was for one reason and one reason only: standing starts after a safety car.
Traditionally in Formula 1, in order to tend to an incident that requires the cars to slow their speed drastically, the safety car is deployed to bunch the field and allow the crash scene to be cleared without bringing out the red flag. It was also used in wet conditions when racing was too dangerous.
Once conditions had improved, the cars were then released and allowed to race once again from the ‘safety car line’ that comes just before the start/finish. If the safety car had peeled in before this point, the lead car dictated the pace of the cars behind.
From 2015 though, the cars will now line up on the grid and have another standing start. This will happen after each and every safety car, barring incidents in the first two or last five laps of the race.
It would make more sense to red flag the race for any incident like this. That way, we don’t lose any laps under the safety car, and you get more racing.
Given that it has now been ratified by the World Motor Sport Council, everything looks set to go ahead, but it will be interesting to see how the F1 paddock responds to the ruling at Silverstone. Fernando Alonso was asked for his thoughts on it ahead of the WMSC’s meeting in Austria, and sat on the fence.
“My opinion is really quite neutral on that,” he said. “I don’t have any strong preference on the restarts. When I arrived in single seaters the restarts were like this [rolling]. In go karts, whenever there was a red flag, we had a normal start again with the lights. I don’t have any preference.”
Will it make the racing more exciting? “Sometimes yes, sometimes no. If it’s a race like this, the first two corners will be really exciting. If it’s a restart at Monza or Indianapolis in the past, when we start from rolling, it was more exciting because there is a lot of people. In both cases, they have some advantage and some disadvantage.”
He has a very fair point there. However, just as double points will be exciting on race day in Abu Dhabi, it remains a gimmick for the other 364 days of the year.
However, let’s look at the positives in the new regulations:
- No more weird noses – before everyone was moaning about the sound of the cars, everyone was moaning about the look of the 2014 F1 cars. The noses have been compared to a number of things, but the FIA will change the regulations to make them more “aesthetically pleasing” in 2015. Very good news.
- European testing – it’s a simple one, but testing in Europe is so much more sensible than doing so in Asia. This year, two of the three tests were held in Bahrain after the 2013 tests in Spain were hit with rain. Although conditions in Bahrain were better for testing, at a time when new parts were needed regularly, not being able to call HQ and get one sent down in a few hours was harmful. Testing in Europe will also reduce costs, as will the reduction to just two pre-season tests in 2016 and the reduction to two in-season tests.
- No ban on tire blankets – it was always a long shot, but it is good that the FIA has not gone ahead with its plans to ban tire blankets. It would have given the teams even more problems to deal with, and may have been a safety concern.
- Two-stage wheel fastener – on safety grounds, this is good news, as it should hopefully reduce the number of wheels going AWOL.
It isn’t all doom and gloom, but, just as we are seeing with double points, standing starts can be added to the list of controversial gimmicks intended to improve the show in Formula 1.