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Jul 09 2011

F1: Silverstone Qualifying

I’ll start upfront by admitting that this does not seem to be McLaren’s year.  As one of the commentators helpfully pointed out, Vettel could DNF the next 3 races and still lead the Driver’s Championship.  In the spirit of schadenfreude I’ll point out the same applies to Scuderia Marlboro UPC in spades.

That said there are big changes at Silverstone.  The first is the track itself where they have repositioned the pit and renumbered all the turns.  The new Paddock Building is not as horrendously ugly as it could be I suppose, but the snide sniping at the fact the press pen doesn’t have any windows where you can check your imported Maine Weather Stick (remember- if it’s wet, it’s raining) has already begun.

The FIA Rules committee frowns on the practice of using Pit Lane to shorten your lap even though it’s perfectly possible and difficult to prevent even with the speed limit.

This is not their only folly, the principal one under discussion this weekend will be their jihad against Off Throttle Exhaust Blown Diffusers.  A diffuser is a bit of aerodynamic undercarriage designed to replace the downforce lost when the FIA shrank the rear wing to encourage overtaking because big ones were spoiling the air for following cars (the opposite of Turn Left drafting).  In order to make it more effective they blow the exhaust from the engine across it (usually back to front) to increase the wind speed.

Now the fact is that when you usually need this downforce is just at the moment when you take your foot off the gas which not only reduces the ambient air speed but also the exhaust volume.  Smart engineers have learned how to increase the exhaust volume when you take your foot off the gas.

The FIA has now ruled this ‘movable aerodynamics’ and disallowed it, starting with Engine Mapping (different software setups controlling off throttle engine speed between Qualifying and race day) at the last race in Valencia, and now limiting off throttle exhaust output to 10% of maximum in every instance.

The problem with this is it makes cars fall off the track and find walls and gravel pits when the difference between the downforce produced by the ginormous front wing and the teeney tiny back one unbalance the car in a turn.

Made worse by rain, which always seems to be a factor at Silverstone.  Both practices so far were in the wet and the forecast for Sunday is typically English- a pronounced sense of damp.  Hamilton is openly rooting for the race to take place at the bottom of the Channel, perhaps because he feels things can’t get much worse.

If today’s Qualifying takes place under dry we’ll get for the first time a sense of how badly the FIA has screwed up.  The agreement between the teams and the FIA expired long ago and the current extension is done next year.  Many people are unhappy and Barack Obama Bernie Ecclestone may be facing a revolt by his base.

There are other issues I’ll maybe get to tomorrow when I’m less pressed for time.  Surprising developments below.

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