|By Stuart Neo - 9 March 2013|
In preparation for the revolutionary F1 rule changes in 2014, particularly concerning the V6 turbo engines, the FIA have confirmed a small number of changes to the F1 regulations for 2013.
This has benefited some teams by allowing them to evolve their 2012 designs and enabled them to bridge the gap to the front runners. Ferrari and Mercedes are the main beneficiaries of the 'mostly-intact' regulations.
McLaren have chosen a different route with significant changes in concept, leaving the team somewhat unsure of their competitiveness. McLaren team boss Martin Whitmarsh conceding that McLaren “have had a challenging few weeks preparing our new MP4-28 for the 2013 season."
With the minimal rule changes, Red Bull's chief designer, Adrian Newey was given less room to play with, stating the RB9 is more of an "evolution."
The regulation changes are summarised below:
1. Active DDRS banned
Pioneered by Mercedes in 2012, Red Bull were able to perfect this technology to help them win four in a row in the latter stages of the 2012 season. This ban could hurt Red Bull more than other teams given the advantage it gave Sebastian Vettel. The FIA have approved the Passive DDRS, however, the concept is extremely difficult to tame, as engineers at Lotus would attest. A version of the Passive DDRS was tested on the RB9 in pre-season testing.
2. DRS usage restricted to DRS zones unconditionally
DRS usage is now restricted to DRS zones at all times, including qualifying. Last season, Red Bull (the downforce kings), used a combination of high downforce setups to improve cornering speed whilst exploiting the DRS on straights, demoralising the field in qualifying. This DRS limitation should even the field somewhat.
3. More stringent Front Wing tests
New front wing tests will aim to stop front wings from rotating on their axis. This “backing off “of the front wing, transfers some of the downforce to the rear of the car during long straights. Images of Sebastian Vettel's front wing sparking on the tarmac during the straights of the 2012 Abu Dhabi GP may be history.
4. Vanity Panels are optional
Vanity panels are now optional. Red Bull, Lotus, Sauber and Caterham still sport the step nose.
5. More Weight
The new 2013 Pirelli tyres are 2kg heavier resulting in the car's minimum weight to be 642kg. Teams have also been given 7kgs more to play with in weight distribution.
6. More stringent crash and load tests on monocoque
More severe load tests for the roll structure have been introduced and the crash test requirements modified.
7. Force Majeure removed
The notion of 'force majeure' - circumstances beyond the team's control - has been removed from the regulations. Teams who are unable to make it back to the pits during qualifying for a fuel sample will be automatically disqualified. In 2012, Red Bull and McLaren were unable to prove force majeure when they short fueled their cars in their bid to win pole.
*8. Engine Mapping regulations remain the same
Given that no explicit details were provided regarding engine mapping rule changes, Renault (and hence Red Bull), decided to re-introduce new but banned engine maps. However the FIA clarified and re-iterated that "the base line engine configurations the teams were instructed to select remained the same."
In the final test, Red Bull were forced to returned to their original 2012 engine map. This changed their tune with Dr Helmut Marko, a man with a reputation for being outspoken, admitting "We have problems with balance. The car cannot be set up properly."
On analysis, the new 2013 F1 rule changes seem more detrimental to Red Bull. Could 2013 may be the year that a new champion is crowned? If so, it would be good for the sport, however, underestimating Adrian Newey is not something one does, particularly in the pre-season.