Bottas: too early to judge F1 passing

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While the intriguing notion of a Ferrari victory in Australia has Formula 1 fans talking about a new inter-team battle for the 2017 championship, the week has trundled onward and given rise to further discussion of the other big talking point in the season opener down under.

The 2017 regulations promised better-looking cars, faster cars and a better approach to “spicing up the show” as the team bosses like to say. The concern, even from coach commanders at home, was in regards to the increase in aerodynamic downforce and what that might do to the ability to pass other cars whilst in the slipstream. The assumption was that it would make the possibility even more remote.

The Australian Grand Prix seemed to bear that notion out or at least lend credence to it and now the FIA president, Jean Todt, has said that’s the price we must pay for these new, cooler cars. On the other side of this coin, Mercedes driver Valtteri Bottas believes it may be too early to condemn F1 to a processional season with no opportunity to pass.

“I think in general it will be a little more difficult, but it’ll depend on tracks.

“The circuits with really long straights will be very good racing because also the slipstreaming has a bigger effect now, and DRS does too with these rear wings.

“So some places we will see good racing and some places like Barcelona it will be very difficult to overtake.

“Let’s wait a few more races and see how the racing goes, but obviously [Australia] was more tricky than last year.”

Jean Todt did mention the concept of lengthening the DRS zones so this may play into the equation for improved passing opportunities as well. I’ve never asked for prolific passing in F1, it’s not been a compelling reason for me to love the sport and I’ve been watching since 1972. Passing is most certainly an element of F1 racing and if there were more passing, I would be more than welcoming, don’t get me wrong, but I’m also not one to take up the torch and march the keep demanding NASCAR-style passing in every race. Still, the elements are all in place to make passing even more elusive in 2017.

“I think when you’re in the same car and with similar-ish tyres, it’s extremely difficult at a track like this,” he said of Albert Park.

“With the new cars, it’s more difficult to follow once you’re within two seconds, as you lose quite a large amount of grip.

“So we need big pace difference to really go for it to try and overtake. I think it’s a bit of a shame.”

Finding big pace deltas between cars might be easier when trying to overtake a Sauber if you’re Lewis Hamilton but trying to overtake Bottas or even Kimi Raikkonen’s Ferrari isn’t going to be as easy but then again, should it be? To equally competitive cars are normally very difficult to overtake in the lowest of downforce formulas.

I think we owe it to F1 and our selves to give it a little time and a few circuits to see if we were all right in our prognostication of the 2017 season but in the meantime, let’s hope Valtteri is right and what we saw in Australia is not necessarily indicative of what we will see come Spain.

Hat Tip: Autosport

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Salvu Borg
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Salvu Borg

Agree that its too early to judge. and after all, improved overtaking was never one of the key objectives of the new car rules. Australia can’t be a good indicator when it comes to overtaking. China should be better, China: longer straights, wider track, easer to overtake, cars front limited, one step harder compound tyres, super soft, soft and medium tyre.

jakobusvdl
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jakobusvdl

It’s a bit concerning that Bottas seems to be of the view that having circuits where passing under DRS is possible equals “better racing”. Is he new to F1? Doesn’t he know all at F1B abhor DRS passing? I read an interesting article which said the intention of DRS, when it was introduced, was to create the situation where ‘more braking zones would be contested’. So it wasn’t intended that the following car could just blaze past early on the straight, and get to the next corner well in front, but that the DRS zones would be set up so… Read more »

jakobusvdl
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jakobusvdl

Hi Todd, I’m enjoying your downshift with Will Buxton and Jason otherfella. We don’t get any of their coverage here in NZ, but I’m impressed and see why you rate them so highly, except………I’m not sure that their idea that increasing the DRS activation gap without changing the length of the DRS zone will work. Because even if the activation gap is larger (2sec rather than 1sec), if the trailing car can’t get within 1sec at the start of the DRS zone, they won’t get close enough in the DRS zone to pass. They’ll be close, but in the zone… Read more »