A1GP to share quickest cars data with all teams
This season, as always, the fastest A1GP laps will be watched by millions around the world. But for the first time, the technical secrets behind them will be published. The 2008/09 sporting regulations were confirmed last week, with the main highlights being a revised points system and the news that the action in the shorter Sprint race will now include a mandatory pit stop. There will also be more pressurized qualifying sessions thanks to less time to set the all important fast times for grid positions, and more time for rookie drivers on a Friday morning.
However, hidden in the regulations, there is another intriguing new rule, which could have an extremely significant affect on the closeness and the quality of this season’s racing – because now, all teams will get some crucial information about the fastest car on the track, and why it is the fastest.
How will this be done? Measurements from sensors placed all around A1GP cars are constantly recording data such as speed, throttle angle and brake pedal pressure. From this season, those measurements taken during the fastest lap recorded in each session will be published for the rest of the pit lane to see. With such information, teams struggling for pace during practice will have a better chance of understanding why they are slower, and hopefully closing that time gap to the front-running car.
The exact wording of the new rule is as follows: “Article 123: After each Practice session and Qualifying, A1GP will make available to all Competitors data showing information relating to the speed, throttle angle, brake application and steering angle of the Fastest Lap achieved overall in each Practice session and in Qualifying.”
All cars are identical, but there are still many different minor adjustments teams can make with that same equipment. A1GP races are decided by driver skill, and how that driver races with the car set-up to his or her liking (a car’s set-up is the way the myriad of different settings are used to maximize its capabilities on a given circuit in given conditions.) This new rule means some basic information on the fastest laps of the weekend will be available to all competitors for the first time – and not just the teams that recorded them. This is new ground for an international motor racing series.
While many spectators and fans are unlikely to be interested in trawling through the various graphs and the numbers themselves, they should be happy if the drivers and engineers of the teams they support do. This could potentially mean they are closer to the pace.
Presently, team fraternization is one of the most hotly-debated issues in A1GP. Every nation is racing for itself, but some choose to work alongside each other in the pit lane, sharing technical data. By sharing information such as throttle position, downforce levels and the data readings, a driver could potentially learn from another’s telemetry where they could, for example, improve at a particular corner. However, the flipside to that is a team also gives away its own information to a rival nation.
While the data given by A1GP after every session will not be as exhaustive as the telemetry readings from their own cars, it could potentially reveal that piece of crucial information a team needs. The grid for the Feature race in Zhuhai last season was just 1.4 seconds from the front to the back. What price on a grid with an even smaller gap this season?
Ultimately, what it will mean is that the emphasis on driver ability will be more than ever before.