Most rule changes in F1 seem to lead to unforeseen and unintended effects. How will the new regulations for 2011 affect racing in ways dreamed up by crafty and cunning F1 people? My apologies if these have been discussed elsewhere already.
Fixed Weight Distribution:
Size and weight variances exist between teammates such as Webber and Vettel, Kubica and Petrov, Hamilton and Button. Though a minimum weight is enforced, a lighter driver allows for more adjustment with weight distribution and balance. We all saw how weight distribution issues hurt Mclaren and Ferrari in 2009 from the added weight of KERS. Will the fixed weight distribution shift the balance between closely matched drivers in 2011? On multiple occasions in 2010, there was less than one tenth of a second between Mark Webber and Sebastian Vettel. Could the fixed weight distribution make them even closer?
DRS and strategic lapping:
Could the DRS be used by front runners to pull out a few extra seconds by using it to lap traffic? Imagine a battle such as Button vs Alonso at Monza 2010 that comes down to just metres at the pit exit. Suppose the DRS is insufficient for the trailing driver to pass the leading driver, though the gap between them is only three-quarters of a second. The leading driver pits but the trailing driver is able to go two laps further. The trailing driver must push like hell but ahead of him is a backmarker. Usually this means trouble for the pushing driver, but if he gets lucky, he could encounter the backmarker at the DRS activation zone, allowing him to use the DRS on the straight and thereby gaining a few seconds of advantage and leapfrogging the leading driver who pitted first. Perhaps we’ll see some elaborately calculated tire strategies? More likely a few chances encounters.
Revenge of the Q2 dropouts?:
The top ten qualifiers still have to start the race on the tires on which they set their fastest time. Q3 qualifiers are likely to do their fastest lap on the option tires. If the option tires wear out as quickly as we think they’ll wear out, we might see the front runners come in for tires extremely early. Q2 dropouts are likely to start on the prime tires and that could possibly mean making one less stop, but more likely they will have the tire strategy of the front runners, only in reverse. Sebastien Buemi qualified low down the order at Canada 2010, but found himself leading the race and under attack from Hamilton and Alonso after their tire stops, eventually making up many positions to finish in the points. Will we see midfielders mix it up with front runners more in 2011?
Please, add your own predictions of the hard-to-predict.
I’m not sure what effect the weight distribution rules will have, though I hope it makes things closer. Definitely agree with other two though. I’ll also add in that you might see more Q2 drop-outs actually use the strategy of the Q3 runners; get some more metres off the line, gain a few places with superior rubber and the DRS after Lap 2 (or is it 3?), then when they pit they’ll likely be in clean air as the front-runners will be ahead of them and they’ll be a bit behind the backmarkers. They’ll only have to negotiate one or two far slower drivers before everyone pits again and then by their having fresh rubber in clean air, they’ll have made up even more places. They’ll start to lose ground again as everyone else is on fresher rubber now, but they’ll pit again and make up that time again, provided they aren’t held up too badly. So long as they don’t end up making one more stop than everyone who started on the primes, the strategy might pay off, especially at somewhere like Monza.