Sergio Perez, Force India, Circuit de Catalunya, 2017

F1 shouldn’t get hung up about its looks – or sound

CommentPosted on | Author Keith Collantine

“Ugly” shark fins and T-wings. “Terrible” engine noise. An insufficiently orange McLaren.

Launch season used to be when the new cars appeared and everyone tried to figure out what the designers were up to, how the cars work and how quick they might go.

This year it seems as though Formula One has become obsessed with its appearance. And it isn’t just objections from fans; Lewis Hamilton railed at the “terrible” engine sounds in two separate interviews ahead of the Mercedes W08 launch. In one he added for good measure that his new car “looks like a boat”.

Stoffel Vandoorne, McLaren, Circuit de Catalunya, 2017
F1 testing day four in pictures
He’s not alone: Christian Horner has been complaining about the reappearance of shark fins and revealed he tried to get them banned.

Somewhere along the lines Formula One forgot it is supposed to be the technological pinnacle and started chasing an arbitrary aesthetic standard. This is futile, as it invariably comes down to being a matter of taste.

Perhaps it was inevitable. One stated goal of the 2017 regulations was to make the cars look better. As someone who saw the narrower new cars appear in 1998, I was pleased to see them reverse a change I didn’t care for the first time around.

But I find myself less willing to offer views on how the cars should look. I have done before, but I increasingly feel we’re all doing rather too much of it.

Compared to the public reaction to many of the 2017 cars it makes a refreshing change to hear the views of the engineers. What matters to them isn’t the noise of the engine but the soundness of the design. Not the aesthetics of its surfaces but whether it looks fast.

Debating how attractive the cars are is harmless enough up to a point. But classifying each innovation as ‘pretty’ or ‘ugly’ misses the point of why they’re there.

Besides which, as the well-worn cliche goes, ‘beauty is in the eye of the beholder’. Why bother judging the cars on standards most of us aren’t going to agree on anyway?

Was the Tyrrell P34 beautiful? Was the Lotus 72? Was the Benetton B191? Perhaps not by the standards of the time.

But the point is their creators didn’t care how they looked, they only cared how fast they went. They all went fast enough to win races, and that should be all that matters.

Maybe the problem is not so much how the cars look or sound, but the fact that the regulations offer no room for alternatives. We now have a grid full of cars with Brabham BT52 front wings and Jordan EJ15 rear wings. Do these designs still strike us the way they did when they were the only examples in the field? I’m not convinced.

The same goes for engine noise. Rightly or wrongly, manufacturers have for years been restricted to a single engine format. These weren’t altered in the interest of changing the engine noise, but it’s happened as a side effect. Lift those restrictions and we’d be treated to an array of different noises.

But already a hue and cry is going up that the FIA must ban shark fins and T-wings for 2018. Surely Formula One’s rules are already restrictive enough on grounds of costs without adding aesthetic restrictions as well?

The cars all look fundamentally very similar. Perhaps we should appreciate the differences a little bit more.

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113 comments on “F1 shouldn’t get hung up about its looks – or sound”

  1. I agree with you that there is too much restriction in the regulations, but I am not convinced releasing these restrictions will lead to much more variety, as all engineers are looking for that single optimum solution.

    The 80s proved that with the engine, where we had different engine specs in the late 70s and early 80s, but by the mid 80s everybody had a 1.5L turbo engine, with the only difference the amount of cylinders (4 or 6) and more or less the same sound. Releasing those restrictions won’t bring back a V8, V10 or V12 as the turbo engine is much more efficient.

    1. “for that single optimum solution” This is true up to a point. The Ferrari and Mercedes this year offer the best examples. They have very different philosophies for their car, thus they look different, and if you opened up the regs, would probably continue to diverge from each other. Its also possible they would converge to the single optimal solution, but at least the regs give designers the freedom to try out different options.

  2. I think the old saying, “What looks right is right”, applies here. It’s no accident that the Merc has been the best looking car for three years now (four years if you think it’s still the best as I do). But you’re absolutely right as regards constricting regulations. Allowing more freedom to design is the spur to competition – note that most of the “leap forward” innovations in F1 have come from the smaller teams. Manufacturer and rich teams don’t need to take chances with flights of imagination but smaller teams have to innovate if they’re ever to break through to the front.

    1. As stated a question of taste.
      I think the Toro Rosso is two years on a row the best looking car. But obviously not the fastest…

      1. I think people are confusing best looking car to best livery.

    2. Innovation in F1 hasn’t come from the smaller teams in more than 30 years, unless you’re talking about the sort of stuff that grows out of the need to be clever with cost saving (i.e. Marussia wrapping exhaust components in heat-reflective tape). The manufacturer or multi-national backed teams just compete to outspend their rivals the second technical restrictions are lifted.

      1. @optimaximal The last leap forward was the double diffuser introduced by Brawn. You can say that Brawn was really Honda in disguise but the fact is that they were virtually penniless, avoided extinction only narrowly and would have been nowhere without the DD.

        1. Come on… the car was developed entirely using Honda money – it’s well documented that they developed two chassis with different concepts after writing off the 2008 season early.

          Given that they had to lay off half the staff mid-year and didn’t really develop the car after that shows when they finally ran out of money and were overhauled by the monied manufacturer teams (and Red Bull).

          1. Nevertheless, it was still a small team that had the guts to do it. Another example is the high nose introduced by Tyrrell in 1990 – too late to save the team but copied by everyone else subsequently. The idea was correct but Tyrrell did not have the money to exploit it to the full.

            Looking back makes one realise just how rare and exceptional such design breakthroughs are, especially during the last thirty years. There can be no doubt that the increasingly constrictive rules and regulations are the cause of this, making true innovation (rather than mere refinement and development) almost impossible to achieve.

            As for the manufacturers and rich teams just throwing money at the problem, whether restricted or not, that is going to happen anyway. Mercedes are where they are now because they decided to outspend the rest in their drive to the front. By keeping the restrictive rules we are merely ensuring that the small teams have no scope for competing by being cleverer than the big guys.

          2. The DD was in fact developed by Super Aguri, which was a Homnda b-team at the time.

        2. The DD was in fact developed by Super Aguri, which was a Homnda b-team at the time.

      2. @optimaximal @clive-allen Just throwing money at it and nothing else hasn’t worked out very well either though – ask Toyota.

        1. @davidnotcoulthard Yes, I know, money isn’t all the answer but without it, you’re going nowhere. The real trick is using the money to best advantage – pinching the good engineers off lesser teams, buying the best drivers, keeping the old wind tunnel running 24/7, etc. Toyota is the best example of how not to spend your money.

          1. @clive-allen Yeah, I guess. Though I think that’s rather more true today than decades ago (which isn’t to say you could win on a shoestring budget ‘decades ago’ – you’d just….be more likely to do so, I guess?)

    3. I’ve honestly always found the Merc to be ugly as ass for a while. Even the Brawn car was pretty ugly by the end (the Brazil spec was phenomenal though).

      Best looking car in the grid has been the Force India and the Red Bull, in my opinion.

  3. Exactly my thoughts. I’m just going to quote my own comment under the recent Brawn interview they posted on F1 official YT channel.
    “I really wish we would stop talking about aesthetics, fins, t-wings, engine sound and other superficial stuff and start thinking about the actual sport more.”

    1. @albedo Someone as smart as him was always going to nail the point in far fewer words than I could!

      1. @keithcollantine I don’t think it was Brawn who said that, @albedo was referring to his own comment in the comments section

  4. The uproar about the sound of the engines was, in my eyes, crazy. In a world where we are constantly bombarded by noise, far more than we were ever naturally supposed to be subjected to, why are we engineering state of the art technology to be louder? To me it doesn’t make sense.

    1. I think this is one of those issues where you need to strike the right balance between technical exercise and entertainment (as Ross Brawn alluded to in his interview with Ted Kravitz). Yes these engines are an incredible achievement and, in terms of real-world application, the quieter the better. However, there’s something to be said for a little excess, especially when it comes to F1. Although I agree the sport should always be looking forward, I miss that deafening roar that makes the hair stand up on the back of your neck, that’s a part of the sport’s DNA.

      With regards to the shark fins, though, it’s been ten years and they’re yet to grow on me. We tried them once and people didn’t like them, so why, after six seasons, allow them back now?

      1. Thanks for the vote in favor of sounds… attending my first race years ago I could hear the cars from the far ends of the parking lot… something I had never heard before… all of us started walking faster just to see what was happening… very exciting part of the experience… and then the race itself… the sounds became part of the package… in Montreal last year on the fence at the turn 2 exit I saw them coming round… couldn’t hear them… they passed 10 feet from the fence… like a relative whisper… I’ll always miss that part of what loved that first time

      2. If someone wants a deafening roar from F1 engines they simply need to turn up the volume on their TV.
        Okay, that is being flippant, but the sound of the engines argument is often used as an excuse to explain declining TV audiences, which, according to this argument, is people don’t watch races because of the “terrible sound” of the engines.
        One major promoter of this argument was F1’s recently retired immaculately dressed media rights person who loved putting F1 races behind the Pay Wall and then explaining the resultant audience decline to something other than the work of his own hand. It would be like putting a low powered engine into a muscle car and then complaining about the time it took to do a quarter mile. The obvious solution to getting back to good quarter mile times is to put the turbo charged V8 engine back into the car. The same applies to the poor audience: take F1 from behind the paywall and put it back on Free to Air TV and the audience will return.
        I wouldn’t be surprised if the sound of an engine does compel a few people to turn their attention to other forms of entertainment, but it seems a trivial excuse to use, one could equally use the lack of high definition video, poor broadband or TV reception, or the colour of one of the cars as your excuse. The pay wall is a far superior deterrent to fans than engine sound and visual aesthetics. In the case of the sound, once it has been attenuated, filtered, compressed, balanced, and then mixed with the race commentary so it all fits into the audio requirements of TV, there is barely any perceptible difference to the average fan between these engines and those of the V10 era.

  5. Adam (@rocketpanda)
    4th March 2017, 12:19

    I don’t have a problem with the look of these cars – in fact I kinda like that all of them have quite distinctive styles and shapes and unique takes on design. I mean that’s what sets F1 apart from a lot of other motorsports, that there is no ‘spec’ car and all of them can potentially look different – to a point.

    I suppose you could say the original shark fins looked better than these though – the Williams and Force India designs especially tend to look like something they forgot to cut off rather than a fin. You could also argue the T-wings look a little flimsy and tacked on, but diversity and uniqueness I think should be embraced rather than hated.

    Obviously they’re not designed for aesthetics and everyone has a different opinion of pretty, and it’s worth pointing out that by the end of the year we’ll probably be talking about how nice these ones were. So it’s a storm in a teacup, to be honest.

  6. Well said. The priority when designing cars should be speed and racing, anything else is a bonus.

    It’s nice to discuss the looks of cars but I would rather a bit of variety, as we’re currently seeing, than a set design that’s supposed to represent someones idea of a good looking car.

    To be honest the sound has never been an issue to me either, I actually preferred hearing the sounds of the cars working but after a few races it’s not something I concentrate on.

    Each to their own of course but it’s a lot easier to design agree on what’s fast than what looks /sounds good.

  7. One of few articles in which Keith’s views are similar to mine. Well said. We fans complain too much about everything. Maybe sometimes, we need to sit back and appreciate the beautiful imperfections that these cars are.
    I am certainly doing that this year and looking forward to a lovely 2017 season already.

  8. I totally agree. Formula 1 should be about competition and I don’t care too much about looks. In an ideal world we would have:
    – Engine competition from multiple manufacturers
    – Tyre competition
    – Aero competition

    If we had all three, then a deficiency in one might be made up by superior performance in the other.

  9. Well, there is the matter of having grossly disproportionate carparts like the front/rearwing discrepancy from 09-16 that are just stupid and god awful looking, and i think rules should be written in a way that considers fundamental things like that.
    On another hand we have the fans part of the internet hate machine that will basically moan about each and everything. This launch season was just ridicolous: Last year everybody was crying for renault to bring back their yellow/black livery, this year everybody is crying about their yellow black livery, stating last years was better. everyone was crying about bland liveries, yet now they want an all orange mclaren. theres nothing more bland than the 2006 all orange test livery in the whole wide world.
    Everyone was moaning about the god awful V8 sound and now we have been hearing presumably the same people moaning for three long years to get those V8s back, while having maybe the best sounding cars since the lotus 49 :-) did you HEAR those low-rev gurgles in the barcelona videos last week? also, anyone remember how erveryone back in the v10 era was like yeah but the 1000bhp turbos, those were the real deal? well here we are with 1000bhp turbos.
    Everyone moans about how boring the turbo era was, yet we had 2 titles go down to the wire and several races in the top 20 rate the race results.
    the oh so awesome early 2000s races were boring as curseword, get over it. That german guy won anyways.
    This age of f1 is terribly exciting, deal with it

    1. Just to pick on the sound point: the sound in Barcelona was fantastic, but it never gets translated on TV. Those fan videos portray it in a way that FOM don’t

      1. @strontium I thought the cars sounded great in 2014 and I still think they sound great now. I don’t miss the V8s at all.

        1. +1 with you, I somehow I am linking the more silent engines. For the first time I can hear commentators and hear tyres working on track. Also neighbours dont complain of noise on F1 weekends due to quieter tyres.

        2. I attended my first race ever in 2014 (I’m watching F1 since 2001) and I didn’t have a problem with the engines sound. I guess it was mainly because I didn’t have a previous noise to compare it, but still I think it sounded great.
          I believe those little gadgets or aero solutions that every time the teams add to the car race by race are what I like about F1 (one of the things), I remember following those little details in the cars from 2002 to 2008 race by race and I could tell apart from which race the car was by looking a picture of it.
          The cars these year look great to me (better than last year) but still I’m more interested on what’s happening in the track rather than how the car looks.
          Still think that the best looking car that I’ve seen since I started to watch F1 is the mclaren mp4-20 by far.

      2. machinesteve
        5th March 2017, 12:45

        Actually FOM dont do F1 any favours at all – the fan videos are always more exciting and evocative.

        The screaming Vs just tells young people that this sport is for old people now we can aspire to a Tesla…….in my 55 year old mind silence is progress, noise and smoke is history.

  10. +1 Absolutely my thoughts. F1 is all about function over form. Granted some things like the noses of 2014 aren’t desirable, but it seems as though fans are sort of dumbing the sport down by excessively talking about looks or sound, instead of appreciating what great things F1 achieves behind the scenes (for example 50% thermal efficiency which F1 is terrible promoting at).

  11. Looks are better than the last 8 years. Period.

    Sounds worse since ’14. Period.

    1. ExcitedAbout17
      4th March 2017, 13:20

      . Period.

      1. I know. People find it easier to find faults than to appreciate certain things and so I’ve put it there on purpose. Period. 😏

        1. We all appreciate that you are bound to be a little grumpy when you have your period, hope you get back to normal soon.

          1. Well, thank you for your appreciation. It would be great if you explained why you’re named after the sound made when someone suffers from constipation, just wondering…

  12. Thank you for putting this out there @keithcollantine. I really wonder why looks have anything to do with the sport. It has to be about technical superiority. I mean no competitor is going to compromise performance over form so why fault them for it? I grant that there is something that the rules might help address but that is the the thing about rules, people will still find a way around them.

  13. Are the people who complain about shark fins a majority or a vocal minority?

    1. Ask yourself the question if you like them.. I do not know anyone who likes the shark fins. People (like Keith) like to think the form is not important and ugly is only in the eye of the beholder..
      But nobody seems to like the shark fins.

      1. I like them. Shark fins makes the cars look more aggressive and menacing. Force India’s fin is clumsy but all the others looks great to me.

    2. @mbr-9 Good question. Might have to put that one to a poll sometime.

      1. I am old enough to remember the introduction of wings to F1 cars. At the time, I thought they looked horrendous and completely ruined any aesthetic appeal the cars may have had. It was years before I began to accept them and even longer before I saw them as a necessary part of the look of the cars.

        It is entirely possible that, if the shark fins stay, they will eventually be regarded as essential to the ethos and appeal of the F1 car.

        1. That is just awesome.
          No offence, but it goes to show how nowadays fans will moan about anything and everything.

          1. To be fair, the first wings used DID look hideous. Nothing like they do now.

        2. @clive-allen, well I remember them from the D type Jag. they seemed to work then and looked very “Rocket age”, if they work the’re good.

        3. @clive-allen, I’m surprised that you haven’t brought up the Ferrari 312B2 in that case, as that car had a shark fin – this link should hopefully give you a picture of the car as it was in the 1972 German GP:
          https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/736x/aa/c4/de/aac4de8b8c20cdc50472fbf3f868e63a.jpg

          1. True, Anon, although I wasn’t being specific to any particular examples. To be honest, the 312B still looks ugly to me… ;)

  14. Matthew Coyne
    4th March 2017, 13:11

    I don’t agree with this.

    F1 is entertainment, to be entertaining something has to appeal to your senses in some form or another and 2 of the most important senses we as humans possess is sight and sound, they are the two senses that F1 stimulates above all others for fans and therefore what they do in these areas is of absolute paramount importance.

    This year they got so close to getting things spot on for the majority of fans visually, then they left a daft loophole open that allowed the shark fins and stupid little wings on wings to start appearing around the rear – people have every right to complain about that.

    1. + 1.

    2. F1 is, and always has been a technical challenge, the “entertainment” role merely helps to pay for it, and of course make parasites rich.

    3. Have you seen the red bull gran turismo concept? It has high downforce but low drag and it’s a fan car, pun intended.

      Working toward a grid full of these means there would mean a step-wise development in speed every year which can be supplemented by newly emerging strong materials to improve safety. The cars will be he fastest ever but able to race due to low drag although, an apparent downside of fan cars is that they can flip if the aero seal is broken. The cockpit would need to be standard setting in pilot safety. The drivers would be on another level and required to be able to withstand up to 8-9 G regularly. Even a suit may be required to moderate blood flow in the body.

      To me this is the final destination for f1, and without technical development they’ll never get there. The look/sound of the car doesn’t matter relative to the ‘5 year plan’ that Brawn describes.

  15. Always glad when someone mentions the Benneton B191, it’s the car I associate the most with the first F1 races I watched as an 11 year old.

    1. *Benetton…

  16. I disagree. The appearance of any car, sporting or otherwise always has an aesthetic element. This is why people drool over Ferraris, Aston Martins, Lamborghinis and the like.

    I completely agree that beauty is in the eye of the beholder and I am all for innovation and stretching the rules. However, the appearance of the cars does influence people’s view of the sport and progress in the sport. I don’t think there is any harm in having cars that look cool, fast, sleek or whatever and sound good as well.

    History also has an effect on people’s perception of the sport and the current cars are always going to be compared to their predecessors. This is again one of the reasons people want the cars to look and sound good.

    I would like to see the fins removed and an alternative solution found to the problem they are trying to solve. I would also like to see the influence of aero to be reduced full stop really.

    1. I agree with the aero. It needs to be reduced and get back to more mechanical grip. If the element of being able pass without the use of that idiotic DRS, we would see way more entertaining racing. A high top speed does not make the racing interesting, but the battles on the track do.

  17. Most importent- F1 should be the top of the pop!

    Fastest!
    Technically in frobt (on the edge)
    Best drivers – (get rid of those paydrivers once and for all)

    This will give:
    Most viewers/fans
    Most money

    Its that simple!

  18. It’s a good argument, speed or performance matters more then looks or sounds, from engineering point of view this is right, I know. But as a fan, I can’t turn on TV and watch Formula E, I’m sorry, but that sound irritates me. Lewis Hamilton said, he wants pole, fastest lap, and win in Australia, from the team and his view thats ideal. From my point of view thats boring and it would be more entertaining if Lewis starts from the back. So, once again we come to the point were we are debating whats formula 1? Its a pure speed-performance-efficency, team-driver-engineering-technology sport? Or its a entertaining show for the fans? I think it should be a compromise between this two elements, not a show too extreme such as Nascar which I cant watch, or too electric as Formula E…

    1. Not every fan has a deep technical interest in Formula 1. Many fans, including myself, are thrilled to watch 22 beautifully streamlined cars battle it out on raceday. Replace the cars with super-fast jeeps, and it wouldn’t nearly be as exciting.

      F1 is not JUST the pinnacle of motorsport technology, its entertainment as well…and the fans are just complaining about a feature (The shark-fin) that may possibly damage a source of their entertainment (aesthetics), even if to a small degree.

      The true subjectivity of beauty depends on context. A component that doesn’t aesthetically support the overall complex and smooth design mesh and stands out as an odd-looking, generic protrusion is generally perceived to adversely affect the aesthetic impact of the design. The regulations may have left no alternative, but that doesn’t mean that the shark fin doesn’t look bad (especially on the Force India). Here, the subjective part is whether you care about the beauty of the aerodynamic design, and if you don’t, the shark fins won’t bother you much.

      Fans and drivers have complained because expectations are very high and will always be very high, considering the position of F1 in motorsport and in their own hearts…Its natural for complaints to be more pronounced than appreciation if even the tiniest fraction of their expectation wasn’t met.

      That being said, personally, I don’t like the shark fin, but I don’t feel that it spoils the look of the cars enough to make the overall design look bad. I think that the cars look beautiful in comparison to last year, and that is one of the reasons I’m excited for the season ahead. :)

    2. Sorry, my comment was supposed to be responding to the original post.

  19. I agree that the cars look too similar. I agree the regulations are too restrictive. However, unless we fundamentally change the whole approach to allow free design of chassis and engines(coupled with budget caps) there’s no point to talk about diversity while neglecting ugliness. All the 2017 sport shark fins. Some are uglier than others but all are ugly. Most 2017 cars sport T-wings. All of these are ugly. Where’s the diversity? Most of 2017 cars sport thumb noses. All of those are ugly, and the only 2 teams I want to applaud are STR and Merc who didn’t go down that route. Yes the Force India is different from most other thumb designs but that doesn’t excuse its extreme ugliness(not only the nose but the whole car is extremely ugly). Which brings me to the “beauty in the eye of the beholder” mantra that’s everywhere nowadays. No it isn’t. In the recent poll here(and everywhere else) only a very small amount of people like the way the new Force India looks. At the other end of the spectrum, a very large amount of people everywhere liked the way the new Toro Rosso looks. There’s a reason why that is. One looks great the other less so. There’s a universal sense of beauty and definition of what is an “eye candy” VS what is an “eye sore”. If someone likes the FI looks, fine, that’s his opinion. There is such thing as poor taste. It’s completely normal to say a person has a poor taste in clothing and it applies equally well to F1 car looks. It’s a human characteristic as much as any other, no problem in that

    If all the cars looked rather different from each other as it was decades ago, it would be easier to tolerate an ugly car. But as most cars sport the same ugly details, it’s much harder to accept. And in such environment, when you think about F1’s image, aesthetics consideration has a valid place. Casual fan tuning in to F1 and seeing the shark fins, the T-wings and the thumb noses will not be impressed(again, I’m talking about a significant majority, some do have poor taste).

    1. @montreal95, are you not confusing “taste” with fashion.

      1. @hohum Most definitely not. Fashion is something temporary, a fleeting thing that disappears as quickly as it arrives. It’s impossible to confuse fashion with taste.

  20. Tommy Scragend
    4th March 2017, 13:36

    “Maybe the problem is not so much how the cars look or sound, but the fact that the regulations offer no room for alternatives. We now have a grid full of cars with Brabham BT52 front wings and Jordan EJ15 rear wings. Do these designs still strike us the way they did when they were the only examples in the field? I’m not convinced.”

    This.

  21. Adam (@rocketpanda)
    4th March 2017, 13:41

    Actually thinking about it the only thing F1 needs to worry about is making sure we’ve got closely fought and engaging races. If the races are fun to watch, competetive and enjoyable then nobody will care about the cars being a little ugly or the engines sounding bad.

  22. The biggest problem F1 has surely though, is the dwindling viewing figures. F1 has to attract itself to people, and if people aren’t visually impressed by what they are seeing, it will struggle more.

    Looks capture your attention, personality keeps your attention. All the things you have said, Keith, are true, but F1 still has to be visually pleasing.

  23. The article makes a number of fair points, but I feel it fair to point out that the author is, ahem, a F1 fanatic. As presumably are all of us taking the time to read and reply.

    In a time when the sport is declining in popularity, the spectacle matters, hence, the looks and the sound absolutely matter. Should the sport focus solely on this, and move on from engineering excellence as the major focus? Of course not. But in a world with so much to offer, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to capture the attention of young people, who F1 should absolutely be targeting. And it’s easy to miss the target with ugly cars and horrid sounds.

      1. I agree. I think this years cars are an improvement over last years. If they can just tidy rear end (i.e. remove the fins) and perhaps change the shape of the front wing then the cars would look really cool.

      2. I think the 2017 cars are an improvement over last years. I like the wider cars. However, I think if the rear end was tidied up (i.e. the fins removed) and the shape of the front wings changed, they would look really cool.

  24. WilliamB (@william-brierty)
    4th March 2017, 14:36

    The question we should ask is whether the improvements in car aesthetic and lap-time are worth likely backward steps in terms of wheel-to-wheel racing, inter-team competition, the manufacturer-privateer trade-off and field spread. Given that the field is still an array of thumb-noses, T-wings and shark-fins, the car aesthetic argument just does not add up.

    In a more normative sense, F1 does not win back fans, does not make headlines with nice looking cars, but with competitive, close racing. That was why last year’s Spanish Grand Prix was so excellent. That is the answer, and always has been the answer. Thumb noses seem to matter less when there’s a genuine fight on the track; we could even forgive the VJM07 when Perez drove it to the podium in a race as good as the 2014 Bahrain Grand Prix.

    But the urge to reduce lap-times is what confuses me most. For most spectators in the stands, the difference between a car on fumes and a car running some five seconds slower is not particularly apparent. Yes, F1 needs a margin over other series, and given that Barcelona’s fastest non-F1 lap, Gasly’s 2016 GP2 pole of a 27.8, overlapped with many of the achingly slow laps we saw in F1 at the Spanish track in 2014 and 2015, you could argue F1 was simply too slow. But solving that problem by opening aero regs is just blunderbuss logic, and one that spoke of a series so desperate to halt Mercedes, that it would allow itself to be lobbied by Red Bull. The fact that Mercedes has emerged with such a seemingly mighty 2017 is poetic justice.

    But what’s silhouette on the horizon, red-cape fluttering in the wind? Is it bird? Is it plane? No, it’s Ross-man! Ross Brawn’s nascent pessimism as per the logic underpinning F1’s latest sea change is indicative of the schooling F1 is about to receive in proper longitudinal, strategic planning.

    1. the shark fins are ugly…but it won’t stop me from following my favorite sport…doubt if it will stop anyone

  25. Neil (@neilosjames)
    4th March 2017, 15:13

    “One stated goal of the 2017 regulations was to make the cars look better. As someone who saw the narrower new cars appear in 1998, I was pleased to see them reverse a change I didn’t care for the first time around.”

    I do wish the F1-watching public had the same level of internet access then that we have today… would have been carnage, and maybe some of those changes may not have been made with a sufficiently strong backlash. I was 14 when those things broke cover, and I’d only been obsessively following F1 for a few years. But even then (or especially then, as I knew absolutely everything at the time) I had a very, very strong feeling that the narrowness and grooved tyres were totally wrong, and they gave me my first proper taste of ‘ugh, that isn’t what F1 should be’.

    That particular moment has given me something of a perspective on any and all changes F1 makes – even if I really hate something, I can always hark back to my first look at the 1998 cars and realise things aren’t so bad after all. Sometimes makes it easier to bear…

    1. @neilosjames On the home page at the moment there’s a picture of a current Toro Rosso above a picture of the start at Monaco two years ago. The comparison really reminds me how strikingly odd the narrower cars looked when I saw them for the first time in 1998. But I wonder if fans who weren’t watching back them find these wider cars strange in the same way.

      1. I don’t think so, Keith. Width is a universal characteristic of fast cars across the board.

  26. machinesteve
    4th March 2017, 16:09

    After 57 years of watching and following every race……..I am bored of F1. Bored of its boring, boring politics and its boring tracks with acres of run-off and its boring corporate speak and look and most of all its boring, boring people who want the cars to stay fixed in some sort of stasis from the mid 1980s. Bored!

    1. Why have you followed every race???!! All those lost days…

      1. machinesteve
        5th March 2017, 12:49

        I know…….but at least it used to be 16 races a year until the 90s…..and I did get to see, Cevert, Villeneuve (the great one), De Angelis, Senna…….and maybe I might still watch Verstappen. In the 70s and 80s every race was different – cars broke down, you didn’t know who would win until the very last corner, events happened, weird things happened……then Bernie made it corporate and the joy went.

    2. That’s a shame because I think with Brawn and a new chapter post-BE things are heading in the right direction. Hang in there and see where things go for the next few years and you might be surprised.

  27. For one thing, some of the 2017 cars are gorgeous and fascinatingly different in their approaches (i.e. Ferrari vs red Bull). For me it’s not the differences that are unsightly, on the contrary, it’s some of the shared characteristics I dislike. The funky creations of F1’s past have become endearing precisely because they were unique. If it was up to me, I’d free up design while restricting the electronics, though that’s a futile drum to keep banging. So if F1 is set on mandating ever more narrow design parameters they might as well make the cars as cool as possible. I find the shark fins really take away from the real design lines of the cars, and I still cannot fathom why they didn’t curtail the size and complexity of the front wings in this generation of rules. And McLaren’s problem isn’t not enough orange. It’s that the car is wearing a mankini. But of course all that being said, if the racing’s good, none of that will matter.

  28. When the 2017 regulations were announced and I read them what they were intended to do, my passion for the sport almost ceased. Because for the problems it faced with rising costs, collapsing teams and falling attendance/TV viewership, this was their greatest concern? So now we have bigger cars with large vertical appendages, bigger tires and louder engines. We don’t know if the racing will be better yet but general consensus from those inside and outside the sport say no. I’ll wait and see how everything plays out over the first 4 races before drawing a definite conclusion. Yet, I’m ready to sit out this season and not return until 2021.

  29. I don’t need pure loud exhaust noise to give me a hard-on. These motors sound interesting, you can hear several things going on with the motors and cars.

  30. Keith Crossley
    4th March 2017, 17:50

    It is all rather silly to be going on and on about a paint scheme (“livery” sounds too precious). If you painted them all the same color (wouldn’t take long if you used black or grey) you’d have a hard time telling them apart. I get no joy from “Oooh! Look at that interesting little slot in the floor” commentary.

    While I see the need for some regs in the way of safety I think they go overboard. I believe I read that sidepod dimensions are regulated. Why? There was a time when there were no such things as sidepods. Where is the opportunity to have a car that is more than a massive iteration of a Lotus 79? There used to be radiators in front; radiators stuck out on the wings (google “lobster claw brabham”), heat exchangers (brabham again, lovely car) and of course the Lotus 72 which brought us the sidepods.

    Now all the (very) clever work is done under the skin. For visual spectacle and intrigue it may as well be a spec series. Except that paint job.

    (rant end)

    1. I miss the totally exposed engines, maybe we should ban all bodywork behind the driver, that would be interesting and would fix the fin controversy once and for all.

  31. One thing we’ve got to remember is that the rule changes were proposed before Liberty took over control of the sport. No one claimed these changes would make for better racing, only that the cars would be faster and better-looking. They seem to have achieved both and I couldn’t care less about the aesthetically weaker cars because they look better than they were in 2015 and that’s and end of it. Have heard enough moaning already.

  32. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
    4th March 2017, 18:08

    There’s always been a requirement for fast cars to look nice – that applies to all sports cars, super cars and hyper cars. It should also apply to Formula 1.

    After all, ask yourself if you’d be watching F1 if the cars looked like tractors?

    1. I would watch tractors racing if they were as fast as F1 cars, I think it would provide spectacular racing.

  33. I think a lot of the f1 discussion will always be about looks. Not only is the aerodynamics a very core functional aspect of what makes f1 car fast but it is also the key part what makes one car faster than another. As such there is going to be lot of discussion about the looks simply because it is interesting for many reasons. It is about aesthetics but it is also about lore more. About the function as well. And naturally part of this discussion is about how well the rules allow good looking designs to be created. I think it is perfectly valid point to talk about the ugly noses, somewhat controversial shark fins and those tv antennas just like it is good to talk about the wide tires, increased aero and so on.

    Everybody understands that f1 car is designed to be as fast as possible. As such the rules should in my opinion be written and thought out in such way that notoriously ugly designs can be avoided. I think everybody agrees that the noses could be better. Opinions about the other bits are probably more divisive. But whenever there are different opinions discussion will naturally follow. If everybody agreed then what’s there to discuss?

    Also it is the start of the new season. We saw A MASSIVE change in how the cars look. Isn’t that supposed to be the big talking point now? I think now it is more current than ever in the last 15 years to talk about how the cars look. Not just because the cars are brand new but also because it is pre-season. There is not much else to talk about other than lap times and fuel loads. All of it is just speculation. How the cars look is something everybody has an opinion. And opinion can be positive or negative and I don’t think it is a huge issue if someone says he doesn’t like something.

  34. I disagree. A group of friends of mine went to Dubai last year and we got tickets for Abu Dhabi. We had several people which are interested in cars, but not particularly in Formula 1.
    Of course being at a race is always different from watching it on TV, but everyone noticed that even the GP2 sounded much more impressive and violent than F1. Especially during shifting. One kind of expects the pinnacle of motorsport to come with a certain bravado. Even if it doesn’t make the cars faster. And it leaves newcomers disappointed and longing for more.

    I’ve always opposed the hybrid engine rules, the ban of turbos, restrictions on displacement etc; not because I dislike the idea itself, but because I would like to have the so-called pinnacle of motorsport duke it out with different concepts. Light-weight N/A cars against hybrids. Larger displacement engines against high revving turbos. Let the best one win. Anything else is spec racing with different chassis’.
    But while everyone’s complaining about the cost, we probably won’t be able to have this anytime soon, so as long as the regulations restrict the cars as much as they do, at least restrict them in a way that the cars are aesthetically pleasing and sound like race cars.

    1. Agreed 100%

  35. I’d take wathever design that would produce exciting races actually.

    1. Whatever*

  36. Formula 1 is about CARS. And aesthetics have always been an inheren tand FUNDAMENTAL part of motorization!
    Car design is an art form, and one motor fans love and appreciate. And following the sport is essentialy all about LOOKING at it after all, isn’t it?

    “Debating how attractive the cars are is harmless enough up to a point. But classifying each innovation as ‘pretty’ or ‘ugly’ misses the point of why they’re there.”
    – Or maybe assuming that the fans need to give a toss about the peculiarities of each technical innovation misses the point of motorsport? All they constitute is trivia you can enjoy reading about, but they can’t make you sit in front of a TV set for 2 hours on sunday, can they?

    Nobody ever watches a 2 hour car race, because there’s a car with an interesting suspension solution. It can make you appreciate it, it sure does contribute to building an image and prestige to the sport, but not much beyond that.

    I think we have to evaluate – at a fundamental level – what the appeal of motorsport IN THE YEAR 2017 is.
    The technicality we are somewhat forced to appreciate was cool in 1964, where it was fascinating that a piece of machinery could go so fast, so it was naturally interesting to know how it was made to be able to. Also, there wasn’t much else for a car to be able to do other than to go fast, was there?
    But in 2017 everything about our lives is saturated with fascinating technologies. We’ve got cars which CAN DRIVE BY THEMSELVES for crying out loud!
    There’s little a Formula 1 could impress me with more than a self-driving electrical Tesla. That’s the reality of 2017.

    Show me this car: https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/originals/d2/24/6e/d2246efbec1e6dc1ec51ed48b057e978.jpg
    …and I’d love to watch it go fast. I’d also love to talk to other fans about how awesome it looks. And that socializing element is key in any sport.

    Show me this:
    http://f1.imgci.com/PICTURES/CMS/22500/22511.3.jpg
    …and I don’t care – unless perhaps it breakes the land speed world record.

    1. That Honda doesn’t even look like a car. It’s a parody of a car. I don’t care how fast it can go, really.

  37. I’m not convinced about the shark fins but I got used to them on LMP1’s and I’m sure I’ll get used to them on F1 cars. After all the Jaguar D Type is still one of the most gorgeous cars ever designed.
    However, of all the technologies in F1, aero is the least transferable to road cars. I would love the next rule change to seriously restrict the areas available for development – especially the overly complex and fragile front wings.

  38. What impacts on the experience of Formula 1? Car aesthetics? No. Engine sound? Absolutely.

    I can only imagine that most people who don’t care about the difference between the current sound and previous sound have never actually attended a race in person.

    1. But then that’s just you.

  39. Andy (@andybantam)
    4th March 2017, 23:48

    I apologise if this has already been mentioned, but I think the kernel of the recent concerns with car aesthetics can be traced to the introduction of regulations intended to force the teams to design noses less prone to ‘launching’ off the rear tyre of another car.

    As a direct consequence of such regulations, coupled with the fact that the formula restricts the generation of downforce to specific areas of the car, designers have simply run out of head room. The stepped noses and then the ridiculous ant-eater noses, followed by the almost ubiquitous ‘red bull’ nose are all examples of noses designed, pretty much, to the exact envelope of the regulations.

    The designers want to run the nose as high as possible, to allow downforce to be generated underneath the car. It’s fundamental, given the strict regulations on areas of the car that can be developed for downforce generation. They all end up chasing the same solution, which is running the nose as high as possible under the regulations, whilst still adhering to the regulations that concern themselves with crash structures, whilst allowing for as maximum airflow as possible in the areas that have to be close to the ground.

    They were always going to look similar.

    I believe that it’s this trend of cars being so similar (and generally underwhelming to the eye) because the the design of some areas of the car is so tightly regulated is what people are unhappy about.

  40. Common the T-wing and even worse the double T-wing from Mercedes has to go, it looks absolutely ridiculous. I’m sure you agree with that, it’s just absurd !

    1. @t3x, what makes the T-wing worse than the front or back wing? My preference would be for a larger T-wing ONLY, that way the cars balance would be less effected in turbulent air ( I think ).

      1. You’re kidding right? The front wing flows into the shape of the car and the back wing finishes the car beautifully. The T-wing sits much higher than the flow of the car and much higher than the rear wing.

        It’s an eye sore to say the least, well for anyone that has taste.
        @HoHum

  41. Except I don’t feel it. I don’t get excited about the incredible energy return systems in a modern F1 car. My heart doesn’t skip a beat to know that they’re paving the way for future road cars (which they aren’t, unless they plan on going driverless and full-electric as well). The hair on the back of MY neck comes from the beautiful photos of steam rising off of the sensual curve of a sidepod, or when I hear the deep roar of a powerful engine. Now, logically, those things shouldn’t matter. But, logically, F1 doesn’t make sense. Grown men driving around in a circle just to get a trophy. Like it or not, passion is driven, at least partly, by beauty and emotion. So, F1 really SHOULD be hung up about looks and sound. It’s the only thing that makes sense.

  42. Click bait type of article “Why this” “something shouldn’t” However pertinent subject. People are sometimes a little intolerant, a little extremist. As Griesbacch points out formula 1 is not logical, it’s a sport it’s a pass time activity so the passion is all there is, however I would say that what we have been witnessing this year is an irrelevant focus on small details, pettiness on f1, the shark fin is nothing alien to f1 and the t wings are not that noticeable and just another f1 thing. The sound is a little less trivial but the sound is similar it’s just not as atmospheric as it once was, but hey from the TV sound is a trivial matter.

  43. Personally I am against the banning of shark fins and T-wings and technical innovation on the grounds of aesthetics, as I feel it simply adding regulations to a sport that is already heavily regulated, and makes the cars look even more like each other.

    I marvel at Formula 1 cars as they are unlike anything else. They are the quickest racing machines on the planet, and it is amazing what engineers can do with the airflow in order to make them so fast. I may be biased as I grew up with the sport in the late 90s and 2000s, but I was always awed when a team would introduce a new winglet or bargeboard design, wondering what the heck its purpose was and why it was introduced. I loved the idea of Monaco-spec, and Monza-spec wings, tailoring aerodynamics for the demands of a certain circuit The level of detail was unlike anything else and it really appealed to me. To me it was such dynamic progressive design, always pushing and fining ways to make the cars faster, even when you thought the cars were plenty fast, the design would evolve even more and more ideas were included.

    I like the shark fins and the t wings because it follows the same process. They have been implemented because the engineers see them improving he performance of the car, and that’s what I personally like to see. I get a quite disheartened when I see people say that these devices should be banned because they look ugly, because it makes me feel like people want the cars to look a certain way, and would prefer all cars look very similar. To me this removes the design and innovation side of the sport that I love, and for me that would be a shame. It is remarkable to me that, for a sport with a history of engineering, innovation and pushing the envelope, there is such push back against these devices.

  44. It was never “supposed” to be anything but car racing, that happened to be at the top.

    Whether you want it to stay at “the top” or not is a pragmatic question, and how.

    How technology is applied when there are limits is subjective. I don’t like how the cars sound, I don’t like the shark fin, DRS, and the McLaren should be more orange IMO. That is subjective; but so are the rules.

    1. well i have to say that, the looks of the cars are actually pretty weird to be honest with the shark fins, and those thumb noses, why can’t it be simple design, why lower rear wing etc, and yes the turbo engines sound as if a touring car is passing by and not an f1 car, which made f1 so distinctive in the whole history was its sound, why make it like a touring car engine sound, i don’t understand…

      1. The loss of the sound as honestly affected my enjoyment of the races more than I expected. I loved having F1 in the background while I was doing other stuff and paying attention every once in a while when cool stuff happened (which after 2009 was pretty rare).

        Nowadays if I’m busy I don’t even turn on, what’s the point? I’ll read who came first later, I’m not missing much anyway.

  45. The only way to fix Formula one is to restrict the size of teams. Force the cars to be 100% built by the teams (except brakes and tires) and force the teams to have 250 members tops. And then let them spend however much they want with those 250 people! The budgets will drop, because what you pay is basically man-hours, and you’re limited on those, the innovation will rise, and the small teams won’t be penalized for being small!
    Simple as that.

  46. I agree but disagree. I think F1 is all about the Visual and the sound. To us F1fanatics, we understand whats going on with the engines and their sound or why the cars look the way they do. We tolerate it because its a passion of ours. But to new fans, i don’t think its doing enough. They’re not interested in 50% thermal efficiency or fuel saving, they want loud, fast, good looking (the cars this year look great in my opinion). Its what us F1 fans used to tell our family and friends about F1 “Come to a race! You should come just for the noise and atmosphere” Now not so much.

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