Reliability Is Key, Especially in a Short Season
The season approaches but it seems that it will be short in comparison to others. Meaning, teams must be on top of reliability during the season.
The 2020 season, sees a reduced calendar from the record-breaking one which was meant to host twenty-two Grand Prix, will now whittle down to around fifteen. But this means fewer points will be available for the Championship, meaning reliability will need to be there for all the teams this season.
Every season, teams want a reliable car which they can trust to perform at each track in the season. However, this season it is ever so crucial that teams find the right formula to allow for sustained reliability during the season.
In Formula 1 points equal prizes, which is a key reason as to why there has to be a focus regarding the reliability of the teams' cars. As Formula One Management, of course, give out prize money depending on where you finish in the Championship table.
With only about fifteen expected races, this does bring favour to lower reliability because the rules which are in place regarding how many parts each car is allowed in a season, will still be applied but to fewer races. So the teams can have three Power Units but over less time meaning it becomes slightly easier for teams to control the engine and meaning the engines will still hold more power over the let say five races which each engine races in.
However, this also means teams, technically have less time to develop a new power unit. As is well known throughout the season the power units supplied by either Honda, Mercedes, Renault or Ferrari, is developed and weaknesses previously there are aimed to be worked out. But with a shorter season comes less time to develop.
The power units in the cars in Austria will be a different spec engine to the ones in Barcelona but also the ones they were aiming to be raced in Australia. This is because teams have had a large number of times to work on further development since Australia. The disadvantage is that these engines have not been tried and tested like the engines often are through the season which leads to the development by the power unit staff in each team.
With no testing available, this means there could be a reliability issue. A few seasons ago, Mercedes brought their spec two engines to Canada (I Believe). However, the team at Brackley quickly noticed on the dino model a problem which would lead to reliability issues. Which shows, teams can find issues without the power unit being tested. But there is the fact that these engines are now the second spec for the teams and are still yet to be run, so it is an unknown on the reliability of any engine but the original ones which were run in winter testing.
Of course, reliability can not just be the power unit, it can be several elements, which teams will be hoping to stay in the limit of but can cause reliability issues. Such as, hydraulics can cause random issues, which struggle to be avoided. There are so many on the list, but every team will be keeping on top of what they can control to make sure they are keeping a reliable car.
Although, there are reliability issues which can often be out of the hands of each team. This is also something they will be prompting drivers to avoid in the form of DNFs due to on-track incidents.
On-track incidents are sometimes easily avoidable but they also add to entertainment in Formula 1, so we will all want to see some. However, going wide because you know you lose time by doing it, and that leads to you going over the sausage curbs. Then that means something breaks on the bottom of the car, things such as that are simply avoidable, and teams will aim for the drivers to not make silly mistakes which cost the reliability of the car.
There are also tyres, punctures caused by debris, that is often out of the control of teams or driver because if you're on the racing line and you expect it to be clear or yellow flags are not being waved, then how can you avoid debris. But if a team gets the tyre strategy to wring so the tyres go off a cliff and end up like Ferrari at the 2017 British Grand Prix, then that has to be down to the team. So the choices of tyres are elements which will be watched to avoid the issues, in addition to all.
Not that any of the previously mentioned is not forever watched by the team and constantly aimed to be avoided. But, the teams know this season it will be harder to score points because there is less time to score the points. There is less time to climb up the championship table and catch up with your rivals.
Issues in reliability can make or break a season. Look at 2017, the crash in Singapore, with Vettel taking his front wing off, paired with the spark plug in Japan (which everyone knows was so stupid) broke the season for Ferrari and handed Mercedes and Lewis Hamilton the titles.
In 2018, everyone thought the make or break moment came in Germany in Qualifying when Hamilton suffered a hydraulics issue. Everyone thought the championship was over, and Vettel would run away with it. But it was slightly different, qualifying can be improved upon in the race.
But during a race, if a mistake which leads to a reliability issue or just an issue with the car itself. That can change things completely. The top teams will aim to be near perfect in their cars reliability but so will the midfield because they all know a shorter season means less chance to get any form of points.
It will be interesting to watch it unfold over a smaller number of races, seeing how closely packed races and less time to develop a car can affect reliability and the outcome of a season. Also whether drivers make mistakes which affect their reliability, and how that impacts their place in the standings.