2017 rules may need rethink as Mercedes expresses safety concerns

Formula 1 teams and Pirelli have launched a study into the impact of the new 2017 rules, after Mercedes this week expressed safety concerns about the push to make cars faster.

Motorsport.com has learned that Mercedes prepared a report for a meeting of F1 technical directors that took place on Tuesday, detailing what the consequences were of the new car rules that have been put in place.

And amid fears that the big advances being made on aerodynamics could be too much for the tyres to cope with, the teams and Pirelli are now working on revised simulation data to see if such worries are borne out.

The FIA hopes the research – which will detail the loading of tyres when aerodynamics deliver various laptime improvements – can be completed within the next three weeks.

Once that data is ready, the FIA will be able to better judge just how much of an improvement from aerodynamics should be targetted – and whether the current plans are too ambitious.

No rolling the dice

Mercedes motorsport boss Toto Wolff said that his team felt careful thought was needed to understand fully if the new rules were too much, as he feared some rivals were putting competitive opportunities ahead of safety considerations.

“We are not satisfied,” Wolff told Motorsport.com. “Some of the teams have different agendas and think that rolling the dice makes a lot of sense. We are not into the rolling the dice business.

“We want a sensible and reasonable approach of what we do in the future and we need to be sure that the tyre manufacturer can cope with aero rules.

“And because some are just seeing them [as an opportunity], having a different agenda or political perspective, it is still up in the air and needs to be discussed.”

Right balance

Mercedes executive director Paddy Lowe felt that the situation was being dealt with in the right way now that the teams and Pirelli were running through the data.

“One of the aspects is predicting the loads that can result, and to start the debate with Pirelli about whether we can match the tyre specification to the prediction,” he said.

“Mario [Isola] came to that meeting so we have started that discussion.

“Pirelli get a lot of criticism but all tyre manufacturers work hard. Certainly Bridgestone and Michelin have had structural issues at various times, so Pirelli are not unique in being at the margins of tyre technology.

“The loads we present at the moment aerodynamically are around historic highs. There is a common perception that we have less downforce than in history, but that is wrong.

"We have the most or very nearly the most we have ever had.”

Pull back gains

The Strategy Group has been adamant that it wants cars to be five seconds per lap faster from the start of 2017.

Current estimates suggest that the wider cars and tyres alone should deliver an improvement of 2-2.5 seconds, with wider wings and improved downforce adding around three seconds.

The key to improvements though is ensuring that the aerodynamic gains are so much that the tyres do not deliver as much mechanical grip.

Wolff and Lowe both suggested that if the evidence shows the new rules cannot deliver and maintain safety, then they should be reined in.

Lowe said: “The Strategy Group have said they want the cars to be five seconds per lap quicker. If they said we want them to be 20 seconds a lap quicker, we would have said that is not possible.

“It may well be five seconds per lap isn't possible because Pirelli are not miracle workers – and tyre technology is where it is.”

Wolff added: “The Strategy Group expressed an interest of making the cars five seconds per lap faster, but didn't say you must make the cars five seconds per lap faster through aero rules.

“If you consider normal aero development throughout the season, plus the development on the engines, we are probably talking only about 1.5-2 seconds for 2017 to find out of aero – and not five seconds.

“If the tyres are the limiting factor and the tyre manufacturer says it is the limiting factor, you cannot continue to run stubbornly in one direction because we want to roll the dice.

"If it wouldn't be a safety thing, we would be okay with rolling the dice because we have a good structure with good people, which puts us in a good position that if the rules are being reinvented then again we can be competitive. We have no problem with that.”

Be part of something big

Write a comment
Show comments
About this article
Series Formula 1
Teams Mercedes
Article type Breaking news
Tags paddy lowe, pirelli, toto wolff