Having a “tyred” past I risk turning this into a technobabble jargon fest.
First off, we need to define “drifting” vs “sliding.” Sliding is going beyond the slip angle that gives max cornering force. Drifting is not. More on slip angle later.
-Tyres have very small slip angles vs max lateral force to minimize rolling friction in corner (i.e: not loosing too much speed)
-Downforce is greatly affected by large body yaw (cars produce reduced downforce when they are sliding – because the surfaces are designed to produce downforce when hit head-on)
-Cornering speeds are so high that a 4 wheels slide means straight in the walls
-Wings allow for far better stability than non winged cars
-Grip levels are so high that this is already a challenge to use the maximum grip for each corner (that is the difference between a high downforce car and a non downforce car; I.E: fight the track vs fight the car)
This is just, for high performance cars, a thing of the past. Now if you want to see 4 wheels sliding, watch nascar on road courses.
Take a look at this graph for instance. You can ignore the numbers for this explanation:
You can ignore the red “street tires” line too. Basically slip angle is, as you can see – the difference between the direction the tyre is pointing, and the direction the car is moving. If you had a car not moving, and then you pushed it sort of 45 degrees to the front and to the right, then congratulations – you have 45 degrees slip angle. While it may not be very visible – at a microscopic level, that’s what’s actually happening (tyres are never “gripping” the road – they’re always sliding, at a microscopic level)
Just take a look at the basic shape of the graph. There is a point at which the corner force peaks, before it drops back down again. Drivers will want to achieve the maximum cornering force, and as such – stick near that “optimum” slip angle. If you were to slide it more than that angle, then you have less cornering force – ie less “grip.”
In the graph above, the optimum slip is around 9 degrees (off my eye and without a ruler). In essence, if you were to create a super-closeup, super-slomo shot, you would see that the rear tyres were in fact sliding, by about 9 degrees compared to the direction they were pointed in. This is a very small drift – coming in at 9 degrees. Then if you were to see it sliding at 10-12 degrees… you’re sliding. That’s slow. So with the numbers in the graph above the tyre would be quickest when slid around by 9 degrees.
If you were to want drifting – you need to change the tyre design. If you were to create a tyre where the optimum cornering force was far out enough – say 30 degrees for an exaggerated number – then the cars would be quickest when being slid at 30 degrees. Which WOULD be visible. It would cause some shock and horror amongst the Jenson Buttons of F1 – but yeah.
As such… if you want to bring back this “drifting” – then create tyres that generate their optimum cornering force at higher slip.