Sergio Perez, Force India, Monza, 2018

F1 cars need seven-second gaps in qualifying – Perez

2018 Japanese Grand Prix

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Formula 1 cars have become so sensitive to running in turbulence drivers now need seven seconds of clear air ahead of them in qualifying, according to Sergio Perez.

The Force India driver described how the current generation of F1 cars lose much of their downforce when running in traffic.

“In qualifying sometimes you see that you have to be seven seconds from a car,” said Perez. “We have such a wide car, so much downforce generation. In qualifying you see big gaps between cars.”

Perez spent much of Sunday’s Russian Grand Prix stuck in traffic. He estimated the cars needed a performance advantage of one-and-a-half seconds to pass a rival at Sochi.

“Track position is qualifying is so important now,” Perez added. “Or you have races like Monza where you have to be within one second of the cars cars, how Kimi [Raikkonen] got pole.”

F1 motorsport director Ross Brawn recently said current F1 cars lose up to 80% of their downforce when running close behind another. The sport will introduce a new front wing design next year aimed at addressing the problem.

Force India’s test drivers have already run an example of the new, wider wings (below). Perez said the first impression is they will offer an improvement.

“I heard that could be quite good to follow,” he said. “But until you run it it’s hard to know. I’ve heard good things about it, you might be able to follow more but I don’t know how much. I hope so, racing this year has been a bit poor.”

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  • 17 comments on “F1 cars need seven-second gaps in qualifying – Perez”

    1. It’s time to reduce aero, front and rear wing must be much smaller/simpler, use the floor mostly for aero. And make wheels narrower to increase breaking distance.

      1. Not a long time ago the cars used to have much more complex aero. Front wings was double-decker and rear had five planes (three main and two beam) instead of just two now. Plus very complex fairings at the rear of the car. And this cars didn’t suffer from this “follow-in-the-dirty-air” problem. At least this much. Yes, the cars and tires was narrower, but it’s not the main reason. For now cars suffer from lack of mechanical grip, particularly from the tires. Current tires can’t provide enough grip to overcome dirty air problem and moreover they themselves start to lose performance in this dirty air.

        1. So what you are saying is that the aero package was even worse before, but back then not the same problem with dirty air, and the real reason is the tyre?

          But regardless of compund, the dirty air problem seems to be the same… that should differ regarding to compound a little bit according to your theory?

    2. How does this statement correspond to the the stories about the effect of a tow in qualifying? Raikkonen claimed pole in Monza because he was had a slipstream from Vettel, Ricciardo wanted a tow from Verstappen in Austria and Alonso tried to help Vandoorne in Sochi to tow him into Q2.

      So on three different tracks the positives of the tow is regarded more effective than the negatives of losing downforce. I believe Perez, but how big is the problem then really (in qualifying, in the race it’s more apparent).

      1. He said just that, in tracks like Singapore, and other street circuits, they can feel the the turbulent air up to seven seconds of difference, as opposed to open circuits, with long straits like monza in these circuits the benefit of the tow is so great that it offsets the minor loss of downforce in some corners.
        At least that’s what I think it is lol

        1. @mfalcao True, I should have read better. But Perez was also referring to Sochi, where Alonso tried to give Vandoorne al tow. So even in Sochi McLaren believed there was a gain in driving close to each other.

          1. The tow is only on the strait in sochi and at the expense of Alonso’s lap they are only close enough on the strait to give the tow and then the towed driver gets clean air the rest of the lap, but apparently in sochi this didn’t work well because of the air turbulence if there was a car a few seconds in front.

    3. Biskit Boy (@sean-p-newmanlive-co-uk)
      4th October 2018, 9:04

      It seems there are two schools of thought concerning how best to allow cars to follow closely.

      Option 1 – There needs to be a massive reduction in aerodynamic down force
      Or
      Option 2 – Down force needs to generated in such as way as to mitigate the problem.

      Well we have had plenty of attempts at option 2 and little success. I think the changes to the front wing for next season are almost the last chance saloon for option 2. If it fails then a additional changes to producing down force from the under-body MUST work else option 1 becomes the only option.

      I would much prefer very small wings, ground effects and even larger tyres. The racing would be closer and the cars would look better.

      1. The floor already produces about 40% of the downforce. The more of the downforce you make from the floor of the car the more sensitive the car becomes to ride height changes. The teams are trying to get the car at correct ride height down to a millimeter. The more downforce you make the more the downforce pushes the car to the ground which means the ride height changes as the downforce levels changes. When you drive in dirty air you generate less downforce which means your ride height goes up and as such you lose downforce from the ground effect as your floor is not at optimal ride height/angle anymore.

        A similar phenomena was common when f1 ran ground effect cars. There is lots of grip but once it goes it all goes at once. This means that when following other car you can get close and then suddenly the car just breaks away as it loses the downforce from the floor which is super sensitive to ride height. This is why there is so much suspension magic going on in modern f1 cars. To get all out of the ground effects the cars produce. Keep the cars at that optimal ride height with full tanks, empty tanks, under braking, under acceleration, in slow corners, in fast corners. With more ground effect the only real way forward is with active suspensions or the problem of not being able to follow stays but just in different form.

        There are no magical bullets for reducing dirty air. If there was other series would have used them. The only real solution is reducing the downforce. The current f1 cars make more downforce than ever before. The only way to fix this is to reduce downforce a lot. Going back to 2016 levels would be a good start but obviously with different design limitations so we don’t just go back in time to something that was not very good either.

        But f1 is always going to be heavily downforce and dirty air effected. Nothing else in motorsports comes even close. Dirty air is a fact of life and with open wheels there is always lots of it. But reducing downforce levels is pretty much the only way to really reduce the amount of dirty air. Everything else is more or less fine tuning. Important kind of fine tuning but their effect is relatively small.

        1. Biskit Boy (@sean-p-newmanlive-co-uk)
          4th October 2018, 12:37

          Well said.
          The only reason I mentioned ground effects is so many people say it would be less affected by dirty air but I agree with you.
          I’d happily watch F1 a lot less aero, much bigger tyres and much more power. I wouldn’t care if it was a bit slower because it would be closer not to mention spectacular.
          Why do you say F1 will always be dirty air affected? Where is the rule that says it must be high down-force? Why does the FIA insist on high down-force. F1 and all other formulae would benefit form a reduction in down-force.
          Can anyone give me a reason why this cannot be changed? Please don’t say F2 would be faster, that would need to change too.

          1. Why do you say F1 will always be dirty air affected?

            Any open wheeler car is always going to generate lots of dirty air because of the uncovered tires. The uncovered tires also create lots of aerodynamic lift so you need even more downforce to offset it. F1 is also very high speed sport which means that when the cars drive through the air there is lots of energy that works the air and makes it turbulent. The faster the cars the more the air has to be moved around.

            F1 has always had tons of downforce. Even if the 2016 cars had something like half of what the cars have today they still had lots of it. A lot more than indycars for example. If you google it I’m sure you can find some estimations. If you do you can also look at the aerodynamic efficiency numbers for an f1 car and a lemans prototype. The lemans car can generate more downforce with less drag because its wheels are covered (this is probably presented as a lift/drag ratio. Bigger is more efficient but while f1 generates downforce less efficiently it generates more of it.)

            F1 could easily lose half of the downforce and still be fastest motorsport on earth by wide margin (ignoring indy oval races and dragsters and so forth). If we compare lap times nothing gets close. Major problem for f1 is the weight of the cars. The current hybrid engines are massively obese and over 80kg heavier compared to the v10s for example. That alone means that f1 needs more downforce than it should just to offset that hybrid engine weight penalty. The lighter the engine of the car the more downforce you could take away while still keeping the car fast in terms of lap time.

            1. Biskit Boy (@sean-p-newmanlive-co-uk)
              5th October 2018, 8:13

              I started watching F1 in the early 1970’s. My dad was involved with several teams, mainly Shadow Racing Cars. Can-Am at first then F1. Rear wings were only 4 or 5 years old at that point and trust me there was a good 25+ years when F1 had little or no downforce! I’m not suggesting we return to those days but I think lesson can be learned from history.

              As the sport becomes evermore remote from the electric, driver-less cars of the future, F1 has to decide what it wants to be. Aerodynamics is a fascinating science but it is a competitive sporting dead end. High downforce must go.

    4. If Cars need to be 1.5 seconds quicker to overtake why was Hamilton able to overtake when he was clearly not 1.5 per lap faster?

      1. @tony , because Toto said he could :)

      2. He was 1.5 seconds per lap faster only when he needed to.

    5. 80%? I thought it was something like 50 or 60.

    6. I know zero about aerodynamics … anyone knows and can explain why when F1 has loads of downforce we see these problems with dirty air and they cannot race close to one another, but in Indycar in all those years of massive downforce we saw pack racing in the ovals?

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