Ipart II:/I A Case For Gizmos

BARCELONA, Spain - Talk to most Formula One drivers, as RacingOne did in yesterday’s story about traction control, and they'll tell you what's bad and ugly about traction control, launch control and the rest of the electronic gizmo driver aids now permitted by the rules.

Others in the Formula One paddock, most notably the team owners, engine manufacturers and the engineers, however, will tell you what's good about the new rules.

One of the leading supporters of the new rules is McLaren Technical Director Ron Dennis. He disagrees with the drivers who say a monkey can now drive a F-1 car, and lays out a reasoned and logical defense of the new rules.

In this alternative view on the whole issue, Dennis starts by saying why it was imperative the things such as launch control be legalized because of all the accusations teams were cheating.

"There was a constant distrust, mistrust, lobbying, letters passing back and forth, threats of protests, and it was an unhealthy environment and one that was only resolvable by going down the path we've chosen," Dennis said. "Everybody has been pushing the limits of rule interpretation. All this rule elicits is a black-and-white interpretation - do anything you want. That's better than where we were. You only have to look at starts over the past two years to realize people were not starting races with the same parameters of control. We never lacked ingenuity..."

Dennis insists the new rules are better for the drivers despite their protests otherwise.

"I have a great deal of respect for all the drivers in F-1," he said. "But they should understand it's better for them to have a level playing field in which to compete. They seem to have lost sight of that whole issue which had to be addressed.

"I have heard comments that now you don't have to be particularly smart or intelligent to drive a Grand Prix car," he added. "Anyone who feels that should get in a F-1 car and try and do it. The front three rows of the grid in Spain show that nothing has dramatically changed."

Dennis likens modern-day Formula One cars to modern-day jet fighters.

"If you look at an evolution of an airplane," he said, "you now have a very sophisticated machine with a lot of systems. In combat the best pilot would still win. I see the evolution of a racing car following exactly the same path. You will not eliminate the ability of the drivers. All you will do is change the emphasis. It's going to be important for the drivers to know how to extract the best from the car during practice. That has always been the same. They just have a more sophisticated tool available.

"It's not a panacea of drive as hard as you want and these systems are going to stop your tires from wearing out. It's important to have the right line, it's important to brake correctly, it's important to accelerate correctly. All of these things are not going to be taken away from the driver. All that's happening is the animal is becoming a little bit more sophisticated and that will allow the driver to explore other limits within the racing car."

The new rules basically allow unlimited computer and electronic freedom to the engine and gearbox, but prevent such aids to the suspension, steering and braking systems.

"The electronic controls of the suspension and the electronic control of the brakes has been beefed up," Dennis explained. "We have actually meticulously looked at every possible loophole and interpretation in respect to electronic assistance to those two functions. We also redefined the use of power steering, as well. There have been two perimeters drawn around the car. One is engine and gearbox and it's free, and one around the rest of the car is absolutely banned and we have done the best we can in making sure there's not loopholes in it."

Ideally, Dennis would like virtually no rules at all.

"If we had unlimited budgets," he said, "I would like the only rule for a F-1 car to be that it fits in a box of a given size. You couldn't afford it, but it wouldn't detract from the fact you ultimately have to put a driver in and drive it."

The bottom line, Dennis insists, is this: "It will not change status quo, but it will create a more stabile Formula One. It's putting the driver in a position where he can find different limits in a different envelope of performance. In any company, if you don't grow you die. In any sport, if you don't develop the sport it will die. This is just an evolutionary process. It's not going to be a radical change. It's far more important to have a fair Formula One."

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Grand Prix of Brazil

@ Sao Paulo, Brazil
Sunday, November 24, 2013

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