At last! They’re doing something about front wings. Not much, mind you. But at least it’s a start; a tacit recognition that the current F1 car is totally out of proportion from the aesthetic as well as the practical sense. Even more important, there was agreement. Of sorts.
We need to bear in mind that six teams are not happy with changes for 2019 that will include a simplified front wing with reduced outwash potential. Haas has already complained, team principal Guenther Steiner saying: “For small teams like us, it is not an advantage to get a new technical regulation for next year so late. We will do our best, but it will not be easy.”
F1 is not supposed to be easy. While the proposals may not be what Steiner needs to hear as he comes to terms with Haas, labelled a dark horse following pre-season testing, managing to gather just 11 points so far, it is necessary to look at the bigger picture.
The aim much further down the road is to reduce costs (a relative term in F1, I know) and ultimately have a more equitable distribution of cash that would help Haas, Force India and teams currently making do with less than half the budget enjoyed by the likes of Ferrari and Mercedes.
That may be for 2021 and beyond but this initial strategy is a toe in the water, on the understanding that sharks are not far from the surface. The ability of Liberty Media to withdraw their foot with all limbs intact is significant, even if one particular carnivorous fish in red is continuing to hover with menacing intent.
Sergio Marchionne has given implied approval to the proposals while declaring Ferrari is mainly interested in maintaining engine regulations that ‘reflect the nature of the sport’. That’s a broad statement. A definition of F1’s purpose – an exercise in road-relevant technology or a form of entertainment – is a big discussion for another time.
As is Marchionne’s barbed observation that the economics (including a proposed reduction in Ferrari’s excessive annual bonus from US$100m to $40m) are not workable. As an adjunct to such a substantial sticking point, discussion about revisions to front wing end plates are unlikely to hold the Ferrari president’s attention.
But tinkering around the edges – literally, in terms of the front wing – is important if we are to begin improving the racing. Will these changes work? I have no more idea than the amateur aerodynamicists flooding comment columns with theories about how previous attempts by the Overtaking Working Group (remember them?) failed to find a long-term solution, so why should this be any better?
In fact, this is very different; a form of central research set up by Liberty Media. It has to be worth a try. That said, it’s puzzling why a larger rear wing has been proposed, thus enhancing the effect of DRS. Surely the aim should be to reduce DRS to the point where it’s not necessary?
Although the FIA would never admit it at the time, DRS was nothing more than a sticking plaster on the deepening wound created by the fact that F1 cars could no longer run in close company – thanks to the effect of the aero back wash from the car in front.
And that is where we came in. Personally, I would simply state that the front wing should have a maximum of two elements and measure no more than, say, the elegant lines of the nose on the McLaren MP4/4.
Taking this exercise in naivety even further, I would also have Liberty Media and the FIA listen to the teams by all means, but then draw up the rules and present them, fait accompli. ‘This, ladies and gentlemen, is the F1 World Championship and you’re very welcome to take part. If it’s not to your taste, don’t slam the door on your way out.’
Yes, I know; almost as daft as the carbon fibre works of art you’ll see hanging off the front of F1 cars in Barcelona this weekend.