Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari, Hockenheim, 2016

F1 shouldn’t go back to “slow” cars, says Vettel

2021 F1 season

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Sebastian Vettel says he doesn’t want Formula 1 cars to become “slow” again after the sport revealed new rules which are expected to increase lap times by over three seconds.

The FIA’s head of single-seater matters Nikolas Tombazis estimated the new cars for the 2021 F1 season would be “between three, three and a half second slower per lap”.

Tombazis expects the teams to find more performance once they begin developing cars for the rules. But he stressed the goal of the new rules is to create cars which can races more closely.

“We don’t think [performance] is the key parameter of the spectacle,” said Tombazis. “We feel that the race-ability is the main target. We haven’t been focussing on an exact level of performance.

“Clearly, we cannot predict exactly where the downforce will end up compared to current cars. It will be a bit less after the development has been carried out.”

Tombazis pointed out the model car presented to journalists today is not as well developed as a final 2021 car will be.

“Even the car that has been developed in CFD and run in the wind tunnel, this car, has already got a respectable amount of performance. It’s been developed by essentially a relatively small number of aerodynamicists and hours in the wind tunnel compared to a normal team.

“Therefore, we are quite confident that the performance will not be a key parameter that will differentiate these cars to the current cars.”

Formula 1 motorsport director Ross Brawn sees no problem if lap times increase to the level seen before new aerodynamic regulations were introduced in 2017.

2021 F1 car design
Analysis: What’s new in the 2021 F1 regulations
“These cars, remember, from ’16 to ’17, had a huge increase in downforce. It’s worth thinking back on that experience because it was done for reasons I don’t understand.

“The huge increase in downforce was ‘let’s make the cars go faster, that must wait Formula 1 better’. Well, all we’ve done is we’ve actually made it worse because the cars can’t race each other.

“It’s an example of an un-thought-through program. So the cars are very quick now but they’re not race-able. The reality is the performance of these new cars is going to be about where we were in ’16, [when] I don’t think anyone was ever complaining about the cars being slow.”

However Sebastian Vettel does believe the cars were too slow, in F1 terms, three years ago.

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“I think the cars are a lot more spectacular since 2017,” said the Ferrari drivers. “Now we know what the cars can do. It was quite slow before that.

“Obviously we had very little drag and it was great in a straight line but that’s not the exciting bit for us and it was significantly slower than maybe some years earlier.”

F1’s target for its 2017 regulations was to reduce lap times by five seconds at the Circuit de Catalunya compared to 2015. That target was beaten – the cars were 5.5 seconds quicker. Compared to 2016, the 2017 cars were 2.3 seconds per lap faster on average across the whole season.

Vettel said does not agree that making the cars quicker was “the wrong direction” for F1. “The wrong direction, in my point of view, is that the cars are so heavy.

“Which is obviously related to, in a way, some of the safety measures. But I think everybody accepts that. [And] the power unit. So that is really, I think, the biggest difference if you really make a big [comparison] between now, where we are, and where Formula 1 has been 10 or 20 years ago.”

But he does believe the sport is doing the right thing by trying to make it easier for drivers to race closely.

“The target that we’ll set out is to make a step forward. Now, obviously we have an idea. I think everyone was sort of waiting for that day to come. And now I think we need to try and understand what exactly that idea means.

“Obviously, on paper, the ideas are always great. I think it will materialise a little bit more in the coming weeks. So we’ll see in the end of the day. No matter how the cars look, if the racing is better for us, it’s more fun then. That’s a win.”

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46 comments on “F1 shouldn’t go back to “slow” cars, says Vettel”

  1. Completely disagree. Everybody remembers the 80s and 90s as “golden years”, The cars where much slower back then. No one cares. The important thing is that they are able to drive close to each other.

    Vettel is not a specialist in aerodynamics, his opinion (and from all the other drivers) should be noted but should not be taken in account in any decision.

    1. In the 80’s through the cars were the fastest they had ever been to that point & it was the performance of them that helped draw in a lot of new fans who were enthralled by the spectacle that the performance created.

      It was the same with the Group B rally cars during that era, The performance drew people in & took WRC to it’s most popular period.

      When you have seen cars hit a certain performance level you will always notice a drop off because even if they are still faster than they were a decade before you will still have the faster cars of more recent times to compare to. Thats why everyone from fans to drivers complained about the 2014-2016 cars looking too slow, less spectacular & been easier to drive compared to the pre ’14 cars.

      And actually thats an additional thing to consider. Drivers train for the cars as they are so a loss of performance of 3-4+ seconds will make them less of a challenge & easier to drive at the limit. Thats exactly what happened in 2014 & why most the drivers disliked those cars.

      1. Thats why everyone from fans to drivers complained about the 2014-2016 cars looking too slow, less spectacular & been easier to drive compared to the pre ’14 cars.

        Was this a thing? I seem to remember a lot of drivers and spectators heralding the return of torque induced oversteer.

        Kimi just this weekend said the 2014 car was the most fun he’s had in a modern F1 car and also as he mentions, that will be significantly slower than the 2021 projections also.

        https://www.racefans.net/2019/11/01/raikkonen-if-the-racing-is-better-no-one-would-care-if-were-10-seconds-slower/

    2. Some of us remember the 1960s through 1980s as the golden years…aside from those terrible accidents that’ve claimed too many lives. But the overwhelming domination periods that really kill the sport started in the late 1980s…and grew into what we are seeing today: Only two teams claiming all the Championships in this decade.

  2. You can watch “great racing” at your local go kart track, I watch formula1 for apex level motor racing. The fact that a Williams can’t pass a Mercedes makes absolute perfect sense to me…

    F1 ain’t broke, but definately will be shortly…

    1. Unfortunately F1, as a racing series, is broken. We can see this because only one driver outside of the “Big 3” has stood on the podium so far this year. This is why F1 has to change. Every team should be in with a decent chance of having a driver on the podium.

      1. Funny thing is one out of those big-3 is the poison that has been killing F1 with its Tax. Without fair distribution of prize money small teams will always struggle no matter what. Just look at what happened with Force India- team who consistently was best of the rest and still couldnt get sufficient funds from prize and finally folded off. That one “Organisation” with its Veto and Mafia tax needs to be culled.

  3. Well, still faster than 2014, and ’15, but, of course, I hope the lap times would drop back to the 2017-19 levels at some point or at least closer if not matching.

  4. The cars won’t be that slow, and if it means that the racing is gonna be dramatically improved due to the new cars, then what’s the problem? ;)

    1. If overall performance wasn’t important & if the racing was all that mattered then series like Indycar would be way more popular than they are.

      The performance matters because it’s that which helps create the spectacle & which makes you go ‘WOW’ especially when standing trackside. Seriously, Nothing compares to watching the performance of the current generation of F1 cars there the most spectacular things i’ve ever seen.

      1. Most spectacular car I’ve ever seen (and heard) is a McLaren M8F Canam car, with the fully tweaked works 8 litre engine, driven full noise by someone who knew how to drive. Pales current F1 cars into insignificance. Sure Fi cars are fast but “spectacular” they are not.

        Perception of what constitutes most spectacular is in the eye and, most importantly, the experience of the beholder.

        1. To me it’s the cornering performance, Direction change, Acceleration & braking distance.

          You stand trackside by the esses at COTA & watch the speed they can corner & the change of direction & it just blows you away. Likewise at the end of a long straight with a heavy braking zone watching them go from 200mph down to 50 in under a second just blows your mind.

          Same at Silverstone if your on the outside of Copse & watch them flick into that corner. The current cars since 2017 just leave you with your jaw on the floor through there & the Maggotts/Beckets/Chapel section.

          When they got slower in 2014 they just didn’t look anywhere near as impressive in the turns. They still had the speed in the straights but everywhere else they were noticeably less spectacular. Was the same in 2006 actually when they went from the V10’s to the V8’s, You could see the lack of torque because they just didn’t fly out of the corners the same way as the V10’s did. They were louder than the V10’s though even if the actual sound was quite a bit flatter & less punchy overall.

          1. Personal choice again, if you enjoy rocket sleds on rails, the current F1 cars are great. If you enjoy seeing F1 cars being driven on the ragged edge (from the ultra smooth Senna and Schumacher or the throttle blipping Berger to the “always looks out of control” Mansell) the V10 era was the most spectacular. Remembering standing on the end of Brabham Straight in Adelaide to hear the V10’s echo through the trees as they slammed down four gears from the 50 metre distance mark to make the hairpin. Maybe that is why a big Can-am car, driven as they were designed to be flogged, is so good to watch. On the ragged edge with the driver wrestling the car to get optimum neck wrenching performance.

            Are current F1 cars ever driven on the ragged edge? We don’t see the power drifts, the driver wrestling with the wheel, the sound of the throttle being massaged as the drivers seeks the extremes of tire adhesion.

            Maybe that is why MotoGP is a better watch?

          2. Gerrit, the thing is, aren’t most drivers discouraged from the sort of flamboyant driving you talk about because, whilst it might look dramatic, it’s not the quickest way around a circuit?

            It reminds me of one article written at the start of Prost’s career, and you could sense the palpable confusion, and indeed almost anger, of the writer that Prost was not driving in the way you describe – he wasn’t wrestling the wheel and power sliding the car everywhere, like all other drivers were, but smoothly drove the car to the fastest time in that session.

            The author of that piece was so used to that as a sign that a driver was pushing that, when he saw Prost’s smooth driving style, it was almost as if, because it was so alien to what he was used to, he rejected it as somehow “wrong” that somebody with a smooth and undramatic driving style could be so much faster than everybody else around him.

            I get the sense that Roger is approaching it from one angle, where the spectacle is in the sense of speed and agility, whereas in your case it comes from a sense of occasion and flamboyance in the way that the car is driven.

            As an aside, it is odd that so many praise MotoGP, and yet that series has a number of aspects about it that are roundly demonised in F1 – strict fuel consumption limits that force fuel saving, relatively high tyre degradation that forces tyre saving and disputes over what are acceptable track limits are all part and parcel of MotoGP these days.

  5. Would it be so hard to make the cars fast but able to follow each other? I wasn’t under the impression it was a one or the other kind of thing. Surely having cutting edge, ridiculously fast machines that CAN follow each other and pass one another for a great show would be the target?

    Admittedly 3-4 seconds slower per lap sounds pretty bad on paper.

    1. @rocketpanda: Only bad when you add the Williams penalty – then its 5-6 seconds slower.

    2. @rocketpanda Under current regulations, yes. Almost impossible even. I’m going to use more proper terminology of making quick cars instead of fast since the main problem is cornering speed. To have faster cornering speed, you need a lot of grip. The way F1 cars designed now, they rely heavily on downforce for the grip and downforce affected a lot by the state of the air. This is why the car in clear air has distinct advantage compared to car in dirty air, and the faster a car goes, the bigger wake (dirty air) it created, disrupting other car further behind it (currently it been said that you can already feel the effect from the wake from car in front if you’re 2s behind, which is the main reason why 2s is the default gap when a driver instructed to stay put and nurse the car).

      How to change it? Well the car simply need to shift some of it’s grip production to other means. Aerodynamic downforce is still the cheapest and easiest way to create a big grip so that wouldn’t go away anytime soon. However there are some other things that can be explored: ground effect is a more efficient source of grip from aerodynamic but it does have a big risk if it somehow failed. Bigger contact patch to the ground (from tires) means higher mechanical grip with the obvious drawback of more drag (which can be minimized by using wheel fenders, but you’ll find people that won’t like it). Active suspension also create more mechanical grip and helps the efficiency of aerodynamics. Active aerodynamics can adapt the car aerodynamics according to the conditions (more wing on dirty air, less wing on clear air), etc.

      The problem now is safety and R&D cost. Keep in mind that all previous suggestion has been ran in F1 car sometime in the past and then banned for various reasons. It make sense to ban them back then but maybe some of them could be used in the future.

  6. Anyone that says the speed doesn’t matter has clearly never stood trackside & been able to actually watch the cars through fast corners or heavy braking zones.

    Believe me the speed/performance add’s a massive amount to the spectacle of it all.

  7. Seb setting up his ‘forced’ retirement pitch. He’d stay in F1 post 2020, but the cars are too slow for his fastness.

    1. Yet he crashes or spins every other race at least. Vettel is a fraud and a clown.

      1. You seem to have quite strong feelings for the chap. Something going on in your life that you want to let out? We’re here to listen, if you will.

      2. Citation needed. Evidence suggests otherwise.

  8. Lately i get the feeling that Vettel is saying things like “Formula 1 is kinda broken right now, hopefully 2021 will rejuvenate my intrest in the sport” while at the same time playing down the post-2021 changes as “not looking good”, just so he has a exit strategy to retire.
    I mean he has a contract for 2020 and the intra team battle with Leclerc is only gonna get worse for him as Charles learns from his mistakes. After that his future is uncertain. Ferrari would probably start supporting fully Leclerc as their No 1 driver by 2021 and if Verstappen & Hamilton stay put at their teams and Vettel joins one of them, he be treated as a No 2. So with his future looking somewhat bleak, he plays this as a potential exit strategy (to save some dignity of just quitting because he was beaten) by playing down the future of Formula 1 in general.

    PS: For those who are concerned that removing downforce and making cars slower to increase overtaking is a bad thing, don’t worry. By 2024 at least, Formula 1 could completely change its philosophy again to make cars faster by adding more downforce. And by 2027 more overtaking-friendly again and so on and so on… Introducing an idea only to shoot it on the foot and do the opposite a few years later, is kinda of a trademark move for Formula 1.

  9. I like this new aero direction except for the weight increase. Was actually hoping the weight loss will be part of the simplicity and better wheel to wheel racing F1 is looking to achieve. A 50-100kg reduction in weight would have been great a bit like a light dancer. Lighter the dancer usually better and more fluid the movements. Weight and size of the 2007 and 2008 cars will automatically result in more nimble cars and better racing.

    1. I concur with AMG44. The suggested model cites cars heavier by 25kg, why? By all means give aero a massive focus to ensure required flow is met by teams, but if this new and improved aero model is providing 95% downforce for the trailing car, fabulous. Just don’t increase the weight. Losing and simplifying the current raft of extra wings must help save weight. Assuming they do not intend to make the new floor out of pig-steel, why is this not lighter? I want better racing, but F1 still needs to be allowed to be creative and fast. I like Ross Brawn, I hope he’s got this right and hasn’t been railroaded into the opportunity to be fall guy for Liberty.

      Is F2 going to be faster than F1?

      1. The suggested model cites cars heavier by 25kg, why?

        doesn’t the article say why: because of the heavier wheels (and suspension needed to cope with them and the,larger travel they will have, I suspect) which come with the 18″ Tyres they need for the tyre manufacturers.

        I think they might have missed a trick by not reigning in the length of the cars (though larger floor/tunnel size means more downforce), but otherwise, what could they reduce the weight of, in the initial stages of the regulations.

  10. Making the cars 3-4 seconds slower to improve spectacle is probably worse than Ecclestone’s sprinklers idea…what a joke!

  11. If I’m not mistaken, weren’t the 2019 cars supposed to be slower than the 2018 ones?

    Just because they think the 2021 cars will be much slower doesn’t mean they will be. Let’s hear what the designers think now they have some rules to work with.

    1. Well, reading the article they don’t say they do @dbradock, Vettel did, and the current, relatively underdeveloped windtunnel model is definitely slower, but as you say, clearly the teams won’t keep it that way.

      1. Actually if you read the article @bosyber, it wasn’t Vettel it was Nikolas Tombazis from the FIA.

        1. I think you read my comment wrong, Vettel said that he doesn’t want to go back to slower cars, while indeed Tombazis (‘they’) mentioned the slower, but undeveloped car (and others, including user InsideF1 on the f1technical.net forum, who said he worked on this but now that it’s public can also say a bit about it, go into more detail about how easy they could still find a bit more time with that model in a few hours very recently …)

  12. Disagree, I dont really care how fast the cars are, as long as F1 stays pinnackle of engineering I want them to be able to race closer.

  13. With any F1 car being pushed to the limit and with no timing clock for reference I cannot believe any spectator could say that a car was 3 sec slower. A car being pushed to the limit is the spectacle not the overall lap time.

    1. @feral Believe me you can tell the difference.

      I remember when we went from the 2013 cars to the slower 2014 one’s, They looked so much less impressive & spectacular than the prior one’s.

      If you could never spot the difference then nobody would have complained in 2014 yet the cars looking slower/less impressive was one of the major complaints from fans. And also drivers who felt the slower cars were easier & less challenging to drive at the limits. These were the main reasons they wanted to boost performance for 2017, To make them spectacular again & provide drivers a bit more of a challenge.

  14. They say it’ll be 3 seconds slower, but I’m not convinced. The cars in 2014 were slowed down, but compare them with the fastest laps from 2016, and you’re looking at 2-4 seconds quicker.

    Once the designers look at these rules and sink their teeth into them, then the 3 seconds will be whittled down before 2021 even comes around. Then by 2023, that’ll drastically reduce.

    F1 is a technological masterclass, not just for the rules that are written, but for what these guys do with them, pushing the boundaries.

    I’m excited for it anyway.

    1. @jamiefranklinf1 I think a difference between 2014-16 & post 2021 is that the regulations are way more restricted from 2021 with Ross saying that they are going to clamp down on any area where they feel somebody has found an advantage or where a development has harmed the racing.

      I don’t think we will see the performance gains year on year with these restrictive GP1 rules.

  15. I’m hoping that the extra weight and bigger wheels (more rotational inertia) will increase braking distances. This has been the crux of the problem to me. It’s pretty hard to pass a car that can brake from 300kph into a slowish corner in 100m or less. I would even say F1 should consider mandating steel brake rotors.

  16. F1 continues to copy IndyCar. Lower downforce (good), cleaner trailing air (good) more overtaking (good). Lowering cost (makes total sense).

    No one will care that the cars are a bit slower or even notice. IndyCars are slower and the racing is always better and more exciting. The cars are a handful to drive and look faster than F1 cars because they slide and move so much.

    The next thing F1 will copy will be the aeroscreen. Maybe the two series should work more closely together?

    1. That will be the day I stop watching F1.

      1. Why? Do you like drivers dying? If there’s a solution that’s better than the halo, why not use it? Not saying it is better, but if it is, according to evidence.

        1. The new aeroscreen is what it should been used while the halo is great for deflecting cars it doesn’t do anything for debries. I hope they are going to use it or are they waiting untill what happen with Lewis but then on the helmets instead of a mirror.

  17. Sponsors want huge budgets.
    Teams want open regs.
    Drivers want fast cars.
    Fans want competitive racing.

    F1 admins sensibly suggest reverse championship weekend for the series, and in typical F1 fashion some idiots say NO. Even if everyone would get what they want.

  18. When it comes to the speed of F1 cars, I don’t mind if it gets slower a bit.
    The most important thing (when it comes to speed) is that F1 is still the fastest racing series

  19. But how fast are the current cars actually? They are very fast in Q3, but the average lap time is FAR from that fast (until the end when someone wants to get that extra FL point :)). Current PU and tyres really exaggerate that difference. I really hope they can close that gap a little, less cruising during the races please! I also love the tight racing in indycar, just a little bit of that in F1 and it will be great, one thing that is rarely discussed here is the robustness of the cars, in Indy they can do some touching and continuing racing, it costs weight but it creates better racing when you can actually drive closely without risk of blowing the front wing etc to million pieces. With 2-3 seasons of engineering they will probably improve very quickly, and the regulations will probably evolve a bit aswell, technical changes is more fun than watching same cars year after year, go for it!

    1. +1 the cars will be faster when the professionals are going to develop the cars. So i am not worried.

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