...AND CARS TO BE SIX SECONDS PER LAP FASTER
TECH FUTURE SHOCK! SEXY FATTER SLICKS, AERO, MORE POWER...
It’s all Max Verstappen’s fault: the way that spindly-but-brilliant rookie, 17 on his debut, has made F1 look so easy. Is it right that anyone so young is able to perform with such aplomb at motorsport’s highest level? Since the start of 2014, digital-age F1, with quieter, hybrid powerplants, may well have required both manual and mental dexterity, but does it
demand enough resolve? Are the cars spectacular enough? Do they ask drivers to venture far enough into the unknown? Do they thrill? Are they breathtaking, or are they merely magnicent monuments to engineering excellence that have forgotten their mission to entertain in what is still, yes, a sport? Where now can a modern race fan experience, for example, the
scary edge of Keke Rosberg’s 1985 British Grand Prix pole lap – the very rst to crack the 160mph lap average? Or the drama of Nelson Piquet going sideways around the outside of Ayrton Senna into Turn 1 at the Hungarian Grand Prix one year later?
Amid such concerns that Formula 1 has lost something of its essence as the original extreme sport, there has also been mounting disquiet that since one engine manufacturer, Mercedes, nailed the hybrid engine regulations far better than any other, they have achieved a position of dominance that is detrimental to the sport’s overall health.
In the context of these related anxieties, the F1 Strategy Group last year decided a change in
the rules was needed to help recapture some of the lost magic. Antipathy towards the existing regulation package has come right from the very top: Bernie Ecclestone has long been one of the sternest critics of Formula 1’s hybrid PUs, citing their expense and related ‘token upgrade’ system as being at the heart of F1’s alleged lack of drama.
“So we decided we wanted to make the cars look better, make them ve to six seconds a lap faster and make them more physical to drive,” says Charlie Whiting, the FIA’s Formula 1 race director.
And thrillingly, if somewhat more expensively, the current engine development restrictions will be loosened from next year to let all manufacturers make in-season upgrades.
Fans of hard racing rejoice: these are by far the most exciting developments in Formula 1 for many years. After two decades of speed cuts, the governing body has now decreed that the current crop of F1 cars are in need of a ‘hurry up’. Hybrid PUs will be retained, but there’s now the mouthwatering prospect of a nascent ‘power war’ between Mercedes, Ferrari, Honda and Renault, plus, potentially, independent suppliers, aided by lighter cars, increased downforce and bigger tyres.
FIA-ratied discussions during Technical Regulation Meetings (TRMs) to nalise the 2017 package were ongoing as F1 Racing closed for press, but they can’t carry on forever: the nal 2017 regulations must be published by 28 February 2016. And, dear reader, we’ve been able to gain exclusive insights into these discussions to present to you some of the alternative visions for a future, faster Formula 1.
Red Bull team principal Christian Horner told F1 Racing earlier this year that Formula 1 should be as follows: “The cars need to be hard to drive and the drivers need to be heroes. The sport should be competitive and the cars should look aggressive. They should be loud and fast. If we get that right, Formula 1 will thrive.”
There is, unusually, a broad consensus among the teams on how to achieve a common set of goals for 2017: they all agree that the cars need to look more aggressive and that they need to be five to six seconds a lap faster. As ever though, the devil is in the detail when trying to find the best technical solution to achieve these ends.
“The brief from the F1 Strategy Group was that this was to be evolutionary change rather than revolutionary, because in the early days we were looking at some quite futuristic ideas,” says Williams’s chief technical officer, Pat Symonds.
“I was worried at the start of the discussions that there was a move to go very retro because people had said how great the cars looked in the 1980s and 1990s. Yes, we should have some of the elements of the older cars – for example, wider tyres – but it shouldn’t be too futuristic either. There needs to be a balance.”
Red Bull, Ferrari and McLaren provided ideas, and the FIA brought in McLaren’s former head
“The cars need to be hard to drive and the drivers need to be heroes” Christian Horner
of aerodynamics, Marcin Budkowski, as technical coordinator to chair discussions.
After a meeting on 18 August, the teams were presented with two ideas, one known as the ‘Red Bull proposal’ and another the ‘FIA proposal’. They were given a CFD amnesty to run simulations, with a view to presenting their findings at another TRM on 2 October.
Ideas from the ‘Red Bull proposal’ are illustrated across these pages. The car’s width increases from its current 1,800mm to 2,000mm. A lower, wider rear wing comes down in height from the current 945mm to 800mm; its width increases from 750mm to 950mm; and it angles away from the rear wheel’s centreline at 30°. The front wing increases from its current 1,650mm to 1,850mm and is arrow-shaped, with a 12.2° difference between the end tip of the front wing and the leading edge on each side.
There is also extra sculpting to the sidepods and barge boards behind the front wheels. A beam wing is added to the rear wing and the diffuser is similar to those used in 2010. There are also changes to the floor to increase aero performance. Weight savings come from changes to the plank and T-tray beneath the cars.
Our illustrations also show how an F1 car might look with 18-inch wheels. Michelin met with teams in September to discuss proposals for 2017 that would have included an increase in wheel size. The teams rejected an increase from the current 13-inch size, on cost grounds.
“We’re trying to get most of the speed through tyre grip and not rely too much on downforce” Charlie Whiting
The alternative was the ‘FIA proposal’, which has a similar philosophy in terms of the cars’ width, the increased downforce from the floor and the bigger contact patch for the tyres.
“We’re trying to get most of the speed through tyre grip and not rely too much on downforce,” says Charlie Whiting. “By increasing the width of the cars, even with the existing tyres, you could gain a second. An extra contact patch would make us confident that we’d find at least half of the five or six seconds with the extra tyre grip.”
The differences in this propsal were primarily in the rear and front wings. At the rear, the current height of 945mm would remain, but the width would increase. At the front, a narrower, simpler front wing was suggested, with three lower elements and one upper element and each edge would stop at the centre line of the front tyres. It, too, would feature an arrowhead shape.
The idea behind the narrower front wing was to alter the direction of airflow over the car to create an in-wash, rather than the vortices of a larger front wing that create an out-wash around the front tyres, complexities that better-funded teams with state-of-the-art windtunnels and CFD facilities have been able to solve.
“Current F1 cars are front-wing dependent; you see how another car washes out when it is close to a car in front,” says Force India deputy team principal Bob Fernley. “We should simplify the front wing, make it cost-effective and work to get more ground effect from the floor. If we want six seconds of performance, do we need to get it all from the chassis? The engines, even this year, have pulled another second or so in lap time, so there’s no reason why they won’t improve again. If we have wider tyres, there is another two seconds there. Plus, if you have a chassis that is three seconds quicker in 2017, that’ll be four seconds in 2018 and it won’t be long before we’re slowing the cars down again.”
When the teams met to share findings on the two ideas, they found the ‘Red Bull proposal’ had better balance and was more aerodynamically stable. They also found Pirelli’s plan to increase front-tyre width to 325mm and the rears to 425mm created too much drag, so suggested instead 300mm and 400mm respectively.