At the start of this season, Formula One Management rolled out some reforms to try and bring in a wider audience. This year, the main changes were a new qualifying format and a change to the race start.
The new qualifying format sounded good on paper, but in reality it was pretty rubbish stuff. Back in Melbourne, in post Q1-shock, the paddock was quite unanimous in dismissing it. Qualifying didn’t need to be tampered with anyway, and thankfully, we went back to the old format with little delay. Bernie and co were reluctant to the mass criticism initially, but found sense after wiping the egg off of their faces.
One reformation that’s worked well so far and added another dimension to race day are the race starts. For 2016, drivers use a single clutch, rather than the previous double clutch, and they can’t be told the optimum settings for the start by their engineers either. This has resulted in another variable for drivers to try and get on top of. It’s worked well in that the starts are less predictable, more reliable on the adeptness of each driver.
With last years start procedure, it would have been unlikely to witness the sort of exciting start that we got in Canada. Vettel flew off the line in his Ferrari with perfect timing, getting past Hamilton and Rosberg, both of whom were bogged down a bit. It meant that after turn one, a real race looked to be on the cards – Even if Hamilton’s incredible final stint on the soft tyres would prove to be too much for the Ferrari.
The regulation change has to be considered a positive one, which is refreshing given the usual negativity around the subject. It’s providing another aspect for the drivers to try and master, and makes the race start even more interesting than it already was. Mercedes need to improve in this area generally, because Vettel did this in Australia too.
Lewis Hamilton admitted that his Mercedes team need to get on top of the issue they’re having at the starts. He said,
“The clutch was warm, had low torque, so I let the clutch out and it didn’t deliver the torque.
“Compared to Nico, his torque was not as expected, but he still had better torque. So my clutch was just slipping. I did the procedure exactly as I was asked. They’re going to investigate and try to understand why.
“They don’t quite understand it, so we’re going to work on it. Having seen [the data], I’m happy I didn’t make any mistakes, but this clutch is definitely catching us out.”
Hamilton and Rosberg will be hoping that Mercedes get on top of their clutch issues ahead of the next Grand Prix at the extremely narrow Baku street circuit in Azerbaijan, as overtaking slower cars after a bad start might prove to be tricky around there.