Lack of strategic thinking in Formula One


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.

7 responses to “Lack of strategic thinking in Formula One

  1. Lewis and Seb have already come out and said that the proposed changes in relation to more downforce, will not make any difference.

    Think they should listen to the drivers given that they’re the ones behind the wheel, because they don’t want more aero downforce, but more mechanical grip.

  2. To be honest, none of the strategy group proposals made any sense to me, not at least in the sense of having a potential to fix any of F1s current problems. Refueling? What does this fix exactly? Active suspension? Aren’t they supposed to lower the costs of racing, not raise them, HELLO? Big wheels? More downforce? Wait isn’t the downforce the phenomenon that made F1 adopt the crappy DRS system. Should they be trying to get rid of downforce instead?

    Anyways, if I could propose any changed, I’d suggest to make some of the rules go back to something like 1995-96. In particular.

    1. Get rid of DRS. DRS has simply killed close racing, the kind of races where two leading cars could go glued nose to tail for half hour in the 90s. Now that was exciting. The fake DRS overtakes are not.

    2. Get rid of the engine reliability requirements and penalties. I want to see the teams pushing the engines to the edge of their limits. I want to see engines explode from the stress, like it used to be common. Remember those races from the 1990s, where it was pretty common from pretty much any leading car finish the race with a blown engine? Races where something like a third of cars ends the race because of mechanical difficulties? That was very good unpredictability.

    3. Convert the Q3 into a single lap qualifying format.

  3. Tyres can give you 4 seconds.
    Ground effect cars can give you a similar amount again.
    Start off with a standard floor/diffuser to get teams back familiar with the concept (eases the transition and allows you to identify and sort out any teething problems as there inevitably will be), and then open up the reg’s by specifying maximum surface area’s etc.
    It’s simple.

  4. I listened to this podcast today. Hearing Pat Symonds you could be forgiven for interpreting his feelings about the current state of F1 as “Problem? What problem?” Third in the constructors’ championship sure induces complacency.
    The other impression I gained is that there’s nothing wrong with F1 that Max Verstappen can’t fix, huh?
    Nigel Roebuck didn’t sound too “on message” with this stuff, did he?

  5. Making the cars 5-6 seconds a lap quicker will also shorten the race lengths, granted by only around 5 minutes but that could potentially be a reasoning of some. Shorten the required attention span?

  6. The only guys wanting more aero are Horner (because that’s what his boys are best at) and Alonso (because he’d probably take *anything* to give him a chance of getting a quicker car).

    All you need for overtaking is cleaner slipstream/less emphasis on front-end grip, and longer braking zones to increase the chance of a late braking move.
    I’d have no problem with any of the following:
    – a standard ground-effect floor, development opened up after a couple of years.
    – Get rid of fuel flow limits but retain the maximum fuel allowance. Let the team/driver/engine use fuel however they like. That’ll give us banzai single-lap-full-boost laps in quali and around pitstops.
    – massively simplified front wings – let them have 2 horizontal elements and flat endplates and get the focus off aero grip through complex wings. Cheaper for the little guys but permit the big guys to still spend silly money chasing 1/100ths if they really want to. We’ve seen RB and Merc running 8+ horizontal elements on their wings and they can still only overtake with DRS when behind a slower car. It’s completely insane.
    – combine the above with bigger tyres and you won’t lose any laptime.

    FWIW I have no issue with the engines, just all the rules around their use and development. They don’t sound like the old days but equally a 1992 V10 didn’t sound like a 1984 turbo. Who cares?

  7. Paul Hembery has had some really decent suggestions of late, maybe he should take over from Bernie? All I know is I like the 3 mini championships in 1 year and the suggestions he has made with regard the tyres being able to produce big performance increases people are looking for.
    If only all the great F1 leaders would just stop and listen, instead of just enjoying the sound of their own voices xxx

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