Ex­pert opin­ion and anal­y­sis

F1 Racing (UK) - - CONTENTS -

For­mula 1 chiefs re­cently re­vealed their vi­sion of how grand prix ma­chin­ery could look in 2021, and the im­ages quickly went vi­ral in the fan com­mu­nity. It’s a tri­fle un­for­tu­nate, then, that not only were these im­ages not in­tended for such wide­spread dis­sem­i­na­tion, the cars are un­likely to look like this come 2021 any­way.

F1 own­ers Lib­erty Me­dia see the end of the present tech­ni­cal reg­u­la­tions in 2020 as a key op­por­tu­nity to re­launch the sport with their stamp upon it, and to grow the au­di­ence by ap­peal­ing to a younger de­mo­graphic. As such they are ex­plor­ing means of mak­ing the on-track ac­tion closer, more ex­cit­ing and spec­tac­u­lar. Nat­u­rally the cars them­selves are a cru­cial el­e­ment of the pack­age.

With this in mind, last year Lib­erty com­mis­sioned de­signer An­to­nio Paglia to help evolve some out­line ideas that would form the ba­sis of fu­ture rule changes. The con­cept sketches were never in­tended to be widely distributed un­til the sport’s var­i­ous stake­hold­ers had got closer to agree­ment on the shape of the new reg­u­la­tions.

How­ever, Lib­erty were left with no op­tion but to go pub­lic af­ter F1 man­ag­ing di­rec­tor Ross Brawn in­no­cently used some slide im­ages of one of the con­cept cars dur­ing a fan event ahead of the Sin­ga­pore Grand Prix.

“I did a lec­ture to young peo­ple about get­ting in­volved in en­gi­neer­ing, and sci­ence and tech­ni­cal top­ics,” ex­plains Brawn. “Rather naively I put up this im­age on the screen and all the phones came out...”

Brawn had ex­pected the im­ages to re­main ‘in the room’, but within min­utes they were cir­cu­lat­ing on so­cial me­dia, where they were quickly picked up by main­stream news out­lets. Lib­erty then had lit­tle choice but to ar­range a brief­ing later that week­end to ex­plain all.

The con­cept im­ages featured a more sculpted and fu­tur­is­tic over­all de­sign theme, which Brawn felt would cap­ture the at­ten­tion of young fans more than the in­tri­cate aero-op­ti­mised shapes on cur­rent cars.

“I see no rea­son why we can­not have ex­cit­ing-look­ing cars,” says Brawn. “It frus­trates me when a car in a video game looks bet­ter than the car we’re 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.”

Sev­eral de­sign el­e­ments stood out, in­clud­ing a shark­fin front to the halo, and a marked re­duc­tion in the num­ber of winglets. In em­pha­sis­ing that these were just out­line con­cepts, Brawn also hinted at the pos­si­bil­ity of later de­signs hav­ing cov­ered wheels to help im­prove air­flow.

“One of the in­ter­est­ing things we are look­ing at is the area around the tyres,” says Brawn. “One of the great things about an F1 car is we have open cock­pit and open wheel, but the air­flow around the tyres and the wheels is very dirty. It dis­turbs the air­flow a great deal.

“We are look­ing at not en­clos­ing the wheels, but per­haps hav­ing de­tailed fair­ings around the wheels, which will help clean up that flow and im­prove the con­di­tions for the car be­hind.”

But while the slides he showed were mere point­ers to a pos­si­ble fu­ture, Brawn was res­o­lute about one prin­ci­ple. The aim of the 2021 rules is to make cars that can race more ef­fec­tively rather than just look bet­ter.

“One of the pri­mary ob­jec­tives has been to work on the race­abil­ity of these cars and how well they can race each other - how close they can get to each other with­out los­ing sub­stan­tial amounts of per­for­mance,” he ex­plains.

“The cur­rent cars, once they get within two or three car lengths, they can lose up to 50 per cent of their per­for­mance. This is why when driv­ers are on the same tyres and same age they strug­gle to race each other on some tracks.

“When you get into that con­di­tion, where you are 2-3 car lengths be­hind and you are los­ing grip, the tyres de­grade more and it be­comes very chal­leng­ing.

“So the prime pur­pose of the work we are do­ing is to try to pro­duce cars which are more race­able.”

F1 teams are al­ready work­ing on early CFD mod­els of 2021 con­cepts to eval­u­ate ways in which Brawn’s ‘race­abil­ity’ tar­gets can be achieved. Nat­u­rally they will also be iden­ti­fy­ing means of gain­ing an ad­van­tage over their com­peti­tors. As such, the like­li­hood is that the fi­nal de­signs will dif­fer greatly from blank-sheet im­ages con­jured by an in­dus­trial de­signer work­ing to a less com­pe­ti­tion-ori­ented brief.

“I’m not go­ing to pre­tend that from day one we will have the per­fect so­lu­tion, cer­tainly from the aes­thet­ics, be­cause try as hard as we can we can never an­tic­i­pate ev­ery move that the teams will make,” says Brawn.

“We have to do our best to ar­rive at a set of reg­u­la­tions and make them as un­am­bigu­ous as pos­si­ble, but there is no guar­an­tee.

“The key thing is be­ing able to re­spond quickly when we see things hap­pen that are un­in­tended. We are quite en­cour­aged with the co­op­er­a­tion with the teams at the mo­ment, but that will change at some point in the fu­ture, when they move into their com­pet­i­tive mode rather than co­op­er­a­tive mode.”

In­dus­trial de­signer An­to­nio Paglia was com­mis­sioned to sketch pos­si­ble 2021 con­cepts

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