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Filtering by Tag: Stefan Johansson

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

Stefan Johansson

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

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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The Driver, The Artist, and Their Illustrated Friendship

Stefan Johansson

Stefan Johansson in his Los Angeles studio, September 2015

Stefan Johansson in his Los Angeles studio, September 2015

Posted on October 07, 2015 | Written by Chris Hull | Source:

For many of us, the artistry of a race car evokes the same reverence as that of a piece of conventional art. Be it a weld or a brush stroke, a poignant piece of canvas fortified with color, or a glimpse of meticulously machined aluminum peeking out from behind a swath of carbon fiber, there are parallels and commonalities between them. Some of us behold the beautiful lines imposed by aerodynamic efficiency the same way we stand in awe of a priceless painting or architectural masterpiece. On the hallowed grounds of Monza or in the inspired halls of the MoMA, our brains are bombarded with the same pleasure cocktail of endorphins and dopamine. The sweet spot of our interests lies firmly at the apex of art and racing.

A few years ago, I was working for iconic racing apparel/equipment manufacturer Alpinestars. Alpinestars has a rich history in motorsports, outfitting teams and drivers in Formula 1, MotoGP, NASCAR, and every other major segment of professional and amateur racing. It was not uncommon to find a former F1 driver’s business card buried in an office drawer. One day as I was sifting through a drawer, I stumbled across a specific card that donned a very recognizable and intriguing graphic. This 3.5 inch by 2 inch piece of plastic suggested that it had a story to tell that I wanted to hear. It was likely a story of art and racing and the aforementioned sweet spot where they collide. It was Stefan Johansson’s card and it was embellished with a personalized Keith Haring graphic. I wanted to know how this came to be and I promptly emailed the address on the card.

The institutions of motorsports and modern art have famously rubbed elbows in the past. BMW has played a significant role in the intersection of art and racing, with their fabled Art Car series. Since its inception in 1975 the BMW art car program has explored the beautiful, aesthetic wonderland that exists between auto design, racing and contemporary art. Art royalty such as Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein, Alexander Calder, David Hockney–and most recently Jeff Koons–have all projected their artistic vision onto some of BMW’s most storied machines. Bavarian motor masterpieces such as the 3.0 CSL, M1, and M3 as well as the V12LMS Prototype have been graced by the brush stroke of BMW’s 40 year old celebration of art and auto.

A lesser known, yet equally interesting fusion of racing and art was cultivated from an unlikely friendship during the late 1980s. Keith Haring had already established himself as an icon and influencer of the Pop Art movement. Stefan Johansson was a dependable workhorse of Formula 1, driving for the likes of McLaren, Ferrari, Tyrrell, and others. He was living in Monaco at the time, already nurturing a passion for art and design. An avid painter himself, he had begun collecting contemporary art, especially gravitating towards the Pop Art genre. As such, Keith Haring’s work resonated deeply with Stefan.

As is the nature of Monaco, the paths of cultural influencers, celebrities, athletes (F1 drivers), artists, and socialites tend to cross. Such was the case when Haring and Johansson found themselves across the table from each other at a dinner hosted by mutual friends.

“I don’t think Keith ever went to a race actually, we met outside the races completely unrelated to anything to do with racing.” Recalls Johansson of their 1988 meeting. “He had no interest whatsoever in cars or racing. We didn’t meet because I was a racing driver and he was a fan of racing, it was more of an organic meeting between people.”

The American artist and the Swedish F1 driver struck up a friendship and mutual respect for each other’s fields of work. Eventually a casual “Hey wouldn't it be cool if...” conversation took place, exploring where they might be able to merge their personalities and talents.

“I can’t actually remember how it came about.”

Said Johansson of the impromptu collaboration.

“I think we just talked about it over dinner one night as it would be a cool idea and then he came up with this design a few days later.”

The “design” is a wonderful, whimsical, and easily identifiable Haring illustration that the artist rendered as a friendly gesture and gift for Stefan. Very few people can say that they own a Keith Haring original piece of art, even fewer can say they possess a bespoke piece that bears their name and identity.

The simple drawing of an F1 man/machine hybrid creature wears trademarks of Haring’s style and pragmatic characteristics. It is enthusiastic. It suggests movement and speed and it evokes personality and character. The casual and playful cartoonish illustration is accompanied by Stefan Johansson’s name scrawled in equally casual hand-drawn block letters. Everything about it yields Haring’s iconic style and carries hints of his history as a graffiti artist, as well as a celebrated fine artist. The piece falls into an interesting space between objet d'art and logo. It is very much evocative of the era in which it was conceived.

The drawing has maintained a rather low profile over the years. Stefan has used it on his personal business cards and letterhead. He’s printed a couple of T shirts over the years, but never tried to commercialize it or use it in an overtly public manner.

The personal nature of the graphic and the fact that it was a somewhat spontaneous gift has kept it protected but possibly under-appreciated. While the simple sketch and text may not be as publicly impactful as say–a 1979 BMW M1 vividly hand-embellished by Andy Warhol–its significance is not lost on Johansson.

“I do reflect on it now and realize it’s a pretty cool thing,. At the time it didn’t seem that big of a deal, but as time goes by Keith’s work has become iconic. I see from the reaction I get from people when they see my business card that it’s something that’s a bit special,” Stefan reflects.

“Keith was a very special and incredibly kind person. Sadly he passed away only a few years after we met, so our friendship was rather fleeting. The fact that he was able to accomplish so much in such few years with his art is a true sign of how talented he was. His legacy in the art world will only become larger as time goes by.”

Stefan Johansson maintains a productive career in motorsports as a driver, manager, and consultant. He also continues to express his art and design tendencies in his paintings and in a fine timepiece company that bears his name. Keith Haring passed away in 1990, but his legacy lives on as an icon of not only contemporary art, but of social commentary and activism. His art resonates as much now with new generations of admirers as it did when he was alive.

While Haring may not have been a rabid F1 fan and Johansson may not have multiple world titles under his belt, their friendship still procured an invaluable anecdote of Formula 1 history. An anecdote rarely recited, but greatly appreciated by those of us who live for that perfect union of art and racing.

To complement this year's F1 USGP, Circuit of The Americas will explore the union of art and racing with POP AUSTIN. The POP AUSTIN International Art Show will host a satellite exhibit featuring an impressive collection of fine art, including pieces from Andy Warhol, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Richard Orlinski, Desire Obtain Cherish, Shane Guffogg, Micky Hoogendijk and others.

The POP AUSTIN track exhibit, located in the Grand Plaza will be a not-to-miss experience and will be available and open to all race goers.

More information about POP AUSTIN is available here.

Tickets for the 2015 F1 USGP are going fast. Book yours today.

Johansson: Haas has done its homework ahead of F1 entry

Stefan Johansson

Former Formula 1 driver Stefan Johansson has praised Haas F1 Team for ‘doing its homework’ ahead of its entry to the sport in 2016.

Haas is set to become the first American team to race in F1 in 30 years when it lines up on the grid for the Australian Grand Prix in April.

However, a great deal of scepticism does surround the arrival of a new team in F1 following the difficulties faced by the most recent trio of entries in 2010.

HRT raced until 2012 before collapsing, whilst Caterham lasted until the end of the 2014 season. Manor (formerly Marussia) is the only remaining ‘new’ team on the grid.

Haas is looking to buck the trend thanks to a technical partnership with Ferrari, and Johansson believes that this is a very smart move.

In an interview on his website, the Swedish racing veteran wrote about the idea of customer cars in F1, and why he thinks they should be re-introduced. Customer cars are banned in the sport, but technical partnerships are permitted.

“Well, I don’t understand the attitude of some the smaller teams,” Johansson said. “They say customer cars will ruin Formula 1 and that they have 300 people employed and what will happen to them?

“At the same time they’re scrambling for every penny because the cars are so expensive to make now and they can’t afford to pay their people or their suppliers in many cases.

“If I was Manor and I was offered a Ferrari I’d jump at it! Who wouldn’t? Their budget would be less than it is now. The car would already be developed and sorted and you could run the team with probably 60 people. It just makes business sense.”

Johansson praised Haas for engaging in a technical partnership with Ferrari, pushing the boundaries of working with a bigger team ahead of its entry to the sport next year.

“They’re pushing it as close to that as the rules will allow currently,” Johansson said.

“They’ve done their homework, they’ve listened to the right people and it’s the way to do it.”

Johansson urges Manor to Follow Haas approach

Stefan Johansson

Former F1 driver Stefan Johansson has urged Manor to consider following the lead of the 2016 entrant Haas.

Manor, the former Marussia team and clear 2015 backmarker, has admitted in recent days it is wary of the threat posed by the incoming Haas' novel approach to F1.

Haas is pushing to the limit of the existing rules in terms of 'customer cars', buying as much as possible from its close technical partner Ferrari.

"They're pushing it as close to that as the rules will allow currently," Swede Johansson, who raced until the early 90s for teams including Ferrari and McLaren, said.

"They've done their homework, they've listened to the right people and it's the way to do it."

However, Haas' rival small teams are pushing back hard against the push to free the 'customer car' model in F1, insisting that manufacturing a chassis almost entirely alone is part of the DNA of the sport.

"Well, I don't understand the attitude of some the smaller teams," Johansson told his website.

"At the same time they're scrambling for every penny because the cars are so expensive to make now and they can't afford to pay their people or their suppliers in many cases.

"If I was Manor and I was offered a Ferrari I'd jump at it," said Johansson. "Who wouldn't? Their budget would be less than it is now. The car would already be developed and sorted and you could run the team with probably 60 people. It just makes business sense.

"With a customer car you still get to be part of the show, you still get money from Bernie and you could actually make some money if you do it right. As far as I'm concerned it's the way to go," he added.