Rubens Barrichello, Williams, Barcelona, 2011

New rules have closed the field up – Michael

2011 F1 season

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Rubens Barrichello, Williams, Barcelona, 2011
Rubens Barrichello, Williams, Barcelona, 2011

The 2011 F1 rules have closed the field up according to Williams’ Sam Michael.

In a Q&A issued by Williams he said: “The teams are closer now as a result of the new regulations, which is what they were designed to do.”

He also confirmed the team will use its Kinetic Energy Recovery System in the first race despite having a series of problems with it in testing.

Here’s the interview in full:

Q: How has winter testing gone and how confident are you in the design of the FW33?
SM: “We had a few reliability problems during winter testing but none of the problems we had were major, except perhaps those on KERS that have now been addressed. Some small faults caused some downtime, but that is the result of having such tightly integrated systems on F1 cars now.

“Encouragingly, we haven?t had any issues with the new conceptual areas that we pushed the boundaries on, like the driveshafts. We have successfully completed 4969.2 kilometres during winter testing.”

Q: What about the performance of the FW33?
SM: “The teams are closer now as a result of the new regulations, which is what they were designed to do.

“There are a lot of cars within half a second of each other which means if you bring two or three tenths, either from an aero upgrade or some other mechanical component, it could make a significant difference this year. The FW33 has been a good car from the beginning, but in terms of performance we will have to wait until the racing to really see where it stands.”

Q: There was a problem with KERS in Barcelona; what was the fault and is this now rectified?
SM: “We had a problem with the inverter, which is located between the battery and the Motor Generator Unit (MGU). The main problem was that when we had a failure the inverter didn?t isolate effectively.

“We have therefore put in place design changes to give that isolation, and avoid the fault happening again. We have a full solution to allow us to race KERS in Melbourne.”

Q: How effective do you think the rear wing will be in racing conditions?
SM: “In qualifying it will be worth about half a second per lap. During the race, I think it should achieve what it is supposed to, but it may take two or three races for the FIA to fine tune the usage of the system.

“It should not get to the point where a driver can just drive past another car with ease, but rather it should be a device that gives just a bit more to an already ambitious overtaking attempt.”

Pastor Maldonado, Williams, Barcelona, 2011
Pastor Maldonado, Williams, Barcelona, 2011

Q: How are the new Pirelli tyre compounds working?
SM: “Degradation was high in the initial tests but in the latest test it started to improve. This is probably because we?ve increased the downforce on the car and Pirelli have worked on compound changes.

“I think it will change again when we go to the hotter races because in testing it is relatively cool compared to some of the races. Pirelli have done a good job in the short amount of time they have had and they will keep getting stronger and stronger. In the first two or three races there may be one extra pit stop compared to normal, but I think that will stabilise fairly quickly.”

Q: With that in mind, have the team been working harder on pit stop practice?
SM: “We have done a lot of pit stop practice at the factory which is what we would normally do. The mechanics test most days in the winter. The wheel nuts and guns are similar to last year, front jack is the same and the rear jack is new. We?ll see in Melbourne.”

Q: What feedback have you had from Rubens [Barrichello] to help set-up the new car?
SM: “Rubens is always reserved with his critique of the car, he never gets excited because he wants us to keep pushing, but he knows how to balance that with motivating the team.

“With the FW33 he has been instrumental to our set-up direction and helps us to understand where we need to improve. He is happy with the directions we are taking, and we?ve also fixed a few small things like vibrations that were distracting for him and the team last year. Getting on top of those small things helps us concentrate on the big picture.”

Q: How would you describe Pastor Maldonado as a driver?
SM: “Both determined and talented. Of course it is early days, but he shows a good level of maturity when dealing with the people around him.

“He is also good at articulating what the car is doing. Xevi Pujolar and Andrew Murdoch have worked well with Pastor over the winter and those relationships with his engineers will pay dividends when we go racing.”

Q: Pastor has had less running due to reliability problems, do you think he is ready to go racing?
SM: “You will never really be ready as a rookie, but you just need to get out there and do it.

“Pastor is talented, so what I want to see now is how he deals with the pressures of a race weekend, especially qualifying. He hasn?t had as much running as I would have liked him to, but he is someone who we?ll support and give space to. His testing performance in the wet was definitely impressive.”

Q: Do you feel the team is prepared for the first race in Australia?
SM: “Definitely. We would have been ready for Bahrain as well, that is the nature of Formula One. We are always ready for whatever we need to be ready for

“It will be good to get the season underway now as it feels slightly strange not to be racing already at this time of the year.”

2011 F1 season


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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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32 comments on “New rules have closed the field up – Michael”

  1. The 2011 F1 rules have closed the field up according to Williams’ Sam Michael.

    I do hope so. A close grid is a good grid.

    1. Yeah this is the kind of thing I like to hear!

      1. A close grid plus the unknown tyre factor plus rules that gave us one of the best seasons of all time in 2010 could very well make 2011 an epic for the ages.

      2. I understand the reasons for tight rules, it’s to make F1 safe and fun, but:

        I fear the new rules are so strict that every car is forced into developing the same principle: Every car has as high a nose as possible, as tight a rear as possible, and a standard rear wing size.

        Originality is quite rare in the current age, occasionally we have inspired moments – Renault’s Front Exhaust, and RedBull’s modern take on the pull rod suspension for example, but it is difficult for the teams to create 12 completely differant design philosiphies when every loop hole is closed as soon as possible.

        However we shouldn’t complain, perceptions from the casual viewers are beginning to change with a tight grid – F1 is no longer seen as boring, and KERS as well as the new movable rear wing element should keep viewers excited through 2011.

    2. Fully with on that PM. As close as it gets, will make for good Q1, thrilling Q2 and exiting Q3. And the races are great at Melbourne anyhow.

      Would love to see Vettel and Webber NOT drive away with ease only for RBR to get them into the midfield (webber) and close to the leader (Vettel) with their great strategic moves.

      1. Hopefully this year Q1 won’t be a formality.

  2. I hate to keep saying this, but the tyres will be the biggest influencing factor in any of the teams/drivers/cars performances this season.

    And Barrichello seems to be still a blindingly quick driver, who has a much improved car that appears to use its tyres better than even the Red Bull and Ferrari do!

  3. This is about as unpredictable a start to a season as I can remember (leaving 1998 and 2009 aside). I cannot wait for Melbourne, its going to be fascinating.

  4. In the first two or three races there may be one extra pit stop compared to normal, but I think that will stabilise fairly quickly.

    Weird how we hear very different opinions from different drivers/teams.

    1. I think that is due to two effects: 1) the drivers seem to be more cautious/worried about the tires than the teams; 2) they have had more data and time to evaluate that data to see where the tyres are.

      I guess it sort of boils down to the teams now having a better overview of the situation than the drivers had just after the 1st Barcelona test.

  5. Hi Keith.
    I always though that with new regulations enabling teams to adjust the rear flap, teams would have opted for smaller main elements and bigger flaps, as you can get rid of the drag hitting the button, but it appears to be the opposite, as teams age going to smaller flaps. Do you have an idea why is this?

    1. The reports of teams (Red Bull at least) using the “RDS” in corners may hold the answer: by making it smaller, they keep enough downforce to get around the corner and on the throttle earlier. If so, the size of the flap might well be track dependent; bigger at more stop-and-squirt like tracks and smaller at tracks with long, multiple apex, corners.

    2. That’s a good question. Any ideas, anybody?

      1. I think that having a smaller flap stalls the main plane which is a bigger loss of drag than if you just have a larger flap.

    3. DeadManWoking
      15th March 2011, 22:35

      The regs specify that the upper rear wing element must be smaller than the lower one.

      2011 F1 Tech Regs
      3.10.2 Other than the bodywork defined in Article 3.10.9, any bodywork behind a point lying 50mm forward of the rear wheel centre line which is more than 730mm above the reference plane, and less than 355mm from
      the car centre line, must lie in an area when viewed from the side of the car that is situated between the rear wheel centre line and a point 350mm behind it.
      With the exception of minimal parts solely associated with adjustment of the section in accordance with Article 3.18 :
      – when viewed from the side of the car, no longitudinal cross section may have more than two sections in this area, each of which must be closed.
      – no part of these longitudinal cross sections in contact with the external air stream may have a local concave radius of curvature smaller than 100mm.
      Once the rearmost and uppermost section is defined, ‘gurney’ type trim tabs may be fitted to the trailing edge. When measured in any longitudinal cross section no dimension of any such trim tab may exceed
      20mm.
      The chord of the rearmost and uppermost closed section must always be smaller than the chord of the lowermost section at the same lateral station.
      Furthermore, the distance between adjacent sections at any longitudinal plane must lie between 10mm and 15mm at their closest position, except, in accordance with Article 3.18, when this distance must lie between 10mm and 50mm.

      1. Thanks for that, but still one of Mercedes updates brought to Barcelona was a much smaller flap than on previous tests. My point was they aren’t still making them as big as they could. Perhaps is that having a bigger flap reduces the angle you can have it while DRS is not activated, as you still have the minimum separation between both elements. The shorter you have it the more angled you can have it for the same separation. Maybe….

  6. These sound like a pretty level approach to the new season and he certainly comes across better on paper than in front of a camera! (I’m thinking of the FW33 launch).

    I agree with him on the DRS and how pit-stops will level out after a few races.

    It would have been interesting to see the difference in performance between what the teams got out of testing vs. what they would have got out of the tyres at Bahrain…but sadly it is not to be.

  7. Keith. Do you calculate the figures like car testing mileage and driver testing mileage or do you get it from another source (FIA, teams themselves, etc)?

    if you do calculate it yourself, then congrats since the figure given by Sam in the interview, and your figure of 4,983.81Km is pretty close. thats a discrepancy of only 0.3%.

    1. Bit of a mix – obviously I’ve been at some of the tests so I got some of the sheets there, the rest come from a variety of sources including the timing people TSL, though not the FIA as they aren’t involved. I also had a very helpful email from one reader (sorry, name escapes me at the moment) pointing out an error I made a few weeks ago which has been corrected.

      I was a bit baffled last week when Pirelli put out a press release with some figures that didn’t tally with mine at all, not sure why that was, but I’m confident in the figures published here.

      1. ok thanks and keep it up.

  8. I think this is the first time in several years that the Williams team comes over as this confident after testing.

    Usually they have been optimistic the whole winter until testing, and then their “aggressive” car turns out to not be so great as hoped, but they look forward to improving it over the season, and getting regular points finishes/Q2-Q3 qualifying at least. Glad to see it go different this time, very promising.

  9. Every single time I read an interview with Sam Michael and the headline is “Michael” I always assume it’s about Schumi. It drives me crackers.

    Also on a side note, reading the comments about practising pitstops I think the pit stop crew have the worst and most nerve wracking job in the paddock. They have to be so in sync (I have a pitstop with Michael Schumacher as my screen saver and the crew look like robots), quick and one tiny error can cost them massively. It also must be pretty scary to be the guy on the front jack.

    1. Rest assured, Schumacher would not be referred to solely as ‘Michael’ in a headline on F1 Fanatic.

      Even though it’s a pain in the backside fitting his name in sometimes…

      1. You could always try “Schumi” if it gets too long. :-)

        1. I don’t use nicknames: if you use them for some drivers and not others it looks preferential, and if you use them for all drivers it looks stupid.

    2. Hahaha, that caught me out big time last year, ironically it was about the Hungary incident.

  10. Should be interesting…I wonder, is SM implying that Pirelli is ‘hardening up’ the tires a little due to too much degradation? I know their directive was for more degradation than last year’s Bridgies in order to help shake up the grid and make for more pit stops throughout the races to make things less predictable.

    SM talks of finding more downforce, as I know the other teams are or have been doing, in order to make up for tires that fall off so quickly, and that concerns me because I don’t think the direction F1 needs to be going is toward more aero dependancy. This just means that once in dirty air your car sucks and you can barely get by a slower car. So to me, saying the grid will be closer means little if it remains a parade. Or dependant on pit stop strategies ie. passing people through pitting ala MS/Ferrari era and not on the track with actual driving skill.

    1. If the tyres degrade and breakup too much it could easily put customers off Pirellis, and make them choose Bridgestone instead…

      1. Pirelli don’t seem too worried about that:

        “We have to communicate very clearly our priorities and objectives in Formula 1, which is to fulfil the brief handed to us by FOM and FOTA to promote overtaking,” the Englishman explained to GrandChelem.it.

        “Because of that we have constructed a tyre that is designed to last for about 100 kilometres (62 miles), which should lead to two pit-stops per race on average. Naturally, that doesn’t mean that we’re not capable of building a tyre that will last a whole race or even five or six races – in fact, it would be considerably easier to do so.

        “Instead, we want to do something to help the show a bit, but we need to make it clear that the wear characteristics of these F1 tyres are completely different to those of our road car tyres because they are built to do two entirely different jobs. It’s like comparing mozzarella cheese to parmesan and we are very clear about this.”

        http://www.gpupdate.net/en/f1-news/254553/hembery-not-fearing-for-pirelli-s-reputation/

        1. No one stopped buying Mercs when Raikkonen’s engines kept blowing up. People still buy Honda’s too!

          1. DeadManWoking
            15th March 2011, 22:45

            I personally have not bought a Mercedes since then, although I did buy a Mercury. :D

  11. I love reading Sam Michael interviews. I never feel like he’s skirting the questions or spewing a company line. He speaks in plain English and I always feel like I’ve learned something after reading.

    We need a bit more of that in F1.

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