NEW RULES WILL BEGIN NEW WAR
F1 stars predict that development battle will help spice up 2017
Next year’s Formula 1 regulations will bring about the sport’s first true development war for almost a decade, which could be a boost for the competition.
The 2017 rules demand that cars will be wider, more powerful and with greater levels of downforce, meaning all teams have had to start from scratch to design cars with far greater performance parameters than the current batch.
The rule changes bring an end to three years of stable regulations, since the hybrid engine era came into effect in 2014 and Mercedes rose to prominence as the sport’s benchmark team.
For next year the cars will have wider Pirelli tyres, wider front and rear wings and increased freedom for additional aerodynamic components like bargeboards and diffusers. The FIA has also opted to scrap the current upgrade token system that restrains engine development, meaning manufacturers are free to bring upgrades as and when they wish.
Williams technical chief Pat Symonds said the new cars brought huge potential for teams to develop across the course of next year.
“Updates [next season] are going to be relentless,” he said. “It is going to be like nothing we’ve seen since we were making double [deck] diffusers in the back of the truck.
“The biggest change is that we’ve got less true development time, both time [since the new rules were agreed] and windtunnel runs. Back in 2009, it was a huge change, but we were talking about it for ages and there were draft regulations handed around and we were running windtunnels 24-7.
“This time we got our windtunnel tyres in late February and it’s been 65 runs a week, as well as having work to do on the 2016 cars. The development [for next year’s concepts] is very immature, and that’s why it will continue.”
Not one team started the seasonending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix with any upgrades, signalling that the entire grid has already focused on 2017.
Although taking a sabbatical next year, Jenson Button believes the rules refresh can be good for the sport.
“The big changes are positive,” said Button. “You’ll see bit progress through the year, which is what people like seeing.
“Back in the day you could start with a car that wasn’t so competitive and develop it through the year like what Mclaren did in 2009. You can’t do that now. You either start with a car that’s quick and win races all year, or start with a car that’s slow and it’s still slow at the end of the year.
“That’s what’s missing, development through the year. And that’ll be big next year and will make the racing a lot more fun.”