Formula 1

F1 power games on show as 2017 plans in progress

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New rules that would make Formula 1 cars up to five seconds per lap faster from 2017 are set to watered down.

With viewership numbers falling, the sport is looking at ways to improve the spectacle and a new set of design proposals are set to see the cars change significantly in appearance with much more aggressive shaped wings, bigger tyres and the re-introduction of ground effect aerodynamics.

All this, plus tweaks to the current V6 turbo hybrid engine formula would see next year's machines not only better looking and more physical to drive, but also close the gap in lap time between those set last year and the fastest ever times posted during the V10 era in the early 2000's.


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Increase in loads a concern for Pirelli

However, concerns from supplier Pirelli over the amount of load the cars would put on the tyres due to the increase in downforce mean the amount of lap time gained could be reduced to around three or four seconds.

"With the new tyre sizes proposed for 2017, we think the load capacity of a tyre built to the current construction would increase by about 10%," a spokesman for the Italian company was quoted by the BBC.

"But nobody knows what structure we will choose for 2017 yet.

"Everything will be calculated much more carefully when we start testing."

Indeed, it is the large restrictions on the amount of testing permitted that also has Pirelli calling for an easing of the process.

It is also claimed the measures that would be needed to cope with such high stress being put through the sidewalls of the tyres could actually harm the aim of increasing performance.

For example, in a presentation made to the teams regarding the 2017 plans, Pirelli said tyre pressures may have to rise by around 50% on current levels but in doing so, it would reduce the contact patch between the tyre and the racetrack, therefore reducing grip.

Level of ground effect set to be key factor

To solve this, the Strategy Group want to bring back ground effect aerodynamics which would see a wider and re-designed floor to the cars and see the airflow manipulated in such a way that the cars are sucked into the racetrack rather than pushed down by the front and rear wings.

But with the highly complex front wing particularly making it hard for two cars to follow close together, adding more downforce without making major changes to the front wing design would only make it harder to overtake.

There are still plans to make the underbody of the cars generate higher levels of downforce but it is that element to the proposed 2017 regulation changes that will likely be watered down.

Then there's another balancing act being considered, between making the cars faster and keeping the cost of implementing changes as low as possible.

All teams will start with clean slates aerodynamically for 2017 and ensuring the smaller teams can initially cope with the new rules without further spending on R&D to drive them into the same financial problems many have faced in recent years, ought to be a top priority.

Leading power players at odds over rule changes

Interestingly, however, the new rules had largely been met favourably with most of the critique coming from Mercedes, who claimed at the end of last year the cars were already producing historic levels of power and downforce and questioned if Pirelli could produce tyres capable of coping with the proposed ideas.

Those issues and now the easing of the regulation changes were rebuffed by Red Bull most notably, who said the lack of innovation and the lack of competition currently in F1 was the main cause behind why people had switched off from the sport.

Teams and the Technical Working Group have until March if they want to pass a final set of rule changes through the World Motorsport Council for 2017.

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