The FIA clearly have been looking at Lewis’s misfortune and mistakes during the 2016 season. Several instances of poor starts from the Mercedes driver ‘spiced up’ the season. The regulations for clutch systems next year will therefore be changed to encourage more errors.
Current regulation for 2016 allows a double paddle system behind the steering wheel but only to operate a single clutch.
Previously, the teams used to have two paddles for separate clutches with the net effect of creating a type of traction control. The reasons for this system was to try and eliminate the variables that change the bite point of the clutch, crucial to a good get away. Temperature would change the optimal bite point of the clutch.
2016 saw this eliminated but teams have had a few tricks up their sleeves such as keeping 2 paddles as a means of clawing back the ability to find an optimal bite point. Although the paddles operate just one clutch, unlike pre 2016, the trick for 2016 was for the driver to find the optimal bite with the first paddle when the first red light appears – setting the car ready. Once the last light went out, both paddles were released at that optimal bite point.
This did rely on the driver successfully operating the first paddle but in essence, we returned to a similar launch of years past. Not all drivers 100% successfully nailed the procedure, as demonstrated by Hamilton’s occasional poor get aways.
Also, during practice sessions, teams recorded where the clutch bite points were relative to temperature at each race. This information was then marked as a reference point on the steering wheel giving them the ideal paddle position at race start.
All of this has been eliminated now for 2017. No reference points on the steering wheel are allowed, secondly, only one paddle.
The most important feature is that the position of the clutch paddle no longer determines the position of the clutch but the torque to be transmitted.
The driver must therefore feel how much torque he wants to transmit, via the hand on the clutch and foot on the accelerator pedal. In the opinion of the engineers, it will be much more common that when the engine starts, either the speed falls significantly or the rear wheels spin too much.
So expect all overtaking to occur at turn 1, lap 1 next season since all advice from the overtaking working group has now ignored. 2017 will see much more aero dependance which historically cripples cars ability to follow one another.
Unfortunately for F1 fans, the start will probably the only occasion we’ll see genuine (non DRS) passing during a race next year.