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Towards a new F1: Should 2017 car design revolution be delayed to 2018?

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Towards a new F1: Should 2017 car design revolution be delayed to 2018?
Aug 10, 2015, 8:36 AM

There has been a lot of discussion and excitement about re-imaginging F1 for 2017, to make the cars more aggressive, faster and more thrilling both...

There has been a lot of discussion and excitement about re-imaginging F1 for 2017, to make the cars more aggressive, faster and more thrilling both to watch and to drive.

In just six months from now, the full technical specification of the new-look Formula 1 car of 2017 needs to be completed and rubber stamped by the FiA World Council.

And it has to be right; against a backdrop of declining TV viewership and precious little evidence that the sport is finding new and younger audiences, this next step is a crucial moment in the sport's evolution. But there is a major problem at the heart of the project; the faster you make the cars, the harder it is for them to overtake. More speed doesn't equal more show.

So little wonder that, as the technical directors relax by the infinity pool on their enforced summer break, they are anxious that they don't have enough time to make sure that they come up with the right concept.

Which is why we are beginning to hear noises now about possibly pushing the introduction of these new rules back to 2018.

Carlos Sainz

What is the target here and how do the rules get made?

The way the regulatory process works for this kind of massive technical change is that the FIA technical department, headed by Charlie Whiting, works with the teams, who have the resources and facilities for research and testing. Red Bull has done a lot of the running on the 2017 concepts, for example. Once the concept has been agreed, then its up to Whiting to oversee the drafting of the technical regulations to achieve those cars becoming a reality.

In this F1 was hoping to have the help of former Ferrari technical director and Mercedes team principal Ross Brawn, to draft regulations that would not have loopholes and which would achieve the desired result, but there were suggestions in Hungary that Brawn is proving somewhat reluctant to get involved.

There are various models in circulation at the moment for 2017 cars, with an emphasis on more aggressive looks, wider tyres, less reliance on the front wing to aid overtaking. The target is to reduce lap times by 5-6 seconds without making the cars more difficult to overtake. Tyres will clearly be part of that, as will boosting engine power to over 1,000hp, but at the end of the day aerodynamics are going to be the key to finding the bulk of the lap time.

To get that kind of lap time gain will need a much more powerful rear wing and a larger diffuser, both of which will create a larger hole in the air for the car behind. A wider car with a wider front wing and a significant reduction in weight will also be needed. A lot of work is going on in the neutral area in the centre of the front wing, which is fundamental to conditioning the airflow under the car to generate the downforce. This area is easily disturbed by turbulence from the car in front and is one of the reasons why cars find it hard to follow closely behind each other.

We highlighted this in an article on the Innovation and Technology page back in June: http://jaonf1.wpengine.com/2015/06/why-f1-cars-find-it-hard-to-follow-each-other-for-an-overtake-in-2015/

Since F1 realised that it had a problem and resolved to do something about it, there has been significant progress on the 2017 concept behind the scenes in the last six months and there was due to be a meeting of the technical group working on the project on July 21, but this was put back to August 18 due to Jules Bianchi's funeral, according to Auto Motor und Sport.

Pat Symonds

"Time is too short" for 2017 introduction

The rules say that a significant technical specification change must be rubber stamped by February of the preceding year, which in this case means February 2016.

Williams technical director Pat Symonds has told Auto Motor und Sport that time is tight to do the correct amount of due diligence and testing to come up with the right answer. When he was part of the overtaking working group in the late 2000s, they took two years to come up with the ideas, such as the wider front wing with adjustable flaps. Later concepts like the DRS sprang up in 2011, which certainly achieved the objectives of the brief, which was to encourage more overtaking. But now the cars are too slow and unspectacular, so the challenge is to re-imagine the cars to encourage overtaking and close racing, whilst at the same time greatly increasingly the speed of the cars and making them more challenging to drive.

"It's a big task, to get the concept right, and then frame it into a set of regulations before the end of February 2016. For 2009 the overtaking working group took two years to draw up proposals. We took the concept five times into the wind tunnel. The next step has to be right. I think 2017 is very ambitious. The time is too short. "

What do you think? Is it more important to change F1 quickly or should they take an extra year to get it absolutely right?

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Series Formula 1
Tags innovation