Looking Back to aid the Future? A View of F1 Cars to Come…

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2017 brings with it several rule and regulation changes in Formula 1. Alex Layzell looks into how inspiration taken from the pre-Hybrid era may have helped to influence our Formula 1 cars of the future.

So what is actually changing? We’ve heard a lot already but here’s a simplified low-down on what we can expect. Pirelli have promised more durable tyres to cope with the faster and more aerodynamic cars. They will also be wider: the front tread will measure 305mm and the rear 405mm, contrasting with 245mm and 325mm in 2016. Front wings will increase to 1800mm from 1650mm in span and feature a new swept shape with simplified endplates, while rear wings will see a 200mm increase in width to 950mm, and a decrease in height to 800mm from 950mm. The rear endplates will also sport a new swept shape from the side, but from the front, they will look more tucked in. Visually, the 200mm increase in the floor and bodywork to 1600mm max, should see the biggest difference at first glance. Contrastive to this, the 20kg increase on the car weight limit will have no visual change whatsoever, but will however work with the wider tyres to increase the downforce and mechanical grip levels of the cars. Part of this is still guesswork, as the weight of the prototype tyres have yet to be added. Pirelli and the FIA have estimated an extra 5kg for this.

Okay, so that’s a lot of facts and figures, but what will this actually mean? Well in terms of appearance, we will see many features of previous era’s of Formula 1 cars. The arguably more aggressive ‘spaceship-esque’ designs last seen in 2008 will make a return in the form of the more curved and tucked, wider body shape. Jenson Button’s year of glory in 2009 gave us lower, wider, and simple front wings. Although not overly simple, the 2017 front wing will see the width and simple endplates of the 2009-spec cars, but the ‘swept’ aggressive shape of the 2008 counterparts. The rear wing design also takes us back pre-2009, before the rear wings were made narrower and taller. 8 years later, these rules have been essentially reversed. Finally, the tyres will produce a higher level of mechanical grip; through an increase in size, and shape of the tyre; which will see a subtle change to further increase in surface area to the ground. Interestingly, the last time a tyre of 405mm was seen on track, was in 1992 when Nigel Mansell won both Championships with Canon Williams-Renault. All in all, this strongly suggests that the 2017 cars will be much more aerodynamic than this year’s competitors; and it is hoped that in turn, an increase in overtaking and the general standard of racing will also increase. This has been subject to scepticism and even criticism from well-respected figures such as Eric Boullier, Fernando Alonso, and Martin Brundle. The reality is however, that until 2017 pre-season testing, we are not going to have a clear idea whether these updates will pay off, nor the order of the grid! We COULD be in for one hell of a season, but for now, who knows?

In all these changes, the FIA claim substantial gains in pace of up to six seconds per lap, through the “aerodynamic rules evolution, wider tires and readjustment of car weight”. Every rose has its thorn however, and the metaphorical thorn in this instance is Pirelli, who have long voiced concerns that they cannot meet the FIA’s criteria. Over the past few years of Formula 1’s hybrid era, we have seen many tyre failures and blowouts, which top drivers Nico Rosberg and Sebastian Vettel have been a victim of. So the question remains whether Pirelli can deliver even stronger tyres in 2017. Daniel Ricciardo says the reintroduction of wider tyres to Formula 1 for 2017 will separate the better drivers from the rest of the field. Let’s hope so! Hopefully a general qualifying will no longer be a Mercedes 1-2, Ferrari 3-4 and so on.

The last time of major shakeup in Formula 1 car regulations was in 2014; previous to that was 2009. Both of these era’s saw complete dominance by Mercedes’ hybrid engines, and Adrian Newey’s genius respectively. Keeping the hybrid era of engines, with aspects of aerodynamic design from the late 2000’s and tyre design of the early 1990’s, could culminate into a much more valiant attempt to really mix up the grid. It would be great to see hugely talented drivers such as Fernando Alonso really drag his McLaren onto the podium here and there, just through sheer talent as a driver rather than being gifted the car. It would be amazing to see one second splitting the top 10 rather than Hamilton in P1 down to Seb Vettel in P3. Well we can hope for all this, but I guess time will tell on that one! We can expect more aggressive looking cars however; they should also be much better looking as a result. If they also become much faster and more aerodynamic, then it’s no pressure for the teams’ designers to create a livery that’ll do justice to the new era of Formula 1 machines.

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