Research group identifies three areas for future changes
Formula One’s research group has identified three areas aerodynamics, engine and suspension which should be prioritised in any future regulation changes.
Following the takeover by Liberty Media a year ago, Ross Brawn was appointed technical director, tasked to come up with ways of closing the performance gap and close up the gap between the top three teams and the rest of the field.
Brawn has recently said the next set of technical regulations will make the cars look “sensational”. But the group which includes former Benetton, Renault, Virgin, Manor and Williams technical director Pat Symonds, are looking also at improving the show.
Speaking to ESPN, Symonds said “F1 technical regulations are split into 21 sections. As we go through those sections, we can see some of them aren’t very relevant to the spectacle.”
“So we decided that what we wanted to do was technically, we wanted to have three performance differentiators.” He pointed to the aerodynamics which he says would be a differentiator between teams, as well as tyres and suspension.
Talks are ongoing about a budget cap proposal, but Symonds also is aware of the need to create a more level playing field to ensure multiple teams can win each race.
“Costs are making it difficult for those further down the field to make an impression on the leaders.” He said that the group wanted to get rid of predictability and domination by a single team.
Sirotkin part of Williams for long-term
Williams is expecting that Sergey Sirotkin will be with the team “for many years ahead” following a multi-year deal they announced last week, which will see him make his debut in Formula One this season.
Sirotkin was chosen by the British team as the best candidate to replace Felipe Massa, who retired from the sport at the end of last season. Speaking at an event in Moscow the team and Sirotkin’s backers and senior figures in the team made it clear a multi-year deal has been signed.
CEO of Williams Mike O’Driscoll said “What we have with Sergey is a multi-year contract. We have a lot of confidence in Sergey. We never talk about the specific terms for any driver at any point, and that’s common across many of the Formula 1 teams.”
“But we can tell you it’s a multi-year contract, so expect to see Sergey, in the years ahead, wearing the Williams uniform.” His Russian counterpart at SMP Racing Dmitry Samorukov says it was important to have a longer-term deal.
Samorukov added, “We knew that there was no point in signing a contract just for one year, in terms of Sergey’s work with the team and with the car.”
“Our programme is designed for more than a year. We have very flexible terms in the deal, but it’s definitely ‘one-plus’”
Williams chief technical officer Paddy Lowe added “We’re very excited about what Sergey can do this year, and even in the many years ahead.”
“We’re very impressed with what SMP are doing, it shows an example to the rest of the world, a process by which young drivers can be promoted and supported.”
Speaking about that test in Abu Dhabi at the end of November, O’Driscoll described Sirotkin’s performance as “flawless.” Adding “From the first few laps that he did in the car, you could feel the atmosphere in the garage, with the engineers, how immediately they were impressed with his times, his feedback, with his precision.”
“He made no mistakes, so the feeling that he was a great driver was there very early on, and it really was a universal feeling among the engineers that this was the guy we needed in the car.”
Force India faces “significant” threat
Force India’s deputy team principal Bob Fernley believes that the team will face a “significant” threat from McLaren and Renault this year. Force India finished fourth in the constructors’ championship for the second successive year, finishing a comfortably ahead of fifth-placed Williams.
Fernley is aware of Renault’s progress jumping from ninth to sixth place at the last race in Abu Dhabi. McLaren is switching to Renault power next season meaning they could become competitive and pose a threat in the midfield.
Speaking to Motorsport.com, Fernley said, “Caution would be both Renault and McLaren look quite handy so make sure we focus on the winter.”
“They are a significant threat and we need to take it seriously. We need to do quite a bit of work ourselves to make sure that we accommodate that. There will be no quarter given for those three cars. The three teams will be locked into a massive battle.”
Force India operates on one of the smallest budgets in Formula One, while its main rivals McLaren and Renault operate on around one hundred and fifty to seventy-five million.
Fernley says that it will always be difficult to compete against the bigger budgets, but they have managed to compete against them for the past two seasons and there is no reason for that not to continue.
Pirelli outlines 2018 development programme
Pirelli has outlined it tyre development programme for 2018 with all the teams planning to take part. Last year the tyre manufacturer used twenty-five days of testing throughout the year to develop new tyres for this season.
Last years tests allowed Pirelli to develop two new compounds of tyres to add at either end of the range of tyres. The testing programme also allowed them to run current cars, which they had not been allowed to do under the previous regulations.
Also, 2017 tyre development programme was more expansive and racing manager Mario Isola told ESPN, “It’s very similar, we already made and agreed on a plan. All the teams are willing to support us so it will be quite similar to last year.”
“The 10 teams running one two-day dry session each. Plus a few teams running on wet – wet is quite particular and more difficult to organise so we have some days dedicated to intermediate and wet with different teams.”
Isola said that 2017 shifted the manufactures mindset when it came to tyre selections this year, admitting they were too conservative with the nominations last year. But with tyres a step softer this year, he says that this creates opportunities for better choices this season.
Haas hurt itself – Steiner
Haas’s team principal Gunther Steiner has admitted that the team probably hurt themselves by switching the focus to next years car too soon.
At the summer break, the America team was seventh in the constructors, four points behind Toro Rosso. But by the end of the season, Renault had managed to leapfrog both teams, meaning Haas finished six points off Renault.
Haas made no secret of their early switch in 2016 to the 2017 car because of the major changes in aerodynamic regulations. But Steiner now admits it may have shifted too early. He told Motorsport.com “With the developments, I think we expected more but then again, we were fully aware that we had changed over early to next year’s car.”
“With hindsight, would we do something different? Maybe we would develop a little bit longer with this year’s car but you cannot go back. We had to focus on next year’s car because the last thing we want to do is to have a big drop in performance next year.”
Steiner believes that Haas will benefit from the stability in regulations over the winter, but says the team needs more consistency with their performance on the track. Saying “Our foundation was there but we still had a rollercoaster, I would say less the first part of the season because we scored points in a lot of events.”