Mercedes defeated in 2017 rules battle
Moves to add downforce, boost speed and cut lap times will go through in spite of champion constructor’s protestations
Rival teams and the FIA have rejected Mercedes’ arguments that Formula 1 might be going too far with its plans to speed up the cars for 2017.
The sport is working towards new technical regulations with the aim of making the cars five seconds a lap faster. But Mercedes argued at a meeting of the technical working group in November that the changes were unnecessary and that much of the step could be accounted for by much smaller changes. They also raised concerns about Pirelli’s ability to design tyres that could cope with the increased speeds.
Mercedes say current cars are approaching or have reached historic highs in terms of downforce and power, and that lap times are slower than in the past only because the cars are heavier and the tyres are not as good. The paper they presented also claimed that Pirelli were already struggling to cope with the forces created by current cars, so there was a risk of problems if aerodynamic loads increased by 50 per cent, as some estimates suggest.
“We have to be careful about putting on more downforce,” Mercedes executive director Paddy Lowe said. “We have never done that before. All previous rule changes have been about keeping it in check.”
However, Mercedes’ concerns about the rules were dismissed by rivals, who felt that the world champions were simply trying to protect a competitive advantage. Mclaren racing director Eric Boullier went as far as to say the move was “pretty desperate from Mercedes”. Insiders at Mercedes rejected this claim, insisting their concerns were genuine.
Nevertheless, teams and the FIA are now pressing ahead with plans to change the cars as previously agreed. This will include widening the car’s track from 1.8m to 2m, adding a wider front wing swept back from a central forward point, a lower and wider rear wing, bigger diffuser and wider floor and wider tyres.
It has been estimated that lap times will drop by 3-3.5s from aerodynamic improvements, and up to 2s from the tyres.
Mercedes argued that downforce levels must be kept in check. Their rivals claimed they were merely trying to preserve their advantage