Four crucial things F1 fans must be told during races in 2009

Is he using his KERS boost? What tyre compound is he on?

Is he using his KERS boost? What tyre compound is he on?

Following Formula 1 is going to get a lot more complicated in 2009.

The nature of F1 inevitably makes it harder to cover on television than other sports such as football. But Formula One Management and the television compaines that broadcast its feed will have to be seriously on the ball this year. Here’s why.

KERS power boost

As we all know drivers running KERS-equipped cars will be able to summon a boost of up to 80bhp for up to six seconds per lap.

When will drivers use KERS? Probably when they’re trying to overtake. But surely they’ll be hitting the button once per lap wherever the longest straight is to begin with? For the viewer, knowing when and where a driver is using his KERS – whether it’s to overtake, defend or set a hot qualifing lap – is essential.

Presumably the activation of KERS is handled by the standard electronic control unit introduced last year. The FIA has access to that device, so it may have the means to let viewers know in real-time who’s got their finger on the magic ‘K’ button.

Simply knowing which drivers are in KERS-equipped cars in the first place would be a helpful start. Several teams have already indicated they won’t be using KERS in the first race.

Wing adjustments

Another innovation for 2009 is adjustable wings. Drivers can change the position of flaps in their front wings by six degrees twice per lap.

As with KERS the thinking is this will provide an opportunity for drivers to overtake – in this case by adjusting their front wing to compensate for lost downforce when following another car. But are they not just as likely to make use of their adjustments even when not in traffic, to reduce drag on a long straight or increase grip in a series of corners?

Again, exactly how the drivers will use it is interesting, but fans will only be able to follow what is going on if they can see who has changed their wing, and how, in real-time. It may be possible to tell from video of the car whether the driver has adjusted his wing flaps, but that’s not clear yet.

Otherwise, how are we to know whether a driver has adjusted his wing up or down? And, as with KERS, will we be able to see what every driver is doing with their wing angles and KERS boosts or just the drivers we’re being shown on screen? Will we have access to more detailed information on the timing screens? Here’s hoping.

Tyre compounds

How will we tell prime and option slick tyres apart?

How will we tell prime and option slick tyres apart?

The rule requiring drivers to use each of the two compounds of dry-weather tyres during the race remains in 2009 (Sporting Regulations Article 25.4d). And the regulations also state that the two different compounds must be “visibly distinguishable from one another when a car is on the track” (Article 25.1).

But exactly how that will be put into practice isn’t clear. When then two-compounds rule was introduced in 2007 Bridgestone first tried to differentiate between the compounds using white marks on the tyre sidewalls. The problem was they were near-impossible to see when the car was in motion.

That led to Bridgestone adopting the practice of painting one of the grooves white to signify the softer compound. With slick tyres returning this year that will not be possible, so what will they do instead?

It will be especially important to know as Bridgestone plans to bring tyre compounds with greater performance differences in 2009.

In Champ Car (R.I.P.) they used to paint the sidewall of the softer tyre red. The problem with that solution in image-conscious F1 is that teams whose colours do not include red would probably object. Perhaps painting the sidewall in white and stencilling the ‘Bridgestone’ lettering in black would be a better solution?

Or they could just axe the two-compounds rule, as it doesn’t really add anything to the racing and is entirely artificial.


As discussed last week, the engines situation is going to get more complicated in 2009.

Drivers have eight engines to use during the season and can use whichever they choose in third practice, qualifying and race. How will the fans watching the sessions be told which engine their driver is using? Will the teams be required to declare their choice at the start of each session?

Formula 1 has taken some bold and controversial steps to improve the quality of racing in 2009. But if it fails to keep fans up-to-date with what’s going on in each of these areas during races it will only create more confusion.

Of course we’ll do everything possible to keep track of what the drivers are doing during the sessions in the live blogs, but like everyone else we’re dependent on FOM, the FIA and the teams getting it right.

Advert | Go Ad-free


62 comments on Four crucial things F1 fans must be told during races in 2009

  1. David said on 22nd January 2009, 14:36

    I’m happy I raised such a discussion.
    I liked many of points and I think you got most of my “provocation”,
    The fact is: consider an exciting race, with many overtakes attempts and positions shifting. Do you really want K lights or wing informations to come up on the screen, or you just sit and enjoy?
    To reinforce…rev and gear, or throttle and breaking information it’s something I really look at when I’m bored and nothing else happens. But when a race is really appealing I don’t think you really want to have the screen filled with light spots.

    A question from me: do you know how many times a driver will be able to turn KERS on? Once per race? Once per lap?

    • gabal said on 22nd January 2009, 22:44

      Once per lap for a 6-second boost of 60 hp. The other mode of work is to give small boost over whole lap.

  2. As usual this website produces stunning amounts of really intelligent comment from a bunch of guys who really know F1 inside out. I have to admit that I am not up to speed with some of the more advanced technical stuff, but clearly a lot of you guys know a very great deal. Very, very impressive.

    So it just worries me a bit about the average joe and his good lady who tunes in his BBC tv just after lunch on Sunday afternoon to watch ‘that young Hamilton and the other guy from Spain’ ? Will these highly complicated matters just go straight over his head ?

    What proportion of the world TV audience knows what you guys know ?

  3. Alastair said on 22nd January 2009, 17:06

    The two compound rule was introduced in an effort to re-introduce the variability (and excitement) that was lost when Bstone became the single tyre supplier for F1.

    Back before the days of Micelin vs Bstone, there were multiple suppliers supplying multiple teams, much like the engine suppliers. In those days, tyres suited the cars better because they were developed specifically for them, cf Ferrari and Bstone in 2004 and Renault and Michelin in 2005 (to a lesser extent). You got a lot of action when certain brands of tyres reached their optimum at different times in the race, rather than all at the same time (more or less) the way you would have if everyone was allowed to use the compound that suited them. We are now left with a contrived situation, where teams have to use both compounds, rather than the best compound. Another half-baked FIA decision which wil hopefully go the way of grooved tyres one day.

    • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 22nd January 2009, 17:12

      You got a lot of action when certain brands of tyres reached their optimum at different times in the race

      I don’t remember Michelin’s tyres ever reaching their optimum in 2004; I just remember Bridgestone/Ferrari winning everything…

      But I agree with you, the current situation is a contrivance.

    • saturn said on 25th January 2009, 0:58

      He’s referring to those tyres that had to be worn just a little (~3-5 rounds, maybe more) to perform optimal..

  4. sajonaraman said on 22nd January 2009, 17:10

    What about an indicator of KERS activity on the car itself? That would solve all the problems I guess. Think about it: two sets of small sets of LED lights at the front and rear of the cars, lightning up only when KERS is on. They could be blue or green to differ from the pit and rain lights. A simple idea which an Average Joe, the punters the commentators could follow very easily. The same could apply to the flaps of course.

  5. Arthur 954 said on 22nd January 2009, 17:14

    They could axe the two – compound rule, and how about the qualifying tyres as well ? what is the point if they are the same for everyone ?
    If they still mantain the two tyres, the name Brigestone could be painted in either white or red, as Keith says. Red goes well with everything

  6. SoLiD said on 22nd January 2009, 17:48

    I do hope we get better information this year.
    And there is hope, because of the LG deal that’s in place!
    Let’s hope this means a fresh start for us ppl :)

  7. Although I do want KERS in this year, its a shame we can’t see the effect of just the new aero regs (minus adjustable wings) this year. It’d then be good to see the effect KERS has the following year, and adjustable wings joining the other regs the year after that. I think for tyres it would be better if there were many choices on offer with no regulations concerning which compounds to use. Then the cars will just go as fast as they can without worrying about being on a bad tyre later in the race.

  8. Dorian said on 22nd January 2009, 19:57

    With all of these new developments along with the fairly much all new design of the ’09 cars, I’m sooooooo excited about this season. More so than I have been for a while. WOO HOO!!!!

  9. donwatters said on 22nd January 2009, 20:16

    Keith: Has anyone taken this up with Bernie or Max? What’s the Beeb’s take? I would think they’d have some input on this.

  10. beneboy said on 22nd January 2009, 20:22

    Or they could just axe the two-compounds rule, as it doesn’t really add anything to the racing and is entirely artificial.

    That’d be nice.
    I’ve never seen the point of the two compound rule, it adds nothing to the show other than some air time for Bridgestone.

    I was hoping we’d see an improvement to the live timings on the F1 website this season to display the sort of information Keith’s mentioned above.

    I appreciate that some people don’t care about this sort of thing but I like to know what’s going on during the race and find you only get half of the story from the T.V., the current live timings are good but need improving and the more information they could add to it the better.

    Those of you who weren’t with us during last season won’t have sampled the delights of the F1 Fanatic live blog.

    I’d recommend this to everyone.
    Spa was my first Live Blog after finding this site last year and it was brilliant.
    I like meeting up with friends to watch the race but when it’s not possible & for qualifying the Live Blog is just as good, there were many times each race where I was laughing out loud at some of the comments & it’s great getting other people’s perspective on the race & qualifying as it happens.

  11. Paul Snoop said on 22nd January 2009, 20:24

    Why not have the KERS power boost indication on the actual cars? Some kind of light on the back of the car, maybe the ‘danger… danger high voltage’ sign could glow and the stereo could pump out the obvious, soon to be overused, song?

    Why not go all fast and furious with flames or neon under-glow?

  12. Striay said on 22nd January 2009, 20:39

    Anyone knows anything about the 2009 quali system? Is it going to be the same as this year or are they changing it?
    Gr8 work Keith! Also the comments are fantastic!

    P.S. I like the idea of the coloured led lights on the car to indicate KERS on!
    Also, where can you get live timing or filming on the tests?

  13. rule of thumb – if something seems too complicated, then it generally is – and that’s when you lose your audience!

    it’s also by no means inconceivable of even more ludicrous rules whereby the stewards can mess up a perfectly good race scenario. what happens if a driver activates his flaps three times in a lap? who will be counting? what if he pushes the K-button while under a safety car period? or passing a yellow flag?

    point one – we already have paranoid policing of the rules – it is still supposed to be racing after all.

    point two – how much will all of these new fangled tricks (moveable flaps, and counters, KERS, boost buttons and monitors, etc..) cost to implement? is this seriously the best way of “drastically cutting costs”???

    back to basics guys – please!

  14. teamorders said on 22nd January 2009, 21:49

    I would have thought that THE best time for a KERS boost would be accelerating to the first corner as that’s when the most places can be made up.

    Anyone know though whether the KERS is allowed to be charged on the warmup lap?

    If so could we see some aggressive braking during that lap to ensure it’s fully charged?

    Or are the teams allowed to fully charge the KERS batteries on the grid prior to the warm up?

  15. Arthur 954 said on 22nd January 2009, 21:54

    Terry Fabulous has a point – but could it be done in that “T” shaped antenna on top of the upper air intake ? this piece could be transparent and have a quick – flashing light
    Spaceship Enterprise taking off, to the music of AC/DC !

Add your comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

All comments must abide by the comment policy. Comments may be moderated.
Want to post off-topic? Head to the forum.
See the FAQ for more information.