Albert Park in Melbourne had ‘typical’ weather Thursday for the first day of the four-day Qantas Australian Grand Prix. By typical I mean changeable. If you don’t like the weather, wait five minutes. While the twelve Formula One teams were making ready for the first day of their 2011 F1 season, they had to deal with several hit and run rain showers and one real storm. The wind was such that between showers, the rain dried up.
Whereas the pace had been somewhat leisurely on Wednesday, it picked up Thursday as the teams put the final touches on their new race cars. Scrutineering of sorts began on Thursday, with a six-hour window (10 am – 4 pm) given for the teams to complete their safety inspections by the CAMS (Confederation of Australian Motor Sports) F1 Scrutineers. Basically the teams had all their safety-related aspects checked for compliance under FIA F1 rules and regulations.
Being the first race of the season, all of the driver’s gear is new, and many drivers have a set for each day. Ordinarily this could be a time-intensive process for the teams and inspectors, but this is Australia. Even though the AGP became the first race of the 2011 season at the last minute, it’s been the first race so many times that Scrutineering is a well-oiled machine which purred right along.
The apparel is checked for all the appropriate fire ratings and even color. Under the wrong conditions, a driver could be poisoned by dye. The helmets are not only checked for the latest Snell rating, they are all physically massaged by the Scrutineer to checks for cracks, flaws, bumps or anything which could comprise the integrity of the helmet. Not much chance of that since most helmets are brand new for this race. The mandatory HANS device also is checked for its FIA labels. The F1 teams are licensed by HANS to manufacture their own devices.
Other required safety compliances include brake assemblies; wheel locks; wheel tethers (first mandated in F1 and now in most major racing series); fire extinguisher installation, setup and location; chassis numbers; seat belts-installation and ratings; cockpit opening; and even the glass in the rear view mirrors.
In addition to the safety compliances, the teams are allowed to take their cars to the weight platform where they can themselves do various checks.
The first FIA race car scrutineering is after the second Friday practice, and the legality/compliance inspection occurs after Qualifying. Additionally, the top ten qualifiers are taken to Parc Ferme.
Pirelli, the 2011 F1 tire supplier, has announced the six colors it will use to make visible distinctions between the tires. This concept has already been used in other series, such as IndyCar. The list is: Wet – orange: Intermediate – light blue; Super soft – red; Soft – yellow; Medium – white; and Hard – silver. To further the distinction between prime and option tires, Pirelli is, depending on track conditions, offering at least a one-step compound difference between the tires nominated for each race. For Australia that will be hard and soft compounds, silver and yellow. If the weather continues as it has been and is forecast, you could also see blue and orange tires.