Juan Pablo Montoya's simple plan to improve F1 "straight away"
Indy 500 winner and former F1 star Juan Pablo Montoya has offered an intriguing possibility for improving racing in Formula One, suggesting that ty...
Indy 500 winner and former F1 star Juan Pablo Montoya has offered an intriguing possibility for improving racing in Formula One, suggesting that tyre sensors and data should be restricted, leaving drivers to manage the conditions of their tyres alone in a race.
The former McLaren and Williams-BMW driver, who earlier this year won his second Indy 500, 15 years after his first triumph in the race, was speaking on the opening day of the FIA’s Sport Conference in Mexico City.
Asked by this website how he would improve racing in Formula One, Montoya offered a simple solution.
“If you take away the tyre sensors, the temperature sensors, and just leave the pressures, the racing will get better by 10 per cent straight away. I’m certain of that,” he said.
“The driver is now lazy. There’s no feel. They see [the temperature] is too much they back off the pace. Look at the tyres, back off the pace, look at the brakes, back off the pace. If you take all that away it becomes a feel thing again. If you drive it too hard you’re going to wear the tyres off the car.
“The driver and the team just have too much information. It’s OK to have the information in practice, but that information shouldn’t be there in the race for the drivers. It’s got to be a feel thing. Also it will mean that you will start to see the talented people coming through.”
Montoya's idea - or the thinking behind it at least - has supporters within the F1 ecosystem, who are in the process of framing rules to hand the cars back to the drivers with less input from engineers, especially via radio. This is the kind of measure which will come in soon.
At a recent F1 Strategy Group meeting, team bosses argued for an increase in lap time by five to six seconds from 2017 onwards in a bid to return the sport to the kind of lap times seen in Montoya’s 2003 heyday in the sport. However, the seven-time grand prix winner, who still holds the record for the fastest ever lap in a Formula One car, set at an average speed of 262.242kmh/162.9mph during the 2004 Italian Grand Prix weekend at Monza, says that challenging those lap times may be something of a red herring.
“It’s funny, those lap times haven’t been seen for 10 years and yet they only became a factor last year because the cars didn’t make any noise, so everyone said ‘oh the cars are slow’,” he said.
“They could be a little quicker, yes, but the cars are not slow. Do they have a little less grip? Yeah, you can see that. The thing is they just don’t have enough downforce. Also, if you give them a couple more years with this [formula], the horsepower will come up; it’s a natural evolution.
“You have to be careful with wanting the cars to go faster because the faster you go the harder it is to pass and the bigger the hole you’re going to punch. You’ve got to figure out a way to helping out the drivers in the cars. There are two things: you’ve got to figure out how to generate enough downforce without sacrificing following other cars.”
Despite his reservations about the need to significantly lower lap times, Montoya admitted to enjoying the huge speed of the late V10 era cars.
“I’ll tell you the truth. You stopped driving the cars for a month, I think it was mid-December to the middle of January, and when you got back in the car, the first five laps were the scariest and most fun laps you would do in the whole year. It was the same car as the previous year, and the set up was right, the tyres were right, you knew the place you were driving at, but still your feet would come off the throttle in some of the fast place. It was so friggin’ fast!”
Perhaps surprisingly, however, Montoya, is a supporter of the new power unit formula.
“It’s amazing technology but the problem is I don’t think the fans understand what goes into that technology,” he said. “There are a lot of cool things that the average person doesn’t understand and a lot of that technology is lost in translation. The idea of the smaller engine is good.
“They are also correctly limiting how the young get into the series. The reason you have all these ladders and series is to build you as a driver so that when you get a chance you’re prepared for it. Now people are jumping in really young, when they’ve done a year of racing. They don’t find Formula One cars that hard to drive. When we did it a Formula One car was 10 to 12 seconds quicker than a GP2 car so that jump was massive.”
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