The Grand Prix Drivers Association have had their say, Bernie Ecclestone has said the introduction of the current V6 Hybrid Engines were a “disaster” and fans and pundits have been calling for urgent amendments, but does Formula 1 really need a rule change?
I admit, some rules desperately need to be addressed, qualifying had been a farce, and the way the sport in governed is one panic move after another to try and regain the ever falling crowds, both at the races and on TV.
But three years on from the biggest rule change in the sport’s history, we are starting to see a light at the end of the tunnel. So far this season, the racing on track has been an improvement over last, which could be down to two poor starts from Lewis Hamilton, as Ferrari are more competitive and debutants Haas F1 have really helped spice up the show. For me, this is down to teams simply catching up with Mercedes as the opportunities for the manufacture to increase their advantage have started to dry up. For me this is the first reason F1 doesn’t need a rule change, each year the current rules are in place, the smaller teams will be able to catch up.
Rule stability is also a huge cost cutter, something the sport has been trying to achieve, and comically unsuccessfully, for years with the hope that it encourages new teams to join the grid and allow the smaller ones to compete competitively with the big boys. If the current rules were set and confirmed that they will remain the same for a number of years, let’s use five as an example, then new teams will see the point in entering the sport and trying their hand, in the hope of achieving something. At the moment, new teams are being put off by the continuous rule changes and instability surrounding the sport, which is also why so many smaller teams are struggling to pay the bills at the end of the month with some asking for FOM money to be paid to them in advance.
Another reason why I feel F1 doesn’t need a rule change is due to the proposed changes being in the complete wrong direction to aid the sport. Nico Rosberg pointed out that F1’s rule changes were aimed at making the cars 5 seconds faster, however the cars are already going 2 seconds faster than they were last season, suggesting natural progression will just keep seeing the cars achieve those speeds as the current rules are maximised.
Furthermore, simulator work has already been carried out with proposed 2017 specifications and cars will be pulling 5.5G (5.5 times the force of gravity) for prolonged periods of time, in particular, around the fast turn 3 at Barcelona. Do we really want to see drivers being put through those circumstances for lap after lap? 2017 cars are also going to be heavier, Lewis Hamilton quoted last month “why are we making the cars heavier for next year? Racing cars should be lighter.” Driver safety is paramount when deciding new rules and if the cars are heavier than physics suggests the forces involved in a crash will be greater.
This brings me onto my next point, circuit safety. Although the vast majority of the circuits F1 races on now are suitable for modern racing with limitless runoff space, some remain where this is not the case and is simply not possible, Spa and Suzuka spring to mind, where more runoff cannot be added. New rules will have to work with these facts to ensure that the cars are not going too fast on facilities that cannot cope with the speeds or forces, if an accident were to occur.
Due to the weight of the cars, will this mean the weight of the drivers will also have to come down? Drivers such as Nico Hulkenberg and Jenson Button have had to lose weight to compete in F1’s modern era, due to being two of the taller drivers on the grid. If the cars are heavier and they have to lose even more, will they be fit enough or strong enough to handle the cars. There is no denying that either of them are anything short of superb drivers and it would be suicidal if the F1’s new rules forced taller drivers, past and present to leave the sport.
All of these points will have to be addressed before even considering a rule change however the major factors that have got people talking are the big ones, tyres and overtaking. As I mentioned earlier, new rules aim to make the cars 5 seconds a lap faster, with the majority of this time coming from new aerodynamic rules, giving the cars more downforce enabling drivers to corner faster. But with aerodynamic grip comes turbulence, as air passes over the wings which unbalance cars running in close proximity behind. In addition to this, the cars will also be longer and wider, which will almost certainly make overtaking trickier. Surely the whole point of new rules would be to aid overtaking, not to hinder it?
In conclusion for me more needs to be done to look at the current rules and tweaking them to limit costs and to maximise effect as well as looking at other popular formulas and championships around the world and observe what makes them popular. If the FIA, teams and FOM look at this as well as listening to the fans, then Formula 1 has a bright future.