New aerodynamic rules could bring on-track battles to an early end – Norris

2022 F1 season

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Lando Norris says Formula 1’s new rules designed to improve overtaking may reduce the amount of multi-lap duels between drivers during races in 2022.

Formula 1 cars will look and behave remarkably different thanks to extensive rewriting of the technical regulations for 2022 designed to address the long-standing problem with the dirty air effect in the sport.

Asked by RaceFans for his view on the new regulations, Norris said he is hopeful that new rules for 2022 will see a marked improvement in drivers being able to follow rivals more closely.

“I mean, I hope so,” Norris said. “From what I’ve seen from the CFD pictures and so on, it does look better. So I’m just hoping that as a fact it is going to be better. By how much, I’m not sure. I’m hoping it’s at least noticeable to us that we can follow that chunk better and closer and so on.

“If that is the case, then I think it will change quite a bit. It will change strategies a lot, it could change whether Saturdays or or Sundays are more biased – which one are you going to put more performance and effort into. And that can change again depending on the tracks and so on. It can go either way.”

Despite his confidence that the new rules package will offer more opportunities for drivers to attack their rivals, Norris also believes there could be fewer multi-lap battles for fans to enjoy, such as the Hungarian Grand Prix last season where Fernando Alonso fended off the faster Mercedes of Lewis Hamilton for multiple laps around the twisty Hungaroring circuit.

“There were a lot of great battles you saw last year because of the difficulty to overtake,” Norris explained.

“There was a lot of great battles, like Hamilton and Fernando [in Hungary]: Hamilton couldn’t get past Fernando in Budapest because it was so difficult to follow and everyone thought that was one of the best battles of the season. Whereas maybe this year, you see Lewis past in two laps and you don’t kind of see that side of it. You don’t get to see as good a battle.

“But, on the other side, there were not many battles because as soon as you get two seconds behind someone, you lose the downforce and you can’t do anything. But then this year, if you get much closer, you can overtake and might see a lot more battles.”

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Will Wood
Will has been a RaceFans contributor since 2012 during which time he has covered F1 test sessions, launch events and interviewed drivers. He mainly...

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36 comments on “New aerodynamic rules could bring on-track battles to an early end – Norris”

  1. Lando is grasping at straws here. The number of genuine battles over a season with the past rules could be counted on the fingers of one hand.

    Also, as seen with the varying car releases and the past comments on “all cars will look the same”, it is obvious that drivers seldom have a good idea of how things will pan out.

    I am hoping rather that there will be closer non DRS battles this year that will probably force the DRS rules to be changed and ensure an even keel.

    1. I can’t believe Nando is describing in a positive way the fact that a clearly faster car couldn’t overtake a slower one.
      Of course I loved that battle, but we had way more situation where a slightly faster car couldn’t even try to overtake the slower one because it couldn’t get close enough without overheating tires

      1. Exactly. But I wouldn’t even call a supremely faster car trying to overtake a much slower car a battle in the first place!
        A hunter trying to shoot a duck is not a battle only because he can’t hit his target right away.

  2. We need just three things:

    – Reduce the differences between cars.
    – Massively reduce the necessary performance gap to perform an overtake.
    – Ban DRS.

    Achieving the first is complex and must be done through cost caps and restrictive technical regulations. We’re on the way, anyway.

    Achieving the second is even more complex because the technical regulations not only have to be restrictive, but to be designed around the concept of zero dirty air. Again, it seems to be a work in progress.

    Achieving the third is easy as pie, by crossing out a couple of lines in the regulations.

    If you tick all these boxes, you will have cars following through a corner, say, 0.3s behind, using the tow in the next straight to attack on braking and, crucially, not having a massive speed differential that is not only dangerous but an “interest-killer” because most of the DRS-era overtakes have been completed much before the corner with a defense-less driver.

    Thus, overtakes won’t be as easy as Lando predicts if a driver can defend at brakings. Cars drive closer, possible but not easy overtakes and much fairer and spectacular than those in-straight passes.

    If FIA nails the first two conditions, banning DRS would vanish Lando’s fears and races would be really, really exciting.

    1. @diezcilindros Far from most, & mostly only on Spa’s Kemmel straight with others occasionally like Istanbul Park in 2011, Algarve the first time, etc.

    2. I’m not sure F1 needs, or wants, technical parity.

      Seasons where a single team had an undeniable, overwhelming advantage, have been relatively rare (current era excluded), but there have always been the backmarker teams, and the front running teams– that might change from year to year, but there have always been the teams that got it right– and the ones that didn’t.

      What we need more than anything are stable aero regulations. Between 2009 and 2021, there was one year where there were few changes (2012) and one year where there were no effective aero changes (2016). Otherwise, all the teams have had to rework their aero profiles (if not fundamental concepts) every single year, and that’s incredibly expensive. Only the big three could consistently keep up.

      Lotus/Renault was able to do well one year, by taking their car to WindShear in North Carolina– and they did so well, it was promptly banned, because it made it easier for them to catch up.

      Banning innovation and restricting development isn’t the way to lower costs– restricting the amount of development *needed* lowers cost, and some innovations would actually lower the overall cost of competing– instead, you have the big three spending massive amounts of money to develop around a restriction, and everyone else unable to compete.

      The removal of hydraulic suspension components for 2022 is another example of this daft policy.

      1. Honestly I don’t know what the hell has this to do with overtaking, and I say the same to the rest of users that had replied to me. I’m not talking about the philosophy of the sport, I just have stuck with the topic of the article (overtaking), and the three things we need: less differences between cars, less advantage per lap needed to perform an overtake, and DRS to make it more exciting.

    3. As everyone thought the cars would look mostly the same i think point 1 is still far away as no car looks the same as a team rival.

      Your second point is really a hard think if you not using spec cars as the designers are really good getting huge performance difference if they hit a part better then their rivals.

      DRS should be gone OR always available (with lets say 20x uses a driver can select them self)

    4. @Diezcikindros, you should consider watching Nascar. That series might give you a little more of what you’re looking for.

  3. @diezcilindros

    Achieving the first is complex and must be done through cost caps and restrictive technical regulations. We’re on the way, anyway.

    Achieving the second is even more complex because the technical regulations not only have to be restrictive, but to be designed around the concept of zero dirty air. Again, it seems to be a work in progress.

    That would be a spec series and we already have one it’s called Indy car.

    1. @johnrkh
      Also, SF, F2, F3, etc., but I agree enough full spec-series already exist, so going this route is unnecessary for F1.

    2. “Zero dirty air” is impossible, simply due of the laws of physics

  4. Think I’m too cynical. I saw some great battles at the front last year between two drivers who were both pretty good at working out how to follow a car close enough to at least attempt an overtake. Now they are trying to make it easier so anyone can do it. Meh.

  5. If the pendulum swings too far in the other direction, and overtaking becomes too easy, we can just ban DRS. Sorted.

    1. Well, that would be good and if these changes work out as promised why not? Except I feel the overtaking is seen by some as the pinnacle of racing action including Liberty, no I don’t think so.
      Personally, I thought last season was very good action-wise.

      1. I’ve been under the impression that DRS was just a stop-gap measure until these rules were introduced and the only reason it was kept this year was way to hedge their bet incase overtaking is still difficult. If everything works out as planned its use will be minimized or eliminated.

        1. Eliminating DRS especially in tracks which is difficult to overtake would be wrong. DRS just isnt a pass mechanism, it is also which brings the chasing car closer to the chased car in some scenarios.

    2. While banning DRS if overtaking becomes too easy (it won’t), but even if did, Liberty/FIA would be better served by making overtaking limited to the discretion of the race director(s).

      This sporting regulation change would ensure the crack Netflix dramatists and FOM TV crew could co-ordinate to present the best possible ratings extravaganza.

      Scripted reality TV is best and don’t we want F1 to become the pinnacle of Reality TV?


  6. Essentially Lando doesn’t know. Might be good might be bad…

  7. …And there will be a lot of cars that previously couldn’t fight at all because the speed delta wasn’t giant enough that now will be able to engage in battles.

  8. Well it’s true. What did DRS give us? Hamilton or Verstappen spending no more than a lap behind drivers not driving Mercedes or Red Bull, at least in most cases. You’re faster? Then go through man! New rules will have this similar effect where a driver in a faster car will have his job made easier, with the one driving a slower car having fewer options to defend. We won’t see closer battling, but rather the opposite, Alonso won’t be able to hold up Hamilton anymore if things work as planned. No matter the rules, we need cars with similar performance levels to have a good fight. I don’t care for quantity of overtakes, I just like to see that skill and courage still matter something, and that we get to see that more often. Now we already have more overtakes than before (as in Schumi era for example), but I don’t see much effort, it’s more like what I see driving on a motorway. It’s not much about the rules, it’s about the teams and their ability to put up a fight. We need more teams, and not this ugly mix of A and B teams, but A teams only. I can suffer a poor season, but I can’t stand the fact that Alfa Romeo and Haas will never fight Ferrari, Alpha whatever will never fight Red Bull and same with Mercedes and the rest of the grid. Kick B teams out, transform them into Toyota, VW group brand, Ford, whoever, then things at least get exciting and we get some good stories to remember.

  9. Sometimes I feel that Norris is not the sharpest tool in the shed.

    1. Glad we have you then.
      Especially your arguments are very convincing….

      1. Says the poster who makes a tweet look verbose! I’d have thought you’d appreciate the economy.
        Norris’s point has been made elsewhere, if you make passing easier, you could just end up with fights for position resolved easily and then everyone stays in formation to the end of the race.
        Or you could get something like that epic battle in Baku between Verstappen and Ricciardo, still one of my favourites, down to its inevitable denouement in a shower of fibre glass.

        1. I see your point. But relative car performances can change over a race distance. You might have a car being quicker on one set of tyres and slower on others. Or simply, a car could be better at the beginning than at the end. Thinking that everything might resolve in the first laps of a race is exaggerated.
          Essentially, we give up battles where one car is much faster than the other, and get more close racing when cars have similar pace. What’s better than this? Take Austin 2021. Max was faster than Lewis in the beginning of the race, but he was fast enough to overtake. At the end of the race, Lewis was faster but when he got Max he started to suffer the dirty air and lost momentum. With new gen cars, maybe we would have got wheel-to-wheel racing both at the beginning and at the end of that race. Who knows..
          Easier-to-follow cars can only improve racing.

          1. I kind of agree albo, that’s why I mentioned Verstappen-Ricciardo at Baku, in the same car, both able to overtake fairly well, with their relative speeds altering over the course of the race, meaning they ended up wheel-to-wheel various times during the same race. We could end up with a similar to and fro. Or then again not. Just have to see I guess.

    2. Lando was asked a question that not even top engineers really know the answer to, but he was polite enough say something. He has a sharp mind, but that was a dull question.

  10. If the new regulations work out, those battles would indeed turn into easy overtakes. However, many other situations where cars just followed each other in a train with enough separation to be in clean air, will now be converted into battles. So if the gaps between cars is the same, there should be way more battles.

    Except…gaps probably won’t be the same, but bigger, in the short term. So the actual effect depends on the size of each effect.

    That said, the gaps between cars should come down over time, while the inability to follow was never going to resolve itself by just waiting.

  11. I don’t really get this to be honest. If cars can follow closer and thus overtake more easily outside of just DRS zones it absolutely will open up the racing element, it’s guaranteed. And just because someone passes doesn’t mean that battle is over like it perhaps is now. If the car behind can now follow he can try to retake position. And so on.

  12. I do hope that things don’t end up going too far the other way where overtaking becomes too easy & that we don’t lose the element of drivers fighting over a position for an extended period as that can often be more thrilling than any eventual overtake.

    I’ve said in the past that I think that overtaking should be difficult but possible because we want it to be about driver skill & good racecraft. It shouldn’t be so easy that anybody can do it or so that defending isn’t possible. It shouldn’t be guaranteed, It should be hard fought for & earned. A driver using good car placement & racecraft should still be able to hold on to his position & if he’s able to do it for an extended period then fine, That’s just part of racing.

    I do sort of think that over the past 10-15 years or so the focus has been a bit too much on simply the number of overtakes rather than the quality of the actual racing. A race with fewer overtakes shouldn’t automatically be written off as boring providing that it featured some good battling in which an overtake was possible. Races like that are often far more exciting & memorable than those that just feature a lot of overtaking that was too easy & therefore didn’t feature a lot of battling.

    1. That said i’m actually not really expecting things to be that bad.

      Even in spec categories like Indycar, F2, F3 etc… while cars can run closer together overtaking still isn’t exactly a guarantee when you have cars of relatively similar pace racing. Can become a bit more straightforward when there is a big pace difference, Especially in F2 with DRS & how big the tyre deg cam be at times.

  13. If racing becomes possible, all side effects of current wheel-to-wheel racing vanish. A fight like Alonso becomes more viable.

  14. So what is it, Norris? Yes? No? Yesno?

  15. Jeez these pampered F1 drivers would go and cry in corner if they had to experience real racing!


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