With the 2017 Formula 1 season underway much has been written about these new-look cars, which sport a wider profile and dramatic aerodynamic features.
Several years ago the FIA made changes to the regulations aimed at making the cars faster and more challenging to drive. Many believed these latest changes were brought in because the cars had become too easy to drive in the modern hybrid era.
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 F1 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 – and that’s before the stopwatches proved this was the case.
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. Sunday’s Chinese Grand Prix, held in wet/dry conditions, did not demonstrate as dramatic a speed increase.
Cornering speeds also increased by over 30 km/h in some turns. As the cars develop during the season, we can expect them to go even faster!
Most fans and Formula 1 insiders agree that the revamped cars also look better. Wider and longer with revised front and rear wings definitely make the cars look more aggressive and appear racier. Some additional aerodynamic elements this year such as ‘shark fins’, ‘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 have done little to improve the racing and overtaking in Formula 1, with the season-opening Australian Grand Prix producing very little on-track passing. The reason for this is these new cars produce more aerodynamic disturbance on the car following, which impedes close racing and the ability to overtake.
The Chinese Grand Prix, however, countered fears somewhat, with the Shanghai International Circuit’s layout more conducive to overtaking than Melbourne’s Albert Park semi-street circuit. What was particularly interesting about the race in China was how it produced what SKY F1 commentator Martin Brundle described as “organic” passing moves – those being without the assistance of DRS.
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 address other key concerns, those being the cost to supply and develop the Formula 1 power units, as well as the relative lack of sound they produce.
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.
Images via Red Bull Content Pool and XPB Images