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 magnicent 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-ratied 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.

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