“Teams want to start work on the Halo de­sign”

Motor Sport News - - Racing News - AGREE/DIS­AGREE? mn.let­ters@hay­mar­

Af­ter cover­ing this race 32 times you learn how to duck and dive a bit,” said the vet­eran F1 pho­tog­ra­pher as he led us on a short cut through Monaco’s war­ren of subter­ranean tun­nels. “Hang on, this is a new one…”

Duck­ing and div­ing, of course, was and is a way of life for both the founders and res­i­dents of this gilded cage perched on a rocky out­crop in the Cote D’azur. “A sunny place for shady peo­ple,” as Som­er­set Maugham wrote.

Ev­ery year it bur­rows deeper into the cliffs: a new tun­nel con­nect­ing this place with that place, whole apartment blocks and ho­tels de­mol­ished to make way for ever more ca­pa­cious plu­to­crat res­i­dences.

Even the fa­mous Ho­tel de Paris, past which the grand prix cir­cuit threads, is be­ing gut­ted and re­built be­hind its his­toric fa­cade. And up on the hill, out­side the Prince’s Palace, ev­ery morn­ing at the stroke of 1155hrs there is the chang­ing of the guard.

Within the clois­ters of the F1 pad­dock, down on the har­bour, change has also been oc­cu­py­ing the minds and lips of many. The sport is due a new look in 2017 although, pre­dictably, the de­tails have been sub­jected to in­ter­minable lev­els of push-and-pull be­hind the scenes.

Thus on Satur­day Pirelli un­veiled a set of tyres that il­lus­trated what F1 rub­ber could look like in 2017: about 25 per cent wider up front and 30 per cent wider at the rear. Such is the in­er­tia, in­tran­si­gence and paral­y­sis within the rule­mak­ing mech­a­nism, though, that the es­sen­tial process of test­ing on up-to-date cars with hy­brid pow­er­trains can­not be­gin un­til Au­gust.

On Fri­day the sport’s tech­ni­cal big­wigs also agreed on an el­e­ment that had been a ma­jor ob­sta­cle in de­sign­ing the next gen­er­a­tion of cars: cock­pit pro­tec­tion. The other el­e­ments of the 2017 rules pack­age had been be­lat­edly agreed upon last Fe­bru­ary, but with two com­pletely dif­fer­ent pro­pos­als still up for eval­u­a­tion no­body could prop­erly be­gin work un­til one or the other re­ceived the nod.

Both con­cepts will have a sig­nif­i­cant ef­fect on air­flow. As it is, the visu­ally and aero­dy­nam­i­cally sub-op­ti­mal ‘halo’ has gone for­wards be­cause it is closer to a fin­ished state than Red Bull’s al­ter­na­tive proposal, the ‘aero­screen’. The FIA had set a July dead­line for the de­ci­sion but an­other round of test­ing is planned be­fore then – and in any case most teams want to make a start on fun­da­men­tal de­sign con­cepts in June.

Some teams will face a strug­gle to put to­gether the re­sources for new de­signs. At least one, for in­stance, has been un­able to book flights for this sum­mer’s Euro­pean rounds on a well-known bud­get air­line be­cause it de­mands pay­ment in ad­vance. In­stead they must take more ex­pen­sive op­tions which of­fer credit.

That, of course, leads us to the sub­ject of F1’s com­mer­cial set­tle­ment and a po­ten­tial chang­ing of the guard in that de­part­ment. But in this game of thrones no po­ten­tial suc­ces­sor to F1’s uber ducker and diver has been will­ing to de­clare them­selves just yet…

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