Traction control ban: Better races, less safe, more controversy?

Posted on | Author Keith Collantine

Karun Chandhok, Red Bull-Renault, Barcelona, 2008 testing, 2007 | GEPA / Franz PammerIt’s been interesting to see how the drivers and teams reacted to last week’s test at which most (if not all) the teams tried running the cars with the standard electronic control unit for 2008 installed and the removal of traction control.

Questions have been raised over safety and how hard it will be to implement the ban. But many drivers have also said the cars are now more fun to drive and the racing will be better.


Some drivers have suggested the development will make racing less safe, and other voiced the fear that it’s a technological backward step.

The fact is I didn’t have any experience without traction control and I was rubbish. It’s interesting. The throttle used to be like a button, you’d lift or floor it with no half measures. Now you need to be as smooth as possible. The laptimes have been good immediately, that’s a sign that we’ve started on the right footing.

But from a safety point of view, these limitations in the use of electronics look like a step backwards to me: in the event of wet races we’ll have a lot more accidents.

Felipe Massa

Without traction control it is much more difficult to accelerate – you have to apply your foot on the throttle much more carefully.

It is more fun to drive but also more difficult. We are going to see more mistakes because it is easier to lose control when you are pushing, but there will be the same winners.

Personally I prefer cars with full electronics. In terms of technology and safety, I think it is a backwards step.

Pedro de la Rosa

We ran into major problems at the start of the programme. We had a lot of discussions with the McLaren Electronics Engineers to overcome them and most have been solved. But it’s been a difficult birth.

Bob Bell, Renault


Michael Schumacher, Ferrari, Barcelona, 2008 testing, 2007 | Ferrari MediaOthers said they felt driving the car was now more fun and that it would make the racing better.

I was very happy to back driving today. I have to say that driving without any assistance, as was the case today is really great.

You have to pay attention to your driving, your reaccelerating, your tyre wear and behind the wheel it’s fun.

Heikki Kovalainen

It was more difficult than I expected and it gets especially difficult when the tyres go off. When they’re new it’s how I imagined but when they go off it gets really difficult – more on the traction side than on the braking side. I guess that’s because everything on the car has been developed in harmony with traction control.

It will probably make a difference to the racing. There will be more mistakes, more overtaking and more sliding around; it’s more fun.

Nick Heidfeld

It will be really interesting to watch the races next year as there is no traction control. It’s not only more interesting for the drivers, but also for the fans.

The races can only get more spectacular now, but if it can really give a bit of an advantage to a team has yet to be seen. I expect that the same top teams will still be out there winning races.

Michael Schumacher

The F1 cars had become too easy: if a new guy came in and did some good laptimes, a star was born. Now, by contrast, they are harder, so more enjoyable: you need sensitivity and capability in managing the throttle.

Of course, by the end of winter we’ll lap on the same times as this year, but we’ll see the difference between who is truly good and the rest.

Luca Badoer

Technical changes

Here’s some quotes on how it will change team’s approaches to setting up the cars and designing them in the first place.

One technician even suggested that there might be disputes if some teams are suspected to have found a way around it.

The places where you’ll miss traction control the most is at the exit of first- and second-gear corners. But as soon as the car gathers downforce, then it’s no longer a problem.

Anthony Davidson

It will be harder to get on the throttle on the exit of the corners so the aero might become more important. Maybe even the drag levels will change as teams run more wing to make sure the driver can get on the throttle early.

Suspension geometry will also change. There are a lot of little things like that we’ll discover over winter testing.

Sam Michael, Williams

From the engine point of view, mapping will be essential. The way you tune the mapping in real time after a session will be important.

There will be a certain number of positions [on the steering wheel dial] and it wil be up to us and the driver to anticipate what to put in those maps.

Gilles Simon, Ferrari

It’s a reasonably good system and will be tough to get round. But if you’ve got 20 electronics engineers with time on their hands to look at it, then there will always be possibilities to exploit the rules.

Mike Gascoyne, Force India F1 Team

Photos: GEPA / Franz Pammer | Ferrari Media

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