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Brawn: F1 teams won’t sabotage wake to make following harder

Formula 1 managing director Ross Brawn is adamant that teams will not look for ways to ”sabotage” the new rules and make it harder for rivals to follow their cars.

Valtteri Bottas, Alfa Romeo C42

The main aim of the 2022 technical regulations is to create a wake that allows following cars to maintain much higher downforce levels as they close in compared with the previous cars.

The aero package was developed by a team working at the F1 organisation under Brawn and led by aerodynamicist Jason Sommerville, who focussed on what was required to make it easier for cars to follow.

That led to some very tight prescriptions in the regulations to which the teams have had to adhere.

However, in theory aerodynamicists could actively search for ways to spoil the wake, and thus make it harder for others to overtake.

Brawn is convinced that teams won’t deliberately try to do that, but he conceded that as they find ways of making their cars faster and develop new aero elements there could be a detrimental impact on following.

“I think that any loss of this ability to follow will be an accidental consequence of the pursuit of performance,” said Brawn when asked by Motorsport.com.

“I don’t think any team ever set out to purposely damage the wake so a car can’t follow it. There’s not enough time, there’s not enough resource. You’ve just got to pursue lap time the whole time. So that would never happen in my view.

“As a consequence of pursuing performance we may see that we don’t quite hit a bullseye in terms of following. But I think it will still be so massively ahead of where we were, because the cars were dreadful.

“So if we’re 5% worse [than predicted], we’ll still be a long way ahead of where the old cars are. And then as we say, we’ll evolve it.”

AlphaTauri AT03

AlphaTauri AT03

Photo by: AlphaTauri

Sommerville, who has now moved with his team to the FIA, admits that it is possible for teams to actively impact the wake. However, he agrees that it is unlikely.

“We’ve often speculated on that,” he said. “We met with one of the top teams recently, and we asked them how their wake was looking. Examination of the wake is something that we spent the last four years in depth understanding.

“The teams have clearly got performance priorities. But it is fair to say their work so far, we’re pleased to say hasn’t deteriorated the wake anywhere near the level of the current generation of cars.

“We know there’s going to be a bit of noise after their development. What it seems like, certainly from the feedback we’re receiving, is that the natural development and performance that they’re finding is conducive to the aspirations that we’ve had in terms of the wake quality.

“What we don’t know yet is how sensitive the cars will be in following, but even so, the indications I think are positive that we’re still aligned in terms of our objectives and what the teams have been working on.”

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Sommerville’s new boss, FIA head of single-seater matters Nikolas Tombazis, is confident that teams will focus solely on making their own cars go faster.

“Clearly the aerodynamicists are going to always work for the best performance of their car, in relation to their competitors, " he said.

“The way that development is done in the wind tunnel and in CFD, and also the fact that you have a lot of free running of your car in open air, in qualifying or other significant positions, means that it’s not practical to be designing a car just to sabotage your following car.

“You still need to make sure your car is as fast as possible and hope it doesn’t get approached by other people.

“We don't expect people to work towards these objectives just for benevolent reasons, but we do think that the way the development happens will still keep us within those key objectives. There will be some deterioration, but not massive, we hope.”

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