Lot’s of talk, diagrams but what do we really know about 2017 cars?

The discussions over the 2017 cars in Formula 1 are in full swing with lots of graphics explaining fat tires, wider wings and high diffusers etc. That’s all perfectly fine and I can understand the nerdish interest in getting into the weeds over speculative and well-informed diagrams accompanied by claims said confidently enough to imply accuracy.

I’m no engineer and certainly no pundit with a copy of CAD in which to speculate through super cool diagrams. What I do know is this…the 2017 cars are intended to bring back more grip, increase top-line speed and look more aggressive.

The task taken by the teams and the F1 Strategy Group are surely more self-serving than F1 serving, no? Let’s be honest, was anyone asking for a massive increase in downforce? Let’s be fair, is there any other way to get the kinds of speed and cornering grip demand without ramping up the aerodynamics as the least expensive way to achieve this level of performance?

The black art of aerodynamics will, for the time being, be the default element in F1’s evolution. It has been for years now and has the best ROI available versus other radical changes to chassis, mechanical grip, wheel size and powertrain overhauls. Titanium-induced sparks, fat tires, aggressive looks—these are all bits and baubles applied to F1 to make it look like something from the past but much of it isn’t a show-spicing derivative of some innovative move forward.

I don’t want to get sideways with F1 here but what I do know is what Auto motor und Sport revealed in their interview of Force India technical director, Andy Green. The changes that will be most prevalent really boil down to what the teams wanted in the first place, more aero downforce, period. Regardless of fat tires, hybrid power and sparks, the real answer to the demand for faster lap times was simply, bring back the aero.

Green says that the 2017 cars will feature 20 to 25 percent more downforce at the beginning of the year and by the end of the season, 30 to 35 percent! That’s massive! When you couple that with an increase in drag of only 5 to 10 percent due to the fat tires, we are looking at a potential for a wild, wild west scenario of aerodynamic shootout at high noon at the Albert Park coral.

Green reckons that the lap times will fall at some circuit by as much as 3-4 seconds and less at other because depending on the track and corner profiles. Weight transfer is reduced due to the increased grip level. The advantage Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull have is that they built test cars for the 2017 specs and will have an understanding of how the tire pressures rate, what the stopping power will be and perhaps how to design their bak ducts according to the heat generated etc. Other teams will be guessing at that in the first part of the season.

As far back as last fall, Pirelli were very vocal about needing serious testing and they were awarded that test program to ensure their tires for 2017 could handle the changes. When you suggest that the cars will gain 30 to 35% more downforce, you can understand why Pirelli were concerned about their tire and one of the lingering issue will surely be the tire pressures the Italian company mandates for these new tires.

When we look at the chassis, it will have lower rear wings and higher diffusers as well as more fuel, it will be interesting to see how the team package all of this for the lowest center of gravity and the length of the chassis as well.

An interesting conundrum will be the massive increase in downforce on the rear of the car and finding balance in the chassis. For that, Green says the front wing is not enough so the front and side of the chassis will have more aerodynamic areas of development in order to increase the quality of the flow backwards across the chassis and achieve a balance. The space in front of the side pods has been restricted for years but now it will be open for innovative way to control the flow of air.

So what will we get in 2017? It’s difficult to say beyond what we think it will look like and each team will have an interpretation within the set of regulations. I suspect Red Bull, Mercedes and Ferrari will be leading the chassis performance category come Australia but you never know because when the rules are changed, some team find trick designs that press the limit of the regulations—Brawn GP 2009 for instance.

Hat Tip: Auto Motor Und Sport

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#F1 'o^°o-

It’s too bad they did’nt go for smaller wings all around but im happy with the tires and wider car. I guess they need all the wings for sponsor logos as it is valuable.

Negative Camber

I may be wrong but I would suggest the bigger wings are the less expensive way to gain speed and reduce lap times through aero which the team always want more of. I am concerned about the wake this will leave and ability to pass. DRS is not the solution.

Richard Piers

As usual with F1 a lot of hot air. The cars will be visually different, principally as a result of the wider tyres. Very unlikely the top speeds will match the existing both due to the larger tyre’s drag and the downforce induced drag. Can anyone actually see a change in lap time of 4 seconds except by comparison with a slower car or on a stopwatch ? Some drivers look faster than others, though often not the case. Increased aerodynamics almost certain to cause reduced ability to run close, so less overtaking and more unhappiness and then changes the… Read more »


I must agree at the moment F1 is a bit of a circus. I have read reports though that the expected faster 4-5 seconds is not just coming from the car but also from the tyre to the tune of up to 2.5 seconds, and the rest of the lap time gain will be in the corners due to the more grip available. So the cars will not really be any faster than they are now maybe slower but will deliver the lap times with cornering speed. as for overtaking I have read some reports about going to a simpler… Read more »

Richard Piers

I am just an engineer, or rather was, and not an aerodynamicist but then it appears that not so many of them truly understand what is going on. Much trial and error, ground effects are a black art. I believe they intend to have more ground effects, but there will be a rear bias accentuated by the enlarged diffuser. Result they will be desperate for more front and that can only mean more complication and more problems with wake disturbance. It seems that by fair means or foul, Newey has got his way to try to reduce the engine effect.… Read more »


The weight distribution is still mandated in the rules with only 7kg freedom of front to rear weight distribution (722kg minimum weight, front axle minimum 328kg, rear axle minimum 387kg). As a result I would expect the drivers to want the aero balance to match the weight distribution, otherwise the car would change its handling characteristics with speed.

It may be there is more scope to generate additional downforce at the rear, but if this cannot be balanced with a similar amount at the front the car may not be faster around a lap.

Richard Piers

Not quite as simple as that.

Wes Paul Stops

As negative camber mentioned, my biggest worry is that increasing downforce by as much 35% we’ll see the bad old days of no overtaking (except for drs which isn’t real overtaking) that lead up to the 2009 aero changes.

Give me big tyres and sparks, but dont ruin the racing with excessive downforce. It all seems like they’re trying to distract us with some flashy new things to take our attention away from the fact that the cars now sound like broken vacuum cleaners.


I know that a lot of people are concerned about what this will do to overtaking, but what kind of overtaking do we have now? Can cars follow each other closely? No as it ruins their fragile tyres. Are there many overtakes that aren’t DRS-assisted or due to wildly different tyre strategies & tyre age? No, most passes occur on the straight, or when a car has emerged from the pits behind another competitor on old treads. So its not like the current F1 is the golden era of overtaking that the new regs will destroy – far from it.… Read more »

Paul Riseborough

They are on a hiding to nothing here given the need to have F1 lap times faster than other race classes running on the same circuits. 1) If they reduce downforce to get closer wheel to wheel racing, lap times will climb and F1 cars will be slower than current GP2. 2) If they remove downforce and make tyres wider in an attempt to maintain lap times the cars will be highly vulnerable to aquaplaning, so then we can’t race in the rain. 3) If they increase engine power to compensate for slower cornering speeds, the top speeds will be… Read more »


While most of the changes to the regulations deal with the different shape of the cars (wing sizes and shapes) there are some changes that I wasn’t expecting. These relate to the power unit, there are now minimum weights for the MGU-H, MGU-K, pistons, con rod and crankshaft together with minimum bearing diameters for the crankshaft bearings.
These changes make me wonder which manufacturer has been pushing the boundaries to a level that the FIA thought was unacceptable and needed regulating? Could this result in a change in the relative power unit performance?

Paul Riseborough

Reducing the weight of reciprocating components and reducing bearing diameter does reduce friction losses which makes sense in a fuel limited formula. It may be that the FIA saw potential for an ‘arms race’ developing in this area given the token limits have been removed.


I wonder if any manufacturers have exceeded these limits already, and will have to change for next year.