Technical directors from up and down the grid have suggested that only time will tell whether the sweeping rule changes set to be introduced next season will improve the spectacle of Formula One.

Asked whether they thought the removal of many of the aerodynamic add-ons, as well as the re-introduction of slick tyres and new technology such as KERS, would raise the excitement level, Toyota's Luca Marmorini, Williams' Sam Michael, Red Bull's Adrian Newey and Renault's Pat Symonds admitted that they would rather reserve judgement until the cars hit the track.

"It is hard to say," Symonds confirmed, "The aerodynamic changes came about as a result of some wind tunnel testing to look at these aspects of racing. It was decided, when those tests were done, that we'd look at downforce levels that were substantially less than... even half of current levels and, of course, as soon as development starts, they escalate up. I won't say they are going to get to current levels, they won't, but they're probably going to be 15 per cent off rather than 50 per cent off.

"Now, if in doing that, the wake structure hasn't substantially changed then, yes, I think we will get slightly better racing and better overtaking. But, in addition to that, we've got the KERS system, which gives the drivers the opportunity to throw in an extra 60 kilowatts of 80 horsepower from time to time. If everyone uses it with exactly the same strategy, it makes no difference at all but, if there's some variation in that, then that's another factor which can lead to more overtaking.

"I think that getting the balance right in overtaking is quite difficult. I agree - and I think most spectators agree - that there's not enough [overtaking] at the moment but, certainly, there are some types of racing where I believe there is too much and it no longer becomes the pinnacle that we are looking for. So getting that balance right is a very difficult thing to do and I think we will only see next year just how successful we've been."

Aero expert Newey agreed that the 2009 regulations posed a big challenge to the teams, but insisted that it was likely that the same pecking order would emerge early in the campaign, simply because of the relative amounts of money available to each team.

"It is a huge change, the biggest regulation change we've had for a very long time," the Red Bull man admitted, "but it's been known for a long time, pretty much since last November, and that has meant that, to some extent, it's been a resource battle.

"Obviously, in an ideal world, you would have a second or third or fourth wind tunnel, you would have two aero teams and would separate them out and off you would go. We're certainly not in that position, so we've had quite a difficult juggling act between developing this year's car and starting to research next year's.

"Will [the changes] achieve [their] objectives? I'm sure there will be more overtaking - a little bit more, but I don't think it's going to be hugely different, frankly. I think it's been shown this year that the most important difference for overtaking is circuit layout and weather conditions. I still think that, if overtaking is too easy, it actually could be quite dull because the quicker cars which are stuck behind [now] are just going to go straight past and then you've got wide open tarmac. For me, the jury is out. We will see...."

Michael agreed with Newey's assessment, but reckoned that there could be some 'upsets' in early races as teams got to grips with the revised aero rules.

"I think next year, especially in the first six months, there's going to be a massive disparity in aerodynamics, because I would be surprised if everyone got it right straightaway," he explained, "You will probably have a couple of teams that get it really right and they are the ones that are going to be winning, but then you're going to have the average and then, probably, a couple of teams that get it really wrong, just because they haven't had time or they haven't balanced this year's resources. So, because of that, I think the effect of that difference in aero is going to swamp KERS for the first part of the year, if not the whole year, to be honest."

Few teams have yet dared to take their nascent KERS systems to the track, and those that have have not enjoyed trouble-free running, but the technology remains an option for next season and it remains to be seen whether anyone opts to start the year with the technology on board. Michael admitted that he thought the way the introduction was being handled was right, however.

"For the first couple of years, it's probably quite right that the FIA has seized the power and energy spec to the system, so it's going to be worth about two or three tenths," he reflected, "I think that's quite sensible because it's such new technology, there are lots of safety issues and performance issues and reliability things to sort out with it.

"I think it should, for the first couple of years, be something that will give you a benefit, but it's not going to lose you a championship if you don't have it. I think the FIA's intention, which is quite right, is that, in three or four years, you will need it to be performing but, by then, everybody will have got their basic systems running and it will just be a matter of developing them. The big step is right now, and trying to get the systems up and running, and I think everyone's at various levels of their programme at the moment."

Both Renault and Toyota welcomed the introduction of KERS as a means of retaining employees that would otherwise have been laid off following the engine freeze.

"I think KERS is a very interesting technical exercise," Symonds said, "The development of it has been fascinating, and it's a chance for us to move into new areas which I think all engineers enjoy.

"The majority of our engineers are mechanical engineers or they're aerodynamicists or they're electronics guys but, here, we are dealing with high power electrical systems and things like that, so a lot of new stuff to learn. It's a difficult project, time-consuming, and it's our intention not to run it in a car until January. It's very, very expensive to build interim cars to look at these sorts of projects and we prefer not to do that, but, particularly with the sophistication of dynamometers these days, all our practice work is being done on dynamometers and then we will build it into our car for next year and see how it performs on the track when hopefully we have de-bugged it from both mechanical reliability and, very specifically, from a safety point of view before we take it to the circuit."


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