Formula 1 drivers raise safety concerns over fuel saving methods
|By Jonathan Noble||Saturday, March 15th 2014, 04:37 GMT|
Leading Formula 1 drivers have told the FIA that they are worried aggressive fuel saving could result in accidents this year.
AUTOSPORT has learned that at Friday night's drivers' briefing ahead of the Australian Grand Prix, a number of drivers expressed fears to race director Charlie Whiting about potential dangers that could be caused by 'lift and coast' tactics.
Several drivers, believed to include Sebastian Vettel, Jenson Button and Fernando Alonso, told Whiting that they had concerns that drivers could be caught out if rivals slow unpredictably at the end of straights.
One of the best ways to save fuel without hurting lap time is to 'lift and coast' - which effectively means coming off the throttle earlier than normal before the braking zone at the end of the straight.
Some drivers fear that if they have to adopt such tactics while racing hard for position with other cars, then there is a risk they could be rear-ended if the car behind does not expect it to happen.
By lifting and coasting, drivers could be suddenly slowing down more than 100 metres before the traditional braking zone.
Whiting is believed to have told drivers that he was well aware of the situation - but reiterated his view that the best way to prevent it is for them to take responsibility for not running the risk of confusing a pursuing car.
"It is like in any other situation, if a driver is going to back off unexpectedly he has to make sure that a driver is not close to him," Whiting had said before the start of track action.
One driver told AUTOSPORT that ultimately they would need to wait and see how things actually panned out in the races - because the fears may not be realised.
If drivers are being forced to aggressively save fuel by adopting 'lift and coast' tactics then it is likely they will be overtaken quickly anyway, so would not get dragged in to intense on-track battles for positions.
NEW WARNING LIGHT SYSTEM FOR 2014
The FIA has already moved to minimise the risk of problems of drivers being caught out when the engines automatically cut throttle to help reduce fuel use.
A new warning light system has been introduced for 2014 - which alerts pursuing cars when fuel maps have been activated that means cars are not running at full performance.
Whiting explained: "If the torque management system on the car decides that it want to go into fuel save mode then a system kicks in.
"If you are flat out on the straight and you are above a certain threshold - above 95% throttle for more than one second, and you are above 180km/h and you see a 120KW torque reduction - it flashes the rear light for a second to warn the driver behind."
Not all drivers are convinced about the benefits of the system yet - and tweaks could be made in the future.
This system only works on the automatic fuel saving modes, and does not cover the situation of drivers suddenly adopting 'lift and coast' tactics.