Rules and regulations - the 2012 Season Preview Part Two 09 Mar 2012
In the second installment of our look ahead to the start of the 2012 FIA Formula One World Championship, we discuss this year's rule book changes (Continued from Part One)...
DRS and KERS remain for 2012, but changes elsewhere to the technical regulations have thrown things back into the melting pot and it remains to be seen who has done the best job of re-interpreting them.
Gone are the exhaust-blown diffusers, exploited so effectively by Red Bull last year. The FIA have banned trick exhausts that send airflow over the diffuser by insisting that the pipes exit the bodywork vertically. That has led to loss of rear-end downforce, sending aerodynamicists searching for fresh ways to regenerate it and rebalance their cars.
The FIA has also closed a potential loophole that would have enabled some teams to design engine maps to achieve a similar effect of blowing the exhaust even when the driver is off the throttle.
The other major change is to the height of the nose. Currently the maximum height of the chassiss front bulkhead is 625 mm, but it must now drop to 550mm at the very front over a distance of just 150mm, hence the unsightly step that all but the McLaren and Marussia cars feature.
There have been suggestions that both Red Bull and Mercedes have developed frontal intakes (Red Bulls in the step) that direct air through channels to the front wing to speed up airflow beneath it, this creating an F duct-style downforce generator, but the truth remains to be seen. Its another thing that should become clearer in Australia.
Pirelli certainly spiced things up in 2011 by deliberately creating short-life tyres. Now they will introduce some even softer compounds, thus making it even harder to keep the rubber alive and putting even more of a premium on pit-stop strategy and efficiency. They will also make it easier for spectators to differentiate visually between compounds.
Drivers may now only move once while defending their position in corners, while under safety-car deployments lapped cars may un-lap themselves so race leaders to do not get artificial cushions to their immediate challengers.
The use of helium in wheelguns has been banned, which will make pit stops slightly slower, and there will also be a test session mid-season - in Mugello in Italy in May - after three years in which all in-season testing was banned.
F1 returns to Bahrain, after that countrys political troubles led to the cancellation of last years race, and in November it will also return to the US. The exciting 2012 Formula 1 United States Grand Prix in Austin, Texas, at the all new Circuit of The Americas, will thus bring the season to 20 races for the first time.
The last two seasons have been fantastic for Formula One racing, but just buckle up and get ready for 2012. It promises to be the best yet.
Continued in Part Three
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