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2008 rule proposals by the FIA - F1's governing body look to tweak wind tunnel testing time

Published by Christine

This article was originally written for BellaOnline, but is republished here for posterity.

Before Christmas, the FIA released a statement detailing some of the proposed rules for the new season. They are mostly in place as cost-cutting measures, to stop some teams spending extraordinary amounts of money when others cannot. They also have the effect of saving energy, which is something the FIA are keen to encourage.

The majority of the proposed rules centre around the reduction of time spent in wind tunnels. Under the new regulations, teams could only run one wind tunnel, for a certain amount of time, which is much reduced from the current free-for-all. The FIA have stipulated that the wind tunnel could be leased out to other willing recipients, although it seems unlikely that teams would want to have third parties running around their factory.

The other major wind tunnel rule says that teams cannot run full scale testing anymore, and that the wind speed in the tunnel must be limited. This is an energy-saving measure, which is a good idea in principal.

Running scale models of the cars, instead of full size models, will require less power. However, there are other regulations that go alongside this, to make it appear that teams will not be able to run any full-scale aerodynamic testing at all. They would be limited to 5 days, subject to the FIA approval and they would fall under the testing limitation that applies at the moment. That means any miles done under this testing count against the total allowed in a season.

At the moment, teams tend to run straight-line testing and “shakedowns” at their own test tracks, just to make sure there’s nothing fundamentally wrong with the car. It doesn’t appear the FIA have allowed for this in their proposed rules.

The third important section of the rule appears to be encouraging CFD research (a computer based technology aimed to replace the physical wind tunnel). However, there are rules in place to limit the number of employees that can work on the research, and previous wind tunnel staff are not allowed to move over to the CFD department.

Whilst the idea behind the regulations is good – save money and energy – the process of limiting all these small details is not going to work. Teams invariably find a way round the rules and as ever, if they can’t spend money in one department, they will spend it somewhere else.

It’s worth reiterating that these rules are just proposals at the moment. They will be circulated to the teams this week and then a follow-up meeting will take place in a few months time.