Carlos Sainz Jnr, Renault, Circuit de Catalunya, 2018

FIA feared F1’s overtaking problem would get worse in 2019 without new rules

2019 F1 season

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New rules for the 2019 F1 season intended to aid overtaking were introduced because the FIA feared the problem would continue to get worse without them.

The governing body’s head of single-seater technical matters Nikolas Tombazis explained in a media briefing how aerodynamic development is making F1’s passing problem worse.

“One of the key tasks of aerodynamicists in a Formula One team is to move the wheel wake further outboard for the benefit of their own car. The more outboard it is the less it affects the diffuser or the rear wing, and they gain performance.

“That is the key objective. That objective is also bad for the following car.”

The FIA is tackling this with new rules which will change the design of the front wing and other parts of the car in. These are intended to make it harder for F1 designers to control the wake from their cars.

“Losing control of that we feel is going to make a step improvement,” said Tombazis. “I’m not expecting [F1] cars to be bumping each other like touring cars, just making a step forward.”

“Our expectation is that if we didn’t do a rule change the next two years, ’19 and ’20, would be gradually getting worse,” he added. “So part of the rule change was to stop that trend and to make a step change. We feel these performance characteristics would have actually been worse for ’19 and ’20 if we did nothing.”

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Tombazis said the rules should allow drivers to get closer to other cars while experiencing less turbulence.

“It will mean in real terms that if a car with the ’18 rules could follow within a second of the front car, if it’s got a certain pace advantage, this will just become a bit smaller and he’ll be able to follow maybe to 0.8 seconds or something like that. Effectively he’ll be able to, for an equal amount of performance lost, be a bit closer.”

The FIA is wary teams could find ways to get around the changes. But Tombazis is confident the new rules will make at least a modest improvement.

“We cannot ever be completely certain of every single thing teams will do in developing. What we’ve tried to do with these rules is to have much more careful wording to try to avoid any loopholes or completely different directions teams could take.

“I think the probability we’ll make it better is very good. The probability we’ll make it better but not by a huge amount is also there. The probability it actually makes it worse is close to zero in my view.”

F1 overtaking in the DRS era

NB. 24 cars in 2011-12, 22 cars in 2013-14, 20 cars in 2015, 22 cars in 2016, 20 cars in 2017

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Dieter Rencken
Dieter Rencken has held full FIA Formula 1 media accreditation since 2000, during which period he has reported from over 300 grands prix, plus...
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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  • 31 comments on “FIA feared F1’s overtaking problem would get worse in 2019 without new rules”

    1. I still think there is too much focus on overtaking quantity & not enough thought is therefore been put into what actually makes a good race.

      Overtaking is great but a race with say 50 overtakes does not necisarily make that race more exciting than a race with 10-15 because there is so much more that goes into making a race exciting than simply how many overtakes there was & I think the obsession with overtaking stats is overshadowing that.

      I want to see Close, Competitive, Hard fought racing with REAL overtaking that is based on the skill & bravery of the drivers & is actually exciting to watch.

      All these artificial gimmicks be it DRS, High degredation tyres, Mandatory pit stops/tyre usage & other things they have done (Circuit changes etc…) may create more passing, They may ‘spice things up’ but none of them have done anything to actually produce any of what I listed above.

      DRS generated passing isn’t close, compeitive, hard fought for or exciting in any way… Especially when it comes to the easier one’s.
      And it’s the same with the high-deg tyres, The ‘racing’ you see between drivers on old/new tyres or softer/harder compounds is rarely close, competitive or hard fought…. Especially when the performance difference between them is 2+ seconds (And with DRS). And you also have the downside of increased levels of tyre management & all that.

      Since 2011 when these things were introduced there has been a lot more passing, Pit stops etc… But there hasn’t been as much of the close racing, Edge of your seat/heart racing battling or genuinely exciting overtaking as there was in the Pre DRS/Pirelli days. Yes there was less overtaking Pre 2011 but the racing we did see was so much more exciting & the overtaking we did see meant so much more which again made it so much more exciting to watch.

      There needs to be less focus on creating quantity & more focus on creating quality because higher quality genuine racing/overtaking will always be more thrilling, More exciting & more memorable than simply going after quantity.

      1. I see your point but imagine what would be of many races rated below 6 on this site.
        Nothing happens with all the gimmicks. Take them, and you have nothing.

      2. @stefmeister
        There were actually many great races in 2011-2013 thanks to high-degradation tyres. DRS was sometimes an overkill, especially since they increased the number of DRS zones, but the were many fantastic overtakes as well. We need variables to create an exciting grands prix. If cars line up from fastest to slowest it’s no wonder there will be little overtaking if everyone has perfect durable tyres and conditions stay stable. Non-stopping flat-out drivers creating exciting shows must go down as one of the biggest myths of F1. These races are usually the most boring, unless you have reversed grid like Suzuka 2005, but I doubt many would favour unfairly penalised quickest teams.

      3. @stefmeister i completely agree with all of this and could not have putted it much better myself.

        the obsession with overtaking has done so much harm to f1 & i sadly only see it getting worse. i just hope that people come to there senses, remember what f1 is supposed to be about & get the SPORT back on track without all of these artificial nonsense gimmicks like drs and cheese tyres!

        Non-stopping flat-out drivers creating exciting shows must go down as one of the biggest myths of F1.

        sign upto f1tv and watch the archive, you will see your comment is sillyness. for starters they were never racing flat out (Always need for some management) but the racing of the times prior to refueling when we did get non-stopping races was far more exciting & interesting less predictable than anything that has come since.

        you would never see something like the 1990 french gp today because of the silly rules mandatory pit stops and all that. let them non stop, let teams have strategy freedoms and let us see what they come up with. worked perfectly well for decades until the recent obsession with gimmicks & spicing up.

        1. The racing was great before Pirelli and DRS era? They actually changed the rules because people complained that is too boring and there were few on-track overtakes between top teams. We are no longer in the 1980s where you can easily follow the car from behind, reliability was much worse and creating chances for slow teams to shine. You need to be over a second per lap faster to make a pass in equal conditions so it’s virtually impossible to overtake a closely-matched top rival unless other variables come into play. And producing durable tyres and going everyone no-stop it’s eliminating them.

      4. The problem is that f1 is so heavily focused on quantity that they are totally missing the most important aspect. It is not really even the quality of the overtakes. It is the excitement whether the overtake happens or not. Can he do it? Can he stand up to the pressure? Will he get a chance to overtake? Those are the interesting and exciting questions. And most of the time in f1 those questions are answered instantly. No build up of excitement. I’m not saying the how is not also important but can he do it is what builds up the excitement.

        F1 totally misses that important aspect because almost all of the overtakes we have is either total easy mode press of a button highway position changes with drs. And then in some cases we know there is not going to even be an attempt because the driver can’t get close and because of the electronics drivers don’t make mistakes and because the drivers can just use the energy deployment to negate any attempts for overtaking.

        Safety car restarts for example are exciting because you never know beforehand if there is going to be a successful pass or not. It is not just real racing without gimmick drs but it is about the excitement. Can he do it. Who gets it right. In reality there is not very big chance for overtake for the lead to happen. It is kinda rare that overtakes for the lead happen after sc restarts. But because it is real skill based event it is always exciting. It is exciting even when it doesn’t happen. Because it is not just about the car behind. It is also about the car in front if he can do it. With drs the car in front can’t do anything.

        Drs is so bad not just because it is fake and manufactured. It is bad because it makes overtakes totally predictable. In 99% of the cases you know whether it will be a boring change of positions or not even an attempt. It is either an anticlimatic boring non-event or just a non-event. There is no excitement because we all know what will happen and how it will happen. Or that it won’t happen. There rarely is anything unexpected.

        Downforce levels and difficulty at following are just one piece of the puzzle. Important piece, probably the most important because everything else relies on the fact that cars can pass naturally without it being prevented by dirty air. But what we also need is to make the cars less electronic and harder to drive faultlessly. Drivers need to be able to make mistakes on corner exits so the car behind can get closer and attack into the next braking zones.

        1. @socksolid As with my response to @stefmeister below, I don’t believe there is any obsession with quantity of passes in F1, as much as it may appear that way. After all, we don’t even see a ton of drs passes, so if they were simply obsessed with quantity over quality, they’d find even more fake ways to do that.

          I have every confidence that the current regime, which is the only one that matters albeit still having to deal with BE gen cars with drs, is absolutely only interested in quality, not quantity.

          1. Sadly it seems to be very much a numbers game. I have never seen any kind of qualitative analysis or even comments about what is good overtaking. It is all about more overtakes, bigger numbers, more drs zones, longer drs zones. More easier effortless position changes. It is always just the numbers. Charlie whiting for example has listed many example why there are not MORE overtakes. Never he talks about the quality of the overtakings. Tbh I don’t think he even understands that overtakes can have quality.

            Also back in 2011 FOTA did a fan survey and people wanted more overtaking. Just more. So the fans are just as guilty. More more more. And f1 has done just that. Drs is nothing more than press of a button boring highway position change. It gets easier every year.

            If it really wasn’t just about more and more overtakes then why is that never mentioned in any articles or interviews? It is all about having a bigger number. Nobody seems to care about how that bigger number is achieved. Only people I’ve seen commenting drs easiness is ex-drivers. But even then the responses are the same. It always transforms into discussion about the numbers. How many. Not how good.

      5. @stefmeister I agree with what you are saying, however, I do not think there is reason for concern that F1 is aiming for strictly quantity of passes. Certainly the changes they have proposed for 2019 will only have a marginal effect in helping cars stay a little closer in dirty air, and the drivers a bit more confident in slightly better handling cars in dirty air. But I also have no concern that the major changes for 2021 are about quantity of passes, but rather closer racing without gadgets.

        So, with your last paragraph in mind I don’t think there is any focus on passes for the sake of quantity of them, and I believe Liberty and Brawn get that there needs be the quality of racing brought back into F1, and F1 has never been about quantity of passes simply for the sake of the numbers of them.

      6. @stefmeister ”DRS generated passing isn’t close, compeitive, hard fought for or exciting in any way”
        – I have to disagree with you on this one to a certain extent: That’s far from how it actually is and has been. Most of the time, these days, an overtaking move taking place is far from guaranteed even with DRS, so these days it rarely makes any difference in aiding overtaking, and furthermore, there have been numerous passes over the years since the introduction of it that even with the driver behind using it the passing move in question has still been completed only at the following corner or in the braking zone at the earliest, so, therefore, it’s wrong to claim it isn’t ‘close’ nor ‘hard fought’ at all.

        @socksolid ”Drs is so bad not just because it is fake and manufactured. It is bad because it makes overtakes totally predictable. In 99% of the cases you know whether it will be a boring change of positions or not even an attempt. It is either an anticlimatic boring non-event or just a non-event. There is no excitement because we all know what will happen and how it will happen. Or that it won’t happen. There rarely is anything unexpected.”
        – And the same to you. What you claim is nowhere near how it actually is in reality.

        @robbie – I agree with you.

      7. pastaman (@)
        22nd May 2018, 18:25

        @stefmeister I agree with your sentiment in theory, however with the current regulations we might get only 1 or 2 overtakes (as F1 defines them) per race without the “gimmicks”. No one wants to watch that.

    2. It looks like an aero problem to me.

      Can any other F1F name ANY sport in the world that changes rules like F1?
      Yes I know in soccer its a ball and some boundaries – but there are many motorsports in the world that don’t knee-jerk like F1. Not cool.

      1. What other motorsports experience the same issues that Formula 1 faces? What other motorsport features such aerodynamic performance? What other motorsports lacks so much standardisation between cars? Which other motorsport provides such design freedom?

        1. admo – well none, that’s why its the best of the best.

          However we are a few races in and based on a boring race in Melbourne (as it tends to be) and some great races after they want to mess with the rules again. What’s worse is when they change mid year. Racing in any motor sport even down to go-karts cost heaps of money, rules changes mid season aren’t on and changing them each year too much is no good either. F1 will always some changes each year but I think the scope of these changes may be too far sometimes. 2021 isn’t too far away- cant we wait a little?

        2. All motorsports have to deal with aerodynamic dirty air and limiting downforce levels. Nascar for example needs to work at very narrow specifications to get the aero right. Too much downforce and the dirty air becomes too much and the slipstream becomes too powerful leading to pack racing. Too little and the cars drive like dump trucks. Even if the downforce levels are low the speeds are high.

          In wec this is less important because lapped cars and generally more chaotic races naturally create more overtaking. In btcc the cars are robust enough to facilitate overtaking by just bumping into other cars. Brake late and use the other car as a brake. Works for them. In dtm where the cars have a lot of downforce and grip they are using drs as well. In SuperGT which uses similar cars dtm the races have 2 classes of cars which means sometimes lapped cars create overtaking positions. SuperGT races are also more of an endurance events where dtm does sprint races.

    3. The cars are far too long which makes passing even more tricky. Which reduced fuel loads and a much wider chassis they could make these cars a lot shorter, bringing them back to the length they were in the early 1990s

      1. +1

        Really hope they at the very least peg the length of the cars back to 2016 levels for 2021. Even shorter would be a hug bonus.

      2. Which reduced fuel loads and a much wider chassis they could make these cars a lot shorter

        I don’t see how making the car wider would help promote overtaking. If a section of track is currently 3 car widths, you have 2 car widths to work with when passing. If the width is increased, this comes down to (say) 1.5 car widths… It’s like making the goal narrower in football.

    4. Overtaking has always been hard. and everyone knew that making the cars wider and allowing more freedom in aero would make overtaking harder in 2017. so not sure why the surprise. especially form the FIA who have literary years or decades to think about these things.

      i think the racing has been great in 2017 and 18. the mid field is as close as you can get in F1. the problem is the gap the top 3 teams have on the rest of the pack. i doubt the new rules will do anything about closing it. on the contrary, instead of having stable regulations, you are asking all teams to basically redesign their whole car almost from scratch. the front wing dictates almost all the other aero surfaces on the car. and by changing the philosophy of dealing with the airflow around the front tyres, the whole car has to change.

      so on one hand we have 3 engines for the entire season because we need to cut costs. and on the other we ask the teams to resigned their cars completely almost every year costing them way more than if they did an evolution. we limit on track testing to cut costs, but teams spend it on CFD supercomputers and wind tunnels instead. these changes help the big teams. whereas testing could be something cool for fans to watch. instead we talk about correlation and dyno issues behind closed door speculating what might be going on.

      and dont even get me started on DRS. we have this “temporary solution” since 2011 and planning to make its effect stronger in 2019? and this is after a chance to overhaul the regulations and get rid of DRS in 2017.

      1. Unfortunately Brawn wasn’t yet in charge of the overtaking file when they did the big changes for 2017, and had he been I suspect they wouldn’t have gained so much downforce along with the reg changes at the time.

        I think you are overstating how much the changes for 2019 are going to cost. These changes will indeed not require the complete redesign you are suggesting, or they simply wouldn’t have proposed such changes nor would those have been approved. There will be costs of course, but they were always going to be redesigning cars for next year anyway, as they do even when regs are stable. Even without reg changes they’d not likely have the same front wing at the start of next year as any wing they’ll use this year, and so the rest of the car from the front wing back was always going to have to be addressed as well. Extra costs with these changes for 2019, for sure, but I don’t think it’s a ton more than they were already going to spend anyway.

        1. Overstating the cost? Really? Most of the teams will have to completely redesign their car. Teams can’t just bolt on a new front wing and make no other changes.

          1. No, teams cannot just bolt on a new front wing and make no other changes, but they certainly will not have to do a complete redesign either. And as I said they are redesigning their front wings all the time anyway. Rarely does a team start a season with the same front wing as they end the season with, which means obviously they can tweak things and still not need a complete redesign. Put another way, Liberty/Brawn would not put the teams through complete redesigns for next year and the associated costs, but rather, they always tweak cars even when regs are stable, and one year’s car rarely looks like the previous year’s when you get down to the fine details, and how often do we hear, even with stable regs, how few parts are interchangeable from one year to the next. So the teams always spend millions upon millions with each new car, and now the 2019 one will be in a slightly different direction than they thought a few weeks ago.

    5. Chop. The. Bargeboards. Off.


    6. Easy fix: decrease the efficiency of the brakes…
      Like half or something. Problem solved.

    7. I honestly can not believe the fia and liberty forced through new rules because the Aussie gp was boring. It’s so stupid. I can guarantee all these new rules will result in another boring Aussie gp in 2019. Just like these new rules will result in a boring Spanish gp, awful Monaco gp, boring Hungarian gp and a boring Singapore gp. Maybe it isn’t the cars that are the problem and it’s the God awful circuits that f1 have now. I never ever want to hear the fia or liberty claim to be interested in cutting costs when they are going to be making f1 team design and build new cars for the 2nd year in a row before forcing them to do it again in 2 years. All the while forcing the 4 engine manufacturers currently in f1 to design and build brand new engines in 3 years while at the same time have them have to spend money developing engines so they remain competitive in f1.

      1. Except that they aren’t building new cars for a second year in a row, and the major changes for 2021 will have the teams with plenty of time to adapt. FIA and Liberty didn’t force through anything, and certainly not because one race was boring. There was a vote and the proposals were accepted by the majority. They just know that the cars are still too affected in another car’s dirty air. Doesn’t matter that some of the races this year have been exciting and different due to safety car timing or what have you. The fact remains in a straight dogfight the trailing car is still way too negatively affected in dirty air. And if the cars will make less wake next year then the racing should be a little closer and a little more exciting.

    8. Robbie either works for Liberty or the FIA. Refute every concern over and over lol.

      1. I totally agree with you, lol. I couldn’t continue to read his comments after reading the first few. The other thing is, some are saying that we should go back to X, Y or Z as it was done back then, engineers(and drivers) are much smarter now with the modern tools and technology available, so going back to what worked back then, will not have the same effect. We have to move forward and so some form of DRS will always be needed to counter the ill effects of dirty air on the following car.

        1. I don’t see why some form of drs will always be needed. We didn’t need it for years before it was introduced, and now Brawn has two cars nose to tail in a wind tunnel, so with a combination of wing, diffuser and floor work like we will have never seen come 2021, there will be no need for drs. One thing I think they’ll do that has never been done is regulate for car designs that create much less wake to begin with, so that the redesigned cars will have less dirty air to deal with.

      2. No I only refute the concerns that are over the top and to me don’t make sense. In general I am not concerned because I think Liberty and Brawn are on the right path. When they are made out to sound no better than BE, then I object, because I think the new regime deserves a chance and our patience to mould F1 in their image, which is one I agree with. I’d rather take a positive approach and let things play out, than jump all over Liberty for things they are having to deal with in the aftermath of BE, or than assuming anything they suggest is the wrong thing.

    9. Tony Mansell
      23rd May 2018, 10:31

      If you look at Motogp, the interest is in close running and bikes power sliding (backing in) thru corners, the overtake itself is the icing, not the cake. If you look at the Isle of Man TT theres not a single overtake and its the most awe inspiring spectacle on any amount of wheels.

      Im not even a bikehead or whatever they call themselves but I do know what I like and am increasingly drawn to motorsport where I can see the riders/drivers playing around with the limits of adhesion and showing bravery us mortals do not have.

      Theres never a magic bullet but a tyre that does not kill your times just because you oversteered one corner isn’t a bad start

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