Good ideas on how to improve racing in F1

Rubens Barrichello, Lewis Hamilton, Interlagos, 2007 | HondaRacingF1.comIn an excellent article in last week’s Autosport (November 22nd) former Jordan and Stewart designer Gary Anderson tackles the question of how to improve racing – and overtaking – in Formula 1.

It’s a brilliant technical mini-study that I strongly encourage you to read – here’s a brief outline of his suggestions.

Anderson starts things off on the right footing by looking at how F1 cars can be helped to race more closely to each other. He ignores gimmicky, artificial ideas aimed only at increasing overtaking, such as power boost buttons.

Instead Anderson looks at why F1 cars cannot run close to one another and points to three problems: loss of rear wing downforce, turbulent air reducing the ‘ram’ effect of a following car’s engine, reducing engine power; and reduced front wing and bargeboard assembly downforce.

To remedy this he proposes the following:

Bring back slicks increasing mechanical grip at turn-in.

Lower and reduce the size of the front wing to make it less effective and less sensitive to the wake of another car. Also make it a fixed specification for the duration of the season.

Simplify suspension wishbones so they no longer have an aerodynamic function, reducing the negative effect of following another car.

Simplify brake ducts so they no longer have an aerodynamic function, reducing the negative effect of following another car.

Ban aerodynamic covers on wheels to marginally increase drag, thereby allowing another car to follow more closely

Ban bargeboards cutting downforce and reducing the negative effect of following another car.

Simplifying upper bodywork cutting downforce and reducing the negative effect of following another car.

Increase the size of the diffuser to give the driver back some of the lost grip but in a form that will not be significantly reduced as one car follows another.

Make the rear wing a fixed specification for the duration of the season to make it less than optimal at unusual tracks like Monte-Carlo (where a high downforce setup is needed) and Monza (where a low downforce setup is needed).

Michael Schumacher, Fernando Alonso, Imola, 2006 | LAT PhotographicIt seems like a sensible, rational, well thought-out set of proposals that I’ve hardly done justice to here – do go out and buy the magazine. Hopefully the FIA’s aerodynamics working group will come up with something along these lines.

(The only part I’m not convinced of is the idea of having fixed wing specifications for an entire season. What if one team deliberately ran a high downforce wing all year, finished last most of the time but won Monte-Carlo by seven laps?)

Does something like this stand a chance of getting implemented? I doubt it.

In 1999 Max Mosley ignored a report by the by the FIA Advisory Experts Group that urged similar measures – cutting downforce levels by 50% and increasing mechanical grip and drag by 10%. Since then downforce levels have only increased.

In recent years we have heard some patently ridiculously suggestions for how to improve racing in F1 – such as the criminally ugly ‘Centreline Downwash Generating Wing’.

Presently the overtaking working group are arguing in favour of some watered-down versions of these proposals but seem to have overlooked the basic problem that if you give a driver more downforce it robs the driver trying to pass him of the same. Their ideas to increase rear wing height and introduced driver-operated moveable wings seem counter productive.

What is needed is precisely the kind of intelligent, rational, clear ideas that Anderson has put together. It’s time the FIA tapped into this kind of thinking.

Photos: | LAT Photographic

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41 comments on Good ideas on how to improve racing in F1

  1. Eric M. said on 29th November 2007, 11:48

    “The simplest and least expensive change would be to just eliminate the front & rear wings—what I’ve been saying for over a year now.”

    And you’re not the only one. Someone once asked Gilles Villeneuve what he thought of wings, and he said if it were up to him, he’d simply get rid of them because of the problems it caused for overtaking, even back in those days. Myself, I think for now the wings should just be reduced in size, and then a few years from now wings could be eliminated altogether, and maybe ground effect could be phased back in (though ground effect has it’s problems too). Getting rid of wings right now would be too much of a shock to the system, I think.

    But this to me just highlights the most frustrating aspect about this whole issue; many of these ideas are not new ideas at all. I have a 1999 Autosport year-end review in which Damon Hill says basically the same thing; reduce the available downforce, and bring back slicks! That article was the first I became aware of the problem, and since then I’ve noticed numerous drivers saying the same thing.

    Yet here we have Mr. Mosely, who felt that exactly the opposite direction was the way to go, and has apparently felt that way for ten years now. It is F1’s complete misfortune that it is stuck with a non-expert rulemaker who is apparently unwilling to (or can’t) recognize the obvious short-comings of his ideas. There’s no shortage of expert advice out there Max! But for him we wouldn’t even be talking about nonsense like engine-freezes, CDG wings, or power-to-pass (in F1 anyways). Hopefully, the buffoonery will end in 2009, if not sooner.

    Max Mosely is our misfortune!

    Keith: I tried to fill out your survey, but apparently it’s closed?

  2. Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 29th November 2007, 12:24

    The survey’s just closed – thanks for trying to fill it in though, there will be more in the future.

  3. Yes, Trulli is absolutely right and it’s also worth noting that he doesn’t talk about aerodynamics or anything!

  4. The aerodynamics ideas are not correct imho.
    It starts from the idea that too much aeros are the problem, while, himself call for a “cleaner” way.

    Of course if your way of creating aeros it not clean, increasing aerodynamics will worsen the effect on the following car, but the problem is not here, the problem is the way they’re produced namely vortex generators.

    Now if you shorten the wings, make wishbones not streamlined or remove wheels covers it will have even more non steady aeros at proximity , while that’s true that at a longer distance the problems will be less important this is not by increasing drag that this occurs but by banning the vortex generators.

    Increasing the drag may be efficient for straight line slipstream but what you need in corner is downforce, downforce and still downforce.

    Now Jarno Trulli’s remark also shows that the problem is far from being simple, as the tires poses a problem of overall grip, and visibly restrict lines.

    So Slicks are tought to be back, but in fact i’m not quite sure they’ll produce the effect you want.

    If you increase the grip of the tires, then cars will go faster so they will rely on aerodynamics again.

    So in fact the question is : Do we want the same level of speed?

    Actually with a tire it is not possible to combine the level of grip aerodynamic downforce produce and some of the actual F1 cars dynamics (like reactivity), so downforce is still needed.

    So to me two options: either we work for steadier aerodynamics, look out for tires to provide better overall grip or we reduce the speed dramatically and get rid of aeros.

    As far as i’m concerned, F1 is meant to be the fastest and on of the hardest series so if overtaking is not easy that’s okay.
    In fact i think we should cure the problems that make it likely impossible now and that’s what the OWG is doing, addressing the correct problems for 2009: Less vortex generators+slicks.

    Also we have to note that overatking is a complex process, rarely going into the “i follow you, slipstream then overtake” as far as cornering/braking overtaking are concerned.

  5. Number 38 said on 30th November 2007, 15:59

    Banning wings got more support than I expected, returning to slicks seems to be a popular move, one respondant used the word SIMPLIFY several times and I could back him on several points but where is MadMax taking F1…….bio-fuels and energy recovery ??????
    I say we “ban” Max !!!!

  6. mike. said on 7th December 2007, 10:16

    can we get a poll on the go? should FIA president Max Mosley Resign?

    sounds good to me! I no which way i’d vote.

  7. Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 7th December 2007, 10:20

    There’s a new poll going up shortly on a different topic but I’ll make room for one on Mosley soon…

  8. mike. said on 7th December 2007, 10:23

    ok wicked. thanks.

  9. get rid of all driver aids and take them back to manual gear boxes , then more onus put on the driver to be good

  10. I imagine the “should Mosely resign?” poll will be pretty one-sided…

  11. theRoswellite said on 6th January 2008, 6:27

    I’m coming to this debate late,so I’ll be brief: F1 cars have been allowed to become as much “air craft” as cars. If you, at first, reduce the down force, then nearly eliminate it, you will…….return the cars to “auto” racing. As a side effect, speeds will be reduced (where they need to be the corners), following closely & passing, will be increased. And, improvements to the F1 cars can be correlated more closely to the needs of “normal automobiles”. This is basically what Gary Anderson is saying. It has been a problem which the FIA has not been able to handle, and it has been growing for decades. Only when the down force made gargantuan leaps, the “fan car”, and sliding side screens & inverted wing bottoms, did the governing body step forward. We have needed, and still do, courageous and effective FIA leadership to bring about change in this area.

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