If ever there was a visual giveaway of competitive addiction in F1, there it was last week in the shape of that vertical fin just ahead of the new Ferrari F60's sidepod.
"What the hell is that?" said one old hand, someone whose job it once was to come up with stuff like this, but who now watches as an amused, occasionally enraged, onlooker. "I thought all that crap was supposed to be consigned to history with the new regs."
Indeed, one of the primary purposes of the 2009 aero regs was to eliminate all the upper body add-ons that so disturbed the aero wake of the cars, making overtaking so difficult. They made the car in front throw off a choppy airflow and the car behind extra sensitive to - choppy airflow.
So the technical working group - comprising various team engineers and designers - sat down and came up with a complex set of zones on the car that were highly prescriptive in where bodywork could appear and where it could not, and what radii were permitted. This supposedly effectively outlawed once and for all those addenda that gave you laptime but damaged the spectacle for the audience.
These suggestions were duly rubber-stamped by the FIA and form the basis of the new regulations.
Sticking to the plan
But asking team personnel what rules should be applied to them is a slightly odd process. On the plus side, it should ensure the changes are effective, preventing the teams from blaming the governing body if they don't work.
On the other, it asks those in the working group to bury their competitive instincts, to level with each other, to look into every aspect that their competitive selves would pursue - and try to head it off in advance. It asks them to subsume their competitive desire - the very thing that has marked them out as exceptional in their fields - for the greater good of the sport.
And while they are sitting in that room, they are probably all very sincere. They actually do come up with ideas and possible ways of getting around the intent of regs, that they then collectively prevent.
Behind closed doors
But what happens once that process is complete? When they've all left that room, when the rules they've suggested have been accepted and made into binding regulation? What happens then, when they are back with their own teams, where the very reason for their existence is to win, where striving for victory is in every part of the team DNA? Suddenly the intensity is a couple of step changes greater than what transpired in that room with your peers from the other teams.
On reflection, actually, there could be a way around regulation X, you think; and if that could be done you'd surely be one step ahead of the opposition.
For example, what about finding a way of getting those sidepods back even further, thereby creating some unregulated space - into which you could insert a nice big vertical turning vane that will channel the air very effectively around the big frontal area formed by the sidepods and realigning the flow onto the top of them to reduce lift?
All perfectly legal, but not really what any of those working group members would have condoned had that specific question been posed in their meetings. It should make the car faster and, in the process, make its aero wake choppier.
It's an especially delicate position for Ferrari given that their boss is the man leading the teams' association FOTA, a body that has kept all the teams united in a common commercial and sporting vision so far.
Many other teams would have been understandably dubious when the idea of the Ferrari chief representing their interests was first mooted. For years Ferrari had been viewed with more paranoia than any other team. Although those teams that bought into the idea were convinced of its wisdom, they inevitably had their antenna tuned for the first sign of the self-interest that had always characterised Ferrari during the Jean Todt era.
Now here are Ferrari introducing a feature on their new car that clearly gets around a commonly agreed intent - and if it can do that on a technical matter...
Yet not one of those teams has so far spoken out about the matter, suggesting just how strong that alliance is.
Meantime, the old hand is shaking his head in amused disbelief: "They were all smart enough to make sure this didn't happen," he says, "but are too smart to be smart enough."
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