SINGAPORE - THREE new features have been introduced to make this year's Formula One season more exciting - but that has not blurred the lines between man and machine, former F1 racing driver David Coulthard insisted on Saturday, after a meet-and-greet session with about 100 of his fans. On the contrary, he said it reminded him of Ayrton Senna in the 1980s, a genius racing driver and three-time F1 world champion who died in a crash during the 1994 Italian Grand Prix.
To increase the chances of overtaking this year, a driver can leverage on the new Drag Reduction System (DRS) that adjusts the car's rear wing for greater speed and the Kinetic Energy Recovery System (Kers) that recovers and converts heat from braking to electrical energy for up to 6.67s. However, such tools still need to be called upon by the driver, as demonstrated in the last Shanghai GP race, Coulthard said. In that race, McLaren's Lewis Hamilton critically overtook his teammate Jenson Button by firing up his Kers twice at the start-finish line.
Said Coulthard, 'There is a misperception that the drivers are less important than they used to be and that people can look back with rose-coloured spectacles and think that the pioneers in the 1950s were the real drivers.'
Pitstops have also become crucial to a podium finish. According to Coulthard, tyres in the last 15 years were so efficient that they made little difference to the qualifying and racing timings. The F1 pundit said that the new Pirelli tyres, however, behaved differently with the new compounds. The tyres now degrade drastically and lose their performance at the end. Again, Hamilton effortlessly overtook Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel in Shanghai because he had much fresher tyres. Hamilton went on to win the race.
Coulthard, who first joined the Williams F1 team as a test driver in 1993, said this type of racing would have suited him better at the end of his racing career, which lasted from 1994 to 2008. The new season is more about balancing the grip of tyres over time than revving the V8 engines and then sprinting, Coulthard said. He remembered how in 1987, five-time F1 champion Nigel Mansell famously overtook teammate Nelson Picquet in Silverstone despite losing around 30s after a pitstop. Mansel had reeled in his teammate just after 10 to 15 laps.
'I think we've had a lot of excitement in the three Grand Prix we had this year. And the drivers, teams and pitstops are a key part of that,' said Coulthard. He will be performing stunts in a Red Bull Racing show car in an 800m closed stretch of Orchard Road on Sunday from 4pm onwards for the Red Bull Speed Street Singapore.
Red Bull Speed Street Singapore
F1 fans can take their own cover photo shoot with the championship-winning RB7 race car set up at Torque's booth. Those who prefer to take to digital tracks themselves can try out the Red Bull X2010 supercar in the PS3 game GT5 at the Sony booth.
Singapore GP, the race promoter for the Singapore Grand Prix, has also set up four race simulators.
Malaysia's F1 driver Alex Yoong will also be driving the Audi R8 LMS in a showcase from 4pm onwards. The car will be competing in the Malaysia Merdeka Millennium Endurance race in September this year. The Renault Megane RS will also take to the roads. Renault currently supplies engines to three F1 teams - Red Bull Racing, Lotus Renault and Team