Formula One is a realistic option for younger drivers like Max Verstappen because the cars have become much easier to drive, according to current racers.
F1 cars are around five seconds per lap slower than they were ten years ago for various reasons including smaller engine capacities, less grippy tyres and tighter restrictions on aerodynamics, which has made them easier to drive.
Asked if he was ready to race in Formula One at the age of 17, which is how old Verstappen will be when he makes his debut next year, Nico Rosberg said: “I tested a Formula One car at 17 and driving-wise I would have been ready, I feel, but the limitation at the time was physically.”
“That was a big limitation because at the time it was still V10 [engines], big downforce – I’m not sure if more downforce than now but the tyre grip was higher, things like that. That was the big limitation for me at the time as a 17-year-old.
“But nowadays it is a little bit easier, physically, definitely, so that will help.”
Felipe Massa, who began his F1 career during the V10 era, agreed: “In Formula One I started, I was 20, I think it was a little bit to early for me.”
“And I really agree with what Nico said, physically at that time it was a lot more difficult than now. Now I would say the race is very easy on the physical point of view, which is easier for a young driver to learn and to understand.
“But at that time it was a lot more difficult on the physical point of view.”
In-race refuelling, which was banned at the end of 2009, also made for more tiring races, Massa added: “The physical, to be harder or easier, is related first of all to the refuelling. This is the first point. And then on that time we had a lot more grip on the tyres as well.”
“So I think that’s the two things that makes more difficult for us to drive the car, to have more grip. When we had the refuelling we were maximum 60 kilos in the car, 55 kilos all the time, so it was a lot quicker most of the laps. So that’s why it was a lot more difficult on the physical point of view.”
However Rosberg said the priority for F1 now should be to create exciting races rather than increase the physical demand on the drivers.
“In the first instance we’re here for the fans, we need to do great racing,” he said. “And at the moment we’re seeing great racing so that’s a big positive. That’s the first and most important thing.”
“And then we need to work on things like the sound, which seems to be quite important to the fans, which I can understand. So those are the sort of things that are important.
“Then, from a drivers’ point of view, yes, in and ideal world… I mean, it’s great as it is. That’s a fact. But maybe it would be a little bit better if I could do [qualifying] laps every lap with the tyres lasting forever, just proper qualifying every single lap in the race and harder physically, all that would make it slightly better, yes.
“But I don’t really think about that because it is the way it is and it’s great the way it is now.”
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