For everyone who has ever participated in a track day or a racing event, especially in an open wheeled car, you know there is an awful lot to do and think about in the cockpit. When you’re driving at the highest level of open wheeled racing, piloting a 1,400 pound Formula 1 car that has between 750 and 850 hp, this seasonit seems there’s more to do than ever. With the reintroduction of Kinetic Energy Recovery Systems (KERS), the reintroduction of the 107% qualifying rule, the introduction of the Drag Reduction System (DRS) and new Pirelli tires, the drivers have an awful lot to contend with. And to illustrate just how capable the current crop of F1 drivers are, they all handled it pretty well in race 1, except for Rubens Barrichello’s overly optimistic passing attempt on (and into) Nico Rosberg, although Ruben’s has since blamed it on the tires and said he was defending his potion from Kamui Kobayashi.
Formula 1 sees KERS as a step towards becoming more environmentally friendly. The system generatesenergy under braking, and can affect the handling of the car creating the sensation of applying the parking brake when braking in a road car. KERS was first introduced in F1 in 2009, abandoned in 2010 and reintroduced this year. The device recovers the kinetic energy that is present in the heat created by the car’s braking system. It stores that energy and is then available to the driver for up to 6.67 seconds per lap. The driver presses the KERS boost button on the steering wheel which increases the available horsepower up approximately 80 hp. When skilfully applied to its maximum benefit by the driver,it is said to be able to reduce lap times by up to half a second per lap. Its main purpose is to assist with overtaking, something F1 has been accused of lacking in recent seasons, and make F1 more exciting for race fans.
Last season’s moveable front wing has been dropped in favour of a moveable rear wing. Drivers with DRS can adjust their rear wing from the cockpit. It can be used at any time during practice and qualifying, except during wet qualifying sessions. During the race, it can only be activated when the driver is within 1 second of the car in front of him, but it can only be used at one predetermined point on the course. With the push of a button on the steering wheel, the driver flattens out and opens up the rear wing, thereby reducing drag and increasing the cars speed. The wing closes up again once the brake is applied. This, along with KERS, is designed to increase passing opportunities and create more entertaining races.Neither KERS nor DRS are compulsory for 2011.
Add to the mix the unknowns of how the six new Pirelli P Zero tire compounds will perform. The last time Pirelli tires shod F1 cars was when Ayrton Senna won the titles in 1991. The six compounds are the Supersofts,which have the optimum grip and will only be used as the slowest courses such as Monte Carlo; the Softs, Mediums and Hards which will be used the most, and the two wet tires the Intermediate’s, which have the deepest grooves and the Wet’s which have light grooves.
Add to all of this, just by showing up at the track in 2011 doesn’t guarantee that you’re in the race. The 107% qualifying rule has been reintroduced. In the first qualifying session, any driver who fails to post a lap time within 107% of the fastest lap time in Q1 may be excluded from the race. It is up to the stewards to determine if circumstances prevented the driver from posting a time what would have been within 107%. That means that the pressure will be on all of the slowest teams in Q1 to try to ensure that they make it into the race. Unfortunately both of the Hispania Racing Team (HRT) cars were outside the 107% times of the quickest cars in Q1 and did not participate in the race on Sunday
All of us who are race fans and or participants (that probably includes all of the members of MOTRface.com), watch in awe each race weekend at the ability of the current crop of F1 drivers to not only handle the pressure of racing in general, but also handle the extreme mental and physical aspects of the race, plus all of these added elements as they try to bring their cars across the finish line in 1st place.