Controlling the impossible
Muse #156 - Can rules even do that?
The Formula 1 season is in full force. And along with it comes the usual controversy in this sport and there are new ones each year. This one takes the cake in 2021 so far.
The controversy is around tire change and release. A typical tire change by a top-team like Red Bull (for all four tires at the same time) is around the 2 seconds mark. And this process is a manual process. There are four teams changing all the tires simultaneously. Each team has four members who remove and put on the new tires in one single flow. Remember this whole process takes 2 seconds. And the pitstop coordinator in the front of the car releases the car once he observes all four tires have been replaced.
The FIA ruling body brought in a new tire change rule in order to improve the “safety” of this sport. They have now mandated a minimum 0.15-second delay between the wheel nuts being confirmed as tight and the mechanic operating the jack dropping the car, and 0.2secs from the jack going down to the driver receiving the signal to leave the pits. This is what I call “managing the impossible”.
It is interesting to read Chris Horner’s response. He is the team principal of Red-Bull racing and it is an education in what the problems are in controlling or managing something that is an impossibility.
Horner said: "To have to hold the car for two tenths of a second, you could almost argue it's dangerous because you're judging your gaps.
"The guy that's releasing the car is having to make that judgement, and I think that it's not been well thought through.
"F1 is about innovation and competition. Seeing pit stops sub two seconds is a remarkable feat and we should be encouraging it, not trying to control it, otherwise where does it stop?
"We're going to be told which way to walk into the garage, where we should sit on the pit wall, and which buttons we should press I guess.
"I find it a little disappointing. It's the duty of the competitor to ensure that the car is safe, and the penalty for a wheel not being fixed is you have to stop the car immediately.
"So it's a brutal punishment, if you haven't got all four wheels securely and safely fastened. So what the technical directive is trying to achieve, I'm not quite sure because I think there's an awful lot of complexity to it.
It is interesting to see where this issue will go from here once it is implemented in August. In complex systems, rules are harmful - especially complex ones that are hard to implement. It shows how there is always an intent to control actions even in situations where things cannot be controlled. The teams own the problem anyhow as anyone who cuts corners will have it reflect in the performance of the car and their position in the race. Accidents do happen (like the Ferrari accident a few years ago in 2018 where a mechanic broke his leg) but building impossible rules to cover occasional outliers is a costly and non-sporty way of doing it.
Formula 1: Red Bull's Christian Horner says pit stop rule change 'disappointing' - https://www.bbc.com/sport/formula1/57615628