FIA calls urgent meeting to discuss overtaking
The FIA will hold an urgent meeting with Formula 1 technical chiefs in Bahrain on Saturday to discuss ways to improve overtaking for 2019.
The gathering is a direct response to the lack of passing moves seen in the Australian GP, which prompted fresh criticisms about the lack of entertainment in the sport.
The gathering has been put together at short notice because, with a push being made to get things changed for 2019, in theory rule changes for next season have to be confirmed by the FIA before April 30th.
Up until that date, majority support is needed for tweaks to the rules, while from the start of May any subsequent changes would have to be passed unanimously by the teams, so would be more difficult to achieve.
It is understood two key changes for 2019 will be discussed on Saturday. These are to the front wing, which has emerged from research done by Liberty Media experts, and to the rear, which is understood to be an FIA concept.
Ross Brawn has hired a team of aerodynamicists – headed by former Williams man Jason Sommerville – to help shape the future rules, and improving overtaking has been a key goal for the group.
The rear proposal is simply for a bigger rear wing flap, which would create a bigger effect when DRS is employed. However, that does not address the fundamental issue of the current high downforce cars being unable to follow each other.
The Sommerville idea is to improve the quality of the airflow onto the car behind by simplifying the front wing. That would involve the removal of certain elements that are specifically designed to control the airflow around the front wheels.
It's this flow – that starts with the front wing of the car ahead and interacts with the turbulence around the front wheels – that subsequently makes it difficult for the car behind to follow. Removing the elements would slow the lead car slightly, and allow the following car to get closer.
It's understood both ideas could be incorporated into the 2019 rules.
"I think what's going to be proposed is that they want them both done for 2019," a team insider told Motorsport.com.
"I've got no objections to doing them both, as long as it's done in a timely fashion, and we get the regulations by the end of next month or something. I'm all for trying to move forward with this, as it's quite a big issue. Let's do the experiment and see what works."
The FIA is continuing to look for short-term solutions for 2018 by experimenting with DRS zones, having extended the activation zone on the Bahrain pit straight by 100m.
Although the focus is on 2021, Brawn noted recently that the results had already been positive enough to consider making changes earlier than that.
"I'm really excited by what I'm seeing," said Brawn in an interview with SiriusXM. "The front wing is for sure one area that is sensitive in both respects, in terms the disturbance it creates, and then the sensitivity to the disturbance of the car in front."
"It's not the only area. There's all the furniture and bargeboards you see behind the front wheels that are equally as sensitive. And there are areas of the rear floor and rear aerodynamics which are sensitive.
"We know the percentage drop in performance that comes as a car approaches another car, and already we've found ways of improving that in reducing the disturbed flow from the car in front, and reducing the sensitivity of the following car to that disturbed flow.
"So we're trying to do it in a properly structured way, and that will be the solution we'll apply for 2021. Anything we can learn in the mean time, which we feel is safe and fair and correct to apply, will be done.
Meanwhile, a separate meeting of the technical directors today rubber-stamped various proposals for 2019 that had been under discussion for some weeks.
They include an 80kg minimum driver weight, simplified bodywork in the bargeboard area that makes it easier to see sponsor logos on the chassis, and lower exhausts which cannot point upwards, designed to stop them having an aerodynamic effect.
In addition nose attachment points are to be strengthened after Ferrari's became dislodged in last year's Singapore GP accident.
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