It was originally the intention of the FIA to increase speeds in Formula One, reducing laptimes by 5-6 seconds. However, as the Strategy Group and teams have become involved arguments have presented themselves on just how this can be achieved.
One of the main reasons for mothballing this post is that I'd like to illustrate the proposals, however, this takes time, something that can be quite precious, especially when I'll need to do it all again when the technical regulations are actually released. As such, for the purpose of this article I have 'borrowed' some images from the great Giogio Piola's animation....
Giorgio presents what he believes an F1 challenger might look based around information that has been fed to him about the 2017 regulation changes.
As we can see from the overlay (above, top) the most obvious change is the width of the car, which centres around the introduction of wider tyres, increasing the cars track from 1800mm to 2000m, with the front tyres increasing from 245mm to 300mm and the rears 325mm to 400mm. This increase in tyre width is an attempt by the FIA and Pirelli to put an emphasis back on mechanical grip, something that will be immediately lost by the increase in downforce in any case.
You'll note from the image above that there has also been talk about deltoid shapes, notably to the front wing and sidepods leading edge. In the case of the front wing this has an effect on the 'neutral section' which sits 250mm either side of the centreline, as such you may be used to hearing the phrase Y250 vortex. A deltoid shaping of that section will not only change how the vortex forms on the car it also changes how the wing and car deal with being in the wake of another car. You'll note that Giorgio has intimated a point 200mm forward of the current neutral sections leading edge, which changes how airflow forms and is distributed downstream on the car, perhaps improving how the car deals with 'dirty air' spilt by the car ahead. (I'd certainly like to see the CFD analysis behind this change)
Front wing flex was an area of huge development during 2010-2012, primarily focused on Red Bull's ability to stay one step ahead of their rivals. The wings were designed to droop (flex) at their outermost edges, in order to change how the outer footprint of the tyre impacted on aero downstream and frame the flow inbetween. As such, I suspect we'll see revised load tests introduced within the new regulations, curtailing the practice before it gets off the ground.
The increase in the mainplanes length will almost certainly require modification to the nose regulations too, with the nose length and positions corrected to match.
In front of the sidepod we can see that an enlarged bargeboard (highlighted in red) has also been proposed, which is interesting given how the 2009 regulations originally sought to remove them altogether and then re-introduced a much, much smaller area for them to fit within.
|McLaren MP4-24 - Barcelona 2009
From the rear we can see that the rear wings height will be reduced from 950mm to 800mm with the overall flap box reduced from 750mm to 600mm to match. Meanwhile, the overall width of the wing will be increased from 750mm to around 900mm, which has inspired Giorgio to depict some WSR influenced curved endplates, retaining the brake duct fins (The change to the rear wings width will clearly have an impact on DRS too). You'll also note that Giorgio has mounted the rear wing on a beam wing, which is also inline to return and increase the downforce that can be leveraged from aero structures that combine in the upwash (Diffuser / Beam Wing / Rear Wing).
However, recent discussions in the technical working group and by the strategy group has hinted that the increase in diffuser size will be minimal at best, as they listen to those that think increasing diffuser performance may have a detrimental effect on overtaking. Whilst I agree that it may increase the risk of 'dirty air' the measures they're proposed with the front wing at least look to marginalise the issue. Meanwhile, lowering the rear wing structure, re-introducing the beam wing and increasing the height of the diffuser inherently changes the shape of the turbulence of the lead car. Furthermore, we have been through a stage recently 2010-2013 where the influence of the exhaust plume helped to drive the diffuser, increased wake turbulance (I wish it would be explained as this by the mainstream rather than as 'dirty air') but we still had plenty of overtaking.
2010 and 2012 provided perhaps the best on track action in recent times and coincide with large development cycles, that allowed teams to innovate. 2010 is probably the best example, with the scramble of 2009's major development, double deck diffusers, now much more mature as they adorned all the cars. However, there were still those that had better solutions. Meanwhile, the chase was on to utilize flexible front wings, refine the use of exhaust blown diffusers, with Red Bull leading the pack, McLaren's RW80 or F-Duct was seen as a major performance enhancement and so everyone chased its development, refueling was ditched and KERS put on a sabbatical, meaning running weight was now a major balancing act. This all put the teams under a huge development strain and as they all battled to reign supreme so did their drivers, meaning the title went to the wire.