Welcome to another edition of The Scrutineering Bay, a roundtable discussion of the burning issues of Grand Prix racing. The premise of each edition is very simple; each week a hot topic will be selected and thrown at four unsuspecting writes here in the Sett, with each participant giving their thoughts and opinions on the matter at hand. It’s a bit like Question Time, but with actual answers and a little less stuffiness.

This week’s question:

“Will the new regulations make racing in 2011 more exciting, or more artificial?”

And this week’s participants are Adam, Graham meyself and up first to put their thoughts across, Tessa:

The rules always change. That’s the essence of what makes Formula 1: an ever-changing ‘formula’ for the teams to abide by (or not, as the case may be). You’ve got to keep everyone on their toes: the engineers, the team bosses, the drivers, and not forgetting the viewing public.

So what about the 2011 regulations? The aim of many of them is to increase overtaking, but they’re a little long-winded for my liking. The adjustable rear wing rules are far to complicated for even Martin Brundle to explain in under a minute, but KERS is a welcome addition: we never really saw what it was capable of after only one season.

The reduction in available tyres and gearboxes over the race weekend reflects the general trend over the years. On the current trajectory, however, will the drivers be faced with one engine, gearbox and set of tyres for the entire season!?

The most amusing rule is the ‘team curfew’ rule. A punishment usually dished out to unruly teenagers is to be imposed on the teams between midnight and 6am (where practice is due to start at 10am). Better tell that to Vitaly Petrov’s engineers: they’re normally to be found burning the midnight oil in order to frantically rebuild his car after one of his many ‘offs’.

And the team orders rule is quietly recalled. The less said about that debacle the better.

Tessa raises a good point; the rules are there to keep the sport in check.  Next to go is Adam:

In my opinion, the answer is neither.

The new rules further complicate the sport, rendering it yet more inaccessible to casual fans and could possibly backfire massively. As ever, we are seeing more than one rule change at a time and there’s far too much control over when teams/drivers can use and deploy said changes.

KERS failed because of the limitations of usage, not because of the technology itself. Keep grand prix racing simple and open to interpretations; it’s the nature of the sport and how it should be. Read “Breaking the Formula” – a piece where I vented frustrations over changes prior to the 2010 season.

Short, but by no means sweet from Adam there. But, his opinion is the same as many tired F1 fans; too many changes but not the right changes, are happening to the sport. Will 2011 be a few steps too far? Next to have a crack is Graham:

The new rule changes seem to me to be an attempt to make F1 more like a computer game than a sport, with the turbo boost KERS button and the movable rear wing, but that could just be because I’m too old to cope with anything more complicated than Scalextric.

Whether they will make the races more exciting or not will depend on how they actually work out in practice – the previous incarnation of KERS was a bit of a damp squib, where the only time I can recall it having a tangible effect on a race was when Raikkonen denied Force India their first race win by having a KERS and using it at Spa, which if anything made the race less exciting. Perhaps this year with all teams having it we will see cunning tactical battles using it, but equally they might just all cancel each other out.

There is no question though that they will make the racing more artificial. The glory of F1 at its best is that it is a contest of both driver skills and engineering genius – if we have too many technical tricks it pushes the balance too far towards the latter. It remains to be seen if these rule changes are a step too far, but I wait to be convinced.

Is Graham right in saying that F1 is now more computer game than anything else? One thing’s for sure, the addition of more buttons on the steering wheel mean more things for drivers to process throughout race day.  Last, but by no means least, are my thoughts;

While everyone else seems quite negative on the matter, I’m totally for the rule changes for 2011. It, for one, will make costs cheaper. Pirelli won’t have to make as many tyres, and teams will have to make gearboxes more reliable. It channels the creativity of engineers into finding a way to generate more efficient technology, not overall pace and speed which they were searching for in the past. That technology could one day end up in cars that we all own, too.

The flexible rear wing is the main talking point. It seems a bit barmy when you first look at it, but it’s merely an evolution from the F-Duct, which was basically a hole in the chassis for air to flow through. For all the danger it conjures up, what about the F-Ducts Ferrari and Renault thought up last year? At some points on circuits last year their drivers were racing one handed. That’s with one hand on the wheel and one covering the hole to initiate the F-Duct, far more dangerous than a movable wing. I’m sure each team will bring their own interpretations too, with McLaren’s being carbon fibre and space-age, and Hispania’s…not. Maybe made from an old work-surface or something.

The rules change, its part of the fabric of F1. Evolutions of the regulations mean that teams constantly have to start from scratch and innovate rather than develop, master and ultimately exhaust. It’s refreshing to have such changes for everyone involved because it attracts both new fans, and new engineers to test their skills.

In conclusion, it seems that the old adage of no-one liking change may just ring true when it comes to the rules that govern Formula One, at least definitely in the Sett. Of course, it’s all speculation and doom-mongering until the first Pirelli’s touch the tarmac in Bahrain in just a few months time.

Now it’s over to you, who’s argument do you favour or do you have your own stance on the rule changes?

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