One of the hurdles drivers and team owners face during the F1 calendar is worrying about the health of its members.
If you’re Formula One’s security department, one of the most important aspects of F1’s weeklong World Tour must be preventing and controlling mishaps.
This begins with F1’s equipment — the engines that make the cars go, and the tires that make them last — coming from multiple locations around the world. For instance, there are no more power-generation centers for the Renault, Mercedes and Williams power units, and instead a hub operates.
In the race season, the mechanics, engineers and other employees dedicated to keeping F1 teams viable and competitive must also keep their eyes on risks to the drivers, drivers’ and mechanics’ safety. For instance, there are no longer wall-mounted cameras in place to help teams spot problems before they happen.
The 2019 season has been more challenging than previous years for several reasons. Among them are:
1. The new length of the season
In an effort to have greater relevance to the FIA calendar, the 2019 season has been extended to a full year. This means that when F1’s teams and drivers arrive in June, they find themselves facing the rigors of three races in four weeks, including a Grand Prix in Russia two weeks after the Hungarian GP and a long fortnight at the Circuit de Catalunya in Spain a few weeks before the Belgian GP.
2. It’s been a roller coaster for the drivers and fans
Three of the past four drivers’ championships have been won in the final races of the season. That means there will likely be more pressure on drivers in this year’s final four races. Furthermore, the television audience for the series this year has been lackluster, and the return of a title-contending car could break the trend.
In each of the past three years, the championship has been decided in the last four races, with Sebastian Vettel winning in 2015, Lewis Hamilton in 2016 and 2017 and Valtteri Bottas in 2018.
3. Sebastian Vettel, the king of the hills
The last five drivers’ championships have been won by a German driver — Vettel, the 2017 champion; Vettel’s teammate, Bottas; Hamilton; and Verstappen, Verstappen’s teammate this year. And of the seven drivers to win the title in the past decade, five have come from Germany.
4. The power limitations of the engines
It’s no secret that the engines are getting older. Each of the manufacturers have been developing options for making them last longer.
The latest technological breakthrough from Renault is its Variable Power Unit, which uses an electric motor rather than a mechanical one. The only issue: The VPU’s energy doesn’t make its way back into the rest of the car because its lithium-ion battery can only store a certain amount of energy. This is when the bodywork of the race car — notably, the suspension — must compensate for the lack of energy.
5. Teams are working in the shadow of some big-name teams
The 2019 season has been a race against the clock for many teams. Mercedes and Ferrari have been battling for the championship for several seasons, and the competition has really intensified this year.
While the two leading teams still have the luxury of having a lot of their engineers on hand, they’re also still working on F1’s biggest challenges.
The driving forces behind each automaker were equally responsible for constructing the last few dynos. Dividing that responsibility into smaller teams such as Renault and Toro Rosso have taken some of the pressure off the leading teams.
6. Tackling the end of the season
Just as a marathon runner must cross the finish line after running many laps, drivers and teams must cross the finish line after several events.
If the drivers are able to finish their marathon races in decent shape, that typically means that they’ve completed several shorter challenges.
As with runners, the teams are now faced with their fourth challenge: getting back to their race cars quickly and efficiently enough to be competitive in the second half of the season.