ANTHONY ROWLINSON C
“F1 cars in 2017 will be a lot more macho”
onsider this: in 2017, Turn 3 at Barcelona is likely to be ‘flat’. Yep, this already quick fourth-fifth gear right-hander, that curves uphill and forces drivers to explore the grip limitations of their chassis at around 145mph, will become a ‘nailed down’ 5g 160-plus mph screamer.
Drivers’ necks and shoulders will be tortured as they haul around its contours, as they will when they tackle Suzuka’s many high-speed sections (the Esses, 130R) or the complex at Silverstone.
Nigel Mansell once noted that in his mighty 1992 Williams FW14B, he pulled “16g” through Maggotts-becketts-chapel – that being the total of 4g left, 4g right, 4g left again, then another 4g right.
Well, sorry Nigel, but next season, by your maths, drivers will be pulling 20g as they blast through Silverstone’s sweepers. How so? Well, the extensive changes to the 2017 tech regs, aimed at making the cars four to five seconds per lap faster, will result in downforce increases of as much as 30 per cent. This will be transferred to asphalt via much fatter Pirelli slicks, constructed to a low-degradation brief in a new range of compounds.
The net result of these changes, along with a likely increase in power as further efficiency gains are found by Mercedes, Renault, Honda and Ferrari, will be cornering speed increases of up to 25mph.
So far, so grippy and to give due credit to Pirelli, which has frequently been a whipping boy since its return to F1 as sole tyre supplier in 2011, it is taking extremely seriously the greater demands the new regs will place on their products.
“We have had to adapt to a totally different philosophy for 2017,” says Pirelli’s motorsport racing manager Mario Isola. “When we came to F1, our brief was to produce tyres with high degradation that would lead to lots of pitstops. Now we have been asked to provide low degradation tyres that allow drivers to push hard throughout a stint.”
‘Mule’ cars built by Mercedes, Red Bull and Ferrari (2015 chassis roughly adapted to run 2017-spec tyres, with higher downforce levels) have already generated suspension loadings 10-15 per cent greater than anything seen currently.
“There is a lot more grip,” Nico Rosberg confirmed to MN when quizzed about his experience of driving the Merc ‘mule’. “A lot.”
And that’s in a part-developed car without optimised aero.
So there’s little doubt that 2017 F1 cars will be a lot more ‘macho’ and place far greater physical demands on drivers. What effect the changes will have on racing, though, remains a bit of a touchy subject. More grip will mean shorter braking distances, while higher cornering speeds will restrict opportunities for taking anything other than the ideal line. Faster? Yes. Better? We’ll see…