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Reading Alan Baldwin’s piece today at Reuters reminded me of the reason many folks like the current regulations in Formula 1. The drivers at Mercedes may have been battling on track in the waning laps of the Bahrain Grand Prix but engineers for each car were battling it out in the garage playing cat and mouse with energy store, energy deployment and tactical use of the car’s technical innovations in order to win.

The thought of harvesting energy differently than your teammate and then deploying it at strategic times will make even the most ardent F1 technology boffin happy. It’s a game in which the garage is involved as well as the drivers.

Baldwin cites Mercedes technical director Paddy Lowe:

“One of the new games you can play in Formula One is energy management,” Mercedes executive technical director Paddy Lowe told reporters after his team’s third win in three races this season and second one-two finish.

“There are opportunities to manage your energy flow, save it up perhaps and play it out in different places. The team are very well practised and trained in doing all that and how to use that with the drivers.

“And what we saw during that last 10 laps was not only the drivers competing but each side of the garage competing in terms of playing the game of energy deployment. A cat and mouse game, staying ahead of the other with the energy around the lap.”

If the battle on track between teammates wasn’t exciting enough, the battle in the garage surely added to the spectacle at the Sakhir Circuit. There was a time in F1 where two-way communication was allowed meaning a team could radio the car specific information to change parameters on the car during the race. Back then it was ride height and other engine mapping settings but imagine if they allowed that today—every corner would be managed from the garage for optimum performance.

At that point, you might be able to just pilot the car from the garage as well making F1 the world’s most expensive remote controlled car race ever. Post-race podiums would have a sheepish engineer standing there with a remote controller in his hands and the victory lap would be the engineer running up and down the pitlane with arms raised in triumph.

Anyway, back to reality. If you liked the Bahrain Grand Prix, then perhaps the battle in the garage was as additive to the excitement as the driving skills were on track. I also think about the drivers and how many buttons and knobs they must have been operating during those final laps to accomplish the tactics the garage was working on.

They must have had their hands full with that particular portion of the race because we know they weren’t struggling with the cars that much such is the clear advantage Mercedes currently have with a good-handling car. Let’s face it, Mercedes is playing with these types of elements while Ferrari and Red Bull are trying to finish the race with some reliability. Quite a chasm between teams at the moment and hat tip to Merc for getting it ironed out.

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An F1 fan since 1972, NC has spent over 25 years in the technology industry and as a CTO, he focuses on technology integration in commercial workspace design, AV systems integration, digital media strategies, technology planning, consulting, speaking, presenting, sales, content strategy, marketing and brand building.
  • Rapierman

    Team orders may be team orders, but there are sub-teams, for lack of a better term. NASCAR also has that kind of dynamic where the individual drivers have their own pit crews, and each of them is basically a sub-team, and they compete just as if they were on their own. I suspect that the same is true for IndyCar, Formula 1, Moto GP, and so on.

  • JasonI

    It might be more interesting if we could see how some of it was playing out from home.