An interesting article at AUTOSPORT has me wondering just what net effect the 2017 regulation changes may have on the racing and the teams…specifically the smaller teams. The article features Williams CTO, Pat Symonds, as he explains how rapid the car development will be in the early stages of 2017:
“There is always a huge fight between engineering and production over these things, and it’s more so than ever,” he said of locking down 2017 designs as late as possible.
“I think we will continue to see quite a high rate of change in the early part of the season.
“There is often talk about whether a new set of regulations favours the big teams over the small teams, or whether things are evened out.
“The fact is, now we’re limited to 65 wind tunnel runs a week, it’s the same for everyone.
“Your creativity might be 5% different between one team and another, but that’s it.
“It’s not as if it’s a team that can run two tunnels 24/7 against a team that can’t do that. You’re starting to even that out.
“But when you’re on this big slope, the later you can release for production, the bigger the advantage you have.”
He’s much better positioned than I am to know just how quickly Williams or other teams may approach their initial deficiencies in 2017 but I am slightly concerned over the cost of this hyper development war that could take place.
The fact is, regardless of what the FIA intend for their regulation changes to do, they always end up costing teams more money and making the series more expensive. This isn’t their fault, necessarily, because the teams will exploit the regulations and spend millions on thwarting the impact they have on their car’s performance. It’s a natural process—at least over the past few decades.
Symonds is right to address the rate of development and the potential of the big teams gaining an advantage through their sheer resources and I understand his point about wind tunnel limits but I would argue that the big teams can rapid prototype multiple components at the same time and try a host of them at any one session when the smaller teams may be working on one component upgrade. Showing up to a practice session with three nose/wing assemblies versus one. They stick with the one that works and junk the other two and they can afford to do that.
With power unit development open for 2017, there will be a steady progression of engine upgrades and perhaps that coupled with the chassis development that is escalated beyond previously normal rates could put small teams at a quick disadvantage meaning the disparity of performance levels could be quickly realized.
It may not play out that way and when I say disparity, we may be talking about a second or more but in F1 terms, that’s a lot. No one really knows what the car’s pace will be next season but they are trying to calculate that based on modeling and data. If they’re wrong or slightly off, just how much money do they have to create multiple alternative designs within the first fly-away races? Usually only the big teams can afford such remote development on a grand scale.
Hat Tip: AUTOSPORT