Features - News Feature

JUNE 1, 1999

What changes are needed in Formula 1?


A lot of the people involved in Formula 1 think the sport is rather dull.

A lot of the people involved in Formula 1 think the sport is rather dull. Some of the millions of TV viewers around the world agree. But is it really dull? Are changes really needed? There is little doubt that more overtaking would help because at the moment the only real battles are fought in the pitlanes. This adds a certain spice and variety to the sport, making it a battle of teams AND drivers, but overtaking on the track would be good as well. A lot of people argue that treaded tyres are a disaster and should be thrown away. Slick tyres would give the drivers more grip to play with and thus make it easier to overtake. I am not sure I agree with that because we had dull races when there were slick tyres as well with drivers complaining that it was impossible to go offline because the tyres picked up discarded rubber and so on - and so lost grip. In theory, therefore, more overtaking opportunities would come if the tyres were harder... Treaded tyres have to be hard to survive. It is interesting to note that the most entertaining of all the races in Montreal was the Formula Ford battle - they cars had treaded tyres and it made no difference. There was plenty of overtaking.

The problem with the F1 cars of today is that they are too reliant on aerodynamic downforce. Every time the rules are changed the F1 aerodynamicists find the downforce again from somewhere else. This is their job - and they do it well. But that has to be stopped because the cars are so sensitive to the air flow that they cannot run nose-to-tail because they lose downforce. And that means they cannot overtake. It seems to me that the best thing to do would be to drastically reduce the front wing dimensions. Any F1 engineer will tell you that the front wings dictate the whole aerodynamic package and with smaller front wings it is inevitable that they will run smaller rear wings in order to balance the car. The problem with this is that the wings provide a lot of space on which sponsors names can bee written. It is a commercial question rather than a technical one. Perhaps the answer would be to have tail fins on the engine covers - similar to those seen in CART racing - on which sponsorship can be put without downforce being created. The argument against this is that this would not be seen when the cars are racing towards a TV camera - a fair point.

The other option would be top create "a barn door" rear wing, which being vertical would produce very little downforce but still allow for sponsorship to be visible.

Personally, I think that something needs to be done about the F1 brakes as well, to lengthen braking distances. This could be done with a ban on composite materials in braking systems but the problem is that it is very hard to establish what is a metal and what is a composite material as they tend to overlap these days...

The other point - and it is an important one - is that F1 must not allow itself to be completely turned into a Roman Circus to amuse the spectators. Motor manufacturers are often involved in F1 for the technology as much as the publicity. I think the F1 authorities might gain a lot from allowing such things as regenerative braking systems - which could use the brakes to produce power which drivers would use as boost when attempting overtaking manouevres. It would help the industry - and the show...