Sunday 17 December 2017

F1: Button sees red over lack of dialogue on new rules

McLaren driver Jenson Button has spoken of the difficulties which the new rules are causing. Photo: Getty Images
McLaren driver Jenson Button has spoken of the difficulties which the new rules are causing. Photo: Getty Images

Kevin Eason in MELBOURNE

The FIA questioned engineers and team principals and consulted hours of data, but nobody thought to ask the drivers of Formula One's 200mph machines what they thought of the new rules. The result was almost two hours of tedium.

World champion Jenson Button, believes that his opinion could help the sport's world governing body to avoid another big mistake if there has to be a revision of the new regulations.

The drivers were not included in discussions that led to the banning of refuelling and new, narrower tyres, seen for the first time at a calamitous Bahrain Grand Prix 10 days ago.

The race, a dull procession, was adjudged one of the most boring on record and even Button said that he was on the point of yawning as he sat in the cockpit of his McLaren for lap after lap behind Michael Schumacher's Mercedes, unable to attempt overtaking.

The problem is that sophisticated aerodynamics that hold the cars to the track at high speed are useless when in the "wash" of the car in front, making them unstable.

The narrower tyre also means that there is less mechanical grip for the drivers as they approach to overtake. The two factors in tandem mean it is almost impossible to overtake. The FIA is resisting calls for a change to the rules before Sunday's Australian GP, and Button believes that they should be given a chance here this weekend and in Malaysia a week later.

But he thinks that the men who handle the machines could have foreseen the results of the changes and they could help the sport to avoid further embarrassment if there have to be more significant revisions.

"The drivers have a good understanding of the possibilities of improving the car, as we know what we need to overtake," said the Englishman.


"We have taken away a lot of mechanical grip with going to a narrow front tyre, but we have more downforce on the car than we had last year, so the problem is when you come up behind someone, you lose that downforce and you don't have the mechanical grip you had last year.

"Let's not get too carried away, though, and if the next two races are also not very exciting then we need to look at the options. Last year I feel the racing was some of the best we've seen.

"We have got these new regulations and we are trying to make the best out of them. Hopefully the next couple of races will be more fun but, if not, then we can all work together to improve it."

The converted street circuit through Melbourne's Albert Park should shred tyres quicker, forcing more strategic calls from teams and more mistakes from drivers, the kind of racing Button revels in. But he will fear another day at the office at his mobile desk, stuck behind another rival because F1's rulers did not grasp the basics of Button's job.

Meanwhile, Fernando Alonso last night accused his F1 rivals of making "hot-headed comments" given the criticism that followed the season-opener in Bahrain.

Apart from Button, Michael Schumacher, Lewis Hamilton and Mark Webber all spoke about the difficulty of overtaking after the race in Sakhir in light of the new regulations.

A number of team principals, such as McLaren's Martin Whitmarsh and Christian Horner at Red Bull Racing, even suggested there should be two mandatory stops in a race to help spice up the show.

F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone, however, reckons that there is no need to panic, and that if problems continue, they will likely be addressed following the next three 'flyaway' races in Australia, Malaysia and China.

Alonso, arguably from a position of strength given his debut win for Ferrari, has also waded into the debate.

"I think many of us gave some hot-headed comments immediately after the race in Bahrain," said Alonso, who led a Ferrari one-two.

"It's true the race in Sakhir wasn't especially spectacular, although for us Ferraristi it was great and exciting.

"But it's too early to talk about changing the rules. We have to wait and see different races and check the situation, without being emotional.

"Something that confuses the fans is changing the rules all the time." (© The Times, London)

Irish Independent

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