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Filtering by Tag: DRS

Stefan Johansson’s F1 revolution, Part 3: Proposed solutions

Stefan Johansson

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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.

Part 1 - Problems in philosophy

Part 2 - Identifying key issues

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Stefan Johansson's F1 revolution, Part 2: Identifying key issues

Stefan Johansson

Published on January 13, 2016 | Written by Stefan Johansson | Source: Motorsport.com


Continuing his three-part analysis on why Formula 1 needs a new approach, the ’80s grand prix star identifies the three areas that have sent the sport down a self-defeating dead end.


There are three main factors that determine the speed of a racing car – aerodynamics, engine and tires. Of these three, aerodynamics has become the most crucial component in modern car design. Yet, out of these three main factors, aerodynamics is the one area that has almost no significant benefit to anything beyond making a racecar go faster.

There is an endless tinkering to gain minuscule percentages of downforce versus drag, all determined by a very strict set of rules that basically allows for virtually no innovative thinking. It is purely a matter of spending as much time and money as is allowed by the rules to fine-tune the aero package.

The “development war” has become a big talking point in Formula 1, and the top teams are literally flying in crates with new aero parts every day during the course of a grand prix. It is purely a matter of cubic dollars, the more you spend the more you gain. Today a top F1 team is going through something like 75 different versions of its front wing-design in one season. The sheer cost of this is mindboggling. There is obviously a lot of other aero work going on at the same time but it’s all secondary to the front wing as this is what most influences aerodynamic forces along and over any open-wheel racecar.

Yet the more efficient the aero package is, the more difficult it is to pass the car in front of you as turbulence from the car ahead will inevitably affect the efficiency of the front wing of your car. When you look at the front wing of a current F1 car, it is not difficult to see how a slight interference in the perfect airflow will cause a major disturbance in the overall grip and in particular the front grip of the car. But it’s not only F1 cars that suffer from this problem; every modern racing car that produces downforce of any level is suffering from the same problem.

In an effort to try and make the racing more interesting, a number of “artificial” devices has been introduced, DRS (drag reduction system) being one of them. It’s helped the passing for sure, but it’s taken away a big part of what is the “art of racing”, in my opinion. There is no skill or technique involved in pressing a button in order to gain an advantage on the car in front of you, especially if this car is basically a sitting duck and has no ability to respond.

The current engines in F1 are incredibly sophisticated, so much so that they’re now called power units. The cost to develop these units is astronomical and drove up the costs for every team participating in F1. This has mostly affected the smaller teams who have to buy these engines from one of the engine manufacturers.

But it’s not only the cost of the engine that has gone up. Because they are so complicated to run and install, much more manpower is required. Combined with a general squeeze in the sponsorship flowing into F1 at the moment, this has caused most of the mid-level and smaller teams to rely more and more on Formula One Management’s complicated system of financial aid that pays out on a scale based on points scored in previous seasons.

Despite the massive cost of developing, manufacturing and maintaining these power units, the OEMs are forced to make them within an extremely strict set of rules, and there is only one option of technology that everyone must adhere to. So again, there is very little room for innovative thinking.

However, the big difference between the chassis and engine rules are that once you’ve submitted the engine you’re planning to run, you can only make changes according to incredibly complicated “token” regulations, whereas a team is allowed to develop its way out of a chassis problem. There is basically no limit to how many upgrades you can make to a car during a season. Apparently the main reason for this lock on engine development was to bring down costs, yet the cost of creating these power units in the first place has already broken any attempt at keeping the spends at a reasonable level.

For a while now, the tire supply in F1 has been limited to one manufacturer. The mandate to Pirelli has been to effectively build a bad tire, in the interest of making the racing more exciting. This has been going on for some years now and I don’t think anyone can say it has improved the racing on any level whatsoever. All it has done is make everyone drive 10-20% off their real pace just to make the tires last until a set lap in the race; it hasn’t altered strategy nor has it made the races more interesting.

For me it’s one of the worst ideas they have ever come up with in F1. It would be so much better for everyone involved if a driver was forced to be on the limit, every single lap throughout the race, so we see who are the really good ones and who are the ones who will make a mistake when the pressure is on.

One of the big arguments right now is about the cost of running a Formula 1 team, and how to reduce it. There’s talk of a cost cap and all sorts of different solutions are offered. There are several different thoughts and philosophies in this area – the smaller teams are complaining they don’t get enough of the profit share from the FOM, the bigger teams all want to spend more than they currently do if it means they can win.

I don’t think it will ever be possible to find a happy medium and it will be impossible to ever efficiently police a team’s outlay. The only sensible solution in my opinion is for the FIA to mandate new rules that would restrict or eliminate areas where big spending is done.

The money being spent on aero development in general is simply astronomical, the constant fiddling with the little aero widgets and bits and pieces being bolted on the cars is endless. Rather than focusing on overall downforce which increases corner speed, reducing drag would in my opinion be one of the major areas to focus on in order to help increase straightline speed.

If rules were devised to make drag reduction an imperative, super smart engineers would bring forth very major breakthroughs in a short period of time, and suddenly the difference between terminal speed on straights and cornering speed would be vastly increased. That would make the cars more of a handful, increase the length of braking zones, and thus increase the number and likelihood of passing opportunities.

Most people are now in agreement that the cars don’t sound or look spectacular enough, the fans can see that the drivers aren’t fighting their cars and, as a result, it’s difficult for fans to appreciate their heroes.

Part 1 - Problems in philosophy

Part 3 - Proposed solutions

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