Force India chief race engineer Dominic Harlow reckons the ban on in-race refuelling in 2010 will make driver skill more important.
Harlow added that tackling wet weather races with heavy fuel tanks will be especially challenging:
In wet conditions the extra weight of the cars will be another interesting factor, and will probably accentuate the differences between the drivers even more than previously.
Speaking to the Force India website Harlow explained the complexities of designing a car for the refuelling ban:
We looked at everything we could think of that affects fuel consumption – the drag of the car, the circuits we run at, driving style, the way we run the engines, the fuel itself. We forecast that forward to 2010 and came up with a prediction based on the worst circuit in terms of fuel use, which is now Valencia. Then you have some design factors to include, such as the way a calculated fuel tank size never quite becomes a manufactured one – it’s a slightly inexact science.
It’s quite a big unexplored area, and there’s still a lot of modelling for the fuel consumption and the tyres that we still need to do. Depending on where we’re racing, I think people are going to be a bit more cagey at the start of the race.
The car balance will change quite a lot as the fuel weight goes down. I think it’s another challenge, and as always, the cream will rise to the top. It will help the fastest learners. And for us it’s where the continuity and the relative experience of our guys is going to favour us.
He added that he “can’t remember a better winter build period for the team” but nonetheless Force India won’t be at the first F1 test of 2010 at Valencia. The VJM03 will make its first appearance at the Jerez test which starts on February 10th.
Read more: 14 reasons to love the refuelling ban