What's new for the coming Formula One season?
An exciting new qualifying format, a move to V8 engines and the return of mid-race tyre changes. Just a few of the revisions for the 2006 FIA Formula One World Championship, all of which are bound to make the competition more fascinating than ever
The Technical Changes:
2006 marks the introduction of a new engine formula, and all of the works teams have agreed to run the 2.4 litre V8s mandated by the FIA. From the 900-plus horsepower seen last year, outputs will fall to around 750. Independent teams without access to a V8 can run 3-litre V10s, held down to 16700 rpm with a 77 mm restrictor. Only Toro Rosso (so far) are taking this course, running last years Cosworth engine. They expect similar horsepower to the V8s, but crucially may enjoy greater torque. One effect of this is that they may be able to run more wing and thus enjoy greater downforce, but balancing this is the fact that all of the new V8 cars have followed stringent drag-reducing diets. The V8s may produce less power, but they are lighter, use less fuel and require smaller radiator surface areas, all factors that have strong influences on the cars design.
The aerodynamic regulations have changed yet again, with the aim of reducing downforce. Restrictions on the frontal bodywork have removed the lower sections of the barge boards and dramatically altered the airflow around this sensitive area of the car. Meanwhile, the fact that a minimum wheelbase dimension remains, despite shorter engines, means that designers have been able to create more svelte and efficient rear-end packaging.
The other significant change is in the tyre regulations. Drivers are still only permitted seven sets of tyres over a race weekend, with no more than two specifications provided by the supplier. And tyres used in qualifying and the race must be of the same specification. But now drivers may change tyres again during races, whereas last year they had to make do with one set. While that created some brilliant races - notably the European Grand Prix - it was felt that free-for-all tyre changing in races would enliven things further by eliminating the slow-burn nature of 2005 races, and increase the level of competition.
The Sporting Changes:
Ever since the single-car qualifying format was introduced in 2005 there was criticism from some quarters, and the FIA have now responded to calls to make it more exciting. Heres how the new knockout system will work:
Between 1400 and 1415 hours, all cars will be out on track. The slowest six will then be excluded from running further and will, in order of their lap times, fill the final six slots on the grid.
Between 1420 and 1435 hours, the next six slowest drivers will similarly be excluded and will fill positions 11 to 16. In both of these sessions teams may use as much (or as little) fuel as they wish.
After that, from 1440 to 1500, the remaining 10 drivers will start afresh, their previous lap times being erased. They must then run qualifying with the same fuel load with which they intend to start the race, and however much they use in the session will be topped up under supervision in parc ferme.
Those drivers who qualify outside the top 10 may also refuel between qualifying and the race.
The new format will make race strategy even more complex. The FIA have created a litres per lap formula to calculate the amount by which the top-ten runners may refuel after qualifying. To address fears that some might do one quick lap and thereafter deliberately sandbag, or drive slowly to save fuel, there will be a 110 percent qualifying rule which means that anyone whose lap time is more than 110 percent of their own fastest will have that lap discounted from their admissible refuelling tally.
The rule was introduced after concerns that some teams might have designed their engines to burn off fuel quickly in the final qualifying session so that their cars could run as light as possible - and therefore gain a performance advantage for grid position - prior to post-session refuelling.
Click here to go back to Part 1 of our Season Preview.
Click here to go to Part 3 of our Season Preview.
Click here for technical analysis of the 2006 cars.
Click here for more details on the 2006 Rules and Regulations.