2012 FIA regulations highlights with James Allison - Part II

By on Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Photo credit: Lotus Renault GP

Following the announcement of the FIA’s 2012 season Technical and Sporting Regulations, Lotus Renault GP’s Technical Director James Allison explained the key changes we can expect to see in 2012. Part II is featured below. Part I is available here.

Suspension members (wishbones/trackrods etc) are bound by strict aerodynamic limitations (limited chord, symmetrical section, maximum incidence angles etc). This is not true of the uprights which hold the wheel on to the suspension. Their design has always been free. There existed a possibility (albeit never yet exploited) that someone would make a giant, aerodynamic upright to make use of this hypothetical freedom. A change to article 10.5.3 has been introduced to ensure that the uprights may not protrude beyond the volume currently allowed for brake ducts – this prevents the giant upright problem from ever occurring.

Car floor
The floor under an F1 car (the so called step and reference planes) has to be designed flat. Because things cannot be made perfectly flat, a manufacturing tolerance of +/-5mm was permitted. It was felt latterly that this 5mm tolerance allowed for opportunities to design [illegally] some mild contours into the floor. To clamp down on this possibility, the tolerance has been reduced to +/-3mm.

There has been a recent trend by some teams to use helium as the gas which powers the pit stop guns. This is because helium is capable of making the guns run at higher power for a given gas pressure. It is ruinously expensive however and has been banned for 2012.

Absorbing structures
Each car is fitted with energy absorbing structures on the side of the chassis which act as crumple zones in the event of a side on shunt. These structures are subjected to a crash test at the start of the season where a loaded sled hits them absolutely square on to the chassis. In addition, the structures have to pass a robustness test where they are subjected to a horizontal push-off load to make sure that they will not just flick off the car in the event that they experience a real crash that is not exactly perpendicular to the chassis. In previous seasons we have also had to demonstrate by making stress calculations that the structures would be OK if subjected to a vertical load. For 2012, this stress calculation test is replaced by a physical test as a means of being certain. In theory, this should change nothing. If the calculations were correctly made, then the structure should withstand the load.

The 2011 generation of blown floors are discarded. For 2012, the exhaust must exit in a prescribed box that is in a similar location to the top exit exhausts of circa 2008. It is also subjected to particular exit angles and diameter as a means of providing further restriction. This does not mean that exhaust generated downforce is a thing of the past – it is very hard to stuff that back into Pandora’s box. However these changes, coupled with the recent technical directive banning off throttle blowing create an environment where exhaust generated downforce for 2012 will be a much smaller proportion of the total than it was in 2011.

Technical Directives
For many years there was a growing list of Technical Directives offering guidance on how to operate the electronics and software side of the car in a legal manner. There has been a concerted effort this year by the teams and the FIA to bring the settled parts of these TDs into the main body of the technical regulation to provide a more convenient and more permanent home for them.

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