SHAP­ING F1’S FU­TURE

AWARE OF THE CHAL­LENGES FAC­ING THE SPORT, F1 IS KEEN TO IN­CREASE THE SPEC­TA­CLE OF THE COM­PET­ING CARS BOTH ON AND OFF THE TRACK

Car (South Africa) - - SPEED - Mau­rice­hamil­ton BY: Mau­rice Hamil­ton

SHOULD For­mula One fo­cus on ex­cit­in­glook­ing cars, or ex­cit­ing rac­ing? It will be a mix­ture of both, ac­cord­ing to plans re­vealed by Ross Brawn, the man­ag­ing direc­tor of mo­tor­sport for Lib­erty Me­dia, F1’s own­ers.

As a for­mer en­gi­neer and tech­ni­cal direc­tor with – among oth­ers – Benet­ton, Fer­rari and his own F1 cham­pi­onship-win­ning team, Brawn is ideally qual­i­fied to un­der­stand and at­tempt to cure the prob­lems presently in­hibit­ing close rac­ing. The English­man sees the forth­com­ing reg­u­la­tion change due in 2021 as the ideal point to in­tro­duce rad­i­cal steps em­brac­ing not only the cur­rent tech­ni­cal is­sues, but also im­prove the ap­pear­ance of a Grand Prix car.

The two are con­nected in­so­far as the in­ge­nious ex­ploita­tion of the cur­rent rules has led to the sprout­ing of numer­ous and un­sightly aero­dy­namic flicks and flaps in­creas­ing the per­for­mance of a car but, para­dox­i­cally, hin­der­ing it while run­ning in close com­pany with an­other. The aero pack­age – par­tic­u­larly the ab­surdly com­plex front wings – may as­sist the ef­fi­cient pas­sage of air across and around the car, but the re­sult­ing tur­bu­lence in its wake has an ad­verse ef­fect on the car fol­low­ing, to the point where a driver can­not get close enough to at­tempt a pass­ing move; the very essence of what rac­ing is sup­posed to be about.

The cur­rent cars lose up to 50% of aero­dy­namic per­for­mance be­hind an­other car. The tar­get with the 2021 car is to re­duce that fig­ure to just 20%. It’s a big ask since Brawn and the F1 rule mak­ers are fight­ing against the vo­ra­cious pur­suit of a ma­jor goal in ev­ery F1 draw­ing of­fice.

The core ob­jec­tive of any de­signer is the cre­ation of down­force; the per­for­mance phe­nom­e­non that any­one not in thrall of the sport’s tech­ni­cal fas­ci­na­tion sees as a curse that can­not be “un­in­vented”. For proof of its dam­ag­ing ef­fect on the spec­ta­cle, it was only nec­es­sary to look at this year’s Ital­ian Grand Prix, fol­lowed by the race in Sin­ga­pore.

Monza, with its pre­dom­i­nance of long straights and full throt­tle for 70% of the lap, called for the ab­so­lute min­i­mum of drag-in­duc­ing down­force as cars reached in ex­cess of 335 km/h (210 mph). As a re­sult, driv­ers were able to at­tack and at­tempt to over­take in the man­ner the pas­sion­ate Fer­rari fans ex­pected.

Two weeks later in Sin­ga­pore, 23 cor­ners – many of them tight – meant large rear wings and plenty of down­force to aid con­sis­tent brak­ing on en­try and max­i­mum trac­tion com­ing out. The race was a pro­ces­sion last­ing al­most two hours. Not only did the cars look over­bur­dened with aero­dy­namic ap­pendages, they were go­ing nowhere. De­spite a spec­tac­u­lar set­ting for this night race, it was a lack­lus­tre ad­vert for F1 and, by as­so­ci­a­tion, the dy­namic sport it is sup­posed to rep­re­sent. The rule change sched­uled for 2021 is an ideal op­por­tu­nity to ap­ply es­sen­tial cor­rec­tion on sev­eral fronts.

“I see no rea­son why we can­not have ex­cit­ing-look­ing cars,” said Brawn. “It frus­trates me when a car in a video game looks bet­ter than the car we are rac­ing out on track. That is not to say we pay to­tal homage to what will look great in a video game. It has to be a great rac­ing car.

“The pri­mary pur­pose is to pro­duce race­able cars; ones which bat­tle in close prox­im­ity. We see it in other forms of rac­ing but they are of­ten cat­e­gories with fixed de­signs

and ev­ery­one races the same car [Indycar and F2, the sup­port for­mula to F1]. You don’t have the ex­treme de­signs like in F1. For­mula Two cars can lose less per­for­mance when they are rac­ing to­gether and the new Indycar is great in that re­spect.

“We’ve been shar­ing some info with IndyCar on their ex­pe­ri­ences. I’m pretty op­ti­mistic we will pro­duce great-look­ing cars and they will be able to race each other much more ef­fec­tively than in the past. It is the first time F1 has ma­jored on th­ese as­pects. But I want ex­cit­ing-look­ing cars.”

The most no­tice­able change at first glance is a wel­come re­duc­tion in the in­tri­cacy of the nose wings; just two planes in­stead of sev­eral lay­ers of car­bon that may be fas­ci­nat­ing as a work of de­tailed art but ought to have no place place on a rac­ing car. Added to which a team faces a bill in ex­cess of $100 000 (roughly R1,5 mil­lion) within sec­onds of the start when their driver snags a nose wing against the back of an­other car, elim­i­nat­ing both for no rea­son other than the fol­low­ing driver can­not see the low-mounted aero clus­ter hanging off the front of his car. Nose wings will still be present in 2021 but the pro­posed con­cept makes them less in­tru­sive and, hope­fully, less sus­cep­ti­ble to what ought to be smaller amounts of dirty car spilling from the ve­hi­cle in front.

Brawn said that F1 has worked through three stages of its con­cept vi­sion, with wind­tun­nel test­ing play­ing a vi­tal part.

“Teams are now in­volved in this,” ex­plained Brawn. “All of the teams not only have mod­els that we have ini­ti­ated, they are look­ing at them and feed­ing back in­for­ma­tion. All 10 teams are work­ing to­wards

“WE WILL PRO­DUCE GREATLOOKING CARS RAC­ING EACH OTHER MORE EF­FEC­TIVELY”

find­ing the best so­lu­tion we can for 2021, so there are reg­u­lar re­views for all the teams. They have a lim­i­ta­tion on the amount of aero test­ing they can do but the FIA has granted them ex­tra time to work on this project, so there is a great in­cen­tive to find the best so­lu­tion. What they are find­ing from their mod­els is sim­i­lar to what we are find­ing.”

In cer­tain re­spects, F1 is back­track­ing on changes in­tro­duced in 2017 to make the cars faster. Wider cars with sig­nif­i­cant aero­dy­namic in­flu­ence have in­deed in­creased the cor­ner­ing speeds and lap times, the over­all aim hav­ing been to make the cars look more ag­gres­sive as well as pre­sent­ing more of a chal­lenge for the driv­ers. The down­side has been an in­crease in dif­fi­culty when try­ing to over­take. As a tem­po­rary mea­sure, there will be a simplified front wing – but only in the def­i­ni­tion of the end plates and not the en­tire wing – for 2019.

“The cars are pretty im­pres­sive now [in terms of speed and per­for­mance],” said Brawn. “But if they con­tinue to de­velop at this rate, I think we will need to pull it back. I think the 2019 reg­u­la­tions will be a step back again. There will be an ad­just­ment but, as in­evitably hap­pens in F1, that will creep up again. The ab­so­lute down­force will prob­a­bly be less but I think it’s the type of down­force and how it be­haves which is more crit­i­cal than the ab­so­lute lev­els.

“It’s in­ter­est­ing that, in Indycar, they have re­duced the lev­els of down­force sub­stan­tially and, at least on the road cour­ses, the driv­ers are pos­i­tive about the style of rac­ing. They have some is­sues on the ovals but that is a pretty unique en­vi­ron­ment. But, on the road cir­cuits, it is a pos­i­tive feed­back from the teams and driv­ers, even though they have sub­stan­tially less down­force than they used to have.”

Brawn says the ef­fect of the changes due in 2019 will pro­vide a bet­ter un­der­stand­ing of the goal for 2021.

“In do­ing this project, we recog­nised fea­tures which im­me­di­ately gave some ben­e­fit in terms of the sen­si­tiv­ity of the car. The ben­e­fits come from the na­ture of the flow com­ing off the car in front and the sen­si­tiv­ity of the car be­hind.

“So, next year’s car is a step in the right di­rec­tion and I think it’s an im­por­tant barom­e­ter for us to see how much im­pact it has on the abil­ity for cars to fol­low. Next year, we will be able to mea­sure the im­pact and so it’s the first step and it will be a very in­ter­est­ing check on mak­ing sure we are go­ing in the right di­rec­tion be­fore we do the big­ger change.”

Given the fer­tile minds of F1 team tech­ni­cians pur­su­ing even the tini­est loop­hole, the con­cept un­veiled in Sin­ga­pore in Septem­ber is by no means fi­nal and will be changed – per­haps dra­mat­i­cally – by the time the cars roll onto the grid for the first race in 2021.

This con­cept car has al­ready been played down by some of the teams, Fer­rari's Mau­r­izio Ar­riv­abene say­ing it was a “good ex­er­cise and I was ask­ing our en­gi­neers what they thought about it. They said it’s a bit un­der­whelm­ing in their opin­ion.”

Paddy Lowe, tech­ni­cal direc­tor at Wil­liams, tended to agree. “[Looks are] an im­por­tant part and you do need to try and guide it in some way,” said Lowe. “Es­sen­tially, the reg­u­la­tions set out the di­men­sions the teams can work within, but the sort of de­tails that make the 2021 con­cept car look so at­trac­tive – or the sorts of de­tails that could po­ten­tially ruin that look – are hard to po­lice. While it’s dif­fi­cult to imag­ine the cars look­ing ex­actly as they have been drawn, I don't think we want all the cars to look iden­ti­cal any­way.”

That may be true but the pri­mary goal has to be to make F1 cars race­wor­thy, re­gard­less of how they look. If that is achieved, the most sig­nif­i­cant part of the job will have been done.

2021 CON­CEPT

The numer­ous aero­dy­namic icks and aps in­crease the per­for­mance of an F1 car but, para­dox­i­cally, hin­der it while run­ning in close com­pany with an­other car.

le At Monza, with its long straights, the ve­hi­cles had less drag and the rac­ing was ex­cit­ing. That's in sharp con­trast to Sin­ga­pore ( op­po­site), where down­force needs meant stunted rac­ing as the cars oen stayed in the same or­der. 2021 CON­CEPT

ITAL­IAN GP 2018

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