The Formula 1 2018 season is revving up to hit your screens with the Melbourne Grand Prix on March 25. World Champion Lewis Hamilton, having clocked up an amazing nine wins out of the twenty races, was a dominating force in the 2017 season. Hamilton’s Mercedes team is keen to emulate Ferrari’s five-in-a-row record. Add to that, the tweaks and changes that have been brought to the rules of racing, and you have all the ingredients for an exciting F1 calendar. As the buzz for the 2018 season builds up, we look at four key technical changes that could potentially turn the season on its head.
The most significant development is the introduction of the halo cockpit. The protection device is designed to improve driver safety in case of an accident. It also helps deflect debris away from the driver. Although the basic design is regulated, the teams have been given some leeway to re-design the halo to suit their cars. The introduction of the halo also has increased the overall minimum weight of the cars. Beyond the technical and aerodynamic implications, watch out for extra advertising and brand visibility.
The Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA) that runs Formula 1 has outlawed the use of trick suspension system. This system could potentially be used to improve the car’s aerodynamics. Last year, some teams included a link in the front suspension of the car that connected to the upright. The suspension system could be used to manipulate the ride height of the car, leading to faster lap times. The decision to ban the suspension system would bring the cars on an even keel. Potential scintillating battles on the track beckon!
Pirelli, the official supplier of Formula 1 tyres, has introduced tyres with two additional compounds. This takes the total number of compounds up to seven from five. The tyre compounds have gone softer than their 2017 counterparts. This could compel teams to employ unorthodox strategies and increase pit stops as softer tyres tend to wear out faster. Initial test data also suggests that softer compounds help cars go faster—up to a second per lap. The move to softer tyre compounds should make the 2018 season even more exciting, and with fewer one-stop races.
This season, each driver will have to manage with three engines as opposed to the four last year. This unprecedented move is aimed at reducing costs and improving the reliability of F1 engines. This could worry teams as this season will see 21 races compared to 20 last year. One less engine could also mean fewer power upgrades. The teams will have to tread a fine line between going flat-out on the track and being conservative. Costly engine failures could see the season slip away if the teams resort to an overly aggressive approach. Keep an eye out for unconventional team strategies.