FIA Formula 2: The Burning Issue: New Mapping for the Clutch Paddle, by Sergio Álvarez


We all love a good controversy, don’t we? And there’s no doubt that Formula 2 has provided us with something to talk about along the start of this season.

However, while we have to admit that cars stalling to the left and to the right of the grid might have some appeal to the average spectator, we should bear in mind that we are talking about a serious issue with safety procedures; and as such has been contemplated by drivers and powers-that-be alike.

Between Baku and Barcelona, a new mapping for the clutch-paddle was tested and a first version was implemented in the last F2 weekend. Not that it was easy for teams and drivers to deal with the novelty: “It was certainly different, but not as simple as it could be. The system is helping, but it’s still not easy,” was Alex Albon’s first impression when he spoke to Iberianmph on Friday evening. “It’s different basically, so we have tonight and tomorrow morning to look at the data to find out if there’s a way to help ourselves even more getting the most from this clutch. That’s what we want. We hadn’t done any start to know if it would work, but after free practice all teams did a lot of starts, so we now have a bit of data in terms of where we are.”

Overall, the F2 pitlane gave thumbs up to the revised system, but not ‘with distinction’: “I think that there has been a step forward for sure,” admitted Luca Ghiotto. “For me it was quite good, and it felt way better than before. Let’s see in the next races. But I think that definitely F2 did a good job with the updates. It was something that they had to do, so luckily it was ready pretty soon as well, for this race.”

To leave the jury still out was a constant among the protagonists who gave his opinion: “Paddle of clutch has always been quite tough to use, even the old one and after so many years…” added Ghiotto. “Right now, as it is, it’s already almost ok. There are just some little bits to improve.” But one thing is for sure according to Albon: “It’s more forgiving. Yes, the main thing is that revs are sweeter, so on the limiter it is not as aggressive and consequently it’s easier to manage, and then there’s the electronics to help you to have a more progressive clutch.”

A step in the right direction, but still a lot of work to do, as testified by the Top 2 drivers of the feature race: “Consistency-wise, there are less stalls because the clutch is doing something more similar to what the driver wants. But in terms of feeling is still very difficult to get the bite point, it’s like turning on and off. So a lot of people struggled,” was Nyck De Vries verdict. George Russell followed suit: “I think that F2 has developed the clutch slightly in a positive manner, but it’s still a long way to go yet. We´ll get there, but it’s not quite there right now.” Even more revealing where his previous comments about mindset: “I didn’t wonder if I was going to have a good start or whatever; on the contrary, I had to handle the situation of not knowing if I was gonna stall or not, or even had to think on how to move left or right from the line; a very difficult feeling.”

Judging by pure statistics, one can say that of course the new mapping was an improvement: Just a sole stall in the whole weekend, courtesy of Sergio Sette-Camara. Two weeks before, we were facing an average of three to four stalls per race!!! That has to be a good reaction time on part of Monsieur Perrin and the whole F2 technical team.

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