The 2007 Formula One Preview - Whats New? 09 Mar 2007
There are a number of key regulation changes for the 2007 season, principally related to engines, tyres and Fridays practice format. The aims are to reduce costs, make the smaller teams more competitive and to encourage even closer racing
They still have to do two races and there will still be 10 grid-place penalties for failures prior to a race, but in general reliability should be better in 2007 because all teams had their engine specifications frozen in China last year. This is part of FIA President Max Mosleys plan to cut costs by significantly reducing engine development budgets. Its difficult to see how those behind on power in China 2006 will ever catch up, but when manufacturers spend millions of dollars chasing another 10 bhp, some sort of cost control makes sense. It means teams will have to focus on other areas of the car to gain an advantage and it will be fascinating to see how it all works out.
They may be round, black and boring to some, but they are the most crucial performance elements on any Formula One car. In the past everyone sighed in relief when a period of supply monopoly came to an end and there was a tyre war, because all of a sudden things could get turned upside down. Remember Damon Hill and Arrows and the performance of Bridgestone in Hungary in 1997?
Now the pendulum has swung the other way and everyone is getting justifiably excited about the fact that all teams and drivers will be on the same tyres - Bridgestones - now that Michelin have withdrawn.
The Japanese manufacturer will have one construction and four compounds, titled hard, medium, soft and super-soft for teams to choose from, but will only take two compound options to each race. Drivers will also have to use both compounds during a race (one of which will be marked so that spectators can instantly spot who is on which tyre). That may cause a few headaches here and there, but in general, like refuelling stops, once somebody demonstrates a clear way to do this, most will follow suit.
Those teams, principally Ferrari, that ran on Bridgestones in previous years may have an advantage at times in tricky circumstances where experience in choosing compounds will count, but with operations head Kees van de Grint changing from engineering tyres specifically for Ferrari to a role in which he will ensure that everybody gets the same treatment in 2007, Bridgestone aim to address criticism from their previous spell as sole supplier that they favoured the Italian team. The big leveller is that the 2007 tyres are totally different to those used by the Bridgestone runners last year, and winter testing indicates that they do indeed suit far more than just the red cars.
The good thing about a single tyre supplier is that overall the compounds will be harder - and hence slower - than they were in 2006, when lap times were slashed in places by up to six seconds. That will mean less grip and more emphasis on driver skill. Testing suggests that a smooth driving style is needed to extract the best from the new rubber, prompting those who used to be more aggressive on turn-in to adjust their technique accordingly.
The timetable has been slightly re-jigged for 2007. Fridays two practice sessions have been extended by 50 percent to 90 minutes each, the first starting at 10am, the second at 2pm, guaranteeing a lot more track action for fans at the circuit.
With the teams having agreed to more severe testing restrictions away from races this year, Fridays are expected to be treated more like test sessions. The use of third cars has been abandoned, although teams will be allowed to run a test driver in place of a race driver if they so choose.
Furthermore, the two-race engine rule will no longer apply on Fridays. This means any driver starting a meeting with a fresh engine will not be penalised for an early failure. It also means a driver whose race engine is on its second event may opt to use an alternative unit on Friday and save his race engine for the remainder of the weekend.
Final practice will continue to take place on Saturday morning (60 minutes), followed by the usual (and popular) knockout qualifying session in the afternoon. Once again, drivers will have to run with race fuel in the final top-ten shootout.
For further details of these and other 2007 changes, click here.