FOR­MULA 1 2018

The pin­na­cle of mo­tor­sport is back. Here’s what’s changed

Wheels (Australia) - - Contents - CAMERON KIRBY

Pre­pare for ‘halo’ ef­fect. So thong it may just be right

THE For­mula 1 pre-sea­son launch sched­ule is of­ten met with yawns as the only news is what colour this year’s cars will be painted (shock! A red Fer­rari!), but this year is dif­fer­ent. Vis­ually, the sport has branched into a rad­i­cal new di­rec­tion with the im­ple­men­ta­tion of the un­mis­tak­able halo safety de­vice. And while the thong-like ad­di­tion has purists claw­ing at their eyes, it’s not the only change for the 2018 F1 rule­book as the men in white coats close sneaky loop­holes to sim­plify rear aero­dy­nam­ics. You can be as­sured each team will al­ready be work­ing on find­ing fresh loop­holes to ex­ploit as you read this.

The bat­tle at the front is set to be in­ter­est­ing too, as Mercedes de­buts an all-new power unit to fend off Fer­rari’s evolved SF71H. Dani Ric­cia­rdo’s Red Bull, mean­while, is hop­ing its Tagheuer-branded Re­nault en­gine will fi­nally de­liver a much-needed power boost.

Alfa Romeo re­turns to the F1 grid for the first time in more than three decades, as the nam­in­grights spon­sor of the Sauber­squad, bring­ing an in­flux of cash and cur­rent-spec Fer­rari en­gines. Mean­while, Mclaren has been able to off­load un­re­li­able Honda power, swap­ping to Re­nault, with the Toro Rosso squad in­stead lum­bered with the Ja­panese en­gines.

T-wings teed off

F1 teams jumped at vaguely worded reg­u­la­tions sur­round­ing rear bod­work in 2017, with un­gainly look­ing T-wings quickly fol­lowed by the ex­haust-blown ‘Mon­key Seat’ de­vice. Both are out­lawed for 2018, along with the shark-fin style en­gine cowl. How­ever it ap­pears Mercedes has de­vel­oped a merger of the two for 2018, with a minia­ture T-wing sit­ting atop the ex­haust tip for the W09 chal­lenger.

Man­age a trois

Teams are lim­ited to just three en­gines per car for the en­tire 21-race sea­son in 2018 – one less than last year. Say a prayer for Kiwi Bren­don Hart­ley and his Toro Rosso team­mate Pierre Gasly, who must suf­fer the no­to­ri­ously un­re­li­able Honda power unit this sea­son. Grid penal­ties for us­ing more than three en­gines have also been sim­pli­fied.

Halo dark­ness my old friend

Purists the world over howled when the FIA man­dated the di­vi­sive ‘halo’ safety de­vice for 2018. The ti­ta­nium struc­ture, which weighs 7kg, is de­signed to with­stand 12 tonnes of force. Im­ple­men­ta­tion has been a headache for teams, with fi­nal tech­ni­cal reg­u­la­tions of the halo ar­riv­ing late in de­vel­op­ment. Teams are per­mit­ted to mod­ify the halo with aero­dy­namic ad­di­tions, but the core struc­ture must re­main un­changed.

Side­pod rac­ing

The rules around side­pods have not changed for 2018, but F1 teams are now re­ally push­ing the bound­aries, with ag­gres­sive barge­boards, and in­tri­cate in­ter­nal aero­dy­namic de­vices. Fer­rari ap­pears to be a leader here. “Side­pods and barge­boards [are] the big­gest area of op­por­tu­nity still not fully ex­ploited with these reg­u­la­tions that came in last year,” says Wil­liams Chief Tech­ni­cal Of­fi­cer, Paddy Lowe.

Dodgy sus­pen­sion on the naughty list

The FIA be­gan pick­ing up on tricky sus­pen­sion mid-way through 2017 which al­tered the ride height mid­corner and al­lowed cars to gain a brief aero­dy­namic ad­van­tage. The 2018 regs out­law sus­pen­sion which al­ters the car’s ride height by more than 5mm when the wheel is turned lock-to-lock.

Harder, softer, rub­ber

Two new com­pounds have been in­tro­duced, at op­po­site ends of the spec­trum. The pink hy­per­soft and or­ange su­per­hard com­pounds mean teams will have seven slick com­pounds to choose from, along with in­ter­me­di­ates and full-wets. It’s hoped the ex­tra choice will pro­mote more vari­a­tion in race strate­gies, and there­fore ex­tra or re­duced pit stops.

Hold your horses

Val­teri Bottas’ light­ning start at the Aus­trian Grand Prix last sea­son (with a mea­sured re­ac­tion time of 0.201 sec­onds) caused up­roar in the pad­dock, as the Fin­nish driver’s Mercedes was caught rolling be­fore the lights turned green. How­ever, the FIA de­ter­mined it was within the al­lowed tol­er­ances. The same tac­tic of an­tic­i­pat­ing the start will not be per­mit­ted in 2018, with the FIA giv­ing race stew­ards the abil­ity to pe­nalise driv­ers whose car moves be­fore the green light is shown.

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