Aggressive looking, faster, wider bodied and larger wheeled cars was the promise of a new Formula one for 2017. There are less than two months for next year’s regulations to be accepted by the technical working group and then by the F1 strategy group – otherwise unanimous agreement is required thereafter.
Over the festive season stories were released suggesting the diffuser would be much larger than at present, allowing for more downforce to be acquired from underneath the car, rather than from the aerodynamics on top which create more turbulence for anyone following close behind. It appears a majority of those on the working party have now agreed to scale back a number of the proposed changes for 2017.
The cars will increase in width to the planned two metres, however the planned increase in body width from 140 to 180 cm has now been scrapped.
The increase from 12.5cm to 25cm for the height of the new diffuser has also been canned and the wheels will remain 13 inches high. The tyre widths will however increase from the current 305/325mm front/rear to 325/405mm. The wing sizes remain as proposed according to AMuS, front wing will be increased to 180cm, and 95cm for the upper element at the rear wind and the beam-wing is to be 84 cm wide.
The cars are likely to look quite strange having suspension extending a further 20cm either side of the body and an SUV style ‘step’ looking floor extending beyond the bodywork to the full width allowed.
Red Bull are reportedly unhappy about this and this is reflected by a number of Adrian Newey’s recent comments in the media. “The regulation changes that are being talked about for 2017, they are actually not that different to what we have now. Slightly wider tyres. Slightly revised aerodynamics regulations. No really fundamental differences,” Newey explained to the National.
The reason behind Newey’s negativity is clear from his other comments, “I have always enjoyed rule changes because it gives fresh opportunities.” Yet why do Red Bull require fresh opportunities given many F1 observers believe their latest 2015 chassis was still up there with the best of them?
The answer to our question is that Red Bull’s aerodynamics have been delivering a much smaller advantage – if any at all – when compared to previous years. Daniel Ricciardo’s comments are revealing when we look behind the today’s headlines which state, “Red Bull could win with Mercedes F1 engine”. The Aussie suggests the car was difficult to set up until modifications brought for the last race before the summer break in Hungary.
“Budapest was really where it turned. I’d honestly say from Budapest, if we had a Merc in the back we would’ve won a few races, to say the least.”
Yet the reality is no customer of Mercedes or Ferrari has won a race since the new V6 hybrid regulations came into force in 2014, so Ricciardo’s analysis is speculative at best.
TJ13 did reveal that Red Bull Racing had crash tested 63 noses in 2014 and interestingly Ricciardo would appear to give credence to our sources’ claims. “When we did have the new nose/wing combination at Silverstone, that was when it started going better,” he said. “That was a big one. I know they went through a lot of noses and we tried a lot of combinations”.
So why have the 2017 regulations been so watered down? Pirelli have been saying for some time that the regulations are too radical and it would be difficult to create accurate simulations to test these radical changes. Further, given the limitations of the tyres, the engineers expected gains would in effect be a mere quarter of the theoretical improvements the calculations were showing.
Mercedes too appear to have fallen in behind Pirelli and are supporting their concerns along with their customer teams. Of course, the smaller the changes in regulations for 2017, the less the opportunity for the status quo to change.