Symonds rebuts aero reduction…or does he?

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Yesterday I covered a story over at Autosport about Pat Symonds and his use of an “overtaking simulation” system to design the Hanoi circuit as well as suggest changes to Abu Dhabi. I asked then, would it not be easier to reduce downforce on the cars to decrease the wake or dirty air that might allow cars to tail and overtake? Also, they may find the racing more entertaining as the cars would be more challenging to drive.

We discussed in the comment section of this post the concept of reducing aero and what that might deliver. We all agreed that we’re not engineers but when Toro Rosso’s Franz Tost said earlier this week that reducing downforce by 505% would be the best solution to improving the racing, it seemed logical to me.

I also said in the story that I’ve not seen team bosses or works teams or designers advocate the reduction of aero and I think we all know why. I titled that original piece “Tost points out elephant in F1’s room” and I still believe it is.

Today Autosport rebutted my post that covered the overtaking simulation system that Pat Symonds is using. They asked Pat directly about Tosts’s comment and about reducing aerodynamic downforce. He said:

“Often when you’re trying to get your head around an argument you should take it to an extreme and see what answer you get,” he acknowledged.

“If you go to the extreme of having no downforce, you’d say well that’s got to be better because you can’t lose something that isn’t there.

“So there’s some logic in the argument.

“However, it’s much more complex than that. You could produce a car with half the downforce of a current Formula 1 car but with much, much worse weight characteristics.

“It would be all too easy to do. Then you’d be no better off than you are now.”

I may be a dullard here but I’m not sure he answered the question but posited some sort of cautionary tale about a car’s weight with all the aero reduction. I assume he’s speaking of weight and balance of the car and the knock-on effect that would have in handling.

He then went on to say:

“I want the cars to be quick, but I want them to be spectacular,” said Symonds.

“If they are really nailed to the ground I don’t think they are particularly spectacular.

“A rally car is spectacular. That’s something where you see the thing is absolutely on the edge of stability, it looks difficult to drive, it is difficult to drive.

“A Formula 1 car doesn’t always look too difficult to drive. Particularly at the moment where we’ve got the teams are strategically running at below the maximum performance to reduce the number of pitstops they do.

“Then the cars looking anything but spectacular.”

I guess that confuses me more because he seems to be saying what we are all saying, reduce downforce, un-pin these cars a little and reduce the dirty air wake to allow for trailing cars to attempt passing. I assume the weight of the car would be different but that’s what designers are hired to do, balance the car through ballast and design.

As I said, I’m no engineer so I’m talking out of my backside but when presented with the case for reducing downforce, it’s odd that Pat says it would impact car weight and present a challenge but he also wants to see cars that look spectacular…like a rally car. What am I missing here? Was this an effective rebuttal for not reducing aero? Maybe I missed the engineering complexities so help me out here, what do you think?

Hat Tip: Autosport

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It’s time we see aero for what it is: a driver’s aid. When you have wings, the faster you drive the more the car grips to the road. The more it grips to the road, the shorter the braking zones. The shorter the braking zones, the less opportunity to overtake. You add carbon brakes in there and it becomes impossible. What they really need to do, instead of redoing the aero rules, is to just take the bloody wings off!!!! F1 didn’t have wings before, it doesn’t need them now.


It does sound like he’s contradicting himself.

One thing I really don’t understand is, for those who make the decisions around the regulations, what is the incentive in having so much aero. Obviously a stable car is a safer car, but that’s negated by the fact that safer cars are driven much faster hence increasing the risk factor. It’s widely believed that less aero would allow for more overtaking which in turn should increase the viewership and the amount of money that goes into everyone’s pockets. What am I missing here.


Great question! The reason it is this way is that the teams have a say in the rules. Each F1 team spends millions of dollars on aero, and they all believe they have some great advantage in it (and some do). Thus, when F1 wants to restrict aero, the teams simply veto it. This perfectly highlights the insanity of the sport: to get the teams to sign long term contracts, Ecclestone gave them a say in the rule making process. So thus, the teams write their own regulations they compete under. The ants have taken over the ant hill, and… Read more »


I Feel the question of decreasing downforce is wrong.
Instead of the focus of reducing downforce, wouldn’t it be better to have a maximum
Drag Coefficient (Cd) that the cars have to adhere to?
None of the developments made to downforce are of any real benefit to real world Vehicles, However shifting to efficient downforce would be something that could be of use, with the added benefit of reducing the effect on the following car.

Nick Robinson

Pat is saying “much, much worse wake characteristics.” Not weight.

Nick Robinson

If you listen to the video, he says wake, which makes more sense.

Nick Robinson

That’s way over my pay grade! It’s complicated stuff.


I fear they may have caught the poor man at cocktail hour.