A new dawn, a new day, a new life beckons Formula 1 in 2017. A complete overhaul of the aerodynamic, suspension and tyre regulations means it’s pastures new for motorsport’s pinnacle. More aesthetically aggressive and faster cars will compete for supremacy.
It’s the first time since 1966 that the sport’s governing body has commissioned regulations with the purpose of making the cars faster, and rules to make the cars look better has never been tried. But whilst drivers are likely relishing the prospect of cars 4-5 seconds a lap quicker than their predecessors, many fear the new formula will have some unintended consequences.
The added speed of the cars, for the most part, will be found through added downforce and wider tyres. Insiders estimate a 20-40% increase in loads meaning another level in cornering speeds will ensue, albeit cars will lack the record-breaking top speeds they enjoyed last year. If you haven’t seen Giorgio Piola’s analysis of the new tech regs, be sure to take a look below:
Trackside, an already breathtaking series will become even more unbelieveable. But this comes at a cost. All circuits have been asked to revise layouts amidst safety concerns, ultimately begging the question of whether such an aggressive rule change was a knee-jerk decision by the FIA. F1’s governing body have recently been heavily criticised in regards to the overall ‘spectacle’ and a war on declining viewing figures all over the world have left many scratched heads.
The concern of many is the amount (or lack) of overtaking the new cars will achieve. Higher downforce levels means more disruptive ‘dirty air’, prohibiting the aero-package of a chasing car. Meanwhile, lower top speeds and diminished braking distances both account for less opportunity for passes to occur.
Cars may also be perceived as easier to drive (although this will be quite the opposite of in reality) which could turn more casual fans off and ultimately create an erroneous “I could do that” paradigm as cars will rarely slide around and look on the edge of control.
But it’s both unfair and unwise to judge so early. At the time of publication, cars are yet to be launched and won’t turn a wheel until the first test gets underway in Barcelona on 27th February. Any speculation about what cars will be like is just that – speculation. More grippy, durable tyres courtesy of Pirreli may help to make up for the loss in downforce when following another driver.
Also, many unknown quantities finally being answered will underpin many people’s anticipation for the year ahead:
Will Renault breach the horsepower deficit it has to Mercedes?
Can Red Bull build a Mercedes-beating chassis?
Are Ferrari finally going to get its act together?
How good will 18-year-old Lance Stroll be?
Does Bottas have what it takes to challenge Hamilton in a straight fight?
Are McLaren about to reveal a historically-inspired orange livery?
That list is far from exhaustive. Many intertwining narratives could make F1 in 2017 better than ever. Imagine the shock if Bottas were to out-qualify Hamilton in Australia or the horror if Ferrari slip further behind the ultimate pace.
Furthermore, Mercedes’ monopoly of F1 silverware is not guaranteed to continue either. Regulation overhauls in 2009 and 2014 brought an end to Ferrari/McLaren and Red Bull’s dominance respectively. Red Bull may hold the key to F1’s competitiveness in 2017. If rumours that Adrian Newey has found a renewed motivation, Mercedes will have cause for concern.
There is much to be positive about going into the new season than in previous years. Uncertainty fuels any sport and attracts global interest. It’s impossible to predict how satisfied fans will be when the chequered flag drops in Melbourne on 26th March, but the intrigue surrounding this year’s Formula 1 World Championship is the highest its been in years.
There are many reasons to be optimistic.
Thumbnail courtesy of Wikipedia Commons: Image originally sourced via Flickr.