Technology or Cheating? A modern view.

cider_and_toast

Exulted Lord High Moderator of the Apex
Staff Member
Premium Contributor
This is an article that I've been meaning to write for a while now but I think given the recent headlines over the issue of flexible front wings, now is a good time to finally put finger to keyboard.

I've been thinking recently of the changing attitudes among F1 fans to the implementation of new technology. It seems to me that we are a lot quicker to judge teams rule benders or cheaters with the implementation of technical upgrades than we ever were before. The Red Bull front wing highlights the issue perfectly in so much as at the time it passed every test it was required to pass by the FIA and yet the accusations went flying around.

If we go back to the late 70's and look at the introduction of the ground effect cars, the bulk of these cars utilised sliding skirts in order to maintain a degree of suspension travel while keeping the edge of the skirt in contact with the road. There was a ban on moving aerodynamic aids implemented in 1969 which technically the side skirts breached (all though it wasn't until FISA's 1981 “Rule Clarification” they were deemed completely illegal). I wonder if any of us who were watching then or are looking back with a degree of hindsight would have said that was the case though?

Go back further in to the sixties and try and imagine a howl of protest greeting every new development from chassis to wings and engines. You can't really imagine it can you?

Look at two developments in the last couple of years, the flexible front wing and the double diffuser. Both of those ideas drove a coach and horses through the current regulations however both were down to very talented engineers (Brawn and Newey) who are only doing what they are paid to do and that is provide some of the worlds best drivers with the worlds best cars.

Another development, the so called “F-Duct” banned from next season because the FIA feared that it would lead to madder and sillier designs of driver controlled aerodynamics and therefore spark another technological battle in design. Perhaps then, it's not the fans who start the “tech or cheat” debate but the FIA and the Teams themselves who can't agree on a simple set of rules that would reduce the number of grey areas.

All in all, I wonder how the great designers of the past would react today to having their every design scrutinised and considered to be foul of the law unless proven otherwise?
 

tooncheese

Hans Heyer
Contributor
Interesting read CaT, I've definitely seen a few deiscreet mentions of FIA asking the top three teams to adjust thier cars. Reminds me of a saying, "It's never illegal until someone notices."*

*or somthing along those lines
 

Chad Stewarthill

Champion Elect
Contributor
I think that today there is so much media exposure, access to F1 via TV, internet etc. that we ordinary fans get to hear far, far more than we ever did in the sixties, seventies and eighties about the sort of things that go on behind the scenes in the sport. Just take this forum alone, together with all its associated databases; what a wealth of information! When I was a teenager (many moons ago) all we had were the BBC TV broadcasts of the races, and a few magazines like Autosport.

I was given a very interesting little book one Christmas not so many years ago; 'the Formula 1 Companion', by Alan Henry. In one chapter he remembers numerous examples of the sort of real cheating that used to go on. One that I remember was about someone walking down the pitlane, stumbling into a 'fibreglass' engine cover which was in fact as solid as a lump of granite. It turned out to be an exact replica made of lead, which the team put on the car for scrutineering (It must have taken four or five men to pick it up). They would then swap it with the real, lightweight one for use on track. Now that's what I call ingenuity! ;)
 

sportsman

Sidecar racers have the biggest cojones
Contributor
It was ever thus CaT.I can well remember the uproar and cheating allegations made by the other teams about the 1954 Mercedes Benz W196.
That had desmodronic valve train, fuel injection and torsion bar suspension.None of these things were actually against the rules, but Mercedes had developed and implemented them and consequently proved to be damned near unbeatable.None of the teams had these innovations so they kicked up hell.
But today and in the recent 40 odd years with the huge growth in aerodynamic influence there is much more scope for innovations in this area with inevitably far more areas to push the boundaries.
 

cider_and_toast

Exulted Lord High Moderator of the Apex
Staff Member
Premium Contributor
sportsman said:
It was ever thus CaT.I can well remember the uproar and cheating allegations made by the other teams about the 1954 Mercedes Benz W196.
That had desmodronic valve train, fuel injection and torsion bar suspension.None of these things were actually against the rules, but Mercedes had developed and implemented them and consequently proved to be damned near unbeatable.None of the teams had these innovations so they kicked up hell.
But today and in the recent 40 odd years with the huge growth in aerodynamic influence there is much more scope for innovations in this area with inevitably far more areas to push the boundaries.

Now that's fascinating and the very sort of thing I wanted to hear. That proves that it's not just limited to this generation of F1 teams and supporters. Of course it's obvious how technical developments are only going to be seen as great when you are the team that have them.

I can understand that point of view from teams completely but does anyone feel that as fans we've stopped embracing new technology in the same way and we are too quick to judge a team as being cheaters? Are we still fascinated by the technical side of the sport or is it because this area of development is now so limited and would require most people to have a really good grasp of aerodynamic engineering that it's all got a little too confusing?

I think there is also the shadow of the Ferrari years which no one wants to see again either so the thought of a dominant driver in an ultra quick car would make most people shudder.
 

RedFive

Rookie
I think a distinction should be made between true technical innovation (which the regulations seem to inhibit these days) and "bending the rules". Bending the rules, whilst in many cases is extremely ingenious, is done to confer an advantage over those who choose to stick o the letter of the regs.
Whilst I applaud Red Bull/Adrian Newey for the flexi-wing, there is no doubt that it is illegal. The trouble is that it passes the test that the FIA devised to prevent such things happening. The rule itself is quite clear, in that it states that the wings should be mounted rigidly to the sprung part of the car. It does allow a degree of movement to allow for the fact that 100% rigidity is impossible to achieve. So what Red Bull have done is design to the test & not to the regulations. Now I cannot blame them for that, but they really have no right to complain when their ingenuity is discovered & the previously ineffectual test is beefed up.
Even so the vitriol it seems to have stirred up amongst F1 fans is way OTT. Teams will always strive to steal an advantage. Mostly legally, but in other cases less so. Remember the Tyrrell that needed huge water reservoirs to cool the brakes? All the water was dumped on the 1st lap thereby allowing them to run the race underweight....
The more things change.........
 

Brogan

🦶 Leg end
Staff Member
RedFive said:
So what Red Bull have done is design to the test & not to the regulations.
That is the best explanation I've heard yet and applies to so many other instances where teams have done similar.

As for one of the questions c_a_t raised, I do think that we have all become a bit cynical these days and instead of lauding innovation we tend to criticise it as cheating, even when it isn't.

I blame the FIA and their stifling of the rules in this area.
If they opened it all up again then we would see innovation without (or in addition to?) the cheating and bending of rules that generally just goes on now.
 

Speshal

World Champion
Valued Member
Brogan said:
RedFive said:
So what Red Bull have done is design to the test & not to the regulations.
That is the best explanation I've heard yet and applies to so many other instances where teams have done similar then we would see innovation without (or in addition to?) the cheating and bending of rules that generally just goes on now.

Surely one could argue that, given the constraints of the regulations, things like the flexible wing, double diffuser, blown floor, F-duct (all seen within the last 2 seasons) are pure technical innovations designed to solve a unique problem without being out and out illegal rather than the cheating as witnessed in the past (BAR's fuel tanks for example) :?:
 

siffert_fan

Too old to watch the Asian races live.
Contributor
I think that a lot of the "cheating" allegations arise from the fans cynacism which has come about through the scandals of the last few seasons. When teams essentially steal other teams engineering and order one driver to crash in order for their other driver to benefit, I think the skepticism is understandable. It appears that teams will do anything to win, and therefore, the thinking goes, they will resort to cheating as their first option.

As to teams designing to the tests, rather than the intent of the rules, it has always been that way. Look at the (in)famous Brabham "fan car". That was clearly a cheat and was designed as such. However, they cleverly made the design so that the fan was supposedly necessary for the cooling of the car, and therefore "legal". The more things change....
 

ATL11

Podium Finisher
What about an alternate way of looking at it by F1, so when they realise that a loop hole has been found (DDefuser) or an development that skirts close to the letter of the law, they call it a "Innovation Rule change".

They close up the rule book so the DD & F Duct goes but they call them 'Innovation Rule change' so the PR spin is to acknowledge the ingenuity that has gone into it, and it removes the element of cheating.

You ain't going to change the boffins at F1 from developing their cars, but you can change the F1 fans interpretation of it.............
 

Galahad

Not a Moderator
Valued Member
This is fascinating, and it's interesting to hear about the problems with the W196 - which was, of course, perfectly legal.

Having grown up during the FISA-FOCA war years, with the Brabham suspension wheeze, water-cooled brakes, double-width rear wings and all of that, my attitude is very much that they can bend the rules to breaking point as far as I'm concerned - good luck to them. It may well be a generational thing.

As for the fans, bah humbug. It's only because there are all these avenues for them to have their say now. In the olden days someone would write a letter to Autosport, which Roebuck or someone would neatly put away with a pithy response, and that was it. It's bad if it means that races and championships won come under question, particularly if there hasn't been what I would consider outright cheating.

But I don't see that there's much the FIA can do. They are necessarily reactive to what the teams come up with, and when they see a new innovation - if they don't like it - they have the choice of either stamping on it immediately, or rewriting the regulations for the next season. Personally I prefer the latter since otherwise there isn't much incentive to push things to the limits really.
 

siffert_fan

Too old to watch the Asian races live.
Contributor
I have to agree with you Galahad.

One of the reasons I have followed Formula 1 since the 60s is to marvel at how clever the engineers are. Part of this is due to the fact that I am an engineer, albeit in a different arena. Unfortunately, the more restrictive they make the rules, the less reason there is for me to watch, since the engineers and designers' hands are increasingly tied. F1 is becoming very much a "spec series" and I don't think that is a good thing.

If something clearly presents a danger, like the huge wings on the Lotus 49s breaking at Spain in 1969, they have to be banned for safety reasons. Otherwise, innovation should be encouraged, as it increases the spectacle, and F1 is part of the entertainment industry. The Tyrrell P34 6-wheeler undoubtedly attracted many viewers just out of curiosity. That is a good way to enlarge the fan base. Unfortunately, such probing of the boundaries of engineering are basically impossible today.
 

cider_and_toast

Exulted Lord High Moderator of the Apex
Staff Member
Premium Contributor
The point of this thread isn't to acuse all teams of cheating, far from it. My point is that I believe we are a bit to quick to acuse teams of cheating these days when in fact what they have done is produced an innovative design on their cars.

I thought the flexi wing on the front of the Red Bull was actually pretty smart. It may have been sailing pretty close to the wind in terms of rules but the onboard camera shots of it flexing on the straights and then springing up as the load came off the car were pretty incredible.

The "water cooled brakes" of the early 80's non-turbo runners wasn't cheating in my book it was just a very clever use of a rule that stated that all coolents and fluids may be topped up at the end of the race prior to the car being weighed. There were however, many other developments from that era, as Sir G points out that were absolute cheats.
 

Speshal

World Champion
Valued Member
siffert_fan said:
since the engineers and designers' hands are increasingly tied. F1 is becoming very much a "spec series" and I don't think that is a good thing.

The Tyrrell P34 6-wheeler undoubtedly attracted many viewers just out of curiosity. That is a good way to enlarge the fan base. Unfortunately, such probing of the boundaries of engineering are basically impossible today.

I have to agree with you SF in certain areas and disagree in others LOL

Yes, true out and out innovation has been hampered by the rules, I'd love to see everyone running massive 3L turbo engines and skirts but....................as you mentioned you're an engineer and now the ingenuity comes from mere millimetres as the tolerances have tumbles due to various engineering practices developed in the decades since the Lotus 49 et al.

Back then the huge innovation was moving the engine from the front to the back, then wings, then skirts, then turbos then 6 wheels etc and as the pace and $$ of engineering has ramped up over the years we are now at the point where teams can use CFD to tailor make a wing for a specific set-up/circuit, it's gone from the huge changes to the microscopic which maybe why people are more ready to criticise (that and the internet) than accept the real innovative steps that have been made.

Currently it's design to the rules then the FIA rule on the design.

If people complain, then the FIA change the rules which opens up more loopholes for people to exploit and then the cycle goes round again but every designer is always innovating new ways to make their cars go faster.








 

sportsman

Sidecar racers have the biggest cojones
Contributor
Some interesting viewpoints.I am also an engineer although in a different field.I have a very different viewpoint.
Quite honestly I don't see much ingenuity in being able to make a car go fast by revving it to 18000 rpm. I admire the engineering skill which allows the engine to do that without blowing itself apart but thats about all.
I to consider F1 to be a spec series, as the regulations strangle any real engineering innovation.So the only areas left for the teams to exploit is aerodynamics.
But my question is and always has been what do wings and EBD's Fducts etc and all the aerodynamics on a present FI car have to do with cars.Planes undoubtedly.Is it just a coincidence that the RBR6 is so aerodynamiclly effecient when Red Bull have their own stunt aeroplane team. >:(
 

fat jez

Race Winner
Valued Member
Presumably, Speshal, Alonso's brain is also the same size as Newey's? ;)

I take your point, Sportsman. With the engine spec frozen, there only is one area left to exploit and that is locked down pretty darn tight these days. The teams that still manage to come up with innovative aero performance enhancements are to be commended in my opinion, although sadly all must be aware that the following season it will probably be banned.
 

Wombcat

Podium Finisher
cider_and_toast said:
I thought the flexi wing on the front of the Red Bull was actually pretty smart. It may have been sailing pretty close to the wind in terms of rules but the onboard camera shots of it flexing on the straights and then springing up as the load came off the car were pretty incredible.
I think it's downright illegal. As I understand the regulations say that (all parts of) the car should maintain a certain height above the ground. The flexiwing clearly doesn't.
That it passes the test doesn't make it legal. It just says that the test isn't waterproof.

If you're riding through a red light and there's an officer on the other side of the crossroads who can't see if the light is red or green, he won;t give you a ticket, but it doesn't make your action legal.
 

MajorDanby

Motorsports' answer to Eric the Eel
Contributor
Wombcat said:
I think it's downright illegal. As I understand the regulations say that (all parts of) the car should maintain a certain height above the ground. The flexiwing clearly doesn't.
That it passes the test doesn't make it legal. It just says that the test isn't waterproof.

If you're riding through a red light and there's an officer on the other side of the crossroads who can't see if the light is red or green, he won;t give you a ticket, but it doesn't make your action legal.

For an in depth look at those rules, take a look here viewtopic.php?f=72&t=2121 ;)

On the subject of the rules. The main reason to restrict the engineers was for fears of the cars getting to quick, and being dangerous to the drivers through the g-forces. Ok fair enough...

A reduction in engine size and power may should be beneficial to the sport. Making the cars slower initially, opening up the technical regulations, and allowing that speed to be regained through clever technology that has been banned in the past.
 
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