Whitmarsh expects better races without refuelling

McLaren team principal Martin Whitmarsh expects the ban on refuelling will have a beneficial effect on races in 2010.

Whitmarsh, who recently became the chairman of the F1 teams association, said:

Inevitably, when you make a change, there are pros and cons. Regarding the pros, it arguably makes qualifying purer because the fastest car/driver combination will be setting the fastest times, and the public can understand that. Secondly, in the race itself, overtaking was often being planned and implemented to occur as a consequence of strategy, and therefore happening in the pitlane and not the circuit.

In the absence of that effect, drivers will have a greater incentive to overtake. There have been occasions in the past where a driver hasn?t had that incentive because he knows he will be running longer and can get past the car ahead strategically through the pitstops.

Additionally, the fact that drivers will qualify on low-fuel, and then the next time they drive the car in anger into the first corner will be after a standing start with cold tyres and cold brakes and 160kg of fuel. That will be very challenging for them, not just in terms of getting round that first corner, but in terms of how they look after their tyres and how the balance of the car will alter as a consequence of that. And there will be drivers who are able to deal with those changes better than others.

Read the full Q&A below.

Martin Whitmarsh Q&A supplied by McLaren

How is progress going with the 2010 car? What are your plans for testing?
??Clearly, the absence of testing in January has eased the car-build schedule to a certain degree, but we?re still working as hard as ever at the McLaren Technology Centre. We?ll be launching the car at Vodafone?s UK headquarters in Newbury on January 29, and we?ll be running one MP4-25 at the first test at Valencia on February 1.
??Obviously, Pedro [de la Rosa]?s decision to sign with Sauber will have a slight impact on our test programme, but we?ll overcome it. We?re very happy that Pedro has got a race drive for 2010 ?ǣ he?s been a great asset to our team and, above all, a very dear friend to all of us.
??As has become customary with most teams, the first tests will be about establishing a baseline of performance, allowing the engineers and mechanics to learn and understand the new car and the impact of the new regulations.
??And, as in previous years, we?ll introduce a series of upgrades at one of the later tests, and that will be the car we take to the opening race.??

What is the initial feedback from your data and simulation work about the performance of MP4-25?
??During the development of MP4-25, we set ourselves some very high targets ?ǣ and I?m enormously pleased with the way our designers and engineers have tackled the approach to the new car. The new regulations have obviously had an effect on the car?s appearance, with the much higher-capacity fuel tank looking more striking than before.
??But we?re pleased with a number of solutions we?ve been able to bring to the car, and I think we?re cautiously optimistic that, after the experience of last year and, in particular, the momentum we gathered in the second half of the season, we?ll have a competitive car for both Jenson and Lewis.
??Is it a championship contender? It?s still far too early to say. Will it win races? We certainly hope so. Am I proud of the effort we?ve currently invested in the car? Most definitely.??

You have the previous two world champions on board. How easy will it be manage Lewis and Jenson, and ensure that both work for the benefit of the team?
??I?m relatively relaxed about the driver partnership. Knowing Lewis as I do, and having got to know more of Jenson during the limited time I?ve spent with him during his busy visits to MTC, I feel relatively confident that our driver line-up this year will be a very stable and mutually productive one.
??But neither became world champion simply by driving at the limit on the racetrack; they?ve each been responsible for moulding and developing an organisation around them, and in exploiting the skills of their respective engineers to the best of their abilities. And it?s that sort of approach that we?ll be looking to encourage from both drivers in order to give us a performance advantage.
??We?ve also got an extremely experienced and capable race team, and we feel that will play absolutely to our drivers? strengths.
??Equally, they know that Formula 1 in 2010 will be more competitive than ever before. Collaboration, understanding and the shared development of the car will be at the forefront of everybody?s mind. And given the testing limitations and the minimal track time at the weekend, it?s the only way to get ahead. Both Jenson and Lewis fully understand that.
??That?s why I?m so thrilled with our driver partnership ?ǣ I really think it will play to the strengths of modern Formula 1. Of course, we wouldn?t be going racing if we couldn?t let our drivers ??off the leash?, but our absolute priority is to develop a frontrunning car.??

The main regulation change this year is the banning of refuelling. What impact will this have on the racing? Will it be better, or will it result in more processional races?
??Inevitably, when you make a change, there are pros and cons. Regarding the pros, it arguably makes qualifying purer because the fastest car/driver combination will be setting the fastest times, and the public can understand that. Secondly, in the race itself, overtaking was often being planned and implemented to occur as a consequence of strategy, and therefore happening in the pitlane and not the circuit.
??In the absence of that effect, drivers will have a greater incentive to overtake. There have been occasions in the past where a driver hasn?t had that incentive because he knows he will be running longer and can get past the car ahead strategically through the pitstops.
??Additionally, the fact that drivers will qualify on low-fuel, and then the next time they drive the car in anger into the first corner will be after a standing start with cold tyres and cold brakes and 160kg of fuel. That will be very challenging for them, not just in terms of getting round that first corner, but in terms of how they look after their tyres and how the balance of the car will alter as a consequence of that. And there will be drivers who are able to deal with those changes better than others.
??Those are all the positives. On the negative side, it?s possible that if all of the above is managed equally well by every driver, then we?ll have lost one of the strategic campaign interests that the more avid fans enjoyed in the sport. Hopefully the former points will outweigh the latter.??

You have been elected as chairman of FOTA – what will the organisation be doing this year to improve Formula 1 and make it better for the fans?
??FOTA has put a lot of effort into reducing costs in Formula 1, and that will increase the likelihood of teams surviving and hopefully thriving. We?ve had a number of interesting initiatives, but there is no magic wand.
??FOTA will continue to develop ideas and changes, but we mustn?t tear the sport inside out overnight. We?re conscious of the need to cultivate the sport?s reputation while also enhancing the spectacle. FOTA needs to continue working with the FIA, CVC and FOM to achieve that, and that?s a continuous process.
??We have a range of ideas, so has Bernie, so we have to work together, rather than have FOTA say what it?s going to do. We want to continue doing our bit and to contribute in the best possible way to improve our sport.??

Are there any plans to do more fan research this year?
??Yes. We?ve commissioned what is, in my view, the only broad-based fan survey that will take into account the opinions of those who aren?t hardcore Formula 1 fans. It?s those fans with a mild or passing interest in Formula 1 that we need to concentrate on, because we can convert them into more avid fans.
??The survey we conducted last year enabled us to learn some very useful and interesting things, we are now looking at canvassing an even broader range of opinion-holders in order to bring in a far more detailed series of responses. It?s an ongoing project, and we still have more work to do before releasing any findings.??

What happened to this year?s common launch proposal and what will happen to the idea for 2011?
??We haven?t yet discussed it for 2011. It was initially recognised that two or three of the teams would not have their cars available for the event, but it was agreed that they?d have old cars or show cars featuring the 2010 livery, which seemed to be an acceptable compromise.
??But as the event got closer, it became apparent that there would only be three teams in a position to display their new car. And it was felt that there would be disappointment if we couldn?t display a suitable number of 2010 cars.
??For the season ahead, we have new regulations, and it would have been extremely tight for some of the smaller teams to have met the common launch deadlines. As a result, it became understandable that we had to pull away from it. We still think it?s a good idea; it?s now a question of whether we can co-ordinate the availability of sufficient new cars to make a joint launch an interesting spectacle for next year.??

What?s FOTA doing for the environment?
??We want to find ways in which we can contribute. There?s already a commitment to push forward with the introduction of new technologies for 2013, and that?s going to take a lot of investment and isn?t something that?s easy to do overnight.
??For the future, Formula 1 needs to be about efficiency, so we have to ensure we develop regulations that encourage the development of technologies that aren?t just a benefit to the automotive sector, but to society in general. We want to be seen as making our contribution, just as every business has to.
??But it?s a balance at the moment: we have a lot of new teams entering the sport, and they?ll have a number of significant challenges ahead of them. If we start to load a number of new environmental challenges onto them, it will make their lives more difficult. But we?re confident we can make progress over the next few years.??

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22 comments on Whitmarsh expects better races without refuelling

  1. verstappen said on 25th January 2010, 16:25

    Which marsh?
    Whitmarsh!

  2. Also, according to Autosport:

    The SWG also talked at length about the possibility of introducing a rule that would force drivers to make two mandatory pit stops during a race, but this was not approved either. F1 drivers will therefore only need to make a single pit-stop in 2010 so as to ensure that they run on both types of tyres made available

    Excellent.

  3. We Want Turbos said on 25th January 2010, 18:05

    Can’t they put one type on front and 1 on back ie hards in rear & soft on front? Just a thought, I haven’t read the full rules for quite a while?

  4. John H said on 25th January 2010, 18:49

    Whitmarsh speaks common sense. A rare breed in F1!

  5. Icthyes said on 25th January 2010, 19:07

    ‘It’s those fans with a mild or passing interest in Formula 1 that we need to concentrate on, because we can convert them into more avid fans.’

    I’m sorry, but I think they have their priorities wrong. I got into F1 for what it was at the time, not because it had shortcuts or a stupidly manufactured close championship. F1 needs to concentrate on keeping its hardcore fans happy, if only for moral reasons in not exploiting their devotion by assuming they’ll put up with anything.

    F1 should reach out to new fans, but in a focused way that raises awareness of the sport and improves the on-track action (from which a more exciting championship will inevitbably emerge), rather than gimmicks or forever fiddling with the points system.

    At least they’re not going to change the pit-stop rules! A step in the right direction, or rather, a step away from the wrong one.

  6. HounslowBusGarage said on 25th January 2010, 20:18

    F1 should reach out to new fans, but in a focused way that raises awareness of the sport and improves the on-track action (from which a more exciting championship will inevitbably emerge), rather than gimmicks or forever fiddling with the points system.

    Yes, it should, of course it should. But that’s not the Money Way is it?
    The Money Way is to broaden the appeal out to the maximum number of people by juggling rules, ‘improving the show’, making it simpler to understand. Make it shallower and wider, not deeper.
    If they do it their way, it might begin to have the same international appeal as football and mainstream sponsors will pay more to be associated with the teams and the races. See NASCAR, or even 20Twenty Cricket.
    F1 isn’t there for the appreciation of the knowledgable afficianados. It’s there to make money by appealing to the lowest economically-active intellect available. Sixty minutes of mass-audience is worth 600 minutes of all the cogniscenti’s attention in marketing and spending-power terms.
    There, now I’ve thoroughly depressed myself.

    • Adrian said on 25th January 2010, 20:30

      Actually the 20Twenty comparison is a good one for a way that F1 could appeal to a wider base while keeping the hardcore fans happy.

      They could keep the full blown Grand Prix, but maybe reduce the number to 16-17 and hold a number of easily accessible, non-championship events that are shorter in length and, perhaps, free for the public to get in to…

      • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 26th January 2010, 12:52

        They did have non-championship races as late as 1983, like the Race of Champions, which were often run to shorter race distances. They weren’t free to get in, though, and towards the end grid sizes dwindled to just a dozen cars or so.

        But I agree with you in many ways. It’s a waste to have cars like last year’s 2009 machines sitting around doing nothing when they could be running on tracks attracting more interest in F1.

        • DGR-F1 said on 26th January 2010, 17:26

          I have seen many ex-F1 cars around and even racing. I cannot remember what the series is called, but I am certain there were cars from it at the Autosport International Show.
          Really the main problem is if the teams are willing or able to sell their old cars to those who can afford to buy them and race them – or if they are able to set up a Historic team to look after them.
          Otherwise I have a feeling the cars sit in museums or just get broken up!

  7. Macca said on 26th January 2010, 3:21

    Expect so see cars flying straight on at the first corner in Bahrain.

  8. The 2 compound rule needs to go. One of my favourite races is the 1990 French GP at Paul Ricard. This was in the era of no refuelling and Prost won just from Capelli in a March!

    The 1990 March was one of a couple of great cars that Newey designed before heading off to Williams etc. The two March cars ran non stop through the whole race and had it not been for a problem late in the race Capelli would have won.

    We need the possibility of cars being able to do that so all possible strategy options are open – no stops, 1 stop, 2, 3, 4, etc. All four compounds being available every weekend could also help, but not making it mandatory to use 2.

  9. Did he say low-fuel final qualifying? That seems to be implied by also refering to drivers braking for turn 1 with full fuel loads. I thought Q3 will be on race fuel loads?

    • djdaveyp said on 26th January 2010, 12:49

      Qualifying will be done on fumes.

      What he is saying is that after qualifying with practically no fuel, come the first corner of the race their cars will be completely different due to the fact they will then be brimmed with fuel!

      • Ah, awesome. I recall there were some ambiguities earlier on about Q3; making Q3 be on fumes will be more interesting, as some cars might be optimized for low-fuel balance and would be out of position come race start.

        Excellent news, that. I suppose teams would have to do some super-heavy laps in practice, to make sure they know how the cars would behave come Sunday.

  10. I have some suggestions off the top of my head. They are that FOTA should survey fans much more regularly, and FOTA should require teams give more access to fans and media, and FOTA should keep fans for updated on their website, and FOTA should look at scrapping and re-signing teams to equal and level playing field contracts i.e. ones that don’t give a one team a veto.

    The media need to be more pro-active and also apply more pressure on teams and drivers to open up more to the public to retain interest as this will give us more insights into the nuts and bolts so to speak of F1. The pay off from FOTS’s perspective is that they should make this information more readily available to the vast global fan base on viral sites like YouTube.

    I sincerely hope his remarks on better racing prove in time to be correct…

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