Juan Pablo Montoya, Williams, Monza, 2004

The end of the pursuit of speed

CommentPosted on | Author Keith Collantine

Juan Pablo Montoya, Williams, Monza, 2004
Juan Pablo Montoya, Williams, Monza, 2004

When did Formula 1 stop being about the pursuit of speed?

Since the beginning of the world championship changes have been made to the formula in the name of safety and cost controls.

But those needs have become increasingly dominant and, as a result, the sport has never been as tightly regulated as it is today.

Somewhere along the line the governing body decided it wasn’t enough merely to limit the rate of development. Now the goal appears to be fixing the cars at their current performance level.

That much is clear when you look at how average lap speeds have stagnated in the last decade. Monza, a circuit which has changed little in 35 years, provides a good indication:

Fastest lap speeds at Monza, 1976-2010

Year 1976 1977 1978 1979 1980 1981 1982 1983 1984 1985 1986 1987 1988 1989 1990 1991 1992 1993 1994 1995 1996 1997 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010
Average Speed (kph) 206.019 212.887 214.11 220.765 223.394 236.004 234.286 241.153 245.405 248.341 250.18 242.864 249.403 252.989 257.415 253.949 257.209 249.033 245.933 247.135 250.295 244.413 251.989 248.953 253.658 259.827 258.564 262.242 260.031 256.753 256.34 248.682 251.398 254.444

Juan Pablo Montoya’s 262.242kph (162.95mph) lap of Monza in 2004 set the high watermark. Today’s F1 cars lap around 10kph slower.

To the prior constraints of safety and costs we can now add a third, as Formula 1 faces growing pressure to be more environmentally responsible.

The consequences of that for the regulations are already known: in 2013 engine capacities will be cut from 2.4 litres to 1.6, and hybrid technology will play a greater role in engine design.

Red Bull’s X2010 project for “Gran Turismo 5” offered a fascinating glimpse of what F1 might look like without technical constraints.

But can designs like this only exist in the virtual world? It’s an idea I explored here a few years ago.

Would anyone dare to create a rival to Formula 1 that could usurp its claim to have the fastest racing cars in the world? And where could they race that would be safe enough?

Have your say in the comments.

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150 comments on “The end of the pursuit of speed”

  1. The problem with allowing the cars to simply get faster and faster is that the teams with bigger budgets will simply spend more and more and more money trying to go faster. While I realise that this is exactly what they do now, the difference is that if they were simply allowed to do as they pleased, the other, smaller teams would die out as they could not keep up with the big teams. I for one don’t want to see the likes of Sauber and Williams die out like that. While the current guise of Formula 1 might seem castrated, I’d rather see a castrated racing series where there is at least some room for competition than a free-for-all arms race that will kill privateer teams off.

    1. Doh! You beat me to it ;)

    2. Mike "the bike" Schumacher
      28th February 2011, 12:54

      We’ve already seen the death of privateer teams such as jordan, minardi, tyreell arrows etc. Williams were always going to hang around for a while anyway and Sauber is just struggling to stay in it really

      1. And the birth of Lotus, Virgin, Genii-Renault, HRT, Force India

        Tyrell begat BAR, begat Honda, begat a smashin’ Brawn BGP-001, begat Mercedes

        And what of the current WDC and WCC privateer team, Red Bull.

        All part of the natural ebb and flow, the cycle of life, old teams die so new teams can be born.

      2. Sauber are doing fine now. lots of sponsors.

    3. NNot really, it’s not directly related to money is it? You seem to have linked a side issue (but an important one).
      The cars are no faster now than they were 20 years ago; even HRT could make a car faster for the same amount of money without such strict technical limits. I’d argue with the technical limits it’s even more expensive to make a faster car because without throwing money at it you don’t make the small little gains you need to be competitive. It is possible with a budget cap but freer regulations a smaller team could come up with something to knock the big boys off their perch. However this is still unlikely.
      Its got nothing to do with competitiveness (little to do directly with money) and everything to do with control and safety

      1. It is. Teams with more money are able to research, design and develop new technologies faster. With today’s development rate, it’d be impossible for teams like HRT to keep up with the big boys.

        It’s easy to compare this problem among other industries. Look at Apple, Microsoft and all those enterprises. They obviously have no limit for creating new stuff.

        It’s easy to see Microsoft struggle to keep up with Apple in recent years. And we’re taking about one of the biggest corporation in the world!.

        The technological battle is enourmous everywhere: Playstation vs Nintendo vs Xbox, for example. Just see how much time it took Playstation to implement the same controller, which they eventually copied.

    4. Considering the powerplays, it might work if you combine unrestricted rules with restricted resources, or even a budet cap. So we’re in fact half way…

      I do wonder what would happen if you set these conditions. I guess the big teams will always be able to attract the best personel, even if what they can pay and how many they can hire is limited.

    5. Another issue with letting cars get faster and faster is that the tracks have to be made suitable, and they become less useful for other forms of motorsport. A few years ago I knew quite a few club-level bike racers and they were not keen on the proposal to change Brands Hatch to make it suitable for F1, because it would have destroyed much of the character of the track. A track that is challenging and exciting in an F1 car is not so interesting in a slower formula, for drivers or spectators, and there are a lot more club-level races than F1-level.

      When you’re adapting the tracks to the cars rather than the other way round, something is out of balance.

    6. “The problem with allowing the cars to simply get faster and faster is that the teams with bigger budgets will simply spend more and more and more money trying to go faster.”

      Not true.
      There’s no logic in what you say.
      Don’t the teams spent their money to get the cars faster and faster already/anyway?
      The teams’ aim is to make the cars as fast as possible within any rules they are given. So whether a specific set of rules allows having faster cars or not makes absolutely no difference in that respect.

      You can allow the cars to be 210cm wide, let them have larger wheels, wider tyres, huge wings like in the 80s and turbo charged 1400bhp engines, but ban all the technologies that are very costly.
      In this way, you’d get cheaper, yet faster cars.

      1. I’m in on that concept!! Except… let’s get rid of the wings all together so we can back some seriously brutal racing!

        Monster machines that can follow each other as close as they want and it will all be down to driver skill and engine engineering. It’ll be just like mega gokarts :-)

    7. I disagree with the idea that less technical contraints means a spending war. A well thought out recource restriction agreement not only makes F1 more affordable, it places more emphasis on innovation for performance.

      In terms of where the regulations have been heading, I think it’s more the constant change that restricting performance. The 2009 regulations, including restrictions to the double diffuser, continues to see massive innovation and performance jumps, the limits on aero flicks and swishes reduces the capacity for big teams to through money at aero solutions and forces radical thinking in aero dynamics. Previous limits on mechanical soulutions banned in the petty politics of the Max Mosley era should now be loosened increasing the scope for mechanical innovation.

      I think the pursuit of speed can be reclaimed, the circuits are what they are, if a disaster is going to happen, you can never cover all the possibilities when large objects go out of controll at high speed. However so long as driver protection remains assured, an spectators are in safe positions, I think the survival cell, so long as it remains capable of resisting the forces F1 cars performance might inflict upon it, means we can now start to loosen technical restrictions in certain performance areas. If we can do so to improve the closeness of the racing then hurrah.

    8. Part of the problem is that, unlike other race series, there is no championship for the private teams. In several other race series, they include additional prizes for the small, nonmanufacturer teams to keep them involved and boost innovation and variety.

      1. Wouldn’t work in F1 as every team is technically seperate and private. Doesn’t matter what insitution owns them. Torro Rosso bucked the establishment for a bit but the law makers got on them as we all know. Satellite teams using bought chassis completley illegal.

        1. Not to mention the fact that it almost seems harder to keep manufacturers in the sport than privateers these days. All recent exits have been manufacturers…

    9. jsw11984 (@jarred-walmsley)
      28th February 2011, 18:46

      How about a compromise, we limit the amount that can be spent on certain aspects of the cars for a say 5 year period, e.g. from 2013-2018 the engine development budget is limited to £10 million per year and the rest of the car is budget free as it is now, then 2018-2023 the aerodynamic development budget is limited.

      This way we would get improved speed but the smaller teams wouldn’t be disadvantaged in £ terms as the development budget is limited?

      1. Sounds an idea. I like that actually.

    10. A simple solution to teams spending ever more would be to allow any other team to be able to buy the previous years championship winning car for a fixed and deliberately low sum. So spend as much as you like you only have the advantage till the end of the year when everyone else can buy cut price technology.

    11. bleeps_and_tweaks
      1st March 2011, 8:46

      Great comment @Prison Monkey. My thoughts exactly. While I would love to see Mclaren and Ferrari let loose again to create monsters like the MP4/4 etc it would have been almost impossible for a team like Red Bull to enter F1 and compete if some of these regulations had not been in place. It’s a balancing act.

    12. Sean Newman
      1st March 2011, 18:17

      Worse than the death of teams, the death of people!
      If speed were unregulated the slightest mistake or technical faliure could cause MASSIVE crashes.

      Energy = (1/2) mass × speed2 (squared)

      Small increases in collision speeds = much bigger crashes.

      Forget changing the tracks it’s much cheaper and safer to slow the cars down, Most of the excitement in F1 for me comes from high speed racing. Racing being the main thing. Watching mini racing is exciting. They don’t go fast.

      So the answer to Keith’s question “When did F1 stop being about the pursuit of speed?” It was when we realised it didn’t matter.

  2. The main problem that I see with removing design regulations is that there would inevitably be a much larger performance gap between the teams. This would increase the likelihood of one team having a car that can run away with the championship without a good battle. I don’t think a title fight like last year’s would be possible without the regulations.
    On the other hand, it is frustrating when you don’t see any progress in terms of speed!

    1. thatscienceguy
      28th February 2011, 13:01

      Is it frustrating though? Do you really notice, and does it affect the racing at all?

      I’ve never really sat there and thought “I wish these cars were hyperspeed fast”. They’re pretty damn fast at the moment, mindbendingly fast compared to a ‘fast’ road car, and only a handful of drivers in the world can really handle them at the absolute limit.

      If they were 5 seconds a lap faster, would you really notice any difference, and would it really add to the spectacle or the quality of racing at all? No and no. The speed is fine, the quality of racing is the important factor.

      1. Totally agree, if they moved too fast it would be impossible to watch! Just imagine monza without chicanes, it would be like an indy circuit. Sure the lead would change lots, but the race is so boring that I am sure people only watch for the crashes

        1. Lots of people only watch for the crashes now anyway.

          1. I’ve never got that, apart from anything else, you’ll only get two or three actually spectacular crashes a season. Sometimes none, thats around 30 to 35 hours of racing for the occasional falsh in the pan.

          2. That’s kind of how it has always been…

          3. When people say that Scribe they usually mean the start, afterwards they tune out.

      2. Yes, you would, especially on TV!

      3. of course you’ll notice. Even more watching live.
        I already said that watching vettel at valencia’s first corner, was disapointing. But if it is the first time you watch a f1, i understand it can look fast, because for the young fan, there is no reference point.
        I follow f1 for over 30 years, and i have to admit that i still watch it regularly,but it doesn’t give me a buzz like it used to.
        The best era for me, was the turbo era.
        If the fia only allowed to get a little of that back, in 2013, and let the fans to feel, how it was then.
        Please let full boost at least on qualy, so we can get that feeling back again.

        1. Good points, but then i think that it is when you start following something that becomes the benchmark of which every other season is measured. It is always in the beginning that it gives the thrills, the tears all the feelings. Then you get older, more hardened and it just don’t give that kick anymore. A bit like drugs. I am not old enough to know about that in F1, but i feel that when i play modern video games. Back when i was a kid playing the first call of duty it was just the business, and i still think that Call of Duty 2 is the best game ever made, but i think it has something to do with me getting older, not games getting worse. If you see what i mean.

          1. why then i still get impresed when i watch senna on a qualy lap at monaco, and i don’t when a i saw webber last year. Can you explain that?

          2. The Last Pope
            1st March 2011, 19:58

            @ Kowalski. Don’t forget Monaco had some very dangerous corners back then, Karl Wendlinger was very lucky to survive his 1994 crash there. Its much safer now, which would explain why it seems less exciting to watch.

      4. If you watch footage of Sebastian Vettel driving the X2010, you can get a sense of what overly fast F1 cars would be like. Although it is just a computer sim, and he does manage to set a very fast time, he spends the first few laps all over the place, and can barely keep the thing on the road. Even as it is now, drivers barely have time to process everything. With a full field of 250+mph cars, there would probably be even less actual racing because the drivers would be too busy staying on the road to plan out overtaking maneuvers. And if humans can no longer handle the cars, do we have to turn them over to robot drivers?

        Speed trials are for NHRA and Bonneville. For better F1 racing, I rather like the idea of massively overpowered karts…

  3. Nice one on calling it Formula X, any clues of weather Newey read it?
    I would like to see a series trying something like going to that limit (except for the remote controlled thing, that is a bit too much, although it might make it more afordable for less safety based cost).

    On the other hand, I am looking forward to see engeneers get just about as much traction out of a combination of electrical and combustion engines with boht operating at their best range of power.

    Formula one is (for me) not that much about total power or highest speed (oval racing is faster and drag Racing humilitiates its power) but about getting that power on the track and keep it in cornering to extract the best lap out of the car.

    1. Nice one on calling it Formula X, any clues of weather Newey read it?

      I reckon all the teams read Keith’s site (i.e. this one), because Keith will make an article and two days later you’ll hear a team principal quoting him almost word for word.

      Bunch of workshy charlatans!

      If Horner now says “Sush Meerkat and his puritan work ethics should get off our backs” then that confirms my theory.

    2. There was a series called Formula X in around, I think, 2004. It was a one make championship for cars which had changeable bodywork, meaning they could be single seaters or sports prototypes.

  4. This is not endemic to F1, they’ve been doing the same thing at Indycar, especially on ovals. So I doubt anyone would be able to make a faster series without serious security implications and breaking the limits of what human can endure.

    1. Simples, remove the driver … and let computers drive and race. Dress it up as autonomous vehicle testing “to reduce road accidents and make roads safe” or some such nonsense.

      F-X1, the rulebook is a sheet of A4, that describes the box you need to paint on the ground, and how to assemble he limbo bar, if the car fits within the box, and rolls under the bar, it is legal to race.

      Instead of supercomputers being stuck in chilly old server rooms, give them some laser sensors and vision systems and let them go and race each other.

      Go as fast as you can, burning as much money as you can get your hands on … extra points for rockets and jets and flames. Hyper exotic CFD aero, winglets on top of winglets, 4 wheels, 6 wheels, 8 wheels and a fan … and don’t stop till we get a sub-60second lap round Monza.

      1. THIS. I like the thought of this. I suppose untill we sort out a computer capable of that sort of thing, remote controlled by the drivers?

        1. I guess with remote control, the limiting factor would be response – both a small lag in controlling the car and feeling its reaction, and good feedback from the car.

          Considering that at the moment F1 drivers really want to have a literal feeling of how stable and on the edge the car is at any moment on the track, that would need a lot of development of force-feedback like stuff.

          Hm, maybe that means that instead of cars, gaming industry can help develop :)

          1. 2007 DARPA Urban winner … a coupla years you’ll have 20 cores in your phone, so the racks will shrink quick fast in a hurry.

            http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lULl63ERek0

            Just need to scale up to the sensors to range at 350mph … and add EM-pulse cannons and on-track power-ups.

    2. Electrolite
      1st March 2011, 23:47

      How is it you’ve got the same avatar as me? It’s a snapshot of a very specific moment of a very specific music video that I made myself :P

  5. I couldn’t see anyone trying to surpass F1 currently, if only because of the capital that would be involved in setting up a new series using cars that would lap circuits faster than F1 cars do, either with increased engine power or different aerodynamics. Maybe if the world economy improves drastically in a few years the funds would be there.

    For it to be licensed by the FIA it would need to match F1 in terms of safety, and with increased speeds the adjustments to existing tracks for safety alone would create another expense. I have Gran Turismo 5 and using the X1 it is obvious how much would need to be changed at Monza (to take your example and as it is one of the circuits you drive the X1 on in the game) to make it safe for someone to leave the track at high-speed – especially as it is a fan-car and once it is off the track the downforce drops drastically.

    Unfortunately I think we have reached the limit in terms of what drivers can handle and the risks governing bodies can take with the health of competitors and the public. That is unless a new material that is as far advanced from carbon-fibre as carbon-fibre was from steel or aluminium.

  6. And where could they race that would be safe enough?

    Nowhere, that is the problem. The limit is not technology, but the ability of the human body to withstand g-forces, not to mention the tensile strength of human bone!

    I totally understand where you are coming from Keith – I trained as a mechanical engineer, and a big reason was because I love fast machines – planes, trains and automobiles. This was before I heard of the Green movement ;) ). But there is a biological limit that supersedes the technological, and I think F1 has hit it.

    1. But isn’t that the only limit which you need to take into account?

      I mean: design the cars as fast you want, as long as your driver doesn’t pass out. And they could wear a G-suit.

      Ok, then you still need to adjust some (all) circuits to keep the safety up to date.

      If you do that (and as I said above, combine it with a resource restriction), there suddenly is I think much room for improvement in terms of speed.

      Then again, would it really make F1 better? I like it now as I’ve done over the past 16 years, so I think in the end compromising between safety and speed is ok. It does challenge the engineers to come up with things like the Renault Exhausts etc.

      1. No one died in 2004, but that year speeds were at the maximum. I don’t say increase speed, but at least mantain it and not lose it.

        1. How on earth do you think it is possible to regulate to that level of precision? (Clue: it’s not)

  7. There’s nothing to stop someone founding a series with regs that allow cars to go faster than F1 cars – but the FIA certainly wouldn’t endorse it! As for circuits, well there are plenty of modern facilities with oceans of run off to catch you if you run out of talent mid corner at 250mph in your Red Bull X2010 alike racer. With all other regs taken away, the limiting factor would quickly become the drivers. There have already been incidents where cars have reached cornering forces high enough to impair the drivers – Champcar 2001 at Texas is the obvious one, but even current F1 drivers admit to having to prop their elbows against the cockpit sides and hold their breath through some ultra fast corners. These forces would be almost impossible to manage with a military style G-suit, as these manage forces generated in pitch (up and down), whereas the forces in racing would be lateral (side to side).

    Still a remote controlled 1400bhp monster with active ground effects would some spectacle!

    1. G-Suit? You’re not pulling +/- g in the vertical, the g forces are all front/back and sideways so surely all they would need is a decent harness, a neck support up to the job and tethers to tie your hands/feet to the controls

  8. I want a series to rival F1. How aboutcalling it – Ultimate Motor Racing (UMOR)?

    1. Formula Zero – of F-Zero : )

  9. The thing about the RBX1 is that while it has no technical limitations, the G forces that it creates when cornering (somewhere like 8G at max) are so high that no human could withstand them in reality for any real period of time.

    1. and that would make the driver the performance differentiator

      1. As to who could drive furthest while unconscious? Not really the sort of sport I’d like to watch.

  10. It’s an interesting concept, Keith. Now would be a very interesting time to try something like this.

    We have many lower classes of formulae, and many argue too many. What a genius way to pull the spotlight over to something other than F1 or its lower formulae.

    It’d require a good few years of studying and planning, as well as huge investments.

    The problem is timing. Are we too far along now to try something as ‘gung-ho’ as this? Are we living in a world that’s too obsessed with being green, or is F1 simply buckling under pressure?

    Either way, many die-hard F1 fans (and to a certain degree Joe Public) arn’t happy with the direction Formula One’s heading, in the sense the rules and regulations are only being tightened, and as you mentioned, speeds slashed.

    A group would need to be created with designers (cars and tracks) with a huge wealth of experience to discuss how and where something like this could be created. You can’t help but feel a new purpose built track would have to be created in order to hold a race. Certainly this inaugral race would need to be leaning more towards safety than spectacle, to be on the safe(r) side.

    It’s a tremendous opportunity, given the appropriate backing and thought processes, for a group to genuinely be able to say “The fastest race in the world – Period”.

    I don’t think there’s much doubt that it’d create quite the buzz, perhaps even to casual racing fans.

  11. I may be wrong but I thought the max G force in an F1 car was under braking with about 7g being recorded.
    If this is so then to obtain higher speeds the braking distance needs to be increased. Which probably would mean a restriction of the brake pad material and/or the size of the swept area.

  12. I doubt anyone will be able to set up a rival series to compete with F1 mainly because F1 is just too established.

    However I wouldn’t be surprised if at some point in the future a motorsport series which is already currently going, such as Indycar, manages to lap quicker than F1 cars do because of regulation changes.

    You often see comments from fans saying that to improve the racing F1 should do things such as get rid of wings and return to steel brakes, while this would probably work it would also mean F1 cars would be slower than junior series, which is why I think it would never happen.

    The main reason why F1 speeds are restricted is due to safety, and I just don’t see this changing in the future. Cost pressures and environmental concerns may also be factors but if these were the only reasons speeds would still increase but just at a slower rate.

    1. I doubt anyone will be able to set up a rival series to compete with F1 mainly because F1 is just too established

      I think that’s true. Le Mans cars have a lot more freedom but it seems to get largely overlooked. F1’s self promotion of being the best motorsport is arrogant but it’s also how most people still see the sport and I think that’s for a plethora of reasons such as the series still has open cockpits and has Monaco.

      I also agree that safety concerns are the main driving force and not the worry of igniting a spending war (I also think that with restrictions and the ability to change the rules at the drop of a hat help keep the teams competitive though).

      I wish F1 was a bit quicker and perhaps it would be feasible as F1 is getting safer all the time -not that it should be taken for granted- but I’m a little sad when I think that the best motorsport in the world with the best engineers appear quite tame to how they could be.

      To answer Keith’s question it probably happened quite a few years or maybe even decades before Senna’s death as their have always been safety concerns and small acts along the way but Imola was a major catalyst.

  13. What is wrong with level performance? Not really much in my view. The powers that be in F1 could do worse than creating a balance for the multitude of requirements that all the different stake holders have.

    Keeping cost in control is also a good recipe for better entertainment as the field is bigger and relative performance gaps have become smaller. There is more consideration given to prevent top teams from running away with competitive advantages than ever before. As a result we had a thrilling season of 2010.

    Growing performance would be bad news for the circuits and the promoters. One thousand horse power cars sound exciting but such power with the super efficient chassis of today would require a massive increase in circuit safety. Crash zones would have to be increased at massive cost and spectators further removed from the action. It would not be good for the fans.

    Instead we will be seeing a fuel cap and a fuel flow limit that is designed to absorb all the efficiency advances that F1 engineers can achieve by development and better rules. It makes perfect sense. One part of the championship is about the constructors. The best engineers are getting the best results from a fixed budget and a common rule book. It is the same as the engineering contest in real life. The better brains should win and not the bigger pocket books.

  14. I’ve never been one to worry too much about last years laptime and how fast are they now? I’m much more focussed on the level of competition and technical innovation. I really hate that so much is design frozen on an F1 car. I don’t care if a team develops a brilliant solution to something and ends up being 3 seconds faster than everyone else. F1 is not just about pushing the boundaries of speed, but also pushing the limits of ingenuity within the regs. So I guess what I’m saying is reletive speed is more important than ultimate speed to me.

  15. The pursuit of speed strikes me, personally, as a cheap thrill. Yes the speed is phenomenal regardless of a 10kph drop and perhaps you could argue the politics surrounding the limitations is what bothers people, rather than the limitations themselves.

    The thrill for me is working in those limitations, both driver and team. The sheer dynamic of everything this season such as KERS & DRS is fascinating to watch, have to think about and develop.

  16. I am of the feeling that Formula One can only be allowed to get so fast, before it starts to stray too close to the limits of the drivers physiology, to the detriment of the racing and to safety as well.

    Having a certain level of performance, with the method of attainment dictated by the regulations is useful for keeping the sport from stagnation, freshening up the competition and driving progress in different areas of technology.

    To my mind, the main problem in F1, since about the mid 90’s (and especially after the rule change in 1998) is that the cars are now too mathematical and predictable. Whereas in the past, driving was hard because the drivers really had to tame the power of the car, and there was a struggle to keep it on the road through the faster corners, now it is more a matter of aiming it in the right place and having faith in your aerodynamics. Both ways look pretty spectacular, but having unpredictability makes the racing much better, something that we see in the wet, when the grip is more uncertain and the drivers are having to fight the car, making their talent more of a deciding factor in any battle between drivers.

    I think that the rules have held the sport back too much in this regard, and the cars are now too good, there are too few failures, which dulls the racing a little, and the power is toe little for the available grip, as the lack of difference made by getting rid of traction control shows. I agree with what Keith said in a post on “Making Formula One Better” from last year that the cars should have more power than grip, a maxim that need not hold technology back, but would maintain the excitement.

  17. Excellent idea for an article, Keith.

    Personally, I don’t want F1 to get any faster. It’s already dangerous enough. We don’t need more speed. We need more overtaking and better tracks.

    However, I can see a new series developing which is focused on maxing the speed of vehicles. This series would need purpose built tracks with massive run-off areas. I’m thinking something like the landspeed record in the Nevada desert but with 26 competing cars instead of 1. I would definitely watch that!

    I have no problem with F1 not being the fastest series.

    1. me neither. F1 is the pinnacle of innovation and mechanical and aerodynamic ingenuity, and it should remain so ;)

  18. In a quest to improve the show by trying to increase overtaking, the main draw for fans -‘the pursuit of speed’ is being cast to one side.

    1. If you are interested in the speed above all else then surely Nascar, Indycar or drag racing are the disciplines you would be more interested in?

      I am mainly interested in the ‘racing’ aspect, which is why I would prefer to see the rules changed to stop cars trying to overtake being disadvantaged rather than adding 20 miles an hour to everyone’s speed, which wouldn’t actually change the spectator’s experience very much.

  19. Less opinion please Keith, more facts.

    1. Check out the graph above…about as clear cut as you’re going to get!

    2. Neil – what’s your objection to having comment pieces on the site? It’s not as if they’re a new thing.

    3. Fact is, F1 cars have stopped getting faster.

      Opinion and thought is what makes this an interesting read and discussion started of by Keith.

  20. I would say the pursuit for speed ended when Formula 1 realised that speed doesn’t necessarily mean you lap any faster. The Holy Grail of Formula 1 is now no longer your BHP but your downforce % points.

  21. They go fast enough for me. I see no problem at the moment.

    Judging F1 in terms of speed on straights is like assessing dragsters for their cornering ability.

    My best live memory of F1 is watching Mika cornering Becketts in the wet in 1999, not down Hangar Straight. But hey, each to their own.

  22. As I understand it, in an unregulated formula cars would now be able to achieve g-forces in excess of those that human beings can remain conscious at.

    So you would have an issue of cars either being driven remotely or automatically. Either way, it would practically be 100% technology and 0% driver skill and so lose much of its sporting interest (and be more like a space race).

    1. Actually, when thinking about it for a bit, this might be the formula of the future.

      Just imagine how much US/China/Russian/… defence money could flow into F1 if they would be able to create a racing series where the pilot sits in the box, but races the cars at those speeds on a real track.

      Wouldn’t it be just the SW, HW and training programm the military will be looking at for fighter airplanes? Imagine the possibilities without a pilot. And the cost savings from not having someone in there.
      That might just bring it forward, as a training ground and experimental incubator to go on from those UAVs bombing Pakistan/Afganisan.

  23. this is a very interesting topic.

    i’d say its all about compromise. money, safety, speed, excitement. you cannot have all of them so you must make priorities.

    F1 will always adapt to the world at large and now amidst financial woes and environmoental issues f1 had to react. for people who prefer speed and excitement (like me) this seems like a let down and hope that the future will be brighter. i think china could become a major player in 10-20 years time as they become the No.1 ecopnomy and develop their own car industry. (save this comment and post it later when it happens :))

    since we are talking about what could be, what about this: We have a racing series without human drivers. These would be AI machines designed purely for speed. No safety needed so no run off areas, no crumple zones, no safety cars. They could handle 10Gs in the corners and braking zones. It would be a technological showcase and great entertainment. Of course this would not replace conventional motorsport.

  24. The pursuit of speed may not be relevant anymore, but I believe that it is crucial for Formula 1 to constantly be at the forefront of the pursuit of technology. A colourful, 200mp/h, political, noisy glamourous automotive laboratory if you will.

  25. There is a limit to what the Human Body can endure over a long period of time and subjecting the drivers to the kind of G they experience over a 10-15 year career has untold effects, something F1 needs to look into in my opinion. The speed spikes are interesting, there is a big jump in the early 80’s with a constant climb, i was thinking ground effect but i’m sure it was earlier than that?
    I agree most people watch for crashes though, but i think that’s more of a reflection on F1, crashes are the only excitement left, the ever present fear of death is long gone and although i don’t want to see drivers hurt or killed, it was undoubtedly what drew most people to F1 in the 1st place. I’m willing to bet F1 viewing figures went up a fair bit after Ayrtons’ death.

  26. Just bring back CanAm…Seven Litres of ground shaking hell on wheels…sweet!

  27. Excellent analysis. I just wish F1 would be faster than now, same as 2004. It’s not too fast. It’s reasonably fast.

  28. i should read the whole comment trail before i post. i see that several people beat me to it. sorry for that

  29. Formula ‘X’ can not exist for a simple reason. The number in place of the X is smaller as the Formula becomes more important (Formula 3000, Formula 3, Formula 2, Formula 1), therefore Formula X should have X<1. Formula 1/2 sounds bad, as does Formula 0. So Formula 1 is the maximum.

    1. Formula 3000 was the GP2 of its day. Nice try, though.

      Also, Keith, whenever I hit the reply button your website is identifying me as sumedh. Gods knows who it thinks he is…

    2. Formula π?

  30. To be honest, I don’t care one bit about stifling aero rules, nor do I care about F1 not being the fastest possible, as that’s beyond the limits of human survival.

    What I do dislike is the reduction in straight-line speed. I think there should me a maximum level of downforce (if this is measurable) and as long as the cars pass the safety tests, the rest is up to the teams; V12s, turbo V4s, petrol, hydrogen, whatever. At the first race the cars’ bhp will be measured and the amount capped at whoever has the highest, then it’s freed up in the off-season for engineers to have another crack at it. For one, the increased braking distances would be good for overtaking.

    But if there is a remote-controlled Formula X, I look forward to Hamilton being world champion in RC cars again ;-)

  31. While I think todays tech rules are too constraining The last major “unrestricted” series I can recall was the CAN-AM. While it was a wonderful series it was dominated first by McLaren and then by Porsche which in effect killed the series as no one could (or would) compete with the unlimited Porsche turbo motors. I don’t think we want to see technology become the dominate form of competition in F1.

  32. I think even the current level is too fast to be honest, with many challenging corners are now easy flat or very nearly flat. Giving cars more downforce and grip will make corners happen all too quickly. Give cars more power and less grip I say. I would like to see car control skills being more visible to viewer, like Schumacher’s pole lap in 96 Monaco where it was obvious that he was hussling the car like mad. Nowadays cars look too like they are on rails. I’d gladly trade 3-4 seconds a lap.

    Also didnt the Monza circuit change in 2000, 1st chicane was 2 chicanes before and they reprofiled the 2nd one after Curva Grande? Speaking of circuits, they also resurface old tracks with grippier tarmac, make curbs easier to negotiate etc, which contributes to the problem above.

  33. As you say, it’s only a difference of 10kph, hardly a massive difference.

    – 10kph + safety = :)

    Safety will eventually reach it’s peak on the cars, then it will be getting rid of the less safe tracks. Then they should concentrate on making the cars faster.

    And maybe the cars will be faster again in 2011 anyway.

  34. As a follower of F1 since 1967 I appreciate the rule changes to hopefully bring about more passing and an end to the parades after two laps.
    Having been a F5000 formula racing mechanic and a small bore formula driver, I see racing as a competition and a thrill, almost a force of nature the way it can drive people to do things against their own self-interest. As a mechanic, being gridded on the front row for the first seven races of the 1973 Tasman series and the team winning the championship is a thrill that never goes away. Pulling the engine out of a Formula Ford and putting a shaft-drive motorcycle engine to go into the Formula Continental class and ending up second in the championship, my first year of racing as a driver, is another huge sense of satisfaction.
    After seeing Warwick brown’s Lola rolled into a ball at Surfer’s Paradise in 1973, I appreciate the safety of the present days’ race cars and all the effort and rules that have brought that about. Having made an error and going off at turn four at Laguna Seca and hitting the barrier straight on at over 120 MPH, I will always appreciate the modern technology that allowed me to drive home that day(tires don’t work any better on dirt than they do on grass, at that speed. You can turn the wheel but your direction doesn’t).
    All that being said, I have come to see motor racing as an endeavor that definitely has limits in nature. One of those limits is peak oil. It saddens me but since we are bumping up to that limit, I don’t see how F1, or even motor racing itself, can continue on into the indefinite future. At some point, it will have to stop if we continue to use fossil fuel and don’t change over to something else. And if it is not peak oil, then climate change will certainly dampen the enthusiasm for motor racing when people are starving.
    My humble proposal is that F1 leads the way and changes to using hydrogen as a sustainable fuel source. Yes, electric motors don’t make the ground rumble and we could even burn it instead of using fuel cells, but we might be able to see some motor racing competition down the road, thirty or forty years from now.

    1. I’ve thought the exact same thing for a while now, albeit for different reasons.

      Instead of tiddly little “green” initiatives like very low power KERS (which was already in road cars years before), and going back to small turbo engines, why doesn’t the FIA do the obvious?

      Tell teams they can have a homologated V8, or a completely unrestricted Hydrogen engine. Just like the turbo era, there will be a period where H2 engines are either too heavy, underpowered, or slow, but the teams know that the single golden thing in F1 is opportunity. If you’re first in with an idea, and get it working, you’re the pacesetter. See the Double diffuser, Red Bull’s rear packaging, Carbon Fibre, Turbo, active suspension, etc etc etc etc etc. First out of the gate with a working new technology will be the winner.

      And I can see F1 teams driving the development of H2 engines far further, and faster, than I can see them “leading” the development of KERS technologies.

    2. John Cousins
      2nd March 2011, 5:11

      Hydrogen is a great idea and can be produced easily by wind/solar etc.
      But don’t use Hydrogen in fuel cells… Simply burn it in a conventional engine. The only real emmission is H20 and that way we retain the sound!
      I can’t say I could watch electric cars race. It would remind me too much of scalextric!

  35. Restriction in regulations are necessary, otherwise it would be endless refination, no innovation.

    In two years all the cars have the same fducts, the same double diffusers, the same whachimacolits. Imagine 20 years with the same regulations!!

    You have to restrict things to allow genious to shine. Innovation comes from a need to surpass a constraint.

    Let’s put the constraints in order to help realworld cars. Hybrids, safety, electronics, gas. One at a time, so every year, we find ourselve more or less in the same place, but innovation is what makes you upfront of others.

  36. I find Keith’s wording to be pretty disingenuous. Except for a dip in 1988, when turbochargers were banned, the lap speeds rise until the year 1994. Keith presents this as:

    “Somewhere along the line the governing body decided it wasn’t enough merely to limit the rate of development.”

    The deaths of two drivers that year does not, apparently, merit a mention as a potential reason to attempt to limit the speeds that F1 cars are capable of attmepting.

    1. I haven’t ignored safety at all. It’s mentioned in the second paragraph. Ayrton Senna and Roland Ratzenberger are not the only drivers to have lost their lives since 1976.

  37. The end of the tyre war probably had some impact. I know that as the times tumbled because of the tyres that the FIA were having to find other wars of controlling speeds anyhow (and the graph at Monza from 06-07 doesn’t change much). However, when Bridgestone were the only tyre manufacturer it felt like they stopped going for outright speed as they had noone to compete with and that they just wanted to showcase very good, solid tyres which was very clear last year I felt.

  38. I do not understand why people are so much against constant rule changing. What is the problem with forcing designers and engineers to be creative? I know Formula 1 could have kept their rules from 1980, and just kept them the same. Would we then have seen the double diffuser? Would we have seen traction control? Would we have seen KERS? Would we have seen an f-duct? Would we have seen a front exhaust or a split roll hoop?

    My best guess is no. I have learned that in a design or ideaprocess, you have to know the term “kill your darlings”. You have to stop using time in something that will not work, or will not get better without a gigantic amount of effort. On the short term it might give some speed to have the same regulations. But in the developement of new technologies, changes the rules constantly is key. This forces people to go new ways, and keeps teams from spending big sums of money on tiny improvements.

  39. Just to answer the question in a slightly different way – I think that, possibly, the idea of creating an unrestricted ‘Formula-X’ championship entirely in the virtual world could quite easily become a TV sport in itself. A governing body could set up a range of tracks in a virtual world with as-close-to-real-world physics as possible and then let teams design, ‘build’ and enter their cars into virtual races on them. Drivers could control them in immersive virtual reality so they would ‘be there’ without the hassle of unsurvivable G’s. Computing power is such now that it’d be easy to have virtual cameras to cover every conceivable angle of a race and present it completely photo-realistically.

    Of course it would never replace real life motor sport, but it’d be fun. ;)

  40. I had this idea for a feature where current F1 drivers could drive old cars on a simulator up against another old racer’s lap time round the same track. Could be great fun.

    You could even take it a level up and simulate a race using one of the new drivers in a simulator up against a grid of say, 1980’s finest, at Monaco, for example.

    It’s just another way that F1 could flex its technical muscles whilst still appealing to current, old, and new fans.

  41. Formula1 HAD & HAS always been about who is the fastest driver! – it’s a race! This turns into how fast a car could get around track…the problem is track limits would eventually be reached! its a simple fact. If you were to let cars get faster and faster there would be reduced safety,overtaking and so on…

    Classic tracks would become extinct due to the lack of entertainment as we see drivers follow each other at silly speeds & are unable to overtake each other due to track limits…

    Could we continue to get faster? & at what cost?

    Yes we could but new tracks would have to be built, wider & longer than we have now to accomadate the goals which have been set – fastest cars, fastest drivers.

    The sport has took the good turn in going ‘slower’ if you can say that lol…the cars are still extremely fast and just in the limits of track capabilitys.

    Formula1 will continue to be great as long as the entertainment is always there and drivers have to drive the car (no traction control etc).

    this then concludes to if you want to see even more advances and increased speed in the sport then prepare to make the ultimate sacrifice – extinction of all current tracks. Monaco has pretty much reached its limits. – overtaking nearly entirely stopped there.

    1. Interesting point for Monaco.

      Wonder whether the wing activation zone will be the tunnel, rather than the finishing straight. Or perhaps the run down to the hairpin after casino square.

      For what its worth, I think we lost enough people in F1 in the past due to the endless pursuit of speed over all else.

      When I see some of the fatalities in the past, you just wonder how many of those would have been saved, or OK in the current regime (i.e had their been barriers on circuits and gravel traps, had there been carbon fibre monocoques gilles villenueve may well have survided his horrendous crash).

      While I’d like to see the regs opened up (i.e turbo engines and a capacity limit, but no specified format) somewhat, F1 needs to remember it was not so long ago that lost lives were considered part of the game.

      Keith, I know thats not what you’re implying (speed at all costs)..

      whenever debates like this come up I think back to reading Jackie Stewarts autobiography, where he has a photo in there with about 16 drivers (4 of which were are still with us).

      I’m quite happy to accept slightly slower ultimate speed, as long as good safe racing can be achieved. But with innovation and excitement.

      Good racing is not necessarily about ultimate speed for me. Its about how exciting the racing is.

  42. To be honest Indy is kind of doing a bit better than F1
    in terms of faster cars. In the near future Indy cars could end up being faster than F1 cars. I read an interesting article on this I will try to find a link.

  43. Rules are so strict, in a way that they leave almost no room for different interpretations. Instead of saying: “You must have a 1.6 liter 4 cylinder engine and a kers system that produces 150 horsepower for 7 seconds”, why not say: “Your car can only use x liters of (normal) fuel in a race, it can have no more than 700 horsepower and you can only spend y million dollars a year on the design of (parts of) your car.
    That would have about the same effect in terms of limiting speed and cost, but would leave tons more room for teams to invent new ways to get the job done.

  44. Lets seperate the cars from the tracks. Cars first.

    The pursuit for maximum BHP is not and will not ever be a secondary concern to any constructor, its the most important thing under their control (Im ignoring tyres as they are as important as power for laptime, you can go through periods of having a single supplier, wheras the moment F1 has a single external engine supplier it dies). However, the formula was never about having the most power full stop of any series, nor was it about having the highest top speed.
    Formula One is about racing the best racing cars in the world. Not the ultimate, the best. Are they? Yes. I may be wrong, but Im sure the regulations also allow for a Grand Prix to be held on an oval, and with adjustments to wings, gearing and the engine which would all be with the regs, they could thrash an oval (even if it will never happen).

    I personally dont have a problem if the FIA change regs to slow cars down and then allow them to get faster again. The problem is constantly slowing them down. The cars are underpowered as it is, for the downforce they have, but as the 2013 regs are meant to cause the cars to spend less of a lap at full throttle, this could massively improve things. Even the engine regs will work if they are kept stable and development is allowed – the cars will speed up.

    The tracks are a concern. In my eyes F1 is about racing at the best tracks, and while we do visit some corkers, there are a lot of duds, and Im talking about billiard table smooth, identical distances, same designer, and identical gradient (ie flat) tracks on the calendar. The run off doesnt worry me – as long as it doesnt interfere with the racing which at the moment it is – as safety is clearly important. Its just we have lost the amazing vairety in tracks. So many tracks are too short for F1 and some are too long to be marshalled. They dont need to be all 5km. Some can be flat out screamers – old Hockenheim. Others classic road course layout, with large gradients, and without the mess of hairpins and fast corners for the sake of it. And yes, some can be autodromes and street circuits.

    Although in the end, as long as F1 is about the best racing drivers in the best cars at the best tracks, it will survive – it has too much history and prestige behind it.

    Oh, and moving to remote controlled cars is a stupid idea. Nobody – I repeat nobody – will turn for a GP and F1 will die.

  45. The fluctuating lap times in that chart are more dependent on weather and track condition than regulations but there is undoubtedly a performance ceiling and has been for a while.

  46. What if someone did a rival series with faster cars?
    Someone did. In the early 90s Group C cars were as quick or quicker on many circuits. Massive downforce, V-12s, massive turbo boost, made for some extraordinary cars. And they were leading edge by any means technically. It’s a disputed story, but it seems the FIA tried to kill it by requiring the use of the same motors as F1. There was also the recession, of course. But one could assume that, under the FIA umbrella, no rival, faster series would prosper.

    FIA long knives aside, presumably someone would try again now if the financial proposition were there. And as many have pointed out, faster doesn’t necessarily mean more expensive. CART used to scream all day about how they were the fastest series in the world, and it was much cheaper than F1. Technically true both, but it rang hollow around the world, and CART/Indy never came close to achieving the same reputation as F1.

    So maybe F1 has set the bar for speed at the right point. Noone complains that an Audi R-15 could theoretically dust the field at a GP, and no one complains that the speeds create unmanageable risks.

    Also, one great effect of the speed-diminishing rule changes is how it forces the engineers to recoup speed with less and less technical ambit. Look at how basic the 09 cars looked compared to now, 2 years later, and look how much performance has been recovered since they were stripped of their myriad aero devices and had increase structural requirements put on them. It is thrilling to see that.

    1. Noone complains that an Audi R-15 could theoretically dust the field at a GP, and no one complains that the speeds create unmanageable risks.

      As much as a techical marvel the Audi R15 is, I respectfullly would like to make this observation.

      No it couldnt.

      An F1 car would not be able to complete the 24hrs of Le Mans, and the R15 would be launguishing as the back of the F1 grid.

  47. When ever this argument comes up, it always ends up with a bunch of people, even the majority, which I find hard to handle, going on about being too fast, too unsafe, too expensive, blah blah.

    Human endevour is to make man better at what he does, and when an F1 car is being beaten for pure top end speed by a road car, then we’re not really pushing boundaries in the purest sense of a series all about who can get somewhere fastest.

    So, my suggestion : the F1P exhibition league. A prototype league, with a funding cap, but with the rulebook rewritten to allow a blank canvas approach to the concept of the race car. Safety is paramount of course, but we’ve be on top the in car safety for some time and arguably, the open cockpit is a disadvantage both aerodynamically and safety wise. Otherwise designers can use whatever techniques they want to employ in the design and production of the cars.

    This F1P league would allow the Adrian Neweys of the world to venture to create the fastest possible cars they can imagine.

    The challenges of this wil be different to the current cars, handling cars at such extreme speeds will be physically demanding and human strength and fitness will be crucial. Cornering speeds will require neck protection and when the speed of the car is greater than a driver can handle, the differential factor becomes the driver.

    Needless to say, tracks will have to accommodate the speed, perhaps with huge textured runoffs that scrub speed.

    There is a lot of discussion here, way more than one post can possibly allow, but for the sake off humanitys push in to the unreachable it should be done, after all, it’s only an exhibition league.

    Please don’t reply complaining about safety for fans and drivers a like. That’s a given. The principle is allowing the development of vehicles to their foremost achievable potential, and then racing them. Think Everest, moon landings, the bottom of the ocean, the sound barrier, the circumnavigation of the globe… Think of the reason humanity pushes forward, despite the danger.. That’s the F1P league.

    1. Not a million miles off Keiths ‘Formula X’ in principle. But a different F1 flavour and a lot more ‘human endeavour’ notion.

      1. So the best driver is the one that can stand the most ‘Gs’ ?

        Do we recruit these ‘drivers’ from lower formula or from the air force ?

        1. Are you making a point?

        2. The other way around, the best go into the airforce, as they will have even faster cornering by then!

          1. Bloodhound SSC will do 1000mph….. doesn’t really do corners though ;)

      2. But you would have to run it a bit like Rally, with the cars on track separately to get the ultimate lap in. That might still be a nice format though.
        Just think of doing a real on track battle with those speeds (although fighter airplanes do so as well).

        1. why? At what speed do you decide, ok.. we need to separate them? 200? 210? 250?

          1. Good question. I don’t think it is just the speed, but the concentration needed just to run on track.
            But if these cars will have drive by wire, which they will defenitely have, engineers can probably counter that by having the computer assist to allow the driver to race.

    2. That’s some cool ideas – but was F1 really ever about going fastest as the prime goal? That might sound silly, but I think that cars in every series are designed not only to go as fast as possible but to be on average the best over a certain race distance on certain types of tracks – which doesn’t necessarily translate into pure top speeds, since many other things have to be calculated into the designs. So you’re always going to have to compromise top speeds. Which doesn’t mean that F1 can’t/shouldn’t be faster. I guess the moment they started drastically reducing the number of engines allowed per year the speeds were inevitably going to come down in favour of reliability.

      1. F1 is constantly slowing down for safety reasons, and in the pursuit of refinement and manufacturer interests.

        Reaching the finish line before the competition is the name of the game in any form of racing. Being fast is important in that. Cornering is also important. It’s all in the balance.

        But F1 was and should be the all round fastest road car series IMO. F1P should be about pushing the limits to the technical potential, and seeing where the differential lies. It’s the point of human en devour, to go beyond our known boundaries.

  48. In terms of ‘speed’, F1 isn’t even the FIA’s ‘speediest’ series.

    Would anyone want to make a car that was better at doing what an F1 car does around the same circuits? They probably would and probably could, and probably for a fraction of the cost that F1 does it at. But the FIA and FOM would probably make life very difficult indeed for any series within its grasp that may look like it’s about to steal F1s thunder.

    For example, I’m told that the Superleague V12 4.2 litre engined cars are running in a relatively low state of tune. 750 bhp @ 12,000rpm from 4.2 litres isn’t really pushing the boat out (nice noise though). But speed isn’t the be-all-and-end-all of motor sport.

  49. I’m in the States, when I was a small boy I loved NASCAR. That series relegated technology to reign-in costs (although that’s honestly a farce because they still put a lot of engineering money into their cars)and focuses on so-called entertainment value. That was all good and great but at a certain point I grew an interest in engineering and discovered F1. All of a sudden NASCAR started looking like a cheesy reality show.I know that in order to pay for the show F1 needs some “entertainment-value” to lure in non-nerds. However, was it constant overtaking or a level-playing field or driver-drama that brought the 100K+ crowds to the old Nurburgring races? They would be lucky to see a car every 5 minutes once things got underway, much less any superficial “drama”. They came in droves to see all-out machines and heroically courageous drivers. That plus the noise was enough! If you think that F1 should head towards the NASCAR way of doing things, go watch football instead. I don’t watch F1 because it’s “relevant” (green) or entertaining in a tabloid way. I watch it because it’s an extraordinary adventure of speed, engineering, and courage in a world where iPhones pass as exciting engineering and the Concorde is grounded, along with the Space Shuttle after this year.

    1. Well come on – the Concorde was just old; and same goes for NASA’s space shuttles – they really are an outdated technology that has done its duty, but it’s really time to figure out lighter, faster, cheaper ways to get into orbit. And it’s all good to be an engine purist, but what do you want, times change and you gotta roll with.

      1. Yes,the Concorde is old, same with the Shuttle, that’s what gruffs me. There are no replacements in sight. We can’t do anything anymore unless it’s done “economically” or “sustain-ably”. True, economic restraint is a virtue, but if you hold to it like God’s law banality will be the result. I just like seeing limits being pushed. How ’bout we all drive eco-cars to feel good about our-selfs and watch uber-f1 as an escape? KERS and fuel restrictions are not going to save any polar bears (and 1000bhp engines didn’t kill any either). I Don’t care that pneumatic valves and carbon brakes will never make it to my VW. I watch racing for Speed not relevance!

        1. Actually I know quit a lot of people happy with economic engines as it saves them a lot of money and stops when travelling, not for “feeling good” by being eco-minded.

          Why would you enjoy throwing away heaps of money, material and time invested in using a basically one-use space shuttle?
          Or having a car that is gas guzzling but achieves the same speed and comfort.

    2. You do have a point, there.

      NASCAR went “low cost” with efectively a kit car, but still the biggest teams spend crazy amounts of money to get the little details right. Same is F1 with aero spending.

      And the Concorde and Space shuttle are a bit of the same. Taking innovation and then putting it one way and never look back from that path. Then suddenly NASCAR is losing crowds, the Concorde is dumped for safety, noise and environmental reasons (gas guzzling was too expensive) and the space shuttle was already an outdated concept before it made its first flight.

      But we have no alternatives, as they were so expensive to maintain nothing was left for innovation. So that is what is needed. Keep a reallity check on everything, and cost control to limit throwing away the money.

      Wow, that was a rant!

  50. A lot of comments about an extreme racing series making it more about the driver. It doesn’t need to have extremes of speed, G-forces, etc. Nowadays Eau Rouge is a fright, but achievable by all drivers. Yet Kovalainen said last year that in his inferior (not his words) Lotus it was a challenge. Isn’t it revealing that the benchmark for speed Keith cited is at the track with the lowest downforce setting? This is where track design comes into it; every track nowadays seems to have 15+ corners, all dependant on good aero. If we have more Monzas, it might be a good start.

  51. Ok, so the lap time today is a little slower than the high water mark, but doesnt that make the 2010 fastest lap a little more fascinating? Despite the teams being regulated, restricted and scrutineered more on safety, isnt it great that the cars are still blitzing around the tracks in such quick times?

    Although motorsport is about being the ultimate racer in the ultimate car, the day of having massive engines which guzzle petrol quicker than a Geordie necking his pint on a night out, I think the move towards slightly slower cars for better performance is the right thing.

    We know how fast cars can go, and probably could go if they werent quite as restricted, but I think finding out how fast/far F1 cars can go on the smallest ammount to be the next logical step. Oil is getting more expensive, found largely in unstable regions of the world. The average regular car driver will want their car to go further on a tank of fuel compared with 20 years ago. Manufacturers respond to this demand, and try to make their cars as efficient as possible whilst maintaining a decent amount of power/torque/speed. To do this, they must develop their technologies in motorsport, i.e. F1.

  52. I don’t want to weigh in on this argument, I just want to say that I miss Montoya. I wish he could have found a happy home in F1 instead of defecting to Nascar.

  53. Some things I’ve never gotten. I mean, if you want to watch an overtaking fest and speed doesn’t matter, watch touring cars, or go carts or something. I’m a newish F1 fan, been watching sense 2008. I used to watch NASCAR before that, and the first thing I thought when I saw F1 for the first time was, “wow, they look way faster than NASCAR!” From, then on, I’ve been an avid F1 fan, becuase, on a road course (which is the most similar to the roads we drive on every day) basically no car is faster. And if F1 ceases to be the fastest road racing series on the planet, then I, and I suspect many of the drivers themselves, would change series.

  54. You cannot make cars go faster after a certain point, this is probably the fastest they can get at the moment, maybe a little faster like a few years ago.

    If cars become a lot quicker, overtaking will be near impossible, there will be a lot more crashes, it will become too hard for the drivers with increased G-force.

    A human body can only take so much, imagine a race with corners taken at 9G or more, impossible for a whole race, and the concentration level would be insane, brake 1/10th of a second too late and you’re gone.

    Therefore making cars faster is not an option, they are plenty fast enough !

    Unless of course you create new tracks made for a brand new type of car, but not faster cars on f1 tracks.

  55. Haven’t time to read everyone’s comments but here’s mine:

    Ban wings. Have a degree of ground effect for faster corner speeds, and allow as much boost as people want, however this will be combined with fuel restrictions.

    The wings are what have ruined close racing. I always make the comparison to MotoGP, where they have more power than grip and no downforce and the racing is awesome. I just watched the ’07 season review and the race at Catalunya was incredible – look it up on youtube if you haven’t seen it. Tell me when the last time was that racing like that for the lead happened in F1…

    The changes to the cars have been done to control corner speeds primarily, at least in the last few years. But they are also in place to improve racing. F1 is all about the entertainment now, rather than pure speed or building the best car possible. So go the whole way – get rid of the areas of the cars that limit good, close racing – i.e. the front wings – reintroduce a degree of ground effect which is not affected by the wake of the car in front, and that should sort it out.

    End.

  56. I wonder how long it will be before the engine size gets below 998cc

  57. uh that monza graph is bad.
    all it shows is the times when the engine regulations were reduced.

    cmon keith, you should know that. take a look at melbourne or another track that isnt 100% engine-based and has been little changed for many years. I know, for sure, that in Melbourne we’ll get a much different picture to the one you showed.

    1. Great point Dave!

      I remember this last season that Vettel was lapping faster at Melbourne than any driver had since Schumacher in 04!

      Anyone else remember/can verify that? I think the commentators on Speed is where I heard it from.

    2. that monza graph is bad.

      all it shows is the times when the engine regulations were reduced.

      cmon keith, you should know that.

      I do know that. It’s a big part of the point of the article.

  58. I don’t think it will ever come back, the more days it will go I believe F1 will be slower as they are trying to reduce cost & because of the aero rule which is to provide more downforce & the cars are getting heavier it will be tough to do lap time like they did in 2004.

  59. The current F1 is all about chicanes and hairpins and then a straight to cool the engines.

    F1 shouldn’t be about economy, we have other racing categories that cater to that need.
    Speed need not involve high costs.
    Constant changes in the regulations only add to the cost and deduct from the spectacle which only tends to bankrupt the smaller teams.

  60. @Maciek.
    The concorde maybe old and the Shuttle approaching that status, it is however an indictment of the current state of engineering that with the advances made in the area of computing we are yet unable to surpass these things made in the era of the sliderule.

    Even the designers of the Aries crew compartment module had to go back to the designs of the Apollo command and sercice modules to find out how they did the in-orbit module seperation.
    The relationship with F1 is that we are having few brave and bold thinkers and are looking towards a committee to make basic design decisions.
    Why I agree with AWiley is that F1 to all intent and purpose isn’t practical, old technology or not, and since I won’t be driving an F1 car to the supermarket, I need not be bothered about things like MPG or windshield wipers.

  61. speeds irrelevant now, speed thru corners is fun but if you go to a race they are plenty fast enough, probably too quick to see properly. on telly of course it would be great if they did 300mph but i think the 100k or so who actually pay wouldnt be thrilled at sitting in the next county to guarantee safety.

    An armchair fans argument basically

  62. There is no end to the pursuit of speed.

    Formula 1 teams will always wanting to be faster and faster. And every time when the rules change, you can see a dip in speed and within a couple of years the speed is on the same level as before, as you can see in the graph.

    One of the reasons for the dip in speed is that the FIA cares about public awareness. And public awareness concerns safety, environment and costs.

    IMHO It is not the intention to keep performance at a certain level, but when performance exceeds restrictions in (one or more of) these three areas, the FIA has to do something about it.

    I don’t think that’s a bad thing. I even encourage it, because I think the Formula 1 must be trendsetting, not trend following. Engineers are smart enough to get the most out of the new regulations. Besides it encourages innovation, which in turn can be used in other areas, like environmental healthy high performance engines.

    Maybe in some parts the restrictions have gone too far, like the engine freeze or the Tilke circuits, but in general I approve the direction the FIA is taking.

    But a free regulation formula (as a separate class) is not a bad idea, as long as it is within the limits of cost, safety and environment.

  63. bit simplistic, the shuttle was in service for 30 years and a video’d crash was the catalyst for it being eventually shelved. Concorde was finished by the Paris crash that video’d the plane on fire, it first saw the light of day in 1968 so hardly a poor run.

    You can state a case for video’d events losing the publics confidence but not for obselete tech reasons

    1. But both were just looking for a reason to call it. Both were way to expensive to make sense, so the decision to take them out of service was coming for a long time.

      Actually they were far to expensive, to get anyone seriously into finding a better, cheaper way (i.e. wasting less ressources in the proces) to get there, in effect hampering further progress.

  64. Te question then becomes, wat purpose does F1 serve? If it is just motosport entertainment, then it is not doing a good job of it vis a vis the assocated costs. But if it is high performance
    motosport prototypes, then it is serving its purpose.
    There are well over 50 categories and sub categories of motor sport catering to specific needs. We should make F1 safer but we don’t have to make F1 about electric cars. Another category can be created for that purpose.

    Regulations provide the constraints to which all teams must strive to overcome. And teams will always strive to go faster that was how RedBull won last year, by being faster.
    But speed can be achieved in two ways, straight line speed or and cornering speed. If the FIA feels cornering speeds are the most dangerous parts of the equation, then takeaway all the downforce. If its the straight line speed, then limit the power of the engines.

    But if its alternative power or other eco themes they are after, then they should introduce it in touring cars or formula ford. When I want to watch eco, i tune to the Tour de France.

  65. kowalsky

    manual gear changes and bumpy tracks. simples.

  66. Could BMW be hopping onto the flexible traction concepts in sportscar racing/LeMans in the future? http://www.nrc.nl/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/2011-03-01T093543Z_01_GVA07_RTRMDNP_3_AUTOSHOW-GENEVA.jpg
    That car looks pretty exiting.
    I think, that if F1 does not move on towards exiting new engine options it could really develop into obscurity.

  67. why not let the FIA design the cars for the whole grid. then they will be able to control how little or how much they spend on the cars. also, we will then be able to see who really are the fastest drivers?

    1. The essence of Formula 1 is that each team designs it’s own car. So that should stay.

      There are a lot of other race types that use a single chassis (like SuperLeague, Indycar, etc) and I don’t think that’s the way F1 should go if it wants to keep ‘the pinnacle of motor sports’ label.

  68. theRoswellite
    1st March 2011, 18:41

    Incredible…I’ve never seen so many truly varied ideas! (remotely controlled cars, Formula X, FIA designed cars)

    So, in the spirit of the thread how about the following…

    Overall lap times can be reduced, I think this was the original question, and relative corner speeds maintained within the safety constraints of the current tracks by allowing movable aerodynamic devices. The cars could have a totally straight line low drag configuration and a high down force cornering configuration, and of course all the settings in between. This is the direction the regs are headed now with the rear wing….all possible…but perhaps not desirable as this would, through the disruption of the static air mass, make passing even more problematic.

    An answer….to both the speed question and the passing problem?

    Excess hp (electro-enhancement continued and increased as a percentage of overal hp), low drag cars (no wings), larger tires (increased cornering speed), and moveable suspensions (increased cornering speeds)…all of these could be immediately implemented. As you can see, they would decrease lap times with the massively reduced overall drag, improve a following cars ability to stay closer to the car ahead by taking advantage of the lower drag zone which is created, thus improving passing.

    Simple.

    And a final benifit….you would see the return to car racing, not “aircraft” racing.

    Of course there is no chance that this will be done, except in slow incremental steps, as it would require a step into the unknown and the billion dollar enterprise that is presently F1 is if nothing else…conservative.

  69. The problem, as far as I can see it, is that we are now generating levels of G-force – especially with the more efficient carbon fibre brakes – that the human body can endure. It’s all very well having the best, fittest drivers in the world driving the cars, but there are already some corners where the sheer force of the blood in the brain causes momentary blackouts.

    Now imagine a crash like Senna’s, or worse, where two cars collide and someone’s killed. And it’s caused by the driver blacking out at the wheel through excessive Gs. Can you imagine the backlash?

    Perhaps the answer maybe isn’t to limit the speeds, but to limit the overall package. Sure, top speeds make headlines, but can we afford to limit G force by restricting the brakes. Or, on the other hand – can we afford not to?

    1. theRoswellite
      1st March 2011, 21:18

      @SC…and limiting the size of the brakes extends the braking zone, which correspondingly limits the accelerating zone from the previous corner in numerous situations which would then decrease the speed of corner entry thus reducing the G-forces you correctly commented on.

      Also, if the concern is lateral G-forces, a most direct way to see a decrease is to reduce the area of the contact patch by reducing the width of the tire, the introduction of tread or the alteration of the coefficient of adhesion in the tire compound…unfortunately all of which increases the importance of the down force coming from the wings and we are right back to the passing problem we are now trying to address.

  70. Formula 1 should stay at the forefront of speed and quickness in motor racing, yes. But I’d question whether that is the be all and end all. Already they are not the ‘fastest’ cars, as relative to IndyCar ovals, F1 circuits don’t provide for near constant 200+mph open-wheel racing.

    The problem for F1 is that the fundamental formula has been exploited to the maximum and it needs an overhaul. Racing at any level is meaningless without some kind of formula, but F1 has more or less maximized the design on cars that depend on downforce. Teams have poured too much money and have realized too much success in designing incredibly quick and highly nuanced cars. Of course, this has degraded the show (in the eyes of some) over time, as the general design evolution of F1 cars is not conducive to on-track passing (as witnessed in Abu Dhabi 2010).

    Unfortunately, the sport’s response over the last decade has been to tinker with the formula and to introduce gadgets (KERS, moveable wings, etc) instead of taking the brave approach of reworking the fundamental formula into something that produces the best cars, of course within broad formulaic constraints – essentially hitting the reset button. So, get rid of the wings and put on big, fat tires and let the teams develop those cars until, in 20 or 30 years, that formula starts to fail to produce good racing.

    Outright speed comes and goes, but ultimately there are practical, safety and biological limits to how fast people can drive racing cars. I’m more interested in watching racing that is, yes fast and quick, but is also unfettered by compromises and patchwork solutions in an artificial attempt to ‘spice up the show’. If they start turning on the sprinklers in the middle of F1 races as yet another proxy solution for finding a formula that presents teams with new and more viable challenges, and provides fans with out-and-out racing that isn’t muddled with gadgets and add-ons, I may not tune in any longer.

  71. Speed isn’t everything, but I do agree that the regulations are way too tight.

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