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: HondaRacingF1.com | LAT Photographic

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

  1. 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 reduced..in 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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