Published on January 15, 2016 | Written by Stefan Johansson | Source: Motorsport.com
In the third and final part of his analysis of F1, Johansson suggests ways to solve the aero, powertrain, tyre and cost issues that plague the sport.
Here are some of my thoughts on how to improve the racing – mostly applied to Formula 1 as everything normally filters down from there:
AERODYNAMICS: Set a fixed limit on the level of downforce – say 2000lbs. A current F1 car produces 3500-3700lbs based on information I have so that's a decrease of something like 40 percent. It will be very easy to monitor downforce levels through the strain gauges on the push/pullrods on the suspension, which can then be fed directly into the car's ECU.
The focus will shift to other areas to create grip. In time, grip will be back to current levels but mostly through increased mechanical grip and better tyres.
This will lower minimum corner speeds, which will then be defined more by the driver balancing the car with throttle/steering coordination. Less downforce means less drag, which in turn increases straight-line speed, which will make the braking zones longer, which will increase the opportunities for overtaking.
Teams will always spend every penny available to them, but maybe this way the spend and the designers' efforts will be focused on areas that not only improve racing but also benefit the automotive industry.
FRONT WING: Freeze front wing design and make it the same for every team. The FIA should mandate one front wing design for all teams and it will be manufactured and supplied to teams directly by the FIA. This will shift the focus of the aero work as around 80 percent of the aero is dependent on the design of the front wing, especially on an open-wheel car.
TYRES: Regain a good portion of the lost downforce grip by increasing tyre size and width significantly. F1 cars will look more aggressive with wider and taller tyres instead of the current F3-on-steroids look. Increase rim size to make the wheels and tyres look more current and relevant to modern car design. Front/rear tyre size ratio should be closer than it is currently to compensate for the loss of front downforce due to the smaller, mandated and less efficient front wing.
TYRE MANUFACTURERS: Open it up to any manufacturer, to allow for more tyre testing, partly subsidized by tyre manufacturers. This will be the fastest and by far the cheapest way to improve lap times. Competing tyre manufacturers will also generate more money for the teams.
TESTING: I struggle to understand how it can be more expensive to go testing than to build the insanely expensive simulators that every team now uses. If it really is the case, then there's even more argument for finding a way to reduce costs to where it makes sense to do more actual running of the cars.
The FIA needs to study the costs involved in putting a car on track and the running costs per lap. This way they can establish a set of rules that will make the benefits of track testing greater than all devices currently used to compensate for the heavy restrictions on testing. This will help everyone including the fans!
ENGINE POWER: Increase engine power to around 1200-1300hp. This, like the drag reductions, will increase top speed, make the braking distance much longer, and thus allow more opportunities to overtake. It will also increase the speed difference between mid-corner minimum speed versus top speed on the straights. And overall laptimes will drop significantly with an extra 300hp.
POWER UNITS: Allow manufacturers to develop whatever type of engine they wish within predetermined criteria taking into account energy consumption, fuel consumption and all other factors necessary for a high level of energy efficiency and power output. If they want to continue down the path of these super complicated "power units" let them do so, but also allow for more innovative thinking.
Abandon the limitations on how many engines you can use in one season. The original argument about saving costs by only using a set number of engines in a season is already completely broken and it is in fact far more expensive to design and manufacture an engine that has to run a certain length of time than it is to build a "grenade" that only lasts the length of a race distance.
To build an engine once the major part of the development has been done is relatively cheap in the overall scheme of things. Once the CNC machine has been programmed, making 200 pistons instead of 50 doesn't alter the cost that much.
DRIVER AIDS: It doesn't matter if the car has 600 or 2000hp unless you get rid of all the driver aids currently being deployed. The driver has to be in 100% control of the car to make it interesting and spectacular to watch.
The cars have around 900hp at the moment but I am sure drivers would love it if they had to handle the cars purely with throttle control instead of getting radio messages from the pits telling them what to adjust on the near-50 different knobs, dials and switches in the cars now.
Outlawing all forms of driver aids, including engine mapping and other methods of engine and differential manipulation, will also increase the gap between the good drivers and the average or mediocre ones, forcing teams to hire the best drivers they can.
COST CAP/BUDGETS: A lot of the components on the car that have no bearing on its overall speed could be standard parts made by external suppliers and sold to each team at a fixed price. Right now, virtually every single component on a F1 car is designed and made in house.
These are examples of components that could be outsourced and tendered in a bidding process to the FIA: Gearbox, Brakes and brake ducts, differential, ECU, Electronics, Monocoque, Front Wing, Steering wheel and controls.
Everybody talks about how F1 needs a revolution, yet no one seems willing to address the fundamental issue – the fact that a small team that's only ever there to make up the numbers and has zero hope of ever winning a race, is still spending close to $100m per year, just to be part of the show.
What's the point of a team entering each season knowing it must rely on paying drivers to even survive? In my opinion, a winning budget should be $100-$150m, and a budget to be able to compete should be no more than $30m. It's either that, or F1 will become a single-seater version of the DTM, where the manufacturers control everything.
MONOCOQUE/CRASH STRUCTURE: As mentioned above, make all cars have one common crash structure, supplied by the FIA and then build the rest of the tub around that. I know it would prevent designers creating the ultimate aero package for their engine, but so what?
It will be the same for everyone and there would still be plenty of room to create their own bodywork, gain an edge on competitors and make each team's cars look different from their rivals'. Anyway, they all look pretty much the same as it is already.
SIMULATORS: Outlaw all communication between the team base and the race team on race weekends.
PITSTOPS: Make pitstops longer – limit to one person per wheel for example. This would make a bigger difference between the best and worst teams, and would have a bigger impact on what tyre strategy to choose as the time lost in the pits will have more bearing on the choice of tyres and when to stop.
Although it's amazing to watch a 2.5-second pitstop, when you've seen one, they're all the same, and it has done nothing to improve the racing or the show.
ARTIFICIAL PASSING: Get rid of DRS and use a simple push-to-pass system that would be very easy to program into the ECU of every car. Give the drivers 10 or 20 P2P boosts per race, the fans can follow this on the TV screen so they know how many each driver has left toward the end of the race. This system is used in IndyCar and works very well, but a driver can also use it to defend, unlike the DRS system.
WEIGHT LIMIT: Make the weight so that any driver within reason can compete on an equal basis without having to starve himself to death because he's four inches taller than some of his rivals.
RACE STEWARDS: Dump the idea of different ex-driver Stewards at each race; they make things too subjective and inconsistent. Hire one person who goes to all the races. He or she needs to be current with the modern cars and respected by all drivers.
BLOCKING: Blocking sucks, it has nothing to do with skill or race craft. It's OK to weave once to try and break the slipstream from the guy behind, but blocking of any kind has no business on the race track. If the guy behind is faster exiting a corner he has the right to try and pass, and should never be forced to lift off the throttle in a straight line. If he is close enough on corner entry, it should be down to who brakes latest or has the best line entering the corner.
DRIVER PROMOTION: Introduce mandatory autograph sessions, make drivers interact with the fans more. The drivers are the heroes, the fans want to get closer to them.
TRACK DESIGN: Design tracks so they punish drivers for making a mistake, not necessarily by having an accident but so that the trade off by going over the limit is big enough to not attempt it unless you're very close to the edge already.
Maybe a sand trap immediately after the curbing, then followed by the "sticky" asphalt being used at most tracks now. If you go off, you will end up in the sand trap and your session or race is over.
It's interesting that there are no more accidents around Monaco, for example, than there are in Austin, despite the fact that at Monaco the guard rail is in fact the track limit. The way track limits are abused right now has become a joke, and the lap times are literally determined by how strict the guys in race control are.
RULES STABILITY: The best way to diminish costs after the cost-saving measures listed above is by keeping the rules stable for as long as possible. The trade-off between increased performance and cost will get smaller for each year the rules stay the same. This will also bring the grids closer.
GOVERNANCE: To accomplish any of this, it's critical that teams are kept out of the rule-making process. They have proven over and over that they can't agree on anything; democracy does not work in racing. The governing body should have a competent and consistent team of individuals that will determine the rules; if the teams want to play, they simply follow the rules.
There are two governing bodies, the FOM on the commercial side and the FIA on the sporting side, and between them they must be able to put together a package that has the right balance to be able to carry the sport forward in the next decade and bring back the passion of people watching their heroes battling with super-fast "beasts" of cars.
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