Monday, April 10, 2017

F1 2017 Cars - Getting the formula right

With the 2017 Formula 1 season underway much has been written about these new look F1 cars.  Several years ago the FIA made changes to the regulations aimed at making the cars faster and more challenging to drive.  Many believed these changes were brought in because the cars had become too easy to drive in the modern hybrid era.  The changes were dubbed "The Max Verstappen rule" following the young Dutchman's sensational debut into F1 at just 17 years old in 2015.

During the off-season all of the drivers have been building up their fitness and strength to prepare for the challenge of driving these new quicker cars.  Haas driver Romain Grosjean summed it up well in Australia:  "The cars are brutal to drive – we are not far from 8G with the peak in high corners – so it is pretty good fun.  But it is hard on the body, it is hard on parts, it is hard on the cars".

These new cars certainly look much quicker on-track, especially through the corners.  When the technical regulations were released, a target improvement of 4-5 seconds per lap was set.  It is worth noting that at Albert Park for the first race of the season, the pole lap was 1.6 seconds quicker than 2016, and the fastest lap was 2.5 seconds quicker.  Cornering speeds did increase by over 30 km/h in some corners.  As the cars develop during the season, we can expect them to go even faster!

Most fans agree that the revamped cars also look better.  Wider and longer with revised front and rear wings definitely make the cars look more aggressive; more racy.  Some additional aerodynamic elements this year such as "sharkfins", "T-wings" and "thumb noses" have been less well received.  A balance needs to be found.

What about the racing?

Critics have cited that these changes do nothing to improve the racing and overtaking in Formula 1.  The reason is these new cars produce more aerodynamic disturbance on the car following which impedes close racing and the ability to overtake.

We will see how the 2017 season progresses and what improvements can be made in future.  The FIA has already stated it wants to change the engine formula in 2020.  This will hopefully help another key concern which is the cost of the Formula 1 powerunits as well as the lack of sound.

Overall the sport is heading in the right direction and new owners Liberty Media have plenty in their plate to further improve the show... and the racing.

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