Extracts from Charlie Whiting’s press conference at the Albert Park Circuit, Thursday 15th March, 2012.

Questions have been combined and answers abridged

New exhaust exits

The legality of teams’ interpretations of new exhaust geometry regulations

CW: There’s been a fair bit of discussion about exhausts in general. Most of that discussion centres on different interpretations of the new regulations. As you know, last year there was a very simple regulation, which simply required that each car had no more than two exhaust exits. This year there’s a whole page on it, and it’s designed specifically to ensure any aerodynamic effect from the exhaust is incidental to its primary purpose. Obviously, engineers have had different interpretations on that. All of the systems we’ve seen so far comply with the extensive new regulations.

We are not in a position to be able to say exactly how much aerodynamic influence each individual system has. Hence, it’s impossible for us to say: ‘that’s too much, or that’s OK.’ The aim of the new regulation was to ensure that we don’t have to do that.

We have no idea how much aerodynamic influence each individual system has, nor, really, at this point, is it anything that interests us. As long as they comply with the rules, we are happy. And as far as we’ve seen so far, they all do comply with the rules.

Opinion on ‘re‐ingestion’

CW: Re‐ingestion of exhaust gasses into bodywork is what we’ve said we don’t want to see. Any reingestion into bodywork would not be allowed. If you’re talking about interaction of exhaust gasses with brake ducts, or what can be loosely described as brake ducts, that isn’t bodywork, it’s classified as suspension. Everything we’ve seen so far we’ve been happy with.

Passive F‐ducts

Opinion on DRS‐activated F‐Duct systems

CW: We think they’re going to be legal from what we’ve seen so far.

Why some teams are querying this

CW: Some teams are questioning it on the basis that they thought F‐Ducts were banned. F‐Ducts are not banned. At the end of 2010 everyone was using driver operated F‐Ducts. The regulations that were changed specifically banned the use of driver movement to influence the aerodynamic performance of the car. This got rid of that generation of F‐Ducts.

Engineers, being unable to unlearn things, wanted to get the things back via different means. They talked about allowing the opening and closing of a duct by having interaction with suspension. We said no, you can’t do that, because it goes to the primary purpose of the suspension system.

There was a discussion in the TWG (Technical Working Group) at the beginning of the last year to make sure this was clear. It seems that a couple of teams went away from that meeting with the impression that F‐Ducts were therefore banned in general.

What some teams are doing now is allowing air to pass into a duct when the DRS is operated. It’s completely passive, there are no moving parts and it doesn’t interact with any suspension or steering systems. Therefore, I can’t see any rule that prohibits it.

Pressing the DRS button and the issue of ‘driver movement’

CW: This is specifically allowed.

Driver cooling

Potential for aerodynamic benefit from the ‘driver cooling’ opening in the nose

CW: We would have to look at each case by case. It is there for the specific intention of driver cooling. It should not be possible to do anything else with it other than that, simply because of the one section law. You’re only allowed to have one open section in every longitudinal cross‐section. You shouldn’t be able to get air anywhere else but into the car – so I think it would be very difficult to do anything with that. But you never know…

New safety car rules

Changing the safety car procedure with regard to pit stops, un‐lapping and weaving

CW: The rule is slightly different to the one we had before, which was a little bit complicated. The most complicated part of it was trying to establish where the cars were at any given point, because you need a point from which to establish the order. That point was when the safety car crosses a line for the first time but at that point you could still have cars coming into the pits or exiting the pits. It was quite difficult to manage.

What we have now is relatively simple. The order is established once everyone has passed the pit entry twice – i.e. after anyone planning to make a pit stop under the safety car has done so.

If everyone has passed the pit entry twice and you look at page one, you will see the order, including the lapped cars. Those will then be allowed to unlap themselves.

Another issue is that of drivers weaving to warm‐up tyres and keep brakes hot. Once we’ve given the instruction that lapped cars may overtake, anyone not overtaking will be required to stay on the racing line unless it is unavoidable to go off it. In other words drivers unlapping themselves will know where lead cars should be on the track. There are times when we may not allow drivers to unlap themselves – for example if visibility if very poor.

The safety car will stay out until the drivers unlapping themselves have rejoined at the back of the pack.

Pit lane protocols

Background to the debate over whether the pit lane speed limit should be dropped from 100kph to 60kph

CW: Sadly, the discussion started because of a fatality in the pit lane at Zolder, caused by a car losing its brakes as it came in. We thought we might need to review pit lane safety and looked at various things – such as should a team‐member be allowed to stand in front of the car as it approaches? Logic suggests when the car doesn’t stop that person is in danger, which was the situation at Zolder.

We had many discussions about this and both the TWG and the SWG (Sporting Working Group) felt the person in front of the car wasn’t as vulnerable as those on the garage‐side of the car: they are often the ones who get hit if a driver makes a mistake.

Most of the team managers felt a reduction in the speed limit would make the pit lane safer. I suppose you could say that if someone’s going to be hit, it’s better to be hit at 60kph than 100kph but we haven’t had any problems with the speed limit as it is. The F1 Commission therefore believed a change was unnecessary.

Pit lane operation in 2011

CW: We weren’t happy with everything last year, there were quite a few unsafe releases. I think the major improvement we made last year was making the fast lane narrower. All the fast lanes were restricted to a width of 3.5m. That kept all the drivers as close to the pit wall as we could get them. We also had a fixed distance of 4.5m from the garages to the centre of the pitstop position.

Depending on the overall width of the pit lane that meant in many cases we had what was, in effect, a ‘middle lane.’ At most circuits – not Valencia or Singapore – a driver could exit his pit stop position and get up to speed before moving into the fast lane. I think that helped teams release a car. They could do so more or less irrespective of whether another car was coming into the pit lane – unless that car was stopping in a pit position just beyond them, in which case to do so would be an unsafe release.

Because the driver can get up the pit lane speed limit before entering the fast lane, it reduces the likelihood of another car having to take avoiding action, which made contact less likely to happen. Obviously, there are other forms of unsafe release: the car not being safe, for example. We’ve seen a few examples of that.

Leaving the track

A car with all four wheels across the white line will not necessarily be penalised.

CW: It’s not straightforward. The white lines are part of the track, so if any part of the car remains on a white line it is still using the track. Theoretically, this is the limit. If all four wheels cross the white line, then you’ve left the track. Cars do leave the track and you cannot penalise every driver that does so. Cars will not be penalised for that type of infraction providing they come back on safely and do not gain an advantage.

Turn Four here (at Albert Park) and Turn Four at the Nürburgring, for example, are corners where, because of the layout of the track it’s extremely hard to find a suitable means to deter drivers from crossing the white line. At the Nürburgring we have effectively given up on that and said we’ll just have to allow drivers to keep doing it.

We have, however, put a kerb in both here and at the Nürburgring to deter them. That has resolved the situation to some extent. Last year, we felt it wasn’t quicker to go over to that part of the circuit and therefore drivers were not gaining an advantage from doing so – though there are always differences of opinion. Our opinion was that the high kerb, the dirty run‐off area and the line for the following corner precluded a driver going over there from accruing any advantage, and therefore it isn’t something we’re going to get too excited about.

Stepped noses

The discussions in 2011 aimed at retaining ‘smooth’ nose profiles

CW: Regulation in this area has to go through by 30th June the previous year, which is a rule aimed at ensuring stability. This was not brought up until October. At that point most of the teams, given the fact they all had to pass their crash test before going testing this year, were in the final stages of their design. I don’t think there was much stomach for allowing a cosmetic cover to hide the… ugliness, if I may call it that.

At that point I don’t think anyone outside of the very small group of designers knew what the cars might look like. It was pointed out there could be a step there and frankly it did not seem important enough for us to get too excited about. Hopefully, we can resolve this situation. But I think by the time we do everyone will have gotten used to what we have.

Could a new regulation be brought in before 30th June 2012?

CW: It could be done and will doubtless be discussed. In 2014, the rules will be entirely different, there will be much lower noses and this problem will disappear. Of course, I will raise the question with the TWG members next month because everyone would like to see something that’s prettier.

Taking into account public opinion on the issue

CW: We always take into account public opinion. But there was nothing that could be done for this year. We don’t get to see the designs until December or January. We regulate the height of the survival cell and the distance forward and the cross sections – we don’t regulate how a car looks. If one team comes to you and says they’re going to have a step in the nose, it doesn’t mean that every team will have a step in its nose. But certainly, because of the interest in this, we will definitely try to persuade the teams to do something different.

The plausibility of allowing greater design freedom in F1

CW: Regulations have been changed over the years to keep speeds under control – and we have to keep speeds under control because we simply can’t keep modifying tracks to accommodate faster cars. Normally, that means more regulations. It’s why we don’t have fat tyres any more for example, and why we have smaller wings, shallower wings, narrower wings. Everything is driven to try to make the cars a little bit slower. Inevitably that leads to less scope for a designer.

There has been an argument that if teams had a fixed amount of money to spend the problem would naturally look after itself and they should be given complete freedom. Something like that would have to be very carefully thought about.

Aerodynamics

The appeal of F1 with aerodynamics as the only avenue for development (given frozen engines, five race gearboxes, a single ECU, control tyres etc)

CW: I find Formula One fascinating. You talk about engines and gearboxes, they’re not all the same. Yes, they’re frozen but a Ferrari engine is not the same as a Mercedes engine. Gearboxes are all different. I think there is a lot of scope for clever designers to make a difference in those components. Of course, the best return on investment in terms of lap time probably is with aero, and designers have realised that for some time. I don’t think it’s the fault of the rules necessarily, and they are not driving it. It’s just how F1 has developed and I think it’s to be expected. There’s not an awful lot we can do without making some very fundamental changes to the rules.

Considering the possibility of a downforce limit

CW: Yes, there has been lots of talk about that. In fact, at the beginning of 2009 when we introduced the new aero rules for the wider front wing, arguably, what we wanted to do was restrict overall downforce – though, arguably, it didn’t work particularly well. We drafted a regulation that restricted downforce to 1250kg but it is extremely difficult to police, so we ended up, unfortunately, with more restrictions on the way cars are designed. As usual, the rules were intended to work with a certain level of downforce but the designers have doubled that.

Changing the tests for front wing stiffness

CW: This is about flexibility more than anything else. That’s what we were concerned about – excessive flexibility. Lots of teams have come and done tests at our facility in the UK to test their wings and lots of teams have done it here and I’m sure they’ll be absolutely fine.

DRS as a work‐in‐progress

CW: There are different ways of arranging DRS at difference circuits. I think we were fairly satisfied with how it went but certain circuits – here (Melbourne) for example – we thought it could be improved. We’re basically fine‐tuning. We can’t lengthen the straight, so we’ve added an extra DRS zone. We’ve removed the second zone in Valencia but lengthened the first. At Spa and in China we’ve shorted the zones. Bahrain is new, Malaysia is going to stay the same, Barcelona we’re going to lengthen by 50m. In Canada we’re going to take away the second zone, as that didn’t work at all. Silverstone was OK, Hockenheim will be new. At Monza we’re lengthening both zones.

The issue of re‐passing with the double‐detection system used Abu Dhabi

CW: We had some drivers complain but for me it was obvious that if you were going to be re‐passed [in the second zone] surely it would have been better to get really close in [the first zone] but wait for the next one to make your move. In Monza, we had a proper double detection, two zones in totally different parts of the track.

Curfews

Why the curfew rule has changed?

CW: We have made a couple of changes to the rules to accommodate media, marketing and catering staff. There were issues with marketing people who had arranged functions without thinking about the curfew. To the paddock club they may have had to walk through the paddock, for example. It was completely outside of the reason for the regulation. The reason for the regulation was to make sure that mechanics got sleep. We don’t want them up all the three days consecutively, which was what was happening at the beginning of 2010. So we’ve made an exception for other people.

The other thing we’ve changed slightly is defining the curfew as two six‐hour periods, referenced from the beginning of FP1 and FP3, whereas before, if you had a different timetable, as we did in Singapore, it was referenced to the gap between FP2 and FP3. That kept working time consistent, whereas it should be the rest time that’s consistent, and so we’ve changed it around.

Overtaking

Defining the ‘one‐move’ rule

CW: The intention was to write a law that was previously unwritten. The existing regulation said more than one move to defend your position was not permitted. We had this discussion many times: you have one move, quite clearly, to defend a position but as they approach a corner drivers will move back a little bit to try to get a slightly better line for the corner. We had an agreement that you should always leave one car width [on the racing line]. All we’ve done is put that into the book.

Winter testing

The safety implication of drivers coming to a grand prix without any running because their team

failed a crash test

CW: If there’s some concern among the teams then that should be discussed among the teams. It’s not new. It’s happened many times before. What’s the difference between this and a driver not having done any testing coming in mid‐season? The two teams concerned have done some kilometres ‘filming’. I don’t think it’s ideal for them but I don’t have any concerns about safety. They’re both professional teams, they’re good cars. Some of the drivers have significant experience in F1, some have less but they do have some. I really don’t think we should be too concerned about that. And if there are concerns about this then teams will express them to us and we’ll discuss them in the SWG.

The clarification of when the winter testing season finished.

CW: I was asked for a clarification. When you look at the regulations there are three ways of interpreting it: either as Monday 12th of March, Monday 5th of March or Thursday 8th of March. Obviously, the teams wanted to test. Usually, I offer an opinion and the stewards are the ones who ultimately decide – but we don’t have any stewards for testing. Instead, I sought the opinion of our legal department, which I thought that was the next best thing. I gave the teams the view of our legal department, which is the best opinion I could give. I think we caused a bit of minor inconvenience but only two teams were affected.

Stewards’ protocols

Changing the investigation process

CW: In a formal sense, stewards can only act on a report from me. Informally, if they see something and want to investigate it, it is a little cumbersome for them to need to call me, ask if I’ve seen it and ask if they should investigate it. Why shouldn’t they be allowed to investigate it? What they can’t do is take action without discussing it with me; they can instigate an investigation though. This seems to be less cumbersome and get the job done quicker. This was the main reason for changing the process.