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FIA's Charlie Whiting: "How to make F1 better? Make it easier for drivers to follow more closely"

FIA's Charlie Whiting: "How to make F1 better? Make it easier for drivers to follow more closely"
May 24, 2016, 1:57 PM

Formula 1 safety director Charlie Whiting believes that the sport needs make it easier for cars to follow each other closely during races to improv...

Formula 1 safety director Charlie Whiting believes that the sport needs make it easier for cars to follow each other closely during races to improve the spectacle of the racing.

Speaking in a wide ranging interview with promoters of the 2016 European Grand Prix, which will be held for the first time in Baku, Azerbaijan on 19 June, Whiting chose closer racing as a priority when asked what would be the one thing he would introduce to improve F1. This chimes with our JA on F1 reader poll last month, in which 87% of readers prioritised closer racing over sexier looking cars.

Whiting also spoke about the options for cockpit protection doing the rounds at the moment.

He said: “In terms of spectacle, to make the racing better, we should work on making it easier for drivers to follow other ones more closely.

Charlie Whiting

“It’s something that’s always been a problem in Formula 1, it’s by no means a new thing. But there are a number of things that I think we could work on in order to try and make it easier for drivers to try and follow one anther more closely.”

The bodywork rules for 2017, which have already been approved by the FIA, mean the new cars will be wider, have larger tyres and use aerodynamic devices to work the air harder as it passes under the cars.

This has already created speculation that the regulations will actually make it harder for cars to follow each other closely when racing and make overtaking more difficult. However McLaren, whose bluerprint was the one on which the new regulations will be based, disputes this and argues that the influence of the front wing will be reduced and the floor and the diffuser will generate relatively more downforce, allowing more overtaking.

Max Verstappen Kimi Raikkonen

A recent poll conducted by this website found that 87 per cent of participants would favour close racing over faster looking F1 machines.

Cockpit protection still coming for 2017

In the same, wide-ranging interview, Whiting also reiterated his belief that some form of cockpit protection device will be added on the cars for next season.

The Halo device, designed by Mercedes in conjunction with the Global Institute for Motor Sport Safety, and Red Bull’s Aeroscreen are the two options that the governing body is considering.

Daniel Ricciardo

Both have passed the FIA’s tests, and Whiting explain that unless a new development occurs, one system will be implemented in F1 in 2017.

He said: “The aim is to introduce a solution in 2017. We have two solutions, both of which have been tested satisfactorily to the point where we are now confident that either of those solutions would give the protection that is necessary.

“Unless any totally unforeseen difficulty arises, one of them will be there in 2017, I’m sure.”

Sebastian Vettel

2017 race weekend format discussions planned

Whiting, who has been F1’s safety director since 1997, also confirmed that there would be no more experiments on the sport’s qualifying format in 2016, but he did explain that changes to the race weekend format for 2017 would be discussed before the start of next season.

He said: “It is extremely unlikely [there will be any more qualifying experiments this year]. We will be discussing race weekend formats, among which will be qualifying, but that would be for 2017 at the earliest.” Australian Grand Prix qualifying

F1 Drivers “do a lot more to prepare themselves in 2016”

Whiting also described his belief that the biggest difference between the current generation of F1 drivers and those competing 20 years ago was that today’s racers have to do more to prepare themselves for racing than their predecessors.

He said: “The biggest difference nowadays is that the drivers are all super fit and I think 20 years ago only some of them took fitness very seriously.

“They’re all super fit [now] and they’re all super focused and they understand the cars a lot more and they do a lot more outside the cockpit to prepare themselves than they used too.

Charlie Whiting Jenson Button

“I think when you look at how many things a driver has to know [in 2016], and know how to cope with situations and how much information he has available to him now.

“With the restrictions on driver aids that we’ve enforced more strictly this year, it’s become more important for the drivers to understand how their cars are working and what to do in the case of anything going wrong, whereas before, engineers were able to help them.

“It’s just a matter of being prepared and I think they are a lot better than they used to be, but then again the cars and the whole business is far more complex than it used to be.”

Expect fast racing on Baku’s streets

Baku 1

Next month’s race in Baku will be the first ever Grand Prix to be held in Azerbaijan and Whiting described how the track layout will be have a very fast average speed, which is highly unusual for a street circuit.

He said: “I think the run from Turn 12 to Turn 15 is going to be very fast, [and] the approach to Turn 15 is going to be quite spectacular.

“Then the very long run, which is from Turn 16, through 17, 18, 19 and 20 – which is all flat out – will be quite amazing to watch. [The DRS Zones] will be on the approach to Turn 1 and then approach to Turn 3.

“I think Singapore is probably the closest to this, but I think the average speed will be much higher here.”

Baku Azerbaijan Grand Prix

The 64-year-old Briton also addressed any potential safety concerns over the Baku track and described the layout as no more dangerous than any other circuit on the current F1 calendar.

He said: “I don’t think there is any reason to have any safety concerns about any part of the circuit, any more than we have for any track because we’ve looked at the safety of every element of the track in great detail [and] we’ve discussed it an awful lot. All of the measures that have been asked for have been put into place.

“Turn 8 in particular, of course if we have an accident in Turn 8 on the outside of [the corner] it’s going to make recovery quite difficult, but it’s not too different to Turn 18 in Singapore for example, where they turn under the grandstand [and] that’s always been a problem corner [and] I think Turn 8 will be very similar.”

Baku Azerbaijan Grand Prix

What do you make of Whiting’s comments on F1? Are you looking forward to the race in Baku? Leave your thoughts in the comment section below or head over to the JAonF1 Facebook page for more discussion.
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