The FIA has proposed further refinements to the rules governing the use of the adjustable rear wings to ensure they are a successful measure, but they have equally admitted that they will look to refine the rules further if required.
The sport’s governing body has decreed that a 600-metre overtaking zone will be declared at each circuit’s longest straight, which will be the only area in which the rear wings can be opened – thereby reducing drag and increasing straight-line speed – to attempt an overtaking manoeuvre.
The following driver will only be allowed to ‘open’ his rear wing if he is within one second of the driver he is pursuing at a timing zone set up in the braking zone before the corner that precedes that particular straight.
The FIA believes that the 600-metre distance is the appropriate zone that should ensure overtaking is possible, without being too easy. However, it has added that it will increase or reduce the overtaking zone distance as required for each circuit.
To assist the sport’s fans and TV commentators, lines will be painted on the circuits to indicate the location of the timing zone and overtaking zone.
A single line on the straight will mark the start of the overtaking zone, while the two lines leading into its preceding corner will indicate a one-second time difference.
For the first four rounds of the championship, the zones will be on the main straights at Bahrain, Melbourne and Sepang, while Shanghai’s back straight will serve as the location for its overtaking zone.
Drivers will, however, be allowed to use the adjustable rear wing throughout practice and qualifying at any point on the circuit.
|Adjustable rear wings aren’t a new concept to Formula 1, and were run in the 1960s. However, huge accidents at the 1969 Spanish Grand Prix to both Lotus cars of Graham Hill (pictured) and Jochen Rindt – caused by the wing mounts failing – resulted in them being banned on safety grounds.|
The new rule has generally earned favourable comments from many within Formula 1, although some – like Lotus technical director Mike Gascoyne – harbour concerns that the racing could become too artificial.
“I think we have to be careful in its implementation and I think the governing body has to be willing to change how it is implemented to ensure that it works in the way it is meant to,” he said.
“If you get a situation like you had in Indy, where they put in the Handford-wing and everyone could pass everyone, you just sat there the whole race trying to be second on the last lap – because then you would win. That was pretty rubbish – so they got rid of it.
“You don’t want it to be too artificial, because you can argue some of the greatest drives were with Gilles Villeneuve holding off everybody [to take a thrilling win at the 1981 Spanish Grand Prix at Jarama] – and if you say that is never going to happen any more then you will lose some of the most iconic moments of the sport.”
The sport’s most successful driver, Michael Schumacher, is also in favour of the idea, describing it as “a great innovation” in an interview with Auto Motor und Sport.
“We know that in F1 we have a problem with cars following other ones. If there is no dramatic change in the ratio between aerodynamic and mechanical grip, you need something else. This might help.
“There is no button for just driving past someone. It could be that we just close the gap and get in the slipstream to start a fight. Or it could be that it’s not quite enough,” he added.
The jury may have to remain out on this one…