Our panel of experts talk tyres, teams and regulations – and make their predictions for the winner of this year’s championship
TODAY,THE TALK IS OF TYRES.
Back in 1911, Michelin opened their UK headquarters on the Fulham Road in West London. Now known as Terrance Conran’s Bibendum restaurant, it’s a tting location for us to preview a new season of F1.
On the side of Michelin House are mosaics featuring historic drivers, cars and races from 1906. Appropriately enough, there’s a Mercedes, a Renault and an engraving of the Circuit des Ardennes – a destination that F1 still visits for the Belgian Grand Prix more than a century later.
The dining area still gently slopes down towards the road, where mechanics used to roll tyres into a tting area. Sitting around one of the tables today are three Formula 1 experts, ready to offer their views on the year ahead.
Joining us this late February lunchtime are Sky Sports F1 analyst and commentator Martin Brundle, former Williams technical chief Pat Symonds, and respected writer and broadcaster Peter Windsor. F1 Racing’s James Roberts is also present to chair the debate.
There are a multitude of changes for our pundits to discuss, from the new technical regulations to the arrival of Valtteri Bottas at Mercedes. Here, then, are their thoughts on the new season.
THE NEW REGULATIONS
James Roberts: Pat, what was the motivation for the new technical regulations and what can we expect to see this year?
Pat Symonds: The starting point was the notion that the cars needed to be ve seconds a lap quicker. Where that idea came from and became the thing we were chasing, is debatable. Initially there was a suggestion that the wider cars and tyres would be very retro, and I was
concerned that we were just going back to something from 20 years ago. But luckily a little bit of styling came into things, and we have Red Bull to thank for that. They did a good job with the concept that the car should look fast even when it’s standing still.
The cars have increased to two metres in width, which they haven’t been for a long while. The bodywork is wider, the diffuser is bigger, the front wing is wider in line with the bodywork, while the rear wing is narrower.
Peter Windsor: Why didn’t the technical group just ask Pirelli to create faster tyres?
PS: Well, initially, when we were looking at why the cars are slower, we found it’s because we’ve put 100kg on them since we’ve gone hybrid and that absolutely kills performance, particularly in the quicker corners. Yes, we could have just added grip, but is that the right thing to do? I don’t necessarily agree that if you take aerodynamics away and add mechanical grip, you get better racing. There’s no evidence to support that.
Martin Brundle: I’m looking forward to this year, but then I’m the eternal optimist. In theory it seems like we’ve gone the wrong way, giving it more grip so the car will stick to the road. For me, a car that is sliding looks faster, and going faster isn’t absolutely necessary. I can get super-excited watching a Caterham battle on television or even an old Formula Ford race.
Valentino Rossi goes around the Circuit de Catalunya just under half a minute slower than an F1 car, and that still looks incredibly impressive. So I don’t think it’s all about speed – it’s about cars
Left to right: F1R’s panel of experts, Martin Brundle, Peter Windsor and Pat Symonds