A bold new vision for Formula One cars for 2017 was developed earlier this year. Part of the reasoning was that this would reverse the falling interest in the sport from both TV viewers and those attending grand prix. Proposals included wider and more aggressive looking cars, bigger wheels, a lot more down force, cars which are much faster, regulations to facilitate customer teams along with race fuelling.
The refueling idea was quickly abandoned and the originally proposed increase in wheel size has now also been moderated. Of course big changes in regulations mean bigger costs for the teams as the breadth of their R&D focus increases along with the development and testing of new components for the cars.
Now leading voices in the sport are questioning whether the proposed increase in down force levels designed to increase the speed of the cars will also mean overtaking is more difficult than now.
Speaking on Motorsport Magazine’s podcast, Pat Symonds reveals that those tasked with developing the 2017 aerodynamic regulations are back tracking on the increase in down force levels. He also dismisses much of the thinking behind the current proposals as being “not very strategic.”
Given the driving force behind these big changes, this accusation is hardly surprising. Ecclestone has been grandstanding for almost two years on how desperate the state of Formula One is at present and demanding significant changes.
Symonds also interestingly revealed that much of the hype about the need to make the cars 5-6 seconds a lap quicker, was driven by those who refused to believe a 17 year old should be capable of driving a Formula One car. The Williams Technical Director points out the stupidity of this thinking, because F1 drivers have forever been capable of driving the cars late into their 30’s.
TJ13 has suggested previously that improving lap times by 5 seconds is a pointless target because the vast majority of the viewers on TV will see no difference in the cars. Further, how does making the cars quicker improve the ‘show’ at all? Christian Horner believes that making the faster will make them harder to drive and that will ‘sort out the boys from the men’.
The good news for Formula One fans is the likes of Symonds are now winning the arguments on down force and Pirelli have supported them by suggesting they can deliver much of the lap time increase. “If you want to increase performance, we can do that,” says Paul Hembery.
“Just by the tyre size change we will probably gain two seconds,” he explained. “If you then gave us a proper testing programme, probably by the tyres alone, and with a natural evolution of the current car, we can deliver four seconds. It would be cheaper for everybody, and cheaper if they helped us do that than for everybody to redesign all the cars.”
This would mean the technical regulations can remain the same, saving the teams huge amounts of expense. Hembery argues the increase in tyre size will mean the teams just need to redesign the suspension elements of the car, “without going the full packet of changing all the aero.”
The amusing aspect of all this is the driving force behind the ‘necessary’ 2017 revolution. A young lad called Max Verstappen apparently threw the most of the paddock, the FIA and the commercial rights holder into panic.