Good ideas on how to improve racing in F1

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In an excellent article in last week’s Autosport (November 22nd) former Jordan and Stewart designer Gary Anderson tackles the question of how to improve racing – and overtaking – in Formula 1.

It’s a brilliant technical mini-study that I strongly encourage you to read – here’s a brief outline of his suggestions.

Anderson starts things off on the right footing by looking at how F1 cars can be helped to race more closely to each other. He ignores gimmicky, artificial ideas aimed only at increasing overtaking, such as power boost buttons.

Instead Anderson looks at why F1 cars cannot run close to one another and points to three problems: loss of rear wing downforce, turbulent air reducing the ‘ram’ effect of a following car’s engine, reducing engine power; and reduced front wing and bargeboard assembly downforce.

To remedy this he proposes the following:

Bring back slicks increasing mechanical grip at turn-in.

Lower and reduce the size of the front wing to make it less effective and less sensitive to the wake of another car. Also make it a fixed specification for the duration of the season.

Simplify suspension wishbones so they no longer have an aerodynamic function, reducing the negative effect of following another car.

Simplify brake ducts so they no longer have an aerodynamic function, reducing the negative effect of following another car.

Ban aerodynamic covers on wheels to marginally increase drag, thereby allowing another car to follow more closely

Ban bargeboards cutting downforce and reducing the negative effect of following another car.

Simplifying upper bodywork cutting downforce and reducing the negative effect of following another car.

Increase the size of the diffuser to give the driver back some of the lost grip but in a form that will not be significantly reduced as one car follows another.

Make the rear wing a fixed specification for the duration of the season to make it less than optimal at unusual tracks like Monte-Carlo (where a high downforce setup is needed) and Monza (where a low downforce setup is needed).

It seems like a sensible, rational, well thought-out set of proposals that I’ve hardly done justice to here – do go out and buy the magazine. Hopefully the FIA’s aerodynamics working group will come up with something along these lines.

(The only part I’m not convinced of is the idea of having fixed wing specifications for an entire season. What if one team deliberately ran a high downforce wing all year, finished last most of the time but won Monte-Carlo by seven laps?)

Does something like this stand a chance of getting implemented? I doubt it.

In 1999 Max Mosley ignored a report by the by the FIA Advisory Experts Group that urged similar measures – cutting downforce levels by 50% and increasing mechanical grip and drag by 10%. Since then downforce levels have only increased.

In recent years we have heard some patently ridiculously suggestions for how to improve racing in F1 – such as the criminally ugly ‘Centreline Downwash Generating Wing’.

Presently the overtaking working group are arguing in favour of some watered-down versions of these proposals but seem to have overlooked the basic problem that if you give a driver more downforce it robs the driver trying to pass him of the same. Their ideas to increase rear wing height and introduced driver-operated moveable wings seem counter productive.

What is needed is precisely the kind of intelligent, rational, clear ideas that Anderson has put together. It’s time the FIA tapped into this kind of thinking.

Photos: | LAT Photographic

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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42 comments on “Good ideas on how to improve racing in F1”

  1. This won’t happen for one simple reason – it wasn’t Max who thought of it!

    Or that’s how it appears from the outside at least – if Max thinks something is right then it is right, if someone else thinks of something better then he will argue against it on prinicple even if secretly he does know it really is better.

    We have to find some longterm solutions rather than the current trend of papering over the cracks by implementing rule changes which are going to be circumvented by any decent designer in a few months.

    Running fixed front wings is an interesting idea, as currently teams must spend a lot of time and money coming up with new designs every few races. Hopefully this would not only increase the chances of overtaking, it would make the car less stable at tracks where the wing was less than optimal thereby encouraging more lock-ups and dodgy cornering ability.

    It’s time to go Max, time to go. Can’t someone mount some kind of coup?

  2. The fixed wing specification means teams have to decide which races to go for and which to races to take a performance hit. If teams go for different setups you could see different teams competing at the front during the year, which would everything a lot more exciting. I don’t think there is any real risk of a team sacrificing a whole year just to possibly get 10-18 points at Monaco. But even if a team decided it had no chances whatsoever in any race at any points (what’s it doing in F1 then anyway?) and went for winning Monaco, so what? Monaco is pretty boring anyway, it can give a lower classed team a chance at being in the spotlight briefly. But I see it could be a problem.
    This could easily be fixed though by giving each track a classification as high or low downforce and teams choosing 2 fixed specifications for the year. All teams will then have a high downforce spec for the extreme tracks such as Monaco, and use the other one for the other tracks.

  3. I think by fixed wing he means the design is fixed – but that the downforce levels are still adjustable within the paramaters allowed by that design. So varying levels of downforce to suit the track will still be possible – just not to the extent possible now when wings are designed for the track.

  4. I’m sure Monaco would be improved by limiting down force through the use of a season long spec wing but I fear Monza would require any skill to drive at all.

  5. Based on every statement from Max Mosley that I have read in the past year, I have one conclusion: Max Mosley hates motor racing.

  6. “What is needed is precisely the kind of intelligent, rational, clear ideas that Anderson has put together. It’s time the FIA tapped into this kind of thinking.”

    The FIA associate itself with intelligent, rational, clear thinking? Are you mad?! :-D

  7. Just optimistic…

    1. @keithcollantine, we’re 9 years on, and F1 has become such a mess!

  8. Well, there was an attempted coup back in 2004, I think, to get rid of Max. So what did he do? Just before it happened, he announced his retirement. But as the FIA was packed by pro-Max forces (packed by Max himself), they begged him to stay. And almost all of these pro-Max forces are still in power today, in different auto clubs worldwide.

  9. Get rid of max we say – majority that is – but we arent ferrari or ferrari supplied teams who as a group would have to be onboard to manage a coup – these suggestions to allow passing are too sensible – with minimal cost – designers put out of work? – would be easier for teams like prodrive to design a car too.
    and have you heard the latest little bernie says that the fia should not have got involved in the ferrarri /mcclaren case and that mcclaren may have points taken in 2008 – seems like that is decided then!! – who is incharge of this circus

  10. Very rational, intelligent, and easy-to-implement ideas from Gary Anderson. We need that kind of rational thinking in the FIA so that Formula One can get back to the proper racing again.

    These changes, if implemented correctly so that teams would have great difficulty working around the rules, are so much better than these half-baked ideas to increase overtaking. Ideas such as the CDG Wing, the push-to-pass button, and the standard issue chassis. None of these ideas fit into Formula One, Gary Anderson’s ideas however, do.

  11. We won’t have Max for long now, apparently he will probably go in 2009. The question is – who will replace him? The problem could end up being that Max grooms his own successor to follow his ways – the ways of ignoring simple, rational ideas like Gary Anderson has proposed.

  12. William Wilgus
    28th November 2007, 17:10

    The simplest and least expensive change would be to just eliminate the front & rear wings—what I’ve been saying for over a year now.

  13. Except William that you would then have to completely redesign the cars from the ground up.

  14. The Autosport article was one of the best I’ve read all year. I’m now praying that the powers that be will take some notice of it. But I just can’t see that happening :(

  15. I like the idea of slicks,less body aerodynamics smaller ADJUSTABLE front wing and TWO seperate rear wings to be alternated according to the track.But,with less downforce than now.The boost button wouldn’t be needed.

  16. William Wilgus Says: The simplest and least expensive change would be to just eliminate the front & rear wings.
    nellyweb replies:
    Except William that you would then have to completely redesign the cars from the ground up.
    And I ask; “what’s wrong with that?”
    There are already MAJOR changes in place, fixed engine performance, banning TC, energy recovery, banning wings and adding thier associated changes while blended with other 2008 (and beyound) changes
    ….. NOW is the time to do it!


  18. I think the Overtaking Working Group’s Proposals are for 2009.

  19. William , I’m afraid there’s no way it makes sense to remove the front and rear wings from cars completely .If anything it would make the cars more dangerous to drive as they’d be a lot less stable at high speeds , which I don’t get the impression that the FIA want right now :)

    Having said that , I haven’t been reading Autosport of late but this all seems far more sensible then the many layers of wallpaper being applied to the wall to stop it from being damp when it really needs a new damp-proof course!I sometimes find it hard to belive the ways of the FIA for what is a worldwide governing body ,but the good news is that Max can’t be around forever.

  20. the one rear for a season may be a bit too much, but make it 2 – one low and one high downforce – that would already make a big difference

    in general these ideas are far far better than any of those FIA proposals, like the movable wings or CDG ..

    the only thing I am wondering – what areas would be left for the teams to improve the cars during the season if all of the above is impelemented – this is a question, not an objection

  21. AmericanTifosi
    29th November 2007, 1:28

    I agree with everything execpt for the fixed rear-wing. This is such a fine example of why the FIA shouldn’t come up with major changes to the cars, let the designers or former designers do it.

  22. AmericanTifosi
    29th November 2007, 1:30

    Wait, I’ve got a better idea, let’s just forcefully remove the FIA from power, that will improve the sport!

  23. All of those ideas are sensible, and it will necessarily be a complex undertaking (politically, if not technically) which is why I propose one single technical change that would take care of everything:

    Steel Brakes!


  24. Safety-wise, that’s a very bad idea.

    I like Gary’s proposals, but I also like this guy’s thoughts:

    Don’t you?

  25. When these ideas of Anderson are implemented, F1 will no longer be F1. What’s the point in simplifying every part of an F1 car to make it “Overtaking Friendly”? I wouldn’t need such an overtaking/improved racing in F1. F1 is all about technology. F1 is about complexity. Standardizing anything in F1 is rubbish.

  26. powerline2007
    29th November 2007, 7:08

    Want to improve F1, seriously???

    1. Get rid of Max & Bernie;
    2. Have 2 F1 races in the US per year;
    3. Revamp, validate & clarify all F1 rules & regulations;

    Then, we may yet see F1 at its best.

  27. with all of the money the FIA have, y dont they simply build some F1 cars and try all these differant aero idea’s out on the track!
    the windtunnel wont tell us all that much.
    maybe even try looking at when F1 became deprived of racing (mid 90’s) and look at what came onto the cars then (like bargeboards) and simply get rid of them!
    also, i think we should also look at the circuits!
    these new (late 90’s) euro autodrome circuits have to go!
    whatever happened to fast corners and long straights?
    most tracks these days r all 2nd-3rd gear corners following each other, so b lucky if bikes can race on them! let alone cars

  28. I’m intrigued by Sriram’s objection. I don’t think Anderson’s proposals go much further than current constraints on car development.

    There are already substantial constraints on the dimensions and positioning of things like wings, all Anderson’s proposal does is change those restrictions. In some cases, like the diffuser, he actually advocates making them bigger to generate more grip. He also encourages ditching the technological backwater that is grooved tyres.

    Here’s some more articles on banned F1 technologies.

  29. SIMPLIFY suspension wishbones, SIMPLIFY upper bodywork, SIMPLIFY brake ducts, BAN bargeboards – it’s the words SIMPLIFY and BAN that I’m deeply unhappy about. Keith is right about the fact that there’re already lots of things that have numerous constraints. And we simply don’t need even more of them. Honestly, removing barge boards, having standard everything (ECU, frozen engines, wings) sounds very bad for F1. Racing will be improved, yes. But, at the cost of F1 being no longer F1.

  30. Jarno Trulli reckons he’s got the answer:

    Grooved tyres require a completely different driving style from that of any other racing car. It’s not a problem in F1’s technical characteristics, it’s a problem in the tyre… If there’s little overtaking in F1, a lot of that has to blamed on the tyres.

    If they’d also ban refuelling then it would be even better, because managing a car with 200 kilos of fuel on board under braking would be a great way to sort out the finer drivers from the rest.

    Probably the elimination of traction control has increased the problems and the wearing of the current tyres, but it would be nice if the slicks would come back. Can’t we do it earlier than 2009?

    Can’t argue with any of that!

    Autosport: Trulli eager for reintroduction of slicks (external)

  31. “The simplest and least expensive change would be to just eliminate the front & rear wings—what I’ve been saying for over a year now.”

    And you’re not the only one. Someone once asked Gilles Villeneuve what he thought of wings, and he said if it were up to him, he’d simply get rid of them because of the problems it caused for overtaking, even back in those days. Myself, I think for now the wings should just be reduced in size, and then a few years from now wings could be eliminated altogether, and maybe ground effect could be phased back in (though ground effect has it’s problems too). Getting rid of wings right now would be too much of a shock to the system, I think.

    But this to me just highlights the most frustrating aspect about this whole issue; many of these ideas are not new ideas at all. I have a 1999 Autosport year-end review in which Damon Hill says basically the same thing; reduce the available downforce, and bring back slicks! That article was the first I became aware of the problem, and since then I’ve noticed numerous drivers saying the same thing.

    Yet here we have Mr. Mosely, who felt that exactly the opposite direction was the way to go, and has apparently felt that way for ten years now. It is F1’s complete misfortune that it is stuck with a non-expert rulemaker who is apparently unwilling to (or can’t) recognize the obvious short-comings of his ideas. There’s no shortage of expert advice out there Max! But for him we wouldn’t even be talking about nonsense like engine-freezes, CDG wings, or power-to-pass (in F1 anyways). Hopefully, the buffoonery will end in 2009, if not sooner.

    Max Mosely is our misfortune!

    Keith: I tried to fill out your survey, but apparently it’s closed?

  32. The survey’s just closed – thanks for trying to fill it in though, there will be more in the future.

  33. Yes, Trulli is absolutely right and it’s also worth noting that he doesn’t talk about aerodynamics or anything!

  34. The aerodynamics ideas are not correct imho.
    It starts from the idea that too much aeros are the problem, while, himself call for a “cleaner” way.

    Of course if your way of creating aeros it not clean, increasing aerodynamics will worsen the effect on the following car, but the problem is not here, the problem is the way they’re produced namely vortex generators.

    Now if you shorten the wings, make wishbones not streamlined or remove wheels covers it will have even more non steady aeros at proximity , while that’s true that at a longer distance the problems will be less important this is not by increasing drag that this occurs but by banning the vortex generators.

    Increasing the drag may be efficient for straight line slipstream but what you need in corner is downforce, downforce and still downforce.

    Now Jarno Trulli’s remark also shows that the problem is far from being simple, as the tires poses a problem of overall grip, and visibly restrict lines.

    So Slicks are tought to be back, but in fact i’m not quite sure they’ll produce the effect you want.

    If you increase the grip of the tires, then cars will go faster so they will rely on aerodynamics again.

    So in fact the question is : Do we want the same level of speed?

    Actually with a tire it is not possible to combine the level of grip aerodynamic downforce produce and some of the actual F1 cars dynamics (like reactivity), so downforce is still needed.

    So to me two options: either we work for steadier aerodynamics, look out for tires to provide better overall grip or we reduce the speed dramatically and get rid of aeros.

    As far as i’m concerned, F1 is meant to be the fastest and on of the hardest series so if overtaking is not easy that’s okay.
    In fact i think we should cure the problems that make it likely impossible now and that’s what the OWG is doing, addressing the correct problems for 2009: Less vortex generators+slicks.

    Also we have to note that overatking is a complex process, rarely going into the “i follow you, slipstream then overtake” as far as cornering/braking overtaking are concerned.

  35. Banning wings got more support than I expected, returning to slicks seems to be a popular move, one respondant used the word SIMPLIFY several times and I could back him on several points but where is MadMax taking F1…….bio-fuels and energy recovery ??????
    I say we “ban” Max !!!!

  36. can we get a poll on the go? should FIA president Max Mosley Resign?

    sounds good to me! I no which way i’d vote.

  37. There’s a new poll going up shortly on a different topic but I’ll make room for one on Mosley soon…

  38. ok wicked. thanks.

  39. get rid of all driver aids and take them back to manual gear boxes , then more onus put on the driver to be good

  40. I imagine the “should Mosely resign?” poll will be pretty one-sided…

  41. theRoswellite
    6th January 2008, 6:27

    I’m coming to this debate late,so I’ll be brief: F1 cars have been allowed to become as much “air craft” as cars. If you, at first, reduce the down force, then nearly eliminate it, you will…….return the cars to “auto” racing. As a side effect, speeds will be reduced (where they need to be the corners), following closely & passing, will be increased. And, improvements to the F1 cars can be correlated more closely to the needs of “normal automobiles”. This is basically what Gary Anderson is saying. It has been a problem which the FIA has not been able to handle, and it has been growing for decades. Only when the down force made gargantuan leaps, the “fan car”, and sliding side screens & inverted wing bottoms, did the governing body step forward. We have needed, and still do, courageous and effective FIA leadership to bring about change in this area.

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