Former Williams F1 owner and technical chief, Patrick Head, isn’t as optimistic as the F1 Strategy Group is that the new changes will achieve everything they desired for close, exciting racing. The regulations shakeup of 2017 will add wider tires for more mechanical grip but it also ushers in more downforce and retains, for the most part, the existing hybrid power unit.
Head, in fact, believes you’d have to be daft to think these changes will work telling the Guardian’s Giles Richards:
“If anybody was thinking of these rules with the aim of closing the field up then they’ve got rocks in their head,”
The notion that a major change in regulations always shakes up the grid may not be completely unfounded but Head says that while this may true, the big teams are always the winners.
“Any time you make significant changes the advantage will always go to the bigger teams,” Head said. “Because they have more resources, they have more capability to parallel develop their existing car and work on design of their new car. When you have 750 employees or more against, say, Force India’s 300, of course the bigger teams can do more. Any idea it will close the field up is nonsense.”
Changing tires, chassis, downforce and weight on the 2017 cars is one thing but not changing the FIA’s love affair with hybrid electric engines is another concern as it will place a serious load on these power units and this may, once again, favor Mercedes who has the best unit on the grid. It bears keeping in mind that they have now limited the season to just four engines in an era that will see much more load on the power units.
“There is no doubt about it that the drag levels of the car will be higher,” he said. “But what makes the engine fractionally more important is that with more downforce, which they will undoubtedly have, your percentage at full throttle – the percentage of the lap at which you are power limited rather than grip limited – will be higher, so if you have that bit more power it will give a slight advantage.”
The article does mention Pirelli’s Paul Hembery and his comments that we mentioned a few weeks ago. It’s with good reason the article brings Paul’s comments up as did Autosport who linked this story. Paul offered a removed assessment and cautionary tale. They are providing tires but he is at the crest of the wave of data samples and predictive models. His words aren’t very comforting with regards to what they are seeing in the data and what he fears might happen.
“Will it improve overtaking or make it worse? I hope we are not making a wrong decision that doesn’t actually solve what we were trying to solve in the first place.”, said Hembery.
The issue of more aero was raised as a concern as late as Tuesday in an FIA meeting with team engineers and as Richards points out, that’s awful late in the game to be raising concerns over their new format changes. Head says the obvious that even the most casual fan at home has been saying for years.
“If they wanted a formula that allowed for more overtaking without using artificial aids like DRS then they needed to go for a formula that reduced downforce levels but they have gone in the opposite direction,” Head said.
If the new changes favor the big teams and move in the wrong direction, perhaps they will take another look at them for next year but I’m not quite convinced this will happen beyond a few tweaks. I don’t sense anything major happening until Liberty Media and the FIA come to grips with the F1 Strategy Group format and address who is really setting the technical and sporting direction of the sport. The very reason Liberty Media brought Ross Brawn in perhaps?
A group consisting of the top teams who all have individual interests around certain elements of their cars that work well and provide their performance, are not going to all agree on sweeping changes that will hurt their hidden agendas. If you had five teams who had five elements, some shared and some different, they felt strongly about, what are the odds of getting big changes that might impact those elements? They will hunker down and concede on orbital changes that offer little threat to their current performance elements and endorse those elements that may offer a possible increase in performance—like downforce and wide tires.
None of this is really what the sport needs. It needs to have an independent set of regulations that is designed to create a product that is competitive and entertaining. I have little doubt that Liberty Media doesn’t know this but disassembling the manufacturer and big team control over the sport will be a delicate situation.
If Mercedes, Renault and Honda left, would that be the worst thing in the world? There are plenty of engine manufacturers out there like Mechachrome, Cosworth and others. Remember the Mugen Honda days at Jordan? If the sport was left with only privateers like Red Bull, Williams, Force India, Toro Rosso, McLaren and Sauber and they all used different engine makers, would you still watch?
Hat Tip: The Guardian