F1 ‘doesn’t understand overtaking’ – Symonds

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In the round-up: Williams technical chief Pat Symonds says F1 has failed to grasp the complexities of improving overtaking.

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F1 announced its latest rules changes at the wrong time, says JohnnyRye:

While not specific to any topic today, I’ve been bothered particularly this week by the need to change rules to “increase the popularity of the sport” regarding qualifying etc…

I say particularly this week, because we’ve just been through an excruciatingly long off season with little news, then we get to the first week of testing where there are an untold number of stories to cover and what does the FIA and the teams do? They drown out all these stories that fans have been waiting for for months, with rule changes that take the focus away from their on track product.

Don’t get me wrong, I still read as many stories as possible but I’m sure I still missed some. And while I read them all, can we all say they were as I depth as they could have been?

This week has been a marketing fiasco for F1. The product is selling itself and they choose to drop some bombshells on their fans at the same time. The stories this week were a mile wide and an inch deep when there was plenty of time to ensure everything got its proper attention.

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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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48 comments on “F1 ‘doesn’t understand overtaking’ – Symonds”

  1. Pat Symonds: F1 still doesn’t fully understand overtaking (ESPN)

    Charlie Whiting certainly doesn’t.

    Charlie Whiting: “If, as some people think, it may be a little more difficult to follow a car closely then we can increase the authority of the DRS. I don’t see a big issue there.”

    He should have lost his job over that comment alone, where he essentially proved how out of touch he is.

    1. Can we start a campaign to have him removed?

      Or better yet, keep him in his job, then they will do the opposite.

    2. You’re absolutely right. What an astonishing comment from Charlie.

    3. Sounds like Charlie’s bought into the “statistics are what counts” school of thought. Not an excuse though, time for that gold Rolex to be presented. @kingshark

    4. @kingshark, and fans complain about the authorities imposing knee jerk measures, yet are so willing to implement them themselves. No tolerance for any form of dissenting opinion – just fire everybody who might express a different opinion…

      On a more serious note, the fact that there has been a considerable amount of discussion here and elsewhere shows to me that, in reality, nobody really “fully understands overtaking”, as Symonds puts it. Let us not forget that Symonds himself was responsible for the research work that lead to the current regulation package that everybody now loves to criticise.

      1. Symonds and OWG were responsible mainly for size and placement of the wings, not for the whole regulation package. Designed to degrade tyres, DRS and many other elements of current regulation package were introduced independently.

    5. Twenty years on the job, and this is what happens. They become little kings. His obsession with DRS aside, Whiting has done far worse over the years than this comment; a worrying lack of attention to upholding the FIA mandated rules protecting the safety of marshals and drivers being the most offensive.

    6. This typifies the lack of clarity of thought and an embedded Machiavellian attitude that pervades Formula One.

      The result? Marvel at the amazingly fabulous technology of the cars. Brilliantly designed parts engineered to the point of perfection, all to affect the cars performance by infinitesimal amounts. Thousands of man hours and millions of pounds expended to gain tiny fractions of time on the track and what for? All for a dirty great agricultural blunt instrument call DRS to decide when an overtake takes place.

      It’s heresy and an insult to the efforts of all those involved, past and present in once great sport of Formula One. All those involved in the rule making process should be ashamed.

      MUCH less aero and MANY less gimmicks can be the ONLY way to go. They must know this SURELY

      1. Thousands of man hours and millions of pounds expended to gain tiny fractions of time on the track and what for? All for a dirty great agricultural blunt instrument call DRS

        Agricultural instrument, priceless! This should be the COTD.

    7. Charlie has been out of touch for years.

      He clearly should not been in the job. It doesn’t even need explaining why.

      Its certainly another one of F1’s many jobs for your mates. No one should even know who he is, his job should be done in the background. The fact he has become a mini celebrity proves why he isn’t doing his job correctly.

    8. Yep, Charlie is not very clever @kingshark. The mop of wisdom-projecting grey hair is a terrific PR tool for Bernie’s stooge.

    9. The big issue is F1 needs less aero and not more of it, as I said before on here, the more aero they add the more aero the car (Keith Collantine please note that its the car this time and not the cat) following another will lose.
      And Johnny Rye says “F1 announced its latest rules changes at the wrong time” yes it did, but you should have said who was pushing these rule changes including who are his comrades in arms.

  2. “We made CAD models from pictures. It sounds crude but what else could you do?”

    Imagine working at Toro Rosso and being given a cool collection of pictures with the orders: “create each of the F1 engines as accurately as possible in order to make them fit in our future new car which is still in development”.

    That’s some serious “what the hell am I supposed to do” moment! As someone working in a technical department, I know that stuff happens a lot of times in a company, specially when you’re rushing for everything. I’m amaized that they actually pulled it out together and made it work. What a capable team of engineers!

    1. They also have a B-Spec car coming next week that will represent what they did once they had the CAD.

    2. I think that the drop off in the second half of 2016 wont be as bad as everybody predicts because Torro Rosso has allot of optimization possible which they havent been able to do over the winter time due to time constrains. Only problem that they will have though is that most of the development time will go into 2017 car with the new regulation changes, so there is not much time to improve its package. hmmm… tough call for Torro Rosso, compromise 2017 by developing the 2016 car a bit longer or see 2016 as transition year and fully focus sooner on 2017 with a new up to date power unit (which ever power unit that may be)

      1. I thought using the older engines was a one time compromise for STR, it would be a shame if they have to use older engines in 2017.

        1. right, it was approved for this season by the FIA, what they will be using next year will have to be approved by the FIA again.

  3. Why did Lotterer bring Hamilton into the discussion. If he wanted to take a jab, he should have just shut DC up directly.

    1. @texasisbiggerthanfrance
      He didn’t take a jab at Lewis at all. He took a jab at how boring Formula 1 is.

      1. @kingshark

        It’s all strokes for folks. I watched WEC’s 6 hours at Silverstone last. Big lumbering cars, tooling around slower than a McLaren Honda. Yawn.

        F1’s a bit like soccer – it’s not all about the scoring, it’s about the key moments that make all the other times worthwhile.

        If folks want a lot of scoring or passing, there’s always basketball and NASCAR.

        1. please. most of the races are over after the first turn these days, in F1. The WEC Silverstone race however, was A. much more entertaining, seriously so, and B. it was actually a competitive race. We don’t have competition in F1 because F1 is hyper regulated, the cars are too similar in spec and cannot count on diversity to offer opportunity, so people see the same things over and over again, and wonder why, and the guys in charge keep pointing at the moon, asking people to look at their finger (see Bruce Lee).

          1. @xsavior That’s your opinion, but I’m afraid I have to agree with @uan about the F1 vs WEC battle. Watching any of the races, Le Mans 24 hours included, was fairly painful for me; the cars were slow, heavy, people were separated by 30+ seconds from the person ahead and behind and overall a boring experience. F1 may be becoming boring, but for me personally, despite DRS and tyre-saving (unusually, both of which I don’t dislike), I’d rather watch the entire Australian GP 2015 again than a 6-hour endurance race.

          2. @xsavior

            most of the races are over after the first turn these days, in F1

            Sure – but which ones? From 2015, Malaysia? Silverstone? Hungary? Singapore? Russia? Austin? Bahrain? Monaco? None of those were a given from T1. And those are just the races where the winner wasn’t predictable before the race or after T1, let alone some of the racing from P2 down the grid.

            The point is, WEC does as much managing of tires and fuel, etc as F1 does. Ask Hulkenberg – his impression of LMP1 cars was greatly tempered by how much more performance an F1 car has. Not to mention that domination of Audi has been pretty boring as well.

            Some folks love all auto racing, some like certain formulas over others. That’s all cool. Just because some find F1 boring now, doesn’t mean it is boring, or that everyone finds it boring. That’s not to say it’s perfect, but it’s never really been perfect.

            F1 ebbs and flows based on the competitiveness of teams – Mercedes hit a home run with their engine and chassis/aero package – good for them, not even Red Bull was able to do that. In 2017, no more engine tokens so we should get back to some semblance of parity. And who knows what this year will bring.

          3. F1 didn’t ebb in 2015, it only shifted marginally after the FIA went after the ‘tire pressures’. That’s where F1 is these days, completely micromanaged by people who think they can fix problems by issuing dictates. And yeah, I watched 2014 and 2015, the low noses are killing overtaking as much as forcing people to buy expensive under performing and unreliable drive trains. WEC in 2015 did not force it’s competitors to drive on silly tires, it does not force competitors to build their drive trains to the Nth degree. WEC has real diversity, even if the top two competitors are managed by VAG. F1 cannot compete with WEC, it can only hope WEC has to suffer further restrictions in terms of fuel decreases, weight increases and homogenization in order to keep F1 seemingly at the ‘pinnacle’ of four wheel “racing”.

          4. @xsavior, since you raise that point, the ACO is in fact currently in the process of cutting the fuel flow allowances for 2016 in order to slow the cars down (because they are worried that they’ll be too fast for the Circuit de la Sarthe). Furthermore, they are currently in the process of enforcing homogenisation on a number of classes.

            The LMP2 class is being made into a spec class in all but name in 2017 – there will be standard tyres, engines, electronics, suspension components and transmission, whilst each of the four licensed chassis developers will have to subject their chassis for aerodynamic equalisation by the ACO – after which, further development work on the chassis is banned. That is, if the ACO can even agree on the final rules – according to de Chaunac, one of the licensed constructors, the ACO still hasn’t finalised the final dimensions of the cars, despite the fact that the cars are supposed to go into production in September in order to meet the deadline for 2017.

            As for the LMP1 class, the ACO has announced that there will be further development restrictions coming into force. Having already banned in season development of the power trains, the ACO is introducing a phased restriction on aero development work as well – teams will only be permitted to use three aero packages in 2016 and only two in 2017 (a high downforce package and a low downforce package – which essentially means one aero package just for Le Mans and another for the rest of the season).

            In that situation, what really tips the competitive balance is the performance balancing mechanisms. The problem there is that the BoP regulations really only work with a small number of competitors – the ACO only balances the performance of the fastest petrol and diesel manufacturer entrants, with no mechanism for balancing performance within the classes.

            The balance might have worked well for Porsche and Audi in 2015, but Toyota were well and truly hung out to dry that year. If you start behind your competitors, the bans on in season development that the ACO has introduced will keep you there (which was why Toyota abandoned all development work in 2015 after the first race – they knew there was no way that they could compete).

            In the case of Nissan, the development bans had an even more detrimental effect. Once homologated, they had to compete with a powertrain that was fundamentally broken because they could not introduce new components to fix their problems – a restriction that played its part in their decision to withdraw from the WEC in the end.

          5. The FIA’s attempt to homogenise WEC the way they’ve homogenised F1 is being widely criticised. I’m hopeful that its attempts can be delayed but it will probably take a replacement of the FIA presidency to prevent it from taking complete hold. If only F1’s woes could be sorted that straightforwardly (it basically needs a reconfiguration of its power base and to decide what it actually wants to be as a series).

          6. @Anon, and others,

            yeah, it’s a real shame, the people in charge (ACO/FIA/whomever) really are about their own control, they turn a blind eye to how they are ruining the ‘competition’ by eliminating opportunities and diversity. Monocropping can be dangerous.

            I have been watching motorsports since the mid 2000’s and I am almost to the point where I don’t really care about it anymore, because it seems like the teams are becoming no more than agents for actors in the big show. Pro sports is being turned in to pretty much a pure entertainment venture to satisfy sponsor demand, etc. That’s my opinion anyways.

            @Mashiat, I get what you are saying, and everyone has their opinions about what is entertaining, and the 24 hours race wasn’t that great IMO too (Porsche’s 4MJ advantage), but I feel it is very important to stress, that with out real diversity, you will be looking at “more of the same”, and when you limit opportunities and stress rule making, you end up with systems that tend to decay and fall apart, because nobody is really interested in pushing the boundaries, just playing their part in the big machine. F1’s real value right now is as a case study for how totalitarianism and oppression don’t do anything for the spirit of ingenuity.

          7. @alianora-la-canta: The homogenisation of LMP is being driven more by the ACO than the FIA; it’s the ACO that sets the technical regulations for all classes in the WEC.

          8. @raceprouk It was the FIA who asked the ACO to set stricter regulations on the grounds of cost-cutting and safety, among others. Had it been the ACO’s idea, IMSA (which is purely run by NASCAR) wouldn’t have been forced to follow suit.

          9. RaceProUK (@)
            1st March 2016, 19:45

            @alianora-la-canta: That article doesn’t say the FIA were pushing for the changes; in fact, it doesn’t say who came up with the changes at all.

        2. @uan

          F1’s a bit like soccer – it’s not all about the scoring, it’s about the key moments that make all the other times worthwhile.

          So is WEC though.

          1. @davidnotcoulthard

            that’s why it’s strokes for folks. All this talk about “F1 is boring, WEC is where it’s at”, well that talk’s kind of boring too.

        3. Big lumbering cars, tooling around slower than a McLaren Honda.

          Lots of cars are slower than a McLaren-Honda, yet can lead to truly thrilling racing; speed isn’t everything.

          1. Oh, almost forgot: when you see LMP cars in the carbon, you realise just how tiny they are; they make a 458 Italia look as big as a Maybach.

      2. I think he just used Hamilton as an example as he’s been outspoken that in F1 you can’t push every lap because of the ‘design to degrade’ tyres.

  4. I wonder what this McLaren design that was widely approved is.

  5. F1 doesn’t understand overtaking.

    F1 doesn’t understand how to manage eleven teams.

    F1 doesn’t know what the fans want.

    F1 doesn’t know what it wants, or what it is going to look like in the future.

    This week’s disastrous 2017 talks project an image of nothing other than a management structure in crisis. If I was Donald McKenzie, I would be thinking long and hard about F1’s long-term future with the FIA, and the extent to which he wants Bernie to be influential on the F1 brand.

    1. F1 has a chance to save itself over the long term. It’s in the process of blowing it. Likely there will now be no meaningful change in 2017 simply because every alternative is either worse, or unpalatable to a key part of the power base.

  6. Pat Symonds also said:

    the cars will be quicker but I personally don’t think that will be very relevant because none of us can tell the difference in FP2 between a car on full tanks and qualifying pace; you’ve got four seconds per lap difference there and you can’t see it without looking at the timing screens.

    So it looks like the whole idea of sacrificing yet more following / passing for laptime is misconceived.

  7. I’ve never been one for the ‘bring back the old days’ type of argument, but at this point F1 is getting too much of a hassle even for me. 10 years ago I could turn on cable TV and just watch the qualifying and the races on any of three channels. I could get news from websites and printed magazines. Rules were decently complicated, but at least grooved tyres could be explained with ‘they reduce cornering speeds so it’s a little safer’.

    Now, I have to watch F1 on foreign television or pay up. Since the quality of Dutch coverage took a nosedive, I’d rather spend that money on streaming services I can use all month. There are so many F1 websites I don’t even bother to look at because it’s all gossip and ‘as this website’s sources told us 3 months ago’ with little in the way of actual journalism, I only go to Autosport and F1Fanatic these days. Everywhere I look people are in utter horror at the direction-less mess F1 has become and increasingly tells us it is itself.

    There was a time F1 was searching for safety and excitement as Imola 1994 loomed large over the sport and Ferrari was dominating the sport. Fans had hope then. 10 years later and so many people I know, both in real life and online, either don’t follow the sport anymore or have become utter cynics like me. It’s a sad state of affairs..

  8. A Good read here – interview with Alex Wurz (German)

    1. and this small piece from Grosjean / Haas supports the point Wurz makes very well

  9. Re COTD: Good point Johnny, I agree.

  10. Honda fitted a brand new engine for the final day but, although Fernando Alonso was able to get out of the pits early on for installation laps, a coolant leak in a tricky place meant he never got back out again.

    I just get tired of these excuses from McLaren. Here we have a hydraulic leak that lead to a fire, that lead to replacing the engine, that lead to a coolant leak. Why do I get the sense of foreboding? I never met Bruce McLaren, but I think he would have been expecting better than this.

  11. Surely there WAS an overtaking working group made up of aerodynamicists. (It may have been while Pat Symonds was kicked out of F1 for the particular way he chose to make it more exciting.) I think that group came up with DRS!

  12. Some simple solutions if we want to see high quality and quantity overtakes:
    1. Less differences between cars in lap time.
    2. Less dirty air in corners (but fast cars). More mechanical grip/ aero downforce rate.

  13. I think the solution to passing is to bring ground effect back. Surely it is affected less by following closely. Using the air under the cars instead of the air on the top of the cars has to be better.

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