- The Inside Line
Charlie Whiting opens up about the new formulaKate Walker March 31, 2014
With the massive sea change that's taken place in the Formula One Technical Regulations this year, we've heard a lot about the added burden on the teams who now have much more work to do as they get used to fitting and swapping out new components.
During the pre-season tests some teams were complaining that the complexity of the new generation of power units means that while V8 engine changes could be made in the blink of an eye, glaciers could carve out canyons in less time than it takes to swap out some or all of their V6 replacements. [Note: some poetic license may have been applied to the above sentence.]
But as we saw with Ferrari's insanely quick suspension change during qualifying for the Malaysian Grand Prix, it's not all bad. F1 teams improve exponentially, and by the end of the season will be just as fast with the V6s as they were with the V8s.
One group of people whose additional workload hasn't received much in the way of press coverage is the FIA's technical team, who must now check that regulations have been adhered to on many more components than was previously the case.
In a private chat in Sepang, FIA F1 race director Charlie Whiting explained just what the new era means for his team.
"The workload of my team is massively increased," he said. "I oversee it; [FIA F1 technical delegate] Jo Bauer runs it on a day-to-day basis. Instead of having engines and gearboxes to look after, he's now got six different components, six different elements of the power unit. You may have seen six reports instead of one. So that immediately tells you that it's far more complex. The CE, the control electronics is also in some teams sub-divided into eight different units, and so it becomes another level of complexity.
"Not only are the numbers significantly higher, but each of those has to be sealed at the end of an event. And that's just one thing. Actually getting to them is also quite hard. It will get better - people will get used to it. But we have to get to those bits to verify that the seal is still intact, if not reapply a seal.
"After Melbourne our guys were still there till 5am doing all that stuff. It will get easier, of course, but yes, it's been an enormous of additional work."
Despite the long hours, however, Whiting remains enthusiastic about the new formula, and is already looking ahead to its future evolution.
"We have a programme of permitted development up to 2020," he explained, "where in 2020 very little can be changed. I envisage at that point - or possibly even a year or two before - the specifications should be frozen, like we did with the old V8s. The technology will be mature enough then. It will still be relevant for years to come, and I think that's the point at which we may consider a longer-term future for this engine and possibly think about freezing it in order to limit developments and keeps costs down."
Asked about improving fuel efficiency over the life of the formula, Whiting said: "That was always the intention. That's why we allowed the changes from year. The fundamental idea was that we would try and increase efficiency. [For example] 98 kilos next year, 96kg, and then so on. But the F1 Strategy Group agreed that we wouldn't review the fuel flow or the fuel amount for the race until 2016 at the earliest."