What they say about… F1’s new cars – and passing

2017 F1 season preview

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Has Formula One’s rules change for 2017 produced a radically different experience for the drivers?

Will overtaking be made more difficult by the increased reliance on downforce this year.

F1 Fanatic heard from a selection of top drivers during testing after pre-season testing gave them their first experience of the new machines.

“More like they used to be” – Raikkonen
Obviously they are different, quite big rules changes, you have more grip and the cars are faster. They are different but they are more like used to be. They’re different: are they more hard, easy? It depends. I think it’s always harder to go fast but I like them.
Kimi Raikkonen

I think the speed difference between the cars from last year is a good step. It’s more enjoyable through the fast corners.
Max Verstappen

The load is higher and the grip is more, but not a surprise. It’s another car. There’s not much more to add to it.

For sure there’s a step, but it’s an exciting one, the car’s feel nice to drive, grippy. So yeah, it’s cool!
Lance Stroll

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“Like an Aspirin” – Vettel
It’s better than last year but I think everybody is saying that. It’s quite a bit faster due to the new regulations. Different car to drive, different tyres I had a feel of them last year already so I knew a little more what to expect. I think a combination where you can go faster, as a drivers, is always nice.

I think from a driver’s point of view it’s pretty much better everywhere. Braking is better, cornering is better, you’ve got much more grip so then also in low-speed where arguably the downforce effect is less you obviously have wider tyres so more grip from them. It works pretty much like an Aspirin, fixes everything. It’s difficult to compare. It’s a different animal, different beast.
Sebastian Vettel

In terms of performance, lap time wise, I think the main portion of the lap time getting better is definitely aero. It’s very difficult to calculate in details how much it is from the tyres. I think there is a good gain from the tyres but aero-wise it’s much better. I think the biggest benefit of these new tyres is they are more consistent. You can do longer stints with the average pace being much better. I think the races will be quite a lot quicker because of that.
Valtteri Bottas

Definitely it’s a big change. The car is a hell of a lot faster, a lot more dynamic. And I think that is very positive and good. Absolutely enjoyed all my time here in the car and looking forward to the year.
Nico Hulkenberg

“Harder to follow” – Hamilton
When the proposals for the design came out the engineers said this is the wrong design, this is the wrong way. Some teams, at least my engineers, said it’s going to make the cars faster, give us more downforce, but it’s going to be harder to follower. There’s more turbulence, stronger, more powerful vortices coming out the end back of our cars which ultimately effects the car behind.

But obviously they weren’t necessarily listened to and now we’ve got these cars which look fantastic, I think, and they drive amazingly well. But just as you get behind the other car, imagine the other car has one hundred percent pure air in front and the car behind has at least half or less than that.

So the car behind is getting dirty air so basically when you get behind a car the car feels one way for a second and then you get a crosswind or something that you’re not expecting or you lose front end grip because the front wing stops getting force on the car or the rear does, for example. It makes you then have to lift – and you never get close enough. I’ve experienced that behind several different cars. It’s not so easy.
Lewis Hamilton

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30 comments on “What they say about… F1’s new cars – and passing”

  1. Micheal (@shakengandulf)
    19th March 2017, 12:32

    Stroll thought the cars were grippy.. hmmm.

    1. ExcitedAbout17
      19th March 2017, 14:13

      .. and found out on 3 occasions that reality differed from his thoughts ;)

      Testing is meant to find the limit; preferably without crashing.

      But I withhold any further critical comments for now. He did extremely well during the 2nd week of testing, a might actually be a decent racer after all.

      1. Not at all. The cars ARE grippy, Stroll just doesn’t know (or have a feel for) where the grip ends. ;)

        1. That’s what he was testing, now he knows when and how it ends

  2. All in all I think the new cars/regs are better. At least with the new tires we won’t be watching people coasting around. The visual effect of seeing cars go proper fast is what gives me kick.

    As for the racing, no doubt it will be harder to overtake. But they have fumbled with the rules for years to try to promote overtaking and it has never worked. And the side effects have produced some nasty rashes.

    My hope is that Ross will be able to have enough influence to make sensible changes in future

    But hey Ross is in Bernie is out, the cars are fast. It’s all good

    1. Won’t be watching people coasting around?
      The extra fuel they have now got has been taken away and more from the extra downforce.

      1. You implying there wasn’t any fuel economy breakthroughs with the new engine?

  3. I hear LH’s misgivings and many seem to share those but not all. And of course we can’t know more than the drivers themselves, yet Max seemed to think passing would at least be no more difficult. I just think that we haven’t yet seen these cars in maximum modes of any sort. Eg. How will the front tires behave in dirty air when they’re not on a cold track like much of testing was, as just one example.

    Let’s see them race in anger and then we’ll all know, and then if the cars are still too processional to the point of it being a problem then they can tweek that. At least the (potentially temporary) processions will have drivers driving much more enthralling cars at much more enthralling speeds.

    1. The reason Max thinks passing would be no more difficult is twofold. For one, he has that ‘glass half full’ mentality whereby you always can and should always try. Lewis has a habit of thinking the other way around. Which is fair enough.
      Secondly, some drivers have a more innate feeling for overtaking. I can’t judge for Hamilton, but Verstappen has always been able to overtake, be it in slower cars, cars with older tyres or difficult corners. Some have, some don’t. So I suppose for him the situation is the same. Overtaking in a Toro Rosso wasn’t easy, either, but he did it. May well be that other drivers agree with Lewis, but for Max it’s always ‘possible’.

      1. OK, I am no fan of Hamilton but there is no denying that he has also a knack for overtaking. Hard to compare to Max or Ricciardo but I think all three are very good (as Kimi was once upon a time and every now and then shows flashes of that prowess).

        Where I think you are right though is that Max has learnt to overtake using the superior aero features of RB, esp. on medium to slow corners, where the impact of dirty air is less pronounced. Mercedes car while utterly dominant in free air has struggled significantly in dirty air and often overtaking came due to the grunt of their engine and/or DRS.

        1. I don’t think any superior aero features have anything to do with Verstappens ‘natural’ talent for overtaking, he won FIA action of the year award three times in a row. 2014; overtaking Giovinazzi on the finish line in F3, 2015; outside Blanchimont on Nasr and 2016; overtaking Rosberg in the rain.

          Verstappen was tutored by his dad, the word is he wasn’t allowed to overtake on the striaght in karts… that’s how he learned.

      2. @hahostolze, as iFelix notes, it does seem to be the case that Mercedes’s recent cars do seem to be more sensitive to the wake of another car than Red Bull’s cars seem to have been – both of them are probably correct when considering their particular cars, and really it is a bit oversimplified to assume that the problem is equally severe for every single car on the grid.

        It also has to be said that, to some extent, Hamilton’s viewpoint is probably also coloured by the fact that the main car he has usually been trying to pass in recent years would be that of his team mate – in a situation where your car has identical performance to the one in front, most of the performance differentials would have been effectively nullified.

      3. When Hamilton was a new young driver in F1 he was just as aggressive ( if not more so ! )
        as Verstappen is today. He revelled in his innate ability to outdrive most of his opposition,
        again, just like today’s Verstappen. When you are young and at the top of your game,
        you perceive no obstacles whatsoever. Just as it should be !

        Watching Verstappen perform at Interlagos was sheer joy for all of us. But the day
        will come when he takes a more measured view of his and his car’s capabilities.

    2. yet Max seemed to think passing would at least be no more difficult

      My understanding of that quote is Max was comparing the difference between this generation of cars with the previous one, he doesn’t seem to be making a specific comment on how difficult it would be to overtake.

      I think the speed difference between the cars from last year is a good step.

      1. I’ll let you find the link on your own but Max has given an interview recently where he said overtaking should be the same difficulty as 2016 – and not harder.

    3. There was an article this week with an interview from someone from Pirelli and he said the trailing car would lose 40% downforce. So by that, I’d say Lewis’ fear are quite reasonable. Also this is not just his opinion, but also that of his engineers.

  4. That last para from Lewis makes me slightly uneasy. I can certainly follow his logic, but I just hope he is wrong. If he turns out to be right and overtaking or even getting close to the car in front becomes more difficult, I hope there is no knee-jerk reaction to increase the power of DRS.

    1. I wonder if perhaps Mercedes missed the design? Could it be they produced a car that is more degraded then the Red Bull in traffic? Maybe the Red Bull is designed to maintain more of its downforce in traffic, whereas the Mercedes is designed to always be in front?

    2. So the car behind is getting dirty air so basically when you get behind a car the car feels one way for a second and then you get a crosswind or something that you’re not expecting or you lose front end grip because the front wing stops getting force on the car or the rear does, for example.

      After reading Lewis’ comment, it made me wonder if it was possible for a car following close behind another to be “flipped” over backwards due to the turbulence from the car in front.
      As an example of what I’m talking about, imagine the scenario where one car is passing the other as they approach a corner, and having completed the pass the car that was second “cuts” in front of the car that was first to get onto the racing line. In this situation both cars are very close, maybe metres apart, so the now trailing car will be much closer than the driver would have intended or even have achieved if he had been purely following, so will suddenly get very turbulent air. Because the trailing car was going as fast as it in clean air the downforce would be putting a lot of pressure on the suspension system. If, as Lewis suggests, you get a “cross wind” effect, that would release that downforce on the suspension system causing the car to lift. What I’m wondering about is could that “lift” be enough to raise the front wheels off the ground, which is a very undesirable situation because braking and steering are compromised. If that is a realistic scenario, and I don’t have the experience to say it is or isn’t, the driver of the car being passed will need to start braking as soon as it looks like the pass will be successful so as to increase the distance between them, but again that won’t stop the driver doing the passing from cutting in front of him.

      1. @drycrust, basically, due to the extremely low centre of gravity of the cars and the overall geometry of the cars, it is pretty much impossible for the car to flip just due to a reduction in front downforce (especially since, in the scenario you describe, the front of the floor would still be operating more or less normally and would provide a significant counterforce). The only times when we have seen cars flipping has been when they’ve crashed into the car in front, such as with Alonso and Gutierrez last year or Webber a few years before that, and have been launched into the air off the wheel of the leading car.

        The only situation which I can think of which would be close to what you are thinking of would be the famous incidents involving the Mercedes-Benz CLR sportscar.

        However, in that case the car was running in an ultra low downforce configuration, had an extremely rearward and very pitch sensitive aerodynamic package (being equipped with a massive rear diffuser and an extremely small front diffuser) and the upper bodywork of the car was producing aerodynamic lift.

        With the front diffuser tending to stall quite easily and a very large flat floor that would create significant lift if the front end was lifted sufficiently far up in the air, the car was highly vulnerable to any sort of disturbance to the front end of the car (those incidents being compounded by the ridge in the track on the run down to Mulsanne, as that naturally tended to destabilise the cars even in the best of circumstances). It really took an extremely unusual set of circumstances to make that car flip, and the odds of anything similar happening in F1 is rather remote.

        1. Thanks for correcting me.

  5. There are 2 type of overtaking. Drivers can either overtake in a straight line or overtake in the corner.
    DRS have solve the overtaking in the straight line. Perhaps slipstreaming another car could also helps with overtaking.
    What these drivers were concern about were loosing grip when overtaking another car in a corner due to reduce in downforce which are caused by dirty air.
    Cars from pre-2017 (groove tyres and high degradation Pirelli tyres) were relying on Downforce to create cornering grip. These were the result of FIA and FOM trying to reduce the cornering speed of the car in 1993 rule change and 1998 rule change. 2017 rule set has reversed the old rules and we are going back to wider and high grip with low degradation tyres.
    Perhaps having a higher grip (with low degradation) to downforce ratio would help with overtaking in the corner just like back in the days. FOM and FIA should pursue for an even higher grip f1 cars for the future. There are ways to increase the grip of the car such as increasing the width of the tyre to pre-1993 (max car width of 2200mm), introduce an active suspension (gyroscopic based, a dumb system which cannot be override.)

    Another area that FIA/FOM could look at are Diffuser size. They can further increase the diffuser size to 250mm in height, Increase the height of the rear wing by 100mm, introduce a delta shaped floor(this has a similar effect to ground effect car), and introduce a ground effect front wing. FIA/FOM can also introduce on front tyre deflector with the same height of the tyre while at the same time remove all the top element of the front wing. This tyre front tyre deflector will help reduce the drag from the front tyre which has the same purpose as the multi element front wings.

  6. FlashFormula
    19th March 2017, 17:25

    Well the cars are better looking, wider, wider tyres, better rear wing, but I still think after a few year is that the issue with overtaking is the complex front wing. I feel if they simplified that area then the air would be better for overtaking :) I feel Max will make daring moves if you can overtake or not.

  7. I like that the drivers are being positive about the changes for the most part. Glad to see them not just complaining that nothing will change in terms of opportunities for attacking, even if that may be the case. I think it’s important that those who are involved in the sport have positive things to say about it and get the fans excited.

    Hopefully in the coming few years (it won’t happen probably next year or the year after) we can get more changes that address the drivers concerns even further with regards to the dirty air. But that will remain to be seen.

  8. :D I can hardly wait for the first race.

    Clearly Lewis sees new rules a step in the wrong direction racing wise. Ross Brawn Agrees, more downforce, less racing.

    But more speed. and more speed is good. very good. I am certain with good enough research budget, Ross Brawn could produce a set of regulations that would provide us with good racing at similar speeds. FIA produced 2009 regulations on a 5 milion research budget, then teams spent hundreds of milions to circumvent the regulations…

  9. Lewis can overtake as well as anyone, it will be hard for them all. He is not as positive in the press as Max but given half a chance he will take it as well if not better than Max. Like his comments about Ferrari being really fast he is building a picture of something being harder than it is so when he does it he looks even better.

  10. Still feel that too much focus is put on overtaking.

    Overtaking is great & all but it is not & should not be the main focus, i’ve seen plenty of races in the past in F1 and other categories that have been fun & exciting to watch that have featured hardly any overtaking.

    For example i was watch the 2004 british gp a couple days ago & there wasn’t much overtaking that day, especially at the front. however over the closing part of the race we had a good fight for the lead between kimi and schumi and it was an exciting thing to watch both at the time & even re-watching it now despite knowing the outcome. there are those 2 races at imola in 2005/2006 as well, neither race featured much overtaking but both races were really exciting to watch because while no overtake occurred the potential for something to happen was always there.

    I also feel that the pursuit of overtaking will never be enough. A decade ago when we were seeing 10-15 overtakes on average in a GP everyone complained there was no overtaking, In 2010 when that figure doubled to 30+ a GP on average people still complained there was no overtaking & over the past few years where the average has been as high as 50 overtakes per GP people have again been complaining about no overtaking.
    DRS & high degredation tyres were introduced to increase overtaking & while both did as advertised from a statistical POV many fans (Myself included) disliked the ‘overtaking’ they ended up producing as well as the side effect the tyres had in terms of tyre management. And then we have the many corners that have been ruined in many cases in the pursuit of a better overtaking spot.

  11. Can we have a proper Hamilton vs Vettel this year please?

  12. Has it not always been difficult to overtake. It shouldn’t be easy this is meant to be the pinnacle of single seater racing. This is the top category. It shouldn’t be easy to pass. When you see great overtakes it should take your breath away. Since 2011 how many real overtakes have we seen. It possibly has gone too far in difficulty but with complex aerodynamic and advances in aero tech that was expected. DRS needs to go though. I dont like that

  13. Two things not mentioned much so far are the likelihood of races being fuel limited, this is a possible outcome of the increased downforce and drag and possibly of the higher power output of some engines in the longer or power hungry races.
    The other is that the clutch/start rules have changed. More so than last year, the start will be akin to a motorbike start. Both throttle and clutch must be linear in operation and demand/response, the driver may not rest the back of his hand on the IP it is back to full manual in a big way.
    Some drivers are good at starts and others can let the whole field past whilst spinning their rear wheels, thus some may need extra homework.

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