Speed is part of the essential attraction of Formula 1. But containing the ever-escalating cornering speeds of F1 cars has been a major goal of the FIA for safety reasons.
The new rules introduced for 2009 were not just aimed at improving the spectacle of the racing in F1, they were also intended to keep cornering speeds under control. But already the teams have got their performance at or near the same levels of performance they enjoyed this time last year.
Here’s how the lap times compare – and how they vary for cars equipped with KERS and the controversial ‘double decker diffusers’.
|Laptimes (s)||2008||2009||2009 (best KERS)||2009 (best non-DDD)|
|Australia qualifying||85.187 (Hamilton)||84.783 (Barrichello)||85.319 (Massa)||85.121 (Vettel)|
|Australia race||87.418 (Kovalainen)||87.706 (Rosberg)||88.488 (Raikkonen)||87.988 (Kubica)|
|Malaysia qualifying||94.188 (Raikkonen)||93.784 (Button)||94.456 (Raikkonen)*||94.222 (Webber)|
|Malaysia race||95.366 (Heidfeld)||96.641 (Button)||98.453 (Raikkonen)||97.672 (Webber)|
*KERS installed but not activated.
This year’s cars are already lapping quicker than they were in 2008 in qualifying. A significant factor here could be Bridgestone’s decision to bring a greater variation in tyre compounds – meaning softer compounds with better one-lap pace, ideal for qualifying.
They haven’t quite been able to match the performance seen last year in race conditions. But it’s important to remember we’ve only had two races so far, both of which had disruptions.
So far all the fastest times in qualifying and the race have been set by cars without KERS and with the controversial ‘double-decker diffuser’.
The legality of the diffusers will be decided at the international court of appeal hearing on Tuesday. After that, we will either see the diffusers banned or (more likely) declared legal, and then swiftly adopted by the rest of the field. However this will present more of a challenge for some teams than others, particularly Red Bull’s RB5/Toro Rosso’s STR4, with its unorthodox rear suspension configuration.
How much faster will the cars be after a few months of development? Flavio Briatore has some bold predictions:
With this [diffuser] solution you gain 14% aerodynamic load: give us a few months and we’ll gain 30-40%, and the lap times will decrease by two seconds.
KERS has not shown a great benefit for lap times so far, but that may not be the case later in the year when the technology has had further developments and the championship reaches tracks where it can make more of a difference – particular Spa, Monza and other tracks with long flat-out sections.
How much faster will the cars be by the end of the season? Is it inevitable the FIA will have to make further rules changes to cut speeds? Have your say in the comments.