Romain Grosjean was surprised there was a lack of start-line drama in the Formula 1 season-opener in Australia last weekend following an overhaul of clutch procedure in the winter.
In a bid to make race starts more challenging for drivers, the FIA issued new limits on clutch bite points and paddle placement on the steering wheel, placing greater onus on skill rather than settings.
“Last year, you could shape the clutch map to the clutch. They were a bit rigid where you could drop the clutch, there was a big range on the drop,” Grosjean explained.
“This year, we have to be leaner. If your travel is 10 centimeter, generally you release one centimeter – that’s 10 percent of the clutch. There’s not a place where you can play with a flat map.
“Therefore, you drop it in a good region, and you have to drop it in a perfect percentage for the grip of the track.”
Despite the tweaks, there were very few changes of position off the line at Albert Park, much to Grosjean’s surprise, although the Frenchman is sure that there could be incidents later in the season.
“It’s not easy, starts are complicated. There are a lot of equations taken into account,” Grosjean said.
“It’s pretty tricky to know exactly what to do. We’re not yet the best, but we’re going to keep working hard on it. We have some room for improvement.
“Race starts this year are going to be tricky. I was actually surprised there weren’t any big dramas at the start of the Australian Grand Prix. It may happen in the year.”
Given the difficult nature of overtaking in 2017 due to the added downforce and width on cars, Grosjean stressed that both qualifying and race starts would be more important than ever.
“Some races this year, qualifying and the start will be the key. Take Monaco, there’s no way you’re going to overtake there,” Grosjean said.
“Race starts and qualifying will be very important. Some other races, maybe China, Bahrain and Russia, you may actually see some good fights out on track.
“It’s always going to be important, but not as much as at some other venues.”