David Coulthard: “This is another Senna situation”

David Coulthard, Red Bull, Jerez, post-2007 season, 2 | GEPA / Mattias KniepeissDavid Coulthard is worried about the planned ban on tyre warmers for the 2009 season:

The tyres are operating in a very different temperature range, and we are talking about some cars with 20psi and others that have just 14psi. This is another Senna situation.

Does he have justified cause for alarm?

The planned rules changes for 2009 will see Formula 1 cars run on slick tyres with lower downforce – and a ban on tyre heaters. This is in addition to next year’s ban on driving aids such as traction control.

Tyre warmers have been used since the mid-1980s to bring tyres closer to operating temperatures before they are put on a car, meaning they can give more grip sooner.

However tyre warmers are not legal in other top single-seater series such as Champ Car. So on the face of it, what’s the problem with banning them?

Coulthard explains:

I am quite concerned about the temperature differential between the cars, especially in qualifying.

I have talked to quite a few drivers about it and they all shared the same opinion that without the blankets (tyre warmers), when a car from the pits joins the track when other cars are on a hot lap, it is pretty scary. There is such a big difference of speed.

David Coulthard, Red Bull, Jerez, post-2007 season | GEPA / Mattias KniepeissThis is a classic Formula 1 dilemma: on one hand, it is essential that Formula 1 is as safe as it can be; on the other hand, the act of driving the cars must be sufficiently physically and mentally difficult to challenge the best racing drivers in the world. Not an easy compromise to strike.

Before I read Coulthard’s comment I was all in favour of the ban on tyre warmers. Sensitivity to tyres is a vital part of a driver’s skill and on the face of it if Champ Car drivers can cope without tyre warmers, so can F1 drivers.

But I don’t think Coulthard is being unnecessarily alarmist, even when he compares the change to the circumstances of Ayrton Senna’s death in 1994.

That year saw a raft of changes to the cars including a ban on driver aids and other alterations which dramatically changed the handling characteristics of the cars. One of the more widely-supported theories on the cause of Senna’s fatal crash are that his tyre pressures dropped so low during a safety car period (which at the time were still a fairly new feature to F1) that he lost control of the car at almost maximum speed.

Perhaps a ban on tyre warmers is something F1 should aspire towards, but take care over its implementation and not rush it in along with a host of other changes?

Or has the sport become hyper-sensitive to safety?

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23 comments on David Coulthard: “This is another Senna situation”

  1. Number 38 said on 13th December 2007, 0:31

    A few words clipped from the article: “F1 … must be sufficiently physically and mentally difficult to challenge the best racing drivers in the world.” Odd words to use discussing F1 racing….more appropriate in the world of rallying or dirt track Sprint Cars! F1 has ‘driver aids’ as is pretty much called by the team manager in the pits!

  2. Number 38 said on 13th December 2007, 0:37

    Clipped from the article: However tyre warmers are not legal in other top single-seater series such as Champ Car. So on the face of it, what’s the problem with banning them?

    Other series tires are different construction and don’t benefit as much from pre-heating OR you could say F1 tyres are more susseptible to temperature and benefit from
    pre-heating…….it’s in the tyres!

  3. Well it doesnt seem to matter about slicks as max today seems to have ruled them out – before any cars race with new aerodynamics – please get rid of the pillick

  4. Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 13th December 2007, 12:03

    In the quote I read he didn’t rule them out, he said they won’t be brought back if the changes to the aerodynamic rules fail to reduce cornering speeds sufficiently (the emphasis is mine):

    The theory is: much less downforce and more mechanical grip should improve the racing and overtaking.

    If it turns out that the promised reduction in downforce hasn’t happened and the cornering speeds go up, we’ll just put the grooves back in.

    We don’t want to do that, but sometimes we’ve been promised by the aerodynamicists a 50 percent reduction in downforce and it doesn’t materialize. Then the speeds rocket up again. We’ve got the answer if we have to.”

    Autosport – Mosley says grooves could stay in F1 (external)

  5. it was the same extract that I read Keith – but knowing he said that they may/not be banned slicks that is – would you like to spend any development budget for less downforce and find later you have to start over again when ribbed are brought back? – max has said he wants to cut down on the costs for F1 budgets – too help the smaller teams – how do they cope with a potential and is potential waste of a years development to run low down force cars – big teams and it’s been done before can afford to have 2 spec cars developed to cover both possibilities and switch over ?

  6. If Senna’s accident was caused by a failed steering column, why was it reported that car’s telemetry recorded steering movements normally all the way until the collision with the wall?

  7. Andy Smith (Canada) said on 26th February 2008, 6:49

    Vertigo
    When Dc talks be it safety or not,your listening to the oldest & wisest of F1 drivers.
    Vertigo..isn,t that like disilusioned!
    DC knows knows his asphalt like back of his hands especially driving them roads in Scotland.
    Give er snot Davey!

  8. dwp said on 6th May 2009, 2:56

    F1 cars and Champ cars do not use the same tyres!

    If they don’t allow tyre warmers then they HAVE to change the tyre s so they work well enough in the range of cold to hot to be predictable.

    This tyre warmer issue has come up before and the cost of it is nominal so they aren’t really going to save a lot of money here. The good could be that on cool tyres the drivers will have an easier time of it.

    Speaking of “cold tyres”, anyone remember the 1st corner of the Hungarian GP last year? Yes, you can pass on the track!

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