F1 cars ‘should look fast and be hard to drive’

2014 F1 season

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Formula One’s technical directors say the sport’s rules need to create cars which challenge the drivers as well as produce quick lap times.

Yesterday several drivers said the current generation of cars are considerably easier to drive than they were a decade ago, when they were also several seconds per lap quicker.

However those responsible for designing the cars say it’s not simply a case of allowing them to be fast enough to break the lap records they currently fall well short of.

“It’s important that Formula One cars are fast, it’s important that they look dramatic on the track, that the best drivers in the world find them exciting and challenging to drive,” said Ferrari’s James Allison.

“I think all those things are true. It’s easy to design a set of regulations that would allow them to be massively faster but I think what we have at the moment is fast. I think it looks dramatic, I think it requires skill from the drivers and I think it’s producing fairly good races. So I don’t really see any problems in that regard.”

But Red Bull’s Adrian Newey believes more could be done to make the current cars more spectacular to watch and more demanding for the drivers.

“I think lap time per se is not necessarily the be-all and end-all. As James says the critical thing is that the cars should look fast and if you’re sitting there watching television it should be ‘wow, those guys are superheroes, I couldn’t do that’. If I’m honest, I don’t think the current cars really do that.

“If you watch Moto GP you certainly have the feeling that those guys are superheroes. Whereas the current crop of cars, the power-to-weight is not fantastic, going back to the sort of 1300 horsepower in qualifying cars that were quite a bit lighter than they are now, then those things were pretty… you had to bolt on some fairly special appendages to drive them in qualifying.

“I think the fact that young drivers – no disrespect to them at all – they can jump in and instantly be at the front, or competitive certainly, is an interesting one.

“So I don’t think there’s an easy answer. But I think it would be good to make the cars a bit more difficult to drive, in truth.

“I think the extra torque of the new engines is good in that respect. There’s obviously lots of ways of producing more torque, I think the way the old regulations had gone was very much the small capacity, high-revving, normally aspirated is bound to be low on torque. That’s my personal opinion.”

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Image © Ferrari/Ercole Colombo

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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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45 comments on “F1 cars ‘should look fast and be hard to drive’”

  1. Daniel (@collettdumbletonhall)
    22nd August 2014, 17:33

    Couldn’t agree more. I just wish someone would say that the pinnacle of motorsport shouldn’t be full of gimmicks.

    1. This year rules cripple some driver abilities, brake assist cripple rear-tire saving, and KERS is now more a setup rather than driver’s reflect.
      Who crippled most? Kimi Raikkonen.

  2. Daniel (@collettdumbletonhall)
    22nd August 2014, 17:34

    Perhaps they could fill the grid with Pastor Maldonado clones. He makes these cars look very hard to drive.

    1. *rimshot* Seriously very funny ;)

    2. The Lotus plays a big role in that, Grosjean doesn’t seem at ease too …

    3. Funny comment. :)

      Seriously. I want F1 cars and F1 drivers at a level that it would be almost impossible for someone to ‘buy a seat’. Maldonado is over his head but muddles thru; something is wrong with F1 if someone can just squeak by.

  3. Forget about F1. Just move FIA World RallyX series (or American’s RedBull Global RallyX).
    Fast cars – 600HP – 0 to 100kmh in 1.9 secs.
    Short races – around 24 heat races per weekend. From 4 to 6 laps each.
    Stadium Tracks – audience can watch the whole action not just 1 Turn and 1/2 of a long straight.
    Drifting – skills needed to race Mixed courses (tarmac, gravel, asphalt, dirt) and mega jumps
    Constant Action – bumper cars fighting in every damn corner

    F1 what??

    1. I have to admit this looks pretty impressive. Red Bull seems to be better at social media than the FIA though.

    2. If I wanted to watch “bumper car fighting in every damn corner” I would watch Nascar.

    3. I’ve tried watching a few RallyX races and was sorely disappointed. There are four big problems I have with RallyX: it’s not nearly fast enough; the tracks are too short and boring; there are too many washed-up and two-bit drivers; races too short to have any depth are best left to video games.

      If you like it, power to you. Personally, I could not care less for it.

  4. I’m a bit on the edge on this.

    I remember watching Mark Webber’s pole lap at Spa in 2010 and getting quite scared at the entry speed at Pouhon, hardly even lifting. The way that Red Bull took corners was amaizing. Even if the laptime was considerably slower than before.

    We’ve got to remember that while in 2004 we had V10s, we also had traction control and massive downforce to help with that. And tyre wars… very sticky tyres even if they had grooves on them.

    It was massively different and so were the feeder formulas. What was closest to F1 back then? F3000? they were a lot slower than GP2 cars.

    The gap was bigger, so the step ahead was confusing for the drivers, I suppose. I’ve heard Alain Menu said that the first time he tried a F1 car, he didn’t expect the braking to be that good. Maybe with simulators help drivers with that too.

    So is F1 easier? Surely. I guess it was even harder in the 50’s or 60’s. But also, maybe feeder formulas got harder and faster. Maybe the preparation is a lot better so the drivers doesn’t struggle that much.

    Afterall, Alonso has a simulator at his own house and has probably done 1000 laps at Spa before hitting the track.

    1. 2004 onboards look far more dramatic than anything else recent.

  5. I see Ferrari have managed to achieve only the latter? :) It looks fast compared to road cars though!

  6. An engine in F1 car can be exciting, sound awesome and be technically super advanced while not looking environmentally friendly while it actually is. Or it can be obese, form over function, full of eletronics and complex for the sake of complexity and come with the pr that it is green while it actually isn’t at all. Guess which one is 2014 F1.

    All because someone thinks road car relevance is nothing less than a gimmick pr word that is only used seriously by those big car maker bosses who think using that word makes it easier for them to recommend F1 for their board members.

    Speed is not as important in modern day motorsports as it was even 1 years ago. We don’t have GT1 race cars anymore. We have gt3s. All series that once were close to F1 have gone to being one make series just like F1 will eventually be. F1 cars are not about speed anymore. After kers was added into F1 cars the sport has not been about speed anymore. The cars are fat, slow and uninspiring. Technically they are all about pr and brand selling and as such they are dull as corvette with toyota prius body kit and peddles instead of real engine.

    It is easy to fix. First remove all that electronics crap. If it needs to be in the car it needs to be in the car based on merit. Not because it is forced by rules. Then look at the aero and do everything you can to make the cars less aero efficient so having loads of downforce comes with higher cost. Then make the tires rock solid with less grip. We would see the cars being more sideways, driver more in control and the cars would still be fun to watch. And while you are at it throw away the lawn mower motors and bring back the V10s. Or let the teams choose whether they want the cirrent v6 turbo or naturally aspirated V10. People who want cars that sound boring and are slow and uninteresting car go watch formula e.

    1. Then make F1 slower than F3.

    2. Err i am confused. how exactly does a car with low down force and hard tyres driven by a old antiquated engine be faster. I would sure be diffucult to drive. If the tyres dont grip, and the aero cant hold the car down and they have to carry heaps more fuel they simply wont be very fast.

  7. This year’s cars look really fast on the straights, but like turtles in corners, compared to last year. But actually neither is enough. 10 years ago cars looked superfast, I was so excited about their speed, I remember. Now I’m not, though they’re quite fast on straights, and not really very slow in corners. But they somehow look quite slow, I don’t know why.

    1. I think actually these 2014 cars are more exciting in corners than any other f1 I’ve seen (or at least they were until FRIC was banned)

  8. I hope the rules evolve to allow more electrical energy, and for longer, as the teams improve the packaging, storage and cooling around the hybrid systems. If FIA go freezing the rules and we’re stuck with 6-700bhp, then all the resources F1 teams have put into saving weight and efficiency will be put to spectacular use in…sportscars.

  9. I just don’t understand it. FIA’s doing everything in their power to improve the show, adding gimmicks to every aspect they can think of just to make the sport more attractive to fans. The only thing they don’t seem to care about is the presentation of the actual cars. You know, the cars, a pretty crucial element of Formula 1. Who would want to hang a poster on their wall with a 2014 Formula 1 car on it? I sure wouldn’t, because they look ridiculous. And since this year, to add to the appearance of the cars, they sound terrible too. Sure it doesn’t really matter on television, but I’m willing to bet overall ticket sales will decrease because of the lack of sound. Us diehard fans may say we don’t really care, but most people do. I can’t remember how many people I’ve spoken to that say they’ve lost interest this year just because of the sound. And don’t forget the cars are slow now too, not just the laptimes, but they actually look sluggish on tv. Oh well, guess us fans don’t care about the cars huh?

    1. Who would want to hang a poster on their wall with a 2014 Formula 1 car on it? I sure wouldn’t, because they look ridiculous.

      I have to agree, except *maybe* the Red Bull.

      1. The Mercedes also looks pretty good.

  10. I completely agree with Newey. What I see, today, in Formula 1 doesn’t look nearly as challenging as it did in 2004.

    Also, Vettel can drive these cars. Not well, but he can drive them. That should tell you plenty about how easy it is to control them.

    1. Formula 1 doesn’t look nearly as challenging as it did in 2004.

      I disagree.
      In 2004 the cars looked planted to the road & with traction control the drivers could step on the gas with little drama & they looked easy to drive as a result of that.

      The 2014 cars look far harder to drive because there moving around in the corners, The drivers having having to be careful on the throttle because of the torque & we now see corners like Eau Rouge look challenging again with drivers actually having to lift.

      And to top it all off the racing is far better this year than it was in 2004 where the super high downforce cars made good racing & overtaking a rarity & where V10’s were neutered with the traction control.

      Speaking of which, People moan about the sound of this years cars but they sound indefinitely better than the horrendous misfiring the cars made due to traction control.

    2. @baron-2, Why the Vettel bashing. You’re being an ignorant jerk. He was undefeatable for 4 years, then has an off season. Just like Spain won everything in soccer, but then lost their magic, Vettel is struggeling now. That doesn’t mean he’s worthless. You should know better.

  11. In Malaysia I notices how slow the cars looked through the sweeping corners before the back straight. I didn’t like it. But I do like the high topspeeds this year and how the slower cornering speeds seem to aid the battles between the cars.

  12. It’s a tricky problem because if a car easier to drive you can get more consistent lap times. A car on the edge is always going to lose time. It’s just a reflection of the granular development in F1.

    I think the focus should be on the tracks. How about more variation in corners, different tarmac surfaces in different sections, some bumpier areas of the circuit, more dramatic camber changes etc. I think the drama of circuits has declined at least as much as the cars.

  13. Oh the irony, Adrian “Downforce” Newey wants the cars to look and be harder to drive. I agree totally, come on FIA write new rules that drastically reduce the area and complexity of the front and rear wings.

  14. The slight camera shake on the onboard footage 10 years ago made the onboard angles way more dramatic. If the FIA are looking into ridiculous gimmicks then this one is one of the least preposterous that I can think of.
    I think adding more power would be a good start, and lessening the fuel flow restrictions would be a good way to do that, while getting higher RPM, which makes for a better and probably louder engine sound. I think F1 should ditch this “relevant to road cars” idea because at the end of the day, making 22 race cars use 30% less fuel than last year, for less than 120 hours per year in terms of total time allotted for the sessions for the year, isn’t going to make a difference to global warming. The nature of the cars is too far removed to be of any relevance to road cars, as they are designed to last, at a stretch, 1000 miles at race speeds, which is about as far as you can get from a supermini.
    Instead of making the cars slower with less powerful engines, they should focus on cost cutting for the teams, forcing them to downsize the ridiculous motorhomes that crowd out the paddock, and getting the teams themselves to employ greener methods of making the cars, transporting parts etc.

    1. I am sorry but road relivance is extremely important if you want any of the manufacturers involved.
      Like it ir not “win on sunday, sell on monday” is a very real and important marketing tool in the automobile industry.
      F1 needs the manufacturers and they need a road relivant insentive to be involved.
      None of the private teams could really afford to design and manufacturer an engine. When was that last engine made by a privateer team?

      1. “When was that last engine made by a privateer team?” Last year, when Marussia ran Cosworth engines.

      2. I know it’s important to the manufacturers, but it shouldn’t be. F1 cars are too far removed to apply that policy, and I don’t think the customers that buy road cars are particularly bothered about how efficient an F1 car is. They’ll want to buy the car of the manufacturer that’s winning (Mercedes in this case), and that’s it. If they didn’t change the engine rules and Merc still dominated, people would still buy Merc road cars because they’re winning and not because they’re more efficient. “Win on Sunday, sell on Monday” works in NASCAR because the cars are recognisable shapes. F1 cars don’t have that quality, which is why I don’t think it applies IMO.

        1. BTW I understand your point about the manufacturers wanting road relevancy. I’m just saying that I don’t think it makes any sense.

  15. Oh and calling the MotoGP guys “super-heroes” compared to “f1 drivers”…. brilliant!

  16. Let Marvel design the cars.

  17. some people dont realize how fast the 2014 cars are going,
    read this and the cars have still not be fully set-up yet,

    Lewis Hamilton topped the second practice session with a best time of 1’49.189 – two-tenths of a second quicker than the top time seen on Friday last year.

    1. “some people don’t realize how fast the 2014 cars are going”
      Damp conditions mate..

    2. But that’s over a single lap. In peak performance these cars are still very powerful, especially the Mercedes which supposedly has somewhere around 850 bhp coming from the IC and the ERS.
      In the race that performance is severaly hampered due to fuel flow restriction, fuel management and tyre management. None of these were a concern before 2011. At least, not as heavily as they are now.

      As for the people saying that 2004 and other such years were boring because the downforce levels were to high I say bull****. Those years were boring because, like now, there was one team dominating the field but unlike now the drivers in their team were not evenly matched. This season would have been equally as dull if Rosberg would not have been able to keep up with Hamilton (or vice versa) and 2004 would have been very exciting if Barichello was capable of fighting Schumacher.
      That’s just one more problem in F1. People (fans as well as the FIA) see a dominant team with a dominant driver and they start all these crazy theories about what is wrong and how it could be improved. They hear hooves and think Zebra’s. Once a team starts to dominate the FIA try everything in their power to halt that dominance, even if they are the reason a team is dominant in the first place.
      Now we are in another situation that the FIA created and they’re just lucky the Mercedes drivers are evenly matched.

      F1 (FIA) shoots itself in the foot every time it tries to create parity between teams. That’s not what F1 is about. F1 is not a spec series.

      I say, and I will always stand by that, set a base rule for fuel consumption but let teams decide what kind of engine to built and how to go about it. Give them a set amount of fuel for the race and let them decide how to use that fuel. No fuel flow restricitions. Mercedes wants to built a V6 Turbo? Let them. Renault wants to built a V4 Turbo? Why not. Ferrari wants to stick with a V8? Great. Different cars, different engines, different drivers. That’s what F1 should be about.

  18. Spa and Monza probably aren’t the greatest places to proclaim that 2014’s cars are too slow.

  19. Don’t believe it’s all that bad. I Like the idea of the technology especially the turbo-connected-to-motor/generator bit is inspired and could go a long way to reduce turbo lag on road cars. Also a much better way to regulate boost pressure, better harvest excess energy than literally waste it.
    Also the ratio downforce in relation to power/torque is better.

    That said I think you could up power and downforce while trying to keep the ratio the same. At some point you will run into safety issues of course but the cars would be more exciting to watch and faster, while still moving around a fair bit.

    Re introduce refuelling to make cars lighter at the start and dump the fuel flow limit in quali. Increase it in races and let the cars rev higher. Adds some strategic alternatives…do you run light with lower boost pressure or add more fuel and crank up the engine? Maybe make it inline sixes or flat eights to make the noise more interesting. There’s lots of ways to improve the show while satisfying tech nerds an casual viewers alike.

    1. @bcrh

      At some point you will run into safety issues of course

      How so. If the ratio stays about the same I don’t see any reason why it would suddenly be more dangerous. In fact, reducing downforce is something that is much more dangerous. Especially with the acceleration they have now. Less downforce means more prone to take offs like Webber did at Valencia 2010 for example.

      Re introduce refuelling to make cars lighter at the start

      Or just allow them to built a lighter car. I read that, back in 2006 I believe cars could weigh as little as about 480 kg’s without the driver. Now we’ve got a minimum weight of 691 (including the driver and camera) and in 2015 that will be increased even further. If F1 is so relevant to road cars then why are car manufacturers constantly trying to lighten the car to increase fuel efficiency as opposed to F1 teams having to increase weight. It seems rather idiotic to me.

      Maybe make it inline sixes or flat eights to make the noise more interesting.

      I say, give them a set amount of fuel. Let them decide what kind of engine to built and how to use it. If they fail to make the finish line? Tough luck.

      1. Well if the Ratio stays the Same, it means the car will go faster but it will have the same level of instability or movement. This means mistakes or failures would have more severe consequences. All I meant was, that you can only take this so far.

        I agree with the lighter car, but as we have learnt, they’re already on the limit weight wise. If you keep the technology (hybrid, turbo etc) weight loss will be very expensive. But of course this is always a racing car designers goal.

        Giving them freedom to come up with their own engine designs makes it hard for smaller teams to stay competitive. I think you do need some regulation to keep the competition close.

  20. Here is a nice Gordon Kirby article on the power to weight ratio.


    To me the 2014 cars look “faster” than last year and especially 10 years ago when there didn’t seem to be any steering wheel movement other than what was necessary. Having said all that I went back through some races in five year increments and watched a full race back to the late ’70’s and I honestly couldn’t tell any difference in speed until I got to the ’70’s. But to me that didn’t matter because those cars just before ground effects took over had the most beautiful sliding movements.

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