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Getting rid of aero in F1 – the counterargument
Getting rid of aero in F1 – the counterargument
Posted By: James Allen  |  16 Mar 2010   |  8:30 pm GMT  |  553 comments

The debate rages on about how F1 can save itself from monotony this season. We’ve had an unprecdeented number of comments and suggestions here on JA on F1.

Following on from Sunday’s uninspiring Bahrain Grand Prix there have been calls for radical steps to be taken to change the cars and improve the racing, with many people pointing to the aerodynamics and particularly the double diffuser, which the FIA decided to allow at the start of last season, as the prime culprit.

The double diffuser is on its way out of the sport in 2011 anyway, having been voted out by the FOTA group of teams over the winter. But that won’t save the 2010 season.

Many readers of this site have said that aerodynamics are the area where the cars need to be reworked more generally in the interests of racing.

But there is a counter argument, which says that fans think the downforce is the devil because they are influenced by drivers. And it comes from the aerodynamicists themselves, not surprisingly.

Frank Dernie, one of the leading F1 aerodynamicists for the past 30 years, has sent me this note, arguing that the “overtaking problem in F1″ is not the aero, but the mechanical grip from the tyres and the lack of mistakes made by drivers on gearshifts due to semi automatic gearboxes. He advocates manual gearboxes and rock hard tyres. Hear him out.

“None of the facts in the last 30 years support the theory that grippy tyres and low downforce promote overtaking. If reducing downforce was the answer, then 1983 would have shown it, since we lost 80% of the aero efficiency in the 1983 rules, ” he says. “But there was no more overtaking than in 1982.

“Here’s the proof – if downforce prevented overtaking, historically the races with the fewest overtaking manoeuvres would have been the wet races, where maximum downforce settings are used… Why anybody still thinks a reduction in downforce is the solution when faced with the facts has been a consistent mystery and frustration to me.

“Too much difference in grip between on and off line is a major factor, caused by sticky tyres (lots of mechanical grip)

“Braking distances into slow corners are far too short, caused by sticky tyres (too much mechanical grip).

“The other reason why it is hard to overtake in current F1 is that the fastest cars are at the front with slower ones behind, so there is no reason to expect overtaking unless a driver makes a mistake.

“In this case overtaking will only ever happen following mistakes, which are rare nowadays with super sticky tyres, big runoff areas and semi automatic gearboxes.

“A few things have worked in the past.

– One set of tyre for the race worked, but Michelin’s tyres were much more suited to this than Bridgestone, so it was changed since Bridgestone were to become the only supplier.

– Single lap qualifying. Often fast cars qualified out of pace order, making overtaking likely. It was unpopular since it was “not fair”.

“When there was overtaking in the past it was mainly due to the low grip of the tyres leaving a wide racing line and long braking distances combined with cars much more difficult to drive due to low grip and manual gearboxes, hence more mistakes.

“We will never fix it whilst so many people ignore the facts and fixate on long held views which are completely at variance with the data.

“The problem is that quite a few influential people, like drivers and ex-drivers in the media, do not want the changes which certainly worked in the past. The drivers hate hard tyres, despite them probably being 50% solution, and the engineers love semi-automatic gearboxes, the other 50%…

Most overtakes took place in the past when a driver made a mistake due to poor grip or missed a gear.”

On the subject of double diffusers making it difficult to follow, he said that early last year the Toyota drivers complained that the hardest car to follow was the Renault, which didn’t have a double diffuser.

One of the reasons semi-automactic gearboxes have remained popular is that they prevent engines from over-revving on downshifts, which is even more important in this era of 8 engines per season.

But if F1 engineers can perfect the seamless shift, surely they can invent a system for a manual gearbox which would dip the clutch if the driver tried to select a gear that was too low for the engine speed.

Rock hard tyres and manual boxes and make the drivers work for a living – what do you think?

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  1. Martin P says:

    Couldn’t agree more, particularly with the gearboxes.

    It was great when one car could be up the backside of another into a turn and put so much pressure on that the lead driver screws a gear change and gives that nose distance for an overtake.

    But yet again all this does it highlight how people won’t agree.

    Bernie is right on one big thing – democracies don’t work, it has to be a dictatorship. As long as it’s the right dictator.

    1. TM says:

      I’m not so sure about the dictatorship, but I totally get what you mean. The way I have always felt about it is that the teams should not be governing the sport, in any way. I feel that way about any sport, not only F1. There are just too many agendas – understandable agendas, but agendas all the same.

      1. Canuck says:

        I Live in Canada. we already get Nascar here. I tend to disagree with Mr. Dernie as it would bring F1 down a few notches
        I think part of the appeal in F1 is how technology is an integral part of the offer.
        I could watch processional races in the past when we had unlimited revs on V10′s, nice looking cars, gearboxes were being re-invented, and aero was being developed on an ongoing basis.
        the processional race of last week with GP2 pace and capped revs on engines that put a premium on saving the car instead of going all out have no appeal to me.
        I have watched F1 since the 80′s and love Ferrari and still was disappointed.
        just my 2 cents.

      2. Rudy Pyatt says:

        Thank you Frank Dernie for giving us the rest of the story.

        Bernie E has made much the same point (amazing that I’m agreeing with him for once, but when the man’s right, I’ll give him his due): The engineers’ agenda is to optimize the cars to produce the perfect lap time, not to race one another as such.

        It seems that to reach that goal, the teams seek to remove as much of the human element, the possibility of human error interfering with the designed-for lap time, as possible. Semi-automatic transmissions help to do that. Until something finally breaks that mindset, F1 will remain a multi-car time trial.

      3. Gilles says:

        I agree with you: the focus is more on lap time than actual racing these days. Whether they lap in the 1:55s or 2:02s in Bahrain is simply irrelevant: they should race each other, not the clock. When we see wheel-to-wheel racing, the focus is on the actual race. Lap times have become important because of the absence of real racing action.

        Just a thought about Dernie: his argument is actually countered by the facts of 2009. The aero was limited by the wing redesign and cars could follow each other more closely. Not close enough, but closer than the years before. The FIA were actually on the right track but then shot itself in the foot by allowing double diffusers. They should reactivate the Overtaking Group asap, because what’s the point in having harder tyres and missing a gear when you’re too far behind to take advantage ?

        On a practical note: harder tyres can be introduced in 2010 already by simply limiting everyone to the hardest compound. No tyre variable anymore, as the current rules in this area lead to nothing; just to qualify on the soft and race on the hard one. Would allow Bridgestone to trim its F1 budget a bit as well …

      4. Soumya Banerjee says:

        @Rudy:cant agree with u more. Unfortunately engineers rule the sport and even more unfortunately,their idea of a good race is not compatible with that of the spectator’s. But i also think that layouts of most F1 circuits is such that not much overtaking is possible. The turns dont infuse that much confidence on a driver to overtake a slower-lapping car ahead of him.

    2. Majarvis says:

      One word: NO

      Everyone answering “yes” to manual gearboxes are out of touch with reality and out to lunch. Modern F1 machinery are much too fast for manual gearboxes, and it would be a devolution of the sport.

      Keep the gearboxes they have now, and give them GRIPPIER tires, not HARDER. If the drivers can move around more because of increased grip, more overtaking opportunities will present themselves.

      1. Martin P says:

        Like I said, it just proves the point that people won’t agree.

        Someone just needs to decide and get on with it.

        Although at the moment I can’t quite tell who that someone actually is… FOM? FOTA? FIA? We’ve heard Bernie’s line, we’ve heard a couple of comments from FOTA members, I’ve seen NOTHING from Todt though.

        Maybe if everyone sticks their heads up their own backsides for a few races it’ll all go away. The pinnacle of innovation.

      2. David says:

        good to see fans completely ignoring expert opinions entirely

      3. Med says:

        Well since the logic behind having grooved tyres up until recently was to make them harder, more slippery, more likely to induce mistakes and therefore increase overtaking, you can see why…

      4. Daver says:

        Grooved Tires reduced the contact patch. It didn’t necessarily make them harder! If your read the article again, the harder tires are more about giving an off-line option and longer breaking distances.

        Leave the Semi-auto changes, limit diffuses (properly), inforce harder tires and two tire changes. At least then drivers will be inclined to risk their tires in off line moves and late breaking if they have to change them anyway.

        At the moment it is a case of trash your tires, trash your race! This was unequivially shown in Bahrain. Martin B even commented on an overtake during the race where a driver when defensive onto the dirt off-line and then the overtake from behind was assured.

      5. krad says:

        I really dont see why modern cars are to fast for manual gear boxes. I dont think they are significantly faster than cars of the early ’90s.

        I think you are missing the point of the tyre argument as well. With super grippy tyres the effect of going off line, onto the marbles is far more pronounced than on low grip scenarios. This is what leads to more difficult overtaking

      6. Simon A says:

        Grippier tyres would produce more marbles, so no way they could go offline to overtake. The harder tyre would produce less marbles in my understanding so more chance of an offline overtake? Please correct me if I’m wrong. I think that is the point Mr Dernie is making. I’d tend to agree with the brake discs being downgraded and harder tyres, but I’m undecided on the gearbox issue. By manual do they mean H-Box or still using paddles. Paddles would mean sequential so no chance to miss gears anyway. I think a gearstick is just another piece of pointy metal/carbon fibre in the cockpit to account for in an accident at this point in F1 technology/development.

      7. Paul Kirk says:

        I agree on your tyre comments, and I’ve always been confused as to why they’d make tyres that didn’t last till they were worn out, as opposed to one or two laps and then getting slower! Is that STUPID or what? Gearboxes—- percentage-wise I think they would have a minimal effect other than slower lap times. Brakes—well, in modern F1 the retardation is only limited by tyre grip so reducing brake size wouldn’t increase braking distance, but of course they might not be able to last a complete race without fading or wearing out, so then drivers would have to conserve brakes, as well as tyres, fuel, engines etc. Prety boreing, eh!

      8. Lockster says:

        There’s a problem with that arguement…

        Grippier tyres means more rubber on the track, more rubber on the track means a grippier racing line, a grippier racing line means that the driver trying to overtake OFF the racing line (which they will have to do) will not get the grip that they need to overtake the driver in front who is already on the racing line…

        To add to this, grippier tyres will also leave more rubber “marbles” off the racing line which will make it even more slippery “off-line”.

        Lastly, having harder tyres will mean that they will have to begin to brake earlier for the corners and will therefore increase the braking distance. That allows more opportunity for a good driver that is very good under brakes to slide up alongside the car in front.

        I used to think that we needed to see grippier tyres too, but the facts just don’t support that arguement i’m afraid.

      9. Steve says:

        Well said. I agree 100%.

      10. Road of Bones says:

        Good point – as illustrated by Buemi’s rather poor defence of his position against Rubens on Sunday: he was moving to the inside early, off the racing line & therefore losing grip, leaving himself wide open to being passed on the corner exit due to his reduced speed & dirtied tyres.

        Frank Dernie is well-qualified to have an opinion, but to go back to manual gearboxes and rock-hard tyres would be a retrograde step, IMO.

    3. Martin P says:

      I’ve just read Bernie’s latest comment;

      “It would take far too long and it is too difficult. F1 is now a democracy and all the teams voted for these rules, so now they must also deal with them”

      Sounds to me like Bernie’s using the tried and tested method of making them eat the cake they baked so they’ll let someone else cook next time.

      The question is, is it his call to make?

      James, I know Bernie has influence, but does he have any actual power or could the teams and the FIA just get on with changing anything they agree to without even consulting him?

      1. James Allen says:

        FOTA has power as a union of the teams and can achieve unanimity at times, which was rare in the past, but its a delicate union. The FIA listens to FOTA recommendations and the can get new initiative voted through F1 commission and then World Council to make them happen.

    4. Peter G says:

      Is it time to consider something, perhaps a little more sophisticated but along the lines of the Hanford wing used in Cart racing in the late 1990′s which created a huge hole in the air behind cars on the speedways slowing them a bit but making them more vulnerable to being overtaken. On the speedways it was simply too effective making overtaking a circus act rather than a demonstration of real skill but something like the Hanford wing mandating that F1 cars can run closer together, tied in with a wider racing line courtesy of harder tyres and less “marbles” might improve the show substantially without destroying its credibility.

  2. dren says:

    I agree 100% with this. I also believe that the type of track leads to overtaking. The tracks need to be wider and designed for more passing.

    Also another no brainer that was pointed out here. Qualifying puts the cars in order based roughly on pace. So it’s natural that there is little to no passing because everyone is already spread out in order.

    1. Ibrahim M says:

      No matter how wide the track is, there will always be one ideal racing line. Trulli is no easier to overtake at Sepang than at Spa.
      There is one ideal line. Go off it and you are at a disadvantage. If the guy in front is not slow enough, or half good at defending his position, overtaking is not going to be any easier.

    2. Mark Crooks says:

      I heard that for the new Indy street track in Sao Paulo some of the drivers were consulted and they recommended increasing the length of the straight. They listened and the result was alot of overtaking moves at the end of the straight.

      How many of the new circuits in F1 do you ever recall that drivers were consulted in the design of the circuit?

      1. Lockster says:

        Michael Schumacher was a consultant on several tracks over the years. I can’t recall which individual tracks he was involved in the design of, but someone else may know.

      2. Mark Crooks says:

        You are correct however he was consulted on how to make the tracks safer not how to improve the specticle and increase overtaking

    3. Make them start on the same tyres they qualify on so softer tyres will yield faster qualy but will wear out after (say) 12 laps. Harder compounds will be slower for qualy but will last 20 laps. That would yield a mixture of strategies (hopefully) which would mix up the grid a bit.

      The key here is the tyre producer making a tyre that is designed to wear out so that you can either get grip or durability. Either way the tyres should be harder than we are seeing just now to prevent so many marbles off line.

      1. AmandaG says:

        The first part is what happened in Bahrain. They all (but Sutil) in the top 10 started on the softer option because they had to start on the tyre they qualified on.

        No tyre producer will bring substandard tyres to a race if they are only racing against thmeselves.

        Bridgestone are advertising, you dont advertise a sub-standard product.

      2. Yes I know they all started on their qualy tyres but what I am getting at is the fact that the harder tyre (which they must use at least once in the race) is too durable so once you are using that tyre, whether at the start or later in the race, you might as well stay on that tyre to the end! It is not worth the time lost in a pit stop to change back to the soft for the last stint or to change to fresh medium compound. If the tyres were less durable and crucially the softer compound must be less durable than the harder compound then that will encourage differing strategies. For example, 4 sets of softs versus 2 sets of mediums. That way you might get a Force India on the front row on softs with Ferrari on the 3rd row on mediums and 3 stops versus 1 stop. That would be interesting IMHO.

        I never said that Bridgestone should produce “Sub Standard” tyres, I just said they should be designed to last much less than race distance. All I’m talking about is less rubber thickness and ideally some form of indicator (red rubber layer) to show when they are done. There is nothing wrong with designing a high performance tyre to last 12 laps or 20 laps and it won’t hurt Bridgestone’s image.

    4. Racergil says:

      However wide the track is, is there is still only one racing line. Bahrain is wide, as is China and Malaysia, but I will bet you a Red Bull that there will be no passing in the current format. His points are well taken, but for the fact that manual gear boxes are no longer pertinent at so many levels of motor racing. It would be a major step back technologically speaking, and I don’t know that F1 will consider it.

      1. dren says:

        If the cars use a very hard tire, like what the article states, the racing line will not be rubbered up as much, and the only advantage from running the racing line is the fact that it’s the optimal line for speed, not because it is stickier. Taking away a sticky line will certainly aid in overtaking, especially if the track is wider.

      2. Alam R says:

        Most fans care about racing not the gearbox. The skill of a racing driver to stir the cogs is an art form.

        Humans race, its our skill that excites then comes the tech.

        Bring back the manual transmission and a clutch. lets hear the driver blipping on the downshift not the computer.

      3. Rudy Pyatt says:

        Clicked too soon, so: F1 cars are neither the fastest, nor the most powerful. Those that are have drives who can shift for themselves. And for those who say that you can’t compare the disciplines, remember this: Time counts on the quarter mile, even more than in F1. But you still have to beat the other car across the line.

        And for those who doubt the power numbers (I was off. It’s actually closer to 7K bhp), have a look:


      4. Murray says:

        Or allow a CVT, such as the one that Williams built and tested in the early-mid ’90s, but that the driver control the ratio, not electronics. Instead of a clutch pedal, one that controls the ratio. Foot off the pedal, disengaged, hard to the floor, top gear ratio and everything between the two. High tech, but manual.

      5. Soumya Banerjee says:

        But the cars have been dumbed down as much as safety allows. Traction & launch control hav been abolished but there’s been no substantial increase in overtaking even then.
        Manual gearboxes cant be introduced on such fast cars. Tyres hav 2 b made less grippier to increase the racing line

    5. Steve says:

      How about awarding points for qualifying positions but randomly allocating grid position. That would make for a lot of overtaking.

  3. Sebee says:

    You know what’s missing – drivers with a reputation. When Schimi would “bump” into you to decide the championship it made you be scared to see him in your mirrors. If Sato was starting next to you, you had a restless night. If Mantoya was on your butt you made mistakes. If Mika was riding your tail for 7 laps it was just a matter of time…

    Point to one driver with a reputation for me please. One that’s not robotic in the legacy of Schumi.

    Yes, aero development ruined all that, but that’s progress for you. Those cars were state of the art back then. Today they are bricks. In all honesty I think they should reduce the aero. Put that mp4/6 in the wind tunnel and duplicate the results to today’s look of F1.

    1. Bayan says:

      or the mp19

    2. Pking007 says:

      Thats a ridiculous argument why we dont have overtaking anymore. For the records, Mika and Montoya were two of my favourite but Lewis Hamilton fit all those descriptions.

      Shumacher was on the filed in Bahrain remember?

  4. JanK says:

    Sounds reasonable, except F1 was supposed to be pinnacle of motor racing. Going back 15 years and reintroducing manual gearboxes wouldn’t do the sport any good. Reducing mechanical grip would quickly be called unsafe, so I don’t think we can expect anyone from FIA to consider it.
    The most important thing mr Dernie wrote is about the qualifying format. It is true, why should we expect any overtaking at all, if the cars start the race ordered according to their speed?

    1. Lockster says:

      Maybe they should start each race in reverse championship order with the current WDC points leader (Alonso) in the rear of the grid and the next highest points holder (Massa) in front of him, all the way through to the lowest points holder (Chandhok) starting in pole position.

      I know, I know, it sounds absolutely stupid, but by having The slowest at the front and the fastest at the back it would certainly create some wild GP’s. Imagine watching the fastest guys work their way through the pack…

      Ok, you can all start flaming me now. :)

    2. Alam R says:

      It still is the pinnicle. This is motor racing not a Nasa project.

      We have to tone down the tech or start a series for AI racing for the engineering freaks.

      We the fans set should set the agenda of what pinnicle means to us.

      The best drivers in world facing each other.

      1. Gilles says:

        Indeed, people talk about tech and strategies because there’s not much else to talk about.

        Whenever real racing is on view, that easily puts all the rest firmly in the background.

        Who cares what setup JB was running or which tyres at Interlagos, he was flying through the field !
        JB en MW had a nice fight in Abu Dhabi as well, I’m not thinking back about what revs they were running at or which lap time they were doing.

    3. Soumya Banerjee says:

      We can because differing strategies may mean that even chandok on freshes can b staring at alonso’s back when he’s got worn down tyres. Then a pass is obv likely.

  5. malcolm.strachan says:

    Disagree 100%.

    The aero wake will still be just as bad, and the following car will have even less mechanical grip to rely on, thus increasing the closest possible following distance. Through each aero-influenced corner, the trailing car will lose significant time, thus preventing him/her to be close enough to strike.

    1. Momo says:

      True, but what do you propose?

    2. malcolm.strachan says:

      The post above was made in haste (had an appointment). I need to clarify:

      Disagree 100% with the hard tire idea, for the reasons listed above.

      Agree 100% with the single-lap qualifying, with the aim at spicing up the grid without resorting to gimmicks.

    3. knoxploration says:

      Got it in one, Malcolm. What Dernie completely fails to address is the fact that it’s near-on impossible for cars to get closer together on the straight than about a third of a second – and that’s even when the guy behind is fully one or two seconds a lap faster. Even at 100mph, that’s a gap of almost exactly three car lengths (based on the length declared for this year’s Sauber).

      The sole reason drivers can’t get closer together than this is because of the hot, turbulent air coming off the car in front. Without that, there’s absolutely no reason the cars wouldn’t be able to follow each other nose to tail down a long straight (presuming the car behind had enough power to catch the guy in front, that is).

      So – when you arrive in the braking zone for a corner which would seem conducive to overtaking, you’ve generally got at least several car lengths to catch up on your rival before you’re even starting to pull alongside him, and with the rules we have this year, he’s generally likely to have a reasonably similar load and tire condition to you as well. Yet somehow you’ve got to be able to carry enough extra speed through the corner to make up four or more car lengths.

      No wonder overtaking is a big ask for the drivers these days.

      Dernie’s coming at this from a position of self-interest, I’m afraid. Bluntly speaking, he doesn’t want to admit that the problem lies on his doorstep, because without the aero battle he’s out of a job. He may genuinely believe in his statement, but that doesn’t make him right.

      Contrasting Dernie’s position, we’ve got a fairly clear consensus from the drivers that aero is the problem. They’re about as impartial as you can get, because they could really care less whether they’re benefiting from aero or mechanical grip, so long as it gets them to the front. How many times have we heard drivers say that they couldn’t get any closer to the guy ahead because the front started to wash away every time they got near? Rather a few, I’d wager.

      So sorry James, but I’m going to have to disagree with Dernie, and with the suggestion of this posting. Slap rubbish tires and a manual gearbox in and we’ll have more mistakes, yes. We won’t have more overtaking though, because overtaking is about skill from the guy behind, not lack of skill from the guy in front. If Dernie has his way, we’ll basically replace overtaking altogether with the luck of the draw.

      1. Kibby says:

        I think your post sums it up pretty well. Mr Dernie brings us an interesting insight but not the whole story. Having the job he has there is biais…bottom line: yeah, this aerodinamics super-science has become too important damn it. Mechanical grip from tires on the other hand would allow cars to closely follow each other so…decisions have to be made!!!

      2. Dickie says:

        “The sole reason drivers can’t get closer together than this is because of the hot, turbulent air coming off the car in front”
        I’m sorry but this isn’t true. Cars cant get as close *in corners* because the turbulent air in the wake of the leading car upsets the aero, meaning there’s less downforce. But if the wings produce less downforce, then there *has* to be less drag.

        I wonder if one of the reasons we see less slipstreaming now is because all the engines have pretty similar power, or the cars have similarly efficient aero. Winning in F1 is currently about being a tenth or two a lap quicker than the next guy, whereas in the past there has been a bigger gap between the cars. If you look at qualifying in the past, there’s generally been a few seconds between say pole and 10th place. At Bahrain on Saturday (in Q1) the top 10 were covered by a second. With cars that are so equally matched, then it stands to reason that overtaking will be much less common.

      3. knoxploration says:

        Dickie, if your assertion was right, then we wouldn’t see cars stuck behind the guy in front for lap after lap, 0.3-0.5 seconds off his tail, until the precise moment he gets out of the way (pits, makes a mistake, whatever) – and then suddenly rocketing off at a second a lap or more into the distance.

        Fact is though, we *have* seen that. We’ve seen it many, many times over the last few years. If we don’t see it much this season, the only reason will be that the rule changes have basically forced most of the frontrunners onto near-identical strategies with near-identically fuelled (and hence weighted) cars.

        Given that we know even a car which is significantly faster in lap pace can’t get closer than a third of a second to the guy in front, there has to be a reason for it. It ain’t the engine, because the car can easily catch up, and once past can easily disappear down the road. It isn’t tires, because your tires don’t adversely impact the guy behind you (we get faster on the racing line throughout the weekend as rubber is laid down, remember – tires only make it slower *off* the racing line on the marbles). It isn’t an invisible, magical forcefield, either.

        The only meaningful effect two cars that aren’t touching are directly having on each other at a couple hundred miles an hour is the air that passes between them. It’s relatively clean for the first guy, but turbulent and “dirty” for the guy behind. (It’s also hotter, but I wouldn’t expect it to be enough so to significantly rob the following car’s engine of power – just enough to cause him cooling issues with extended nose-to-tail running).

        Truth be told, we *do* have an aero problem, no matter what anybody would like to say.

      4. Dickie says:

        I was addressing the comment that it’s impossible to slipstream now because of turbulence. The reason we see cars stuck behind for lap after lap isn’t because they can’t slipstream, it’s because the turbulence makes it harder for cars to follow in the corners. Which means that cars aren’t close enough on the straights to pass. Part of the problem here is aero, part of it is down to track layout too.

        You mention cars being “significantly faster” too. Well, for the last few years its very rare for a car to be significantly quicker than the rest of the field. The Brawn at the start of last year was said to be much quicker, and what was that when it came to it? 5-6 tenths a lap? Compare this to the 80s, where car differences were often measured in seconds. A couple of tenths over a lap is very small, so even without the aero problems it’s much harder to overtake, as the overall “skill” level is higher.

      5. knoxploration says:

        Dickie, my reference to cars being significantly faster was mostly regarding past seasons where we had refuelling and more variant tire strategies. That was the situation where we tended to have cars significantly faster than the guy in front.

      6. Dickie says:

        I don’t particularly remember there being *significantly* faster cars under the previous rules. The teams mostly ran fairly similar strategies, so the difference in weights weren’t always that huge. Certainly, I don’t remember too many cases where drivers have been a second or two faster than the guy in front, except in wet races (where the fuel effect is less influential of a factor anyway!).

      7. Soumya Banerjee says:

        If there is a large racing line then people cud stay out of the dirty airflow of the cars ahead. Datz wat Dernie wants 2 imply & datz y introducing less grippier tyres is going 2 help more. This dirty airflow being the reason for less overtaking concept is rubbish. Didnt u fellas c wat alonso was doing on bahrain main straight?

    4. Ibrahim M says:

      If the breaking distances are not so short due to the tyre grip and powerful breaks, the following car doesn’t need to be as close as is required now. You can’t have so much power and speed in the cars and compromise on breaks though. But I agree, you have a valid point there.
      It is not simple, this is why the greatest engineering minds are struggling to find a simple fix to the problem.

      1. Alam R says:

        This simple fix is:

        -Manual Transmission
        -Harder compound tire
        -Reduced aero and a controlled wake which allows cars to follow.

        They can still build the best cars in the world and it will take the very best drivers to control them. Now that what I would call entertainment.

    5. Ben G says:

      I’m with Malcolm. The fact is that drivers cannot get close enough to each other because of the turbulent wake caused by fancy aerodynamics.

      Yes, manual gearboxes would cause mistakes, but I want to see drivers racing, not profiting from errors.

      The best way to liven up the show would be to have two races. Lottery qualifying to determine the starting order for a ten lap sprint race, which would then determine the starting order for a longer 50 lap point-scoring race.

  6. HowardHughes says:

    Like the idea of manual gearboxes – that would certainly make the racing vastly more interesting!

    But Dernie, for all that he obviously knows 2 million times more about car aerodynamics than I do, has missed the main point. It’s now about downforce. Downforce = cars’ ability to stick to the road like glue. But two cars with massive downforce should still be able to dart about, overtaking and re-overtaking each other. In fact, arguably they should be MORE able to, since each driver will have massive confidence in their grip levels.

    What is choking, strangling, stifling and killing overtaking and wheel-to-wheel racing isn’t downforce, but the unwelcome result of overly-engineered aerodynamics – turbulence. I’ve said it another recent post, but the current style of cars virtually operate their own weather systems at high speed – how many times, right up to this past weekend, have we heard drivers complain that once they get with 3 or 4 car lengths behind the one they want to overtake, the ‘dirty air’ prevents them getting any closer unless one car has either vastly better tyres or a significantly more powerful engine than the other.

    Dernie’s the aero expert – but why has he chosen only to discuss downforce and ignored the unwelcome byproduct of what’s he paid precisely to do, ie make the cars as aerodynamically perfect as he can?

    We need to reduce the amount of so-called ‘dirty air’ coming off the backs of the cars by 80-90%. And we need to do it very, very soon, because all the complaints from drivers, commentators and fans over the past decade and a half or so can’t all be coincidence.

    1. Brace says:

      Exactly. It’s not the aero downforce itself.
      It’s the dirty air that is the core problem.

    2. Tijl Kindt says:

      I wonder how you would measure and enforce certain levels of ‘dirty air’? Dirty air can only be measured in a wind tunnel, and I doubt Bernie has money to put every car into a wind tunnel before every race to check that their latest aero update confirms to certain levels of dirty air.

      I think you can only decrease the influence of dirty air by lowering the overall downforce levels.

    3. malcolm.strachan says:

      Excellent post.

      I’ve said this before… the aero wake is the problem. Endplate design, diffuser design and rear wing design need to be looked at to determine how to reduce the vortices shed from the back of the car.

      It’s not difficult; mandate certain control surfaces to ensure that the flow is straightened coming off the back of the car, and suddenly following another car may be possible!

      Also, F1 would become a very boring sport if the only passing came about as a result of mistakes made.

      1. alk says:

        They already tried doing that for 2009. I’m not expert, so it’s possible that they did it incorrectly. But it seems that the lesson from 2009 for the teams is that there’s always some clever loophole in specs that must be found and exploited. Again, I’m not expert, but it looks like F1 as a pinnacle of motor sport cannot be significantly more overtaken oriented. The level of competition and technical brilliance is simply to high. Maybe it’s time to simply accept that ?

      2. Simon A says:

        Design the diffuser, front and rear wings and standardise them, it would be a huge cost cutting measure in terms of aero but they’ll just spend elsewhere. Keep the adjustable front wing, but everyone gets the same or within very tightly defined rules. The wake of every car would then be the same. What benefit do aerodynamics give outside of F1? Other technologies should be available for development to compensate, active suspension anyone? I do think that harder tyres to produce less marbles and allow offline overtaking is a good idea though, and a change in brake material to lengthen braking distances would also help. But these restricted techs need to be replaced with something else for the engineers to get their teeth into. Something that won’t prevent close racing. The problems are a result of the rules not the engineers/teams working to them.

      3. Martin says:

        Hi Malcolm,

        The ‘it’s not difficult’ bit for turning turbulent flow into laminar flow is to my knowledge a large challenge. Turbulent flow is not well understood, but one thing the flow has is relatively high energy. For example, the Reynolds number, which is used to estimate the onset of turbulence, is directly proportional to velocity.

        The next thing to realise is that the flow behind the wings is laminar for some distance – it is not immediately turbulent. The wings work by sending a large mass of air upwards and from Newtonian physics the conservation of momentum means that wings push the car down. The underside of the car is using Bernoulli to generate low pressure. The diffusers are aiming to slow the air as much as possible to bring the pressure up to a close to 1 atmosphere as possible. With a perfect diffuser I believe there would be minimal turbulence as the air would have minimal velocity at the exit of the car. In contrast the wings do a lot of work on the air. The air flow gains a lot of energy and as it loses that energy through friction it become turbulent.

        To maintain aerodynamic downforce, which would be required to keep F1 as the fastest series, I believe (I did some fluid dynamics including CFD at uni 11-12 years ago as part of my engineering degree, but I’m not claiming professional expertise) that the rear wing should be nothing more than a near horizontal advertising space (if that). Ground effect generated downforce would be much better.

        There is a safety question as to whether skirts should be allowed, as downforce is obviously lost if the seal is damaged. Rigid skirts that notionally are only allowed to wear a certain amount through a race in the same way as the current plank could be a way to do this.

        A further possibility is to repeat the 1978 Brabham fan car concept. Taken to the extreme this design is unaffected by the presence of other cars. With the diffusers on current cars debris is still picked up and then the down wash from the rear wing sends it all over the place anyway, so the fan car shouldn’t be much worse. In its one race the fan car was said to be relatively impervious to oil dropped on the track (rarely an issue these days).

  7. Alan Dove says:

    There’s another aspect people forget. If you suddenly reduce the speed of F1 cars you’ll have to do the same for all other sub-F1 single seater series. Can F1 really survive if GP2 cars are quicker?

    1. Lockster says:

      I don’t think anyone would really care if the races were exciting…

      1. Gilles says:

        F1 is the global racing brand, appealing to the masses. FIA will strangle competitors anyway; remember how Bernie E used to try and lure Mercedes/Audi/VW from sportscars into FA by changing the rules via the FIA ?
        WTC gone, Group C gone …
        F1 just needs to up the spectacle, the rest will come by itself – nobody will care about the other series; F1 is where the glamour is

  8. Robert McKay says:

    I think its a combination of lots of things – as pointed out by Frank Dernie.

    Tyres, yes. Circuit design, yes. Semi-auto gearboxes, yes.

    Fast cars at the front? Yes. (Though that must have been some sort of factor for a while, though, surely). But what can you do about that? “Random” or reverse grids will go down like a lead balloon. And single lap quali wasn’t good at all.

    Is aero a factor? Well, unless the working group coming up with the 2009 regs were all having a laugh and just pretending to do some work, presumably it is seen to be some sort of factor too.

    But given some of the radical changes that’s happened over the last few years, I find it strange that simply making the tyres harder is difficult to get through. Semi-auto gearboxes could be removed if we really wanted to – it’d be a step back, but hey we got shot of traction control and launch control because we wanted to see driver skill and not fancy electronics, so it can be done too.

    It needs to be done. But other factors need to be looked at too, not least of all circuit design.

  9. Jodum5 says:

    These sound a lot more reasonable than shortcuts, mandatory pitstops and what not.

  10. Not sure by his claim that wet races would have the least overtaking moves! Surely in the wet the most important factor is tyre on the tarmac. The cars are going nowhere near their potential speed, therefore not producing their optimal level of downforce.

    I’d like to hear the thoughts of Patrick Head on this, as I believe from what I have read, he wasn’t a fan of aerodynamics to start with.

    1. Martin says:

      I believe Patrick was also Frank’s boss at Williams for quite a while.

      The wet race comment comes from screwing on as much downforce as is available. However, the key this is obviously that the grip levels are unpredictable and other lines become feasible allowing cars to run closer together. So yes I agree that the wet race argument seems like a thrown-in point.

    2. Lockster says:

      Didn’t Patrick Head and his team PERFECT the concept of “Ground Effect” which used aerodynamics to suck the car closer to the road?

      1. Murray says:

        No, but they developed an incrementally better Lotus 79, something Lotus couldn’t manage, and then developed incrementally better active suspension than Lotus, to manage aero/track relationship.

  11. Gaspar says:

    Forget about aero . Of course the type of the circuit it matters , of course all the things said in the article it matters , but let’s work around the current regulations . I think one of the solution is to give a motivation to an extra stop . Maybe the speed limiting in the pits is too much , except tight pits like Monaco , so the overall time in the pits will be shorter , giving a motivation to an agressive strategy . And maybe the other solution is to not to force the Top 10 to start with the same tyre used in Q3 . In the current regulations everybody will be using soft compound so they will start in the similar way . But maybe if that rule will be changed , some people will try to start with hard tyre giving a chance to a shake-up .

    1. Gilles says:

      I disagree; introducing mandatory pitstops fails to address the root cause, which is cars not being able to closely follow each other. Remember that pitstops were introduced in order to produce position changes, but in the end what did we get: no increase in overtaking as everybody just waits for the pitstops. With or without pitstops, F1 has been a mainly processional affair for the last 25 years.

      If anything, we should take away any excuses from the main thing, which is cars racing each other. That is what people want to see, not strategy calculations or strategy induced position changes. Even with pitstops, the guy on pole would most likely win the race.

      2009 has been the most exciting season in years, because all the budget cuts are paying off: more cars had a chance to win the race. Before that, it was between 2 cars and all the rest just made up the numbers.
      People going on about how F1 should be the pinnacle of technology: been there, done that -the guy with the deepest pockets wins.
      Relevance to road cars: it’s racing, not test labs. I drive a diesel powered car, with a manual gearbox …

      Ultimately, the race should be decided by the guy in the car, not someone on the pit wall. Pole position used to mean something: who was able to do the fastest lap. That didn’t mean he would win the race though,and it shouldn’t. Otherwise we can call quali the race …

      Budget restrictions are going in the right direction: the whole field is matched closer than ever before. If the turbulence problem can be solved, F1 would be a great show.

  12. Frank’s comments are certainly food for thought but I for one want to see the strategic element brought back with refuelling.

    F1 has had years to get the spectacle right but every rule change seems to have the opposite effect.

    Short term measures are necessary – and certainly before Barcelona – but introducing
    two compulsory tyre stops may require races to be shortened.

    James – can the 2010 cars carry enough fuel to complete a full GP divided into three flat-out sprints by compulsory tyre stops ?

    1. malcolm.strachan says:

      Why does refuelling need to be brought back in order for there to be strategy? If the teams are given the option to use any tire they want (soft or hard), use a no-stop strategy, one stop using both compounds or two stops using softs for all three stints, wouldn’t that be enough strategy? That way, most of the overtaking would be done on the track, rather than just swapping places in the pits (which I personally found quite boring, to be honest).

  13. CMills says:

    I think aero is still an issue.

    Lewis was faster than Nico but couldn’t pass because of lack of downforce whenever he got close.

    I think they should allow the flexi-wings back in F1. Cars following another’s dirty air will have the downforce to at least stay close, and then have an increased burst of speed when they dip out for a pass.

    I never understood why they banned flexi wings in the first place yet allow double diffusers and adjustable fronts wings a couple of years later.

    1. malcolm.strachan says:

      Flexi-wings were banned for safety reasons. They were relying on the flexibility of materials, which could (and did) lead to dangerous failures.

      Now, if you are suggesting a move to spring-loaded wings with pivots and fail-safe mechanisms, that’s a different story; however, the car following could be at a disadvantage because while drafting, their wing would be in the high-downforce/high-drag position, so when they pull out to pass, the wing would need a fraction of a second to lay back and subsequently reduce drag. Also, a wing in dirty air won’t really see an effect by a small change in angle of attack, so I doubt it would help in terms of allowing trailing cars to follow closely.

      1. CMills says:

        Spring-loaded wings with pivots would be a good idea. It would be crazy, and it would cost money to develop, but if successful, would sure be worth it.

        If the front wings could participate as well, and independently of each other, it could definitely shake things up during the races.

        With more range in the angle of attack compared to the 6 degrees of range available to the drivers now, I think it could make a difference.

  14. David Jerromes says:

    What interesting points, especially for me as I’ve been advocating a massive reduction in aero and simultaneous increase in mechanical grip!

    However the sticky tyres and semi-auto boxes don’t explain the inability of cars to follow each other closely and almost total lack of overtaking!!!

    Instead I would ask why it is that Indy cars can do what we want to see in F1; follow the car in front so closely AND overtake regularly???

    Low grip tyres in comparison to F1?

    What is the respective aero versus mechanical grip on an F1 car compared to that of Indy cars???
    Or other be-winged single-seater race cars??

    As for wet race comments in relation to overtaking surely pure visibility plays more of a role than almost anything else, one can’t get too close regardless of the respective ‘grip’ be it aero or mech!

    If all said by Mr D is true then why are cars like Ferrari’s or Red Bulls so much quicker than the rest, mech grip rather than aero??

    1. Martin says:

      IRL cars are heavier, so a larger proportion of the grip is mechanical as the aero levels are lower. A larger proportion of the downforce comes from under the car the nature of Bernoulli related venturis is that these generate less turbulent flow than wings.

      The lower downforce to static mass ratio means the braking distances are much longer. The cars also have limited periods of extra power. These two combined with reduced turbulence give more overtaking in my assessment.

  15. shawn says:

    Formula 1 cars are designed to run perfectly in clear air, so they cannot follow each other.

    As it is now, ideally the fastest car will win every race – the designers design a car that is fastest in clear air to get pole position, then can lead the entire race in clear air. This is what all teams are currently striving to achieve, as this is what the regulations demand.

    Teams do not use any wind tunnel time to improve how their car works in dirty air as it takes away recourses from creating the fastest car in clean air.

    Therefore, the long term solution should be to scrap qualifying and have the grid as the reverse championship order (i.e the driver leading the championship stats last)

    This will force teams to design a ‘racing car’ rather than just a ‘fast car’, as to win the championship a car will have to come through the field at most races.

    1. Tijl Kindt says:

      I’m beginning to think that this would be the most effective, albeit drastic, solution in order to spice up the races.

      It would make races not about who’s the fastest, but who’s best at overtaking (which obviously requires a fast car, along with a good driver).

    2. Francisco says:

      Let’s face the facts, the expert already says that aero is NOT the main issue.

      I think you are on the money.
      Refueling, 2/3/20 stops, hard tyres,etc are not the solution. Some sort of reverse grid is the way. It is a short term solution that can be used from from Australia if FOTA agree.

      In my view, F1 is first a show and second a sport, i.e. the show is more importantt that the sport. Overtaking is more fun than who is the fastest on a single lap for the average viewer.

      Technology developments need to stay, KERB, automatic gear box, etc. This is F1 after all.

  16. pat says:

    About two years ago F1 magazine ran an article about a computer generated F1 Car. You will remember it was the picture with a set of wings over each tire and nothing in the middle. This would increase the air flow over the centre of the car for the following car to utilize. Has there been any discussion about that design?

    1. HowardHughes says:

      Yup. The government stockpiled as many copies of that issue as they could, in case an emergency tissue paper shortage were ever to befall the nation.

    2. Craig D says:

      Yes, that horrible effort. I can’t remember the details but it turned out upon doing the calculations that it would actually have made the issue worse! And hence the 2009 regs were what was designed.

    3. malcolm.strachan says:

      I think some engineers quashed that idea, since the net upwash from the rear wings would cancel out the little downwash from the open center section.

      Also, I think the turbulence is more of an issue than the direction of airflow, along with the vortices shed from the rear of the cars. A few years ago, it was noted that the Toyota was particularly bad to follow, and I think James said recently that the Renault was bad to follow last year.

  17. Sven says:

    So then, we need hard tyres. Not very difficult to bring in quickly and the cars to start in inverted order to points position in championship. The designers thus have to give priority to design cars that are not sensitive to the wake of another car since overtaking is the only way to make a good result.

  18. Skanda says:

    Why dont they use water sprinklers before the race? I have never seen a single boring wet race. That should level the field and we will have more teams competing for places and place the emphasis on the drivers as well.

    1. rpaco says:

      Ace idea! A sprinkling of silicone powder on the corners would spice it up no end too. :-)

  19. Carl says:

    I have always thought it crazy F1 spends $$$ on fly a way races just for one race. Also if you put cars on the grid in order of speed then your obviously not going to get alot of passing.

    Solution, Eliminate Qualifying.On Saturday have a race based on championship standings. The driver with the most points starting last and so on.

    Where a driver finishes on the Saturday race is his grid postion for Sundays race.

    Your going to get alot of racing, passing etc. Bernie gets a better show, two races a weekend.

    Also I’d have one soft tyre compound so u need 2 stops per race, don’t bother having two, another saving.

    The only way to get passing is to have faster cars behind slower ones…

    1. rfs says:

      Well then you could just keep qualifying and flip the grid. It sounds like a cheap way to get a spectacle though.

      1. DGNYC says:

        Wouldn’t you just try to go as slow as possible in qualifying then?

      2. Tijl Kindt says:

        Then everybody’s going to drive as sloooooooowly as possible in qualifying which isn’t that much fun…

      3. Baktru says:

        That obviously wouldn’t work. You then just go very very slowly in qualifying.

        No keep qualifying and give points for quali results, say the old points we had for the race.

        Then for the race, people start in reverse order of the championship and, between drivers with equal points, start position is still decided by the qualis.

        This puts the fast cars at the back and hence should improve the racing.

        By the way, has anyone ever considered weight penalties for fast cars as you have in GT racing? Win a race? You get X kilo extra to your minimum weight, which gradually goes away again after a number of races.

      4. RV says:

        Sounds like what north american hockey league does for drafting new players, weaker teams pick first, stronger teams pick last. Not quite reversing qualifying, as a team *wants* to get the most points all the time. Also, *passing* should be a skill a top driver should have, no?

        But then, what do you do on Saturday afternoon to spice up the show?

        All things considered, I’d rather see stronger teams start from the back and work their way to the front, than start at the front and stay there, all I do now is watch the first 3 laps, nap for an hour, and try to catch the last 3 laps….zzzzzzzzzzzz

      5. Gilles says:

        every car should be as fast as the other, which what they are working on with regulated engines, etc – everybody should be able to win by overtaking

        the best driver should win, not the best car (ie Damon in 96, Prost in 93, Nigel in 92)

        artifial juggling about with grid positions and adding weight is diversin attention from the main issue: the impossibility to overtake

  20. Richard says:

    Well I was previously going for soft tyres that wear out – but I will bow to superior knowledge – if hard tyres make it easier to overtake due to longer breaking distances and more grip off the line, then I’ll get my chisel out and start carving ones out of the nearest granite block…

    I presume the gearbox could be made manual by a software change.. so no problem having that done by Spain then.

    Sadly I can see two chances of FOTA agreeing with this…

  21. S.J.M says:

    Very interesting article. Ive always wondered about Manual Gearboxs as being used in modern F1. Driver error will probably increase as anyone whose driven a manual gearbox road car will mess up their gears from time to time.

    On a personal note to what Mr Dernie said about wet races having the least overtaking. That maybe the case, but they usually happen to be the most entertaining due to the chaos that follows.

  22. DP says:

    Aero must also be a factor. Overtaking does happen when one car manages to get in a slipstream, but it’s so rarely achieved due to the difficulty in staying close through the last corner. Also, lower grip grooved tyres have already been tried.

    Bahrain isn’t helped anyway by being a dull, featureless circuit.

  23. Sebee says:

    Then why are all the best tracks narrow? Interlagos, Spa, Imola, Monza, Montreal -all narrow by Bahrain standards.

    1. malcolm.strachan says:


      Another common trait… Mr. Tilke wasn’t involved in their design! Personally, I think the reasons why the older circuits have more character is because they weren’t designed by computer, thereby giving the track little idiosyncrasies that are eliminated these days by super-accurate circuit design.

      1. Stevie P says:

        ie, Bumps n stuff!

  24. smellyden says:

    This is a interesting argument and again credit to you James from bringing insight like no other, this really is the definitive F1 site! This sounds like a fantastic soloution, but also I feel the refueling adds an extra dimension. But all this talk but how will this turn into action. Its going to be difficult near impossible to implement it this year. So it looks like 2011! I hope though the racing improves and some sort of tempoary soloutions finds itself. But with the new engine formula coming it it seems like within the FIA a lot of head scratching is going to commenence.!

  25. Mark Crooks says:

    While I agree that the 1st race of the season was boring I think it is unwise to make any major changes to the rules so soon.

    If anything all of this has proved that changing the rules for the greater good of the sport usually impacts F1 in some other unforeseen way. We have seen it time and time again yet the FIA and FOTA insist on introducing over complicated solutions.

    KISS (keep it simple stupid) should always apply with any rule changes.

    I have been saying all along on other F1 forums that F1 is in great danger of destroying itself resulting in some other form of motorsport taking over.

    I for one thoroughly enjoyed the opening Indy race and recently saw a fantastic IRL race live. So I can safely say that once Indy sorts itself out with the new 2012 spec cars, a good mix of drivers, tracks and better sponsorship then I think it could well be a contender.

    1. Gilles says:

      I can’t wait: the race fans can then watch IRL and the technology fans can watch the best cars in the world … follow each other around in F1

      1. Martin Smith says:

        Just like the Nineties and early Noughties, then!

  26. Richard says:

    Oh by the way James – Once again another brilliant and insightful article. Your articles give me more to think about than any of the other F1 journalists – congratulations on a job really well done.

  27. Relativity says:

    With all due respect to Frank Dernie, my views are somewhat different.

    With rock hard tires and manual gearboxes, F1 cars will be circulating at speeds less than GP2 cars. Is that the kind of F1 we want?

    Another issue with this suggestion is that this solution cannot be implemented quickly. To reengineer gearboxes takes time and with resource restrictions in place, nobody wants to spend the money for completely new gearboxes.

    The question at hand is, how to spice up the 2010 season.

    I still think the easiest and fastest solution to spice up the 2010 season would be to have two mandatory pit stops and tires that are closer together in performance or just having one tire compound (saves Bridgestone some money as well).

    Knee-jerk reactions often lead to bad decisions so F1 fans should just take a deep breath and not lead to a hasty conclusion on a quick fix.

    Tires and pit stops are the quickest route to a better show in 2010.

    1. James Allen says:

      Well don’t you think that you would first set out what you want F1 to be, the align the other, lower series accordingly?

      1. Relativity says:

        James, for a long term solution that would be absolutely correct.

        Resetting the performance envelope of F1 and all the lower formulae to match each other will take 3 to 5 years.

        Meanwhile, the issue at hand is the snore-athon in the 2010 season that requires a quick fix that can be implemented quickly and without appearing as if the rule makers are fiddling with the rules excessively (perceptions are important). Having Bridgestone change the tires and requiring madatory pit-stops should achieve that goal for 2010.

        There are two key points to make here. F1 has never been a sport where there is too much overtaking on the track – this ain’t Nascar. Most of the action in F1 has always been based on strategy and pit stops. That has never bothered me too much (and I have watched every race on TV since 1983). The second point is that this season is a great marketing opportunity for F1 to generate new fans – four world champions, the return of Schumi, four competitive teams at the front. Squandering a mega-marketing opportunity like this seems like a waste.

      2. monktonnik says:

        ” The second point is that this season is a great marketing opportunity for F1 to generate new fans – four world champions, the return of Schumi, four competitive teams at the front. Squandering a mega-marketing opportunity like this seems like a waste.”

        This for me is the issue, from a sporting rather than marketing point of view.

        Let’s see how the first 4 races go, but if it is still processional let’s act quickly.

        I for one don’t want to look back on 2010 as the season that could have been great. I want to collapse in a heap at the end of the last GP on account of being spent after shouting at the telly for the previous 18 races!

      3. Relativity says:

        monktonnik: I want to collapse in a heap at the end of the last GP on account of being spent after shouting at the telly for the previous 18 races!”

        LOL……. that is exactly what all of us die-hard F1 fans want!!

  28. Vinay Pothnis says:


  29. N. Weingart says:

    I agree that causing more driver errors would increase passing opportunities but Dernie must admit that because cars lose downforce when closely following cars they can not get into position on the exit of curves to pass and also in braking zones they must be out in clean air to get max braking which makes it hard to surprise a leading car and position for a passing maneuver. Now the aero is so dominate that cars can’t follow closely because they will overheat! He is correct that one spec of tire per race will increase the chance that some drivers will be superior in using them correctly, resulting in more passing toward the end of races. I remember that Prost was very good at that!
    Also, downforce effect is relative to the downforce of other cars in the same race not what they had year to year!

  30. Rick M says:

    An excellent analysis, and I must admit I had fallen into the “its all about aero” line of thinking in the last few years. Yes drivers all love grip, but its how they handle the lack of it in wet races that provides such a spectacle. If they can replicate that in the dry with low-grip tyres then that would be very interesting to watch. The notion that hard tyres mean that there is less of a penalty for going off-line is also fascinating as it potentially opens up more overtaking opportunities.
    Best of all providing new tyre compounds is probably relatively quick and cheap to do (although as Bridgestone are leaving at the end of the year their motivation for doing so might not be there).
    Somehow though I can’t see teams wanting to bring back manual gearboxes.

  31. gavin says:

    The cars are built for speed not overtaking. They always will be regardless of regulations. If you build a faster car than your rival then you may be able to overtake them.The guy that controls the machine is programmed for overtaking (their ego does this automatically) so the only way to encourage him is to give him all the tools to have a stab at the guy infront without the fear that his race will be ruined if he flatspots a tyre just after his only stop on lap 20! Having to conserve tyres is not the way to get the driver to go hard out from lights to flag. They only solution is mandatory pitstops for tyres. All the talk is of 2 stops but why not make it three and give the teams large windows in which to take these stops. For example in Bahrain the ‘windows’ could have been laps 1-15, 16-35, 35-49. This gives the teams scope for stratagy but also gives the driver fresh rubber to attack all race long. More pitstops also puts added pressure on the pitcrews. The short first window would also create the situation where faster cars are mixing it with slower ones as they come out of there first stop which will encourage also overtaking. Anyway there is lots of talk but from the armchair this system would have made Bahrain more exciting to watch

    1. Gilles says:

      Sorry Gavin,
      Bahrain was also boring last year with the pitstops. All this will do is more of the same: waiting for the pitstop to pass the guy in front. NO – pass him on the track, you’re the driver, mate; not your pitcrew.

      Come to think of it: Bahrain has always been a boring race.

    2. N. Weingart says:


      The rules allow multiple pit stops now so if the strategy merited it teams would make more tire changes. This idea of trying to control what the driver must do during a race is NOT competition. Why not make a rule that drivers must change gears 20 times per lap or close their eyes for 30 seconds per lap! Let the racers race for goodness sake!

  32. Nevsky says:

    Would single lap qualifying find unanimity among the teams as a short term fix?

    1. malcolm.strachan says:

      It’d get my support, for sure!

  33. jacko says:

    Also agree to a point, i think skinny front tyres, big fat rear tyres, small short cord front wing, moving weight distribution and aero balance rearwards.

  34. Lustigson says:

    If that’s it takes, it has my blessing.

  35. johnpierre rivera says:


    a very enlightening post. dare i say i was one or the 400+ readers that replied earlier to your “press put the boot…” and although after reading your newest entry, i stand corrected on some of my aero comments, which is fine, i always like to learn more about the details of some of the aspects that we don’t usually see on sunday, i did at least get the gearbox part right. lets get back to manual shifting, a reduction in the crazy expensive carbon-fiber-ing, and this rock hard tire that has been mentioned. also if this harder tire produces less marbles, or clagg as david hobbs says, then the racing line will open up. make the diver work for that pass.

  36. gavin says:

    Is there anywhere I can get the lap time data for each lap and each car? It would be good to run a simulation including 3 stops to see what extra opportunities would have been created when the field is mixed up. Also what was the total pit lane time?

      1. gavin says:

        Thanks for that

  37. Matthew says:

    BTCC, WTCC, A1GP, GP2, Formula BMW, Porsche Supercup, Indycar, Aussie V8 Supercars etc. etc. all use semi-automatic gearboxes and have plenty of overtaking.

    What don’t they have? Mental aerodynamics.

    Would this guy be out of a job if the aero rules were massively limited? Probably.

    1. Dougie says:

      Exactly right, absolutely agree!

      1. Gilles says:

        Indeed – the guy is just protecting his job
        Limiting aero would also lead to less budget; less budget = level playing field = more cars can win
        … don’t see a problem here
        Can someone mail this to Bernie E and FIA ? (not FOTA, participants should not make the rules)

    2. Exactly. Formula One, the self preservation society. He was never going to blame aerodynamics was he!

    3. JSD says:

      Dernie has forgotten more about F1, engineering, and aero than most can fathom. He’s been in the sport since the aero revolution and helped create that revolution. The classes you mention do not have the total dollars spent on aero development that F1 does. Each incremental improvement is extraordinarily expensive AND reduce car to car racing because they are designed for clear air.

      Hard tire? Yes. They increase braking zones which will increase passing opportunity. They also increase the effect of driver error.

      Manual Gearbox? Yes. They increase the chance of error and the ratio of driver skill to engineering skill.

      If you want to see RACING you want more driver involvement.

      If you want to watch a STRATEGY and DESIGN contest then engineering will be dominant.

      Dernie points out, from the point of view of a design engineer with 30 years in F1, that the ratio of engineering to driving is out of balance.

      Dernie is right on the money.

      1. N. Weingart says:

        Dernie wants to be in the money, just like anybody else!
        The rules, not physics, dictate the design in F1. Cripple aero and let’s throw the money into powertrain and engine developement for awhile. Might make for better racing and it for sure will be more exciting to watch.

  38. Invoke says:

    The fact is that any car that is catching another car will suddenly stop catching when it gets to around one second behind the other car. How can this be caused by anything other than aero? The evidence is right there in front of our very eyes!

    1. HowardHughes says:

      Agree 100%

    2. Dougie says:


      1. Gilles says:

        SPOT ON !

        James, do you feedback this to Dernie ?

      2. James Allen says:

        He’ll read it here

    3. Anthony says:

      Yeah, he talks about the rainy races with more downforce being the ones with more overtaking, but you have to remember the overtaking takes place when a driver makes a mistake. nothing to do with the level of downforce in the car.

      the real problem is, a car can be faster than the one in the front but cant overtake when getting closer because of the dirty air. simple as that.

      1. JSD says:

        Its not just the dirty air and the effect on the front end. It’s also the reduced cooling on the engine. But mostly, it’s HOW LONG a car has to follow waiting for a mistake. That’s what ruins and overheats the tires.

        If they had harder tires and manual gearboxes, the cars theoretically would not spend as many laps directly behind another car ruining tires and overcooking engines – 1) because of increased opportunity with lengthened braking zones and 2) more frequent driver error.

        The theory is a lot of potential.

    4. Federico says:

      I do not agree. With harder tyres there would be a smaller differential between the grip a car has when running with clean air and the one when running besides another car (with turbulence).

    5. Kakashi says:

      thats even more a reason for the cars to have harder tyres… by doing so there will be more than 1 racing line and hence the cars will not have to follow the other car in its dirty air!!!
      it makes perfect sense to me to have tyres that promote multiple racing lines and dont punish for going “offline”
      thats the whole argument

  39. Henry Manney says:

    Why doesn’t someone take a poll of the past F1 champions,
    and ask THEM what measures might improve the racing ?
    After all, who should know better than the past champions ?

    It seems to me this poll could be conducted by James Allen,
    and the results reported to the FIA, FOTA, and the readers of
    this blog.

    1. Gilles says:

      I haven’t heard anything from past champions that would do the racing any good, except from Jacques Villeneuve: he blamed aero & I remember him suggesting a while back to get rid of the rearview mirrors, which only serve to block a guy trying to pass you – that’s a different voice from the PC comments the others make. ‘They should be able to hurt themselves on the track’ – this comes from a guy who can compare F1 to IRL (winning both competitions)

      I don’t think Nigel Mansell would put his WDC crown down to having the best car in ’92 or Mario Andretti admitting to the ground-effect deciding his in ’78 …

      What would my namesake Gilles Villeneuve think of all this: only overtake via pitstop, preserve the car above all, …

  40. PaulL says:

    That was a great informative write-up. Thanks James.

  41. shaun says:

    One point I will raise is that in wet races a number of other factors are also present such as driver error, standing water (offline), visibility etc so its not only the downforce which changes.

    But it is great to hear the other side of the argument. Have we all been duped by a driver-led conspiracy? They don’t all strike me as work-shy. It would make for a great piece of journalism or the FIA and/or FOM could, I imagine, easily fund the investigations needed.

    Anything to increase driver error without endangering their safety would add to the spectacle. And many of the points raised by Mr Dernie have been suggested on this and other sites. If all it took was hard tyres then maybe it does need proving and for Bridgestones replacement to design accordingly.

    Or maybe it should all be resolved with a TV Burp style ‘FIIIIIGHTTTT’.

  42. Scribe says:

    So the mechanics blame the aero and the aero guys blame the mechanics. Well the drivers blame the aero so who do we listen too. Partly a mixture of both but hasn’t aero run it’s course in F1. Surley mechanical grip gives back to the industry several more times than aero grip.

    My dream F1 would be this, Front and rear wings baned, apendages except mirrors and certain air cleaners banned, diffusers simplified. All dampers, active suspension etc unbanned. The current F1 cars produce more downforce than the ground effects cars, which is to much. Make aero all about efficiency and low drag and you can have faster straights and slower corners. An more fuel efficient cars, again giving back to the motor industry. Aerodynamics in Formula 1 have run their course, they don’t develop as fast or as exciting, get rid of most of it an focus on mechanical an you’ll have a better formula.

    1. Dougie says:

      The voice of reason. Except keep the wings, only make them very simple and ineffective. It’s good advertising space :)

    2. Gilles says:

      YES ! aero is for aircraft designers, not cars

      1. Simon A says:

        Spot on, active suspension and other electronic and mechanical goodies can be adapted and used in road cars, aero can’t. What we have in F1 is upside down aircraft, what we need is RACING cars.

  43. This is highly thought-provoking, an excellent article and insight!

    It makes perfect sense to try to keep the racing lines wider and avoid marbles as much as possible by using harder compounds but it is important to ensure that the tyres do need changing more than once during the race I think. Remember when we had grooved tyres there were rules to govern when a tyre was worn out – we need something similar with the slicks, perhaps a red layer of rubber after the tyre has worn to a certain extent?

    I like the idea of manual gearboxes up to a point but it does seem like a backward step in terms of technology which makes me think twice.

    Off the wall thought – how about a boost button which simultaneously gives extra power (nitrous or revs) at the *same time* as adding a balanced amount of extra front and rear wing angle. This would allow following cars to get closer in the corners but would yield no advantage to the car in front to use the button to defend. The idea is to allow cars to penetrate the “1 second” turbulent air region to the point where they can pick up a tow and then the overtake would be possible. Of course the trick would be finding the correct balance of extra wing and extra power but some sort of pop up standard winglets might make this practical.

    1. Gilles says:

      boost button ? we had this before and was called ‘a turbo’ …
      This worked fine though (remember Nigel’s pass on Ayrton at Silverstone) and would be better than KERS: kers regenerates and everybody would use it all the time – if you see someone trying to make a pass, hit your button to stay ahead – always use it to reduce your lap time to the max = impossible to get ahead. Kers only works when not everybody has it or some stupid rule to limit the use (ie max 10 times per race).
      Increasing turbo pressure would give you your boost, but: it costs you fuel.
      Reintroducing fuel pitstops again would off course destroy this idea again.
      Maybe something for 2013 with the new egine regs…

      1. Nick says:

        how about just a “button” that would allow to set another max of engine rpm, say 21000 for some time? Of course the numbers to be limited as well, i would propose to have it only 3 times, so a pilot should use it for the attack, not for the defending.
        And moreover nobody knows if someone behind you turn on that button or not …

  44. Mario says:

    The fastest cars are at the front, that is the thing standing out here the most. In a way it is obvious to every one as it has been like this ever since F1 was created, but you must agree with the man that there is no point expecting much overtaking in this format.
    I suggest top ten starting from the back of the grid, a mass Le Mans style start or a lottery for grid places.

    1. DK says:

      What about get rid of blue flag and let the drivers sweat a bit more for a win.

      1. Mario says:

        great idea

      2. Richard Mee says:

        Too much room for politics between teams… the season would become a popularity contest mired by ‘unsaid alliegencies’ between teams. Ferrari would certainly veto as it hasn’t made best of friends with the back markers!

  45. Cacarella says:

    ‘Toyota drivers complained that the hardest car to follow was the Renault, which didn’t have a double diffuser.’
    – Maybe it was the Driver that was difficult to follow? :)

    1. malcolm.strachan says:

      I think vortex generators (or other surfaces that create vortices as a byproduct) are more at fault than double-diffusers.

      1. Ben Miller says:

        That makes sense. Without knowing who participates in the Overtake Working Group – whilst positive measures to encourage overtaking will be discussed in meetings, is it possible when engineers head back to HQ they will be implementing designs to do much the opposite?

        We all know about Brawn (and Williams, Toyota) last year with the diffuser, and presumably the airflow from Mclaren’s stalled wing or Ferrari’s clever wheel design will create such vortices? If these teams are seen to be going against the spirit of the sport with such designs, is it not possible they are going a step further and introducing aerodynamic elements on the car with the simple use of preventing cars following closely behind?

        Being slightly cynical, when so much is at stake in F1 nowadays, are teams really going to hamper there own chances in return for a few more overtakes?

  46. George says:

    Should be the right way to go. Being only 18 I have never seen an F1 race with h pattern boxes! All I can do is watch onboard footage on YouTube. This alone would make much better racing + there’s more skill involved.

  47. Neil says:

    The solution is partly the harder tyres and, possibly a manual gearbox. I still think that aero has something to do with it. Even if we have manual gearboxes tomorrow, the car behind can’t get close enough to have a lunge because of the aero effect. By all means give us harder tyres, but get rid of these awful wings, increase underbody aero (which is not apparently affected by unclean aero wakes from preceeding cars) and lets see the cars dance and drift like they used to in the 60′s.

    Look to MotoGP for an example, they don’t have aero downforce at all, but they do have (effectively) seamless shift and other electronics. The benefit is they can follow each other closely and passing happens as a result.

    I don’t necessarily need to see 300 passes a race. What I want to see is some real RACING, wheel to wheel, diving inside your competitor on the brakes, or braving it out around the outside of a fast corner. Unfortunately, this is all too rare in F1, due to the current cars throwing out such unclean wakes and the following cars being totally dependant upon clean air. Get rid of this unclean wake and you should have closer racing. I think even Mr. Dernie would agree, the wings have a significant part to play in this ‘dirty wake’ issue.

    1. Gilles says:

      Neil, I am with you a 100% !

  48. rmstrong says:

    It will make the cars harder to control thus a greater likelihood of errors. However, I feel that issue would be resolved over time just as has been done with Aero.
    Also, though it might liven up the show, it would take things back a couple decades. F1 is supposed to be the pinnacle. I am not sure we should take things a step back. Fren has a point. The tracks are the biggest issue. I also feel the drivers would know better than anyone else why they can’t pass. Their only agenda is to win races not to promote Aero above mechanical grip.

  49. Kibby says:

    As F1 fans we do not really care about technical stuff, we want to see overtaking as this makes a race interesting. Refuelling did so too, this was rather a pale substitute for overtaking on track. Anyway he had something, do not have it anymore.
    So it seems one harder tire and manual gearboxes would be the salvation?. I do not know for the gearbox thing but I sure would love to see all that science-of- tire-selection gone, keep only the prime, scrap the options. For years I’m having the impression it’s some kind of tire-compounds championship. Optimal temperatures ranges and all that bull, what a headache! Really, that was too important for the outcome of a race.
    What know Bernie? And Maxie,…huuuuh…Monsieur Todt?

    1. John F says:

      > As F1 fans we do not really care about technical stuff

      I disagree. Maybe YOU don’t really care about technical stuff, but I know from many F1 fans that they are drawn to F1 BECAUSE of the technological aspect AND the racing.

      There are many forms of motor racing where technology is secondary to the show and there is nothing wrong with that.

      F1 lacks clearly in the “show” aspect but dumbing it down to a technological level of the lower Formulas is wrong.

      1. Gilles says:

        Technology is killing the racing: the guy with the deepest pockets wins. No need to expand the grid, limit it to 4 cars who have a realistic chance of winning – the infamous US GP all over again. Boy, was that exciting …

      2. Martin Smith says:

        I don’t really care about the technical stuff either. The interest for me has always lain chiefly in the human aspects of the sport. (I was pleasantly surprised to hear Martin Brundle to say during the Bahrain GP coverage that it’s the human side that he finds more interesting too.)

        I’m not suggesting that technology has no place in F1: of course it does. And if you’re interested or involved in engineering yourself, you’ll naturally be more taken with the technical side of F1 than I can ever be. But even with reduced levels of technology incorporated in them, the cars would seem extremely hi-tech to 95% of the viewing public.

        Motor *racing* is the name of the game. Technology will always be at a higher level in F1 than in any other formula, but it must always, always remain secondary to the quality of the racing.

      3. Kibby says:

        John F – you were missing the point, I would absolutely not want to see 200 meaningless passings (ie like NASCAR). Nor have technology expelled from F1. I do not really care about technical stuff beyond common people comprehension and training. The thing is F1 is kinda missing its own essence… which would be RACING I guess…One good reason – not necessary being the only one – to stand for this is lack of overtaking. If cars are not able to closely follow each other this IS a problem no matter how you look at it, no matter what “technical stuff” is involved…;)

  50. Mac says:

    Excellent article.

    We still need some form of reverse grids and marked lanes.

    1. JSD says:

      How do you prevent drivers competing for the slowest lap to get “pole”?

  51. Jonathan says:

    These are good suggestions for increasing overtaking, but we have to ask, how much do we really want to see more overtaking, if it means randomized grids or hobbled cars?

    To be honest, what makes a great GP great is that you know there’s nothing contrived or staged about the drama. It’s not WWE wrestling, it’s real: it’s the best drivers in the best cars going flat out.

    Perhaps we should just put up with the boring GPs so that we can still enjoy the great ones.

    1. malcolm.strachan says:

      Well put.

      Also, effort needs to be put into why some GPs are great and others are boring, and then make changes accordingly.

  52. phil says:

    I agree about manual gear changes, I get the feeling its all too easy for the drivers these days with a relatively paltry 750bhp or so and power steering. Get rid of power steering and bring back gear changes. Then fatigue will play a part in the drivers performance introducing mistakes and overtaking. These days they get out of the car after a race looking fresh as daisies, make them work for it.

  53. GO FOR IT ! . . .reversed grid sprint race anyone ? Good work James.

  54. Hyperion says:

    What a fantastic insight- it’s great to hear Mr. Dernie’s thoughts.

    Whilst I’m not sure about manual gearboxes, a ‘rock hard’ tyre compound has some very positive consequences: longer braking distances, less off-line disadvantage and more scope for driver error.

    However, which tyre manufacturer would put their name to tyres with comparatively low grip?

    One solution would be for the FIA to produce their own tyres. However this would inevitably increase costs for the teams.

    However I think ‘rock hard’ tyres would be a positive step.

  55. zadrav says:

    There is no way to back and reintroduce manual gearboxes. F1 is a pinnacle and semi automatic gearboxes are way to go in mass car market. But carbon brakes are not – why he address short braking distances only to sticky tires?
    Get back steel discs and they will have broader braking zone and much more possibilities for overtaking…

  56. Bill Ware says:

    I think Frank Dernie has hit the nail squarely on the head. If the tires are rock hard there won’t be all the ‘marbles’ off line. Drivers will be able to race side by side. The other possible solution is to ban carbon-carbon brakes to further increase braking distances. And definitely a return to manual gearboxes – separate the men from the boys. “Missed a gear” was an oft quoted phrase when drivers were brave enough to admit making a mistake. Technology is great up to a point. But if it isn’t checked the engineers might as well go all the way and design cars that don’t need drivers…

    1. Gilles says:

      Indeed Bill,
      we might end up with some sort of RoboWars: driverless cars battling it out on the track !
      But: would they overtake ? Hmm, I wonder what the simulators say …

  57. ColinZeal says:

    Excellent article James. Thank you for not only providing the best insight available but writing articles relevant to what we the fans want to know about.

    Short braking distances and a single racing line are definitely big factors in the lack of over-taking in F1. And with the cars so close to each other in performance (as seen in 2009) it is clear that only mistakes make over-taking opportunities. If the cars are so evenly matched (which we all seemed glad about last year) it is silly to expect them to be able to over-take at any stage except under braking but with short braking distances and a single grippy line that is near impossible.

    What I don’t get is how the FIA missed the fact that with tyre management being more significant than ever due to fueling rules that following close-up in the wake was going to be more of a disadvantage than ever?

  58. Jay says:

    I would like to point out that maybe, just *maybe*, the reason we see more overtaking in wet races has less to do with downforce (high or low), and much more to do with wet conditions being more conducive to making mistakes …

    Apart from that it’s an interesting rebuke. However, I think the end goal for both camps is the same; an aspect of the car’s performance should be reduced to allow for more driver interaction – and hence mistakes.

  59. Andy says:

    Whilst I pretty much agree with that, it is telling that the aero engineers point out the Renault as being the hardest to follow. We’ve all known for many years that it’s nigh on impossible to get within a second of the car in front without aero-grip disappearing. Surely this shows that aero is part of the problem.

    I’ve never understood why it appears to be impossible to build a manual gearbox capable of withstanding the forces of modern F1, while they were common, and had far more power/torque to deal with, during the turbo era. Still, it’s all up to Bernie, innit?

    1. Martin says:

      Why does it appear impossible? The current gearboxes provide performance and reliability advantages. Cost is the only downside. I don’t think Bernie has anything to do with gearboxes as I think he’d hardly think about them at all.

  60. Paul says:

    I’m really no expert but I dont remember overtaking being any more prominent under groved tyres when mechanical grip was presumably less? Or maybe not and somebody can correct me? I tend to agree that the problem results from special interests – the number of smart people in f1 should be able to find a solution!

    It is my view that since 97 overtaking in F1 has become increasing rare (despite some memorable moves over this period but they tend to be extremely rare). I have lost a lot of interest in recent years as many of the races are pretty dull. Would be interesting to see some statistical analysis of overtaking in recent decades.

  61. Michael Balthazar says:

    I agree with this. I’m an Aerodynamics Masters student, so maybe that colors my perception, but if anything underbody aerodynamics are the least effected in the wake of another car. Getting rid of them won’t fix the problem. Note that the OWG aero solution was the make the cars sleeker, getting rid of all the bits and pieces that created more/larger turbulent structures trailing from the car. If anything I think less complex front and rear wings would be a better solution, if one is going to address the aerodynamics.

    Personally, I’d like to see simple front and rear wings with adjustable flaps on one or both. Possibly expand the range of flap adjustment (further than 6 degrees?) and allow more than 2 flap adjustments per lap. If the driver is good enough to manage his aero balance mid-lap he should be able too.

    James you mentioned already in the Schumacher post that one of the problems is that the teams don’t appreciably use the tires differently from one another, would harder tires also change this? A team may try to be more aggressive with their setup to get more heat into the tires (and hopefully more grip) but then compromise the durability.

    As for the rest of this year… well we can hope that drivers make mistakes and eat up their tires by making mistakes which will lead to some more excitement, either through allowing more overtaking or forcing a pitstop. I saw drivers lock wheels a couple times during the race, but no appreciable drop in lap time. Then again this wont happen until drivers start to get desperate for points later on in the season.

    1. James Allen says:

      No but everyone would have low grip

      1. Carl says:

        Problem is hard tyres presumably will not wear out. So unless u have mandatory pitstops no one will pit.

        If you have mandatory pitstops then the teams will take them as soon as possible all at the same time to get them out of the way. Because if you don’t take your stop and there is a safety car then your race is ruined.

      2. Jodum5 says:

        why not bring the softest possible compound to every race? Okay, everyone has high grip but then everyone will need to pit multiple times. It achieves the same effect but isn’t as “manufactured” as mandating that cars stop a certain number of times during the race. It all sounds like an A1GP or Superleague tactic. And really, Formula ONe should be above that.

      3. JSD says:

        Possibly they could make “thinner” tread?

      4. Bluem says:

        If the tyres are hard enough to prevent forming marbles the racing line would be wider, thus cars would be able to use more of the track. There would be more overtaking so we wouldn’t need pitstops to spice up the action.

    2. rpaco says:

      Well it’s nice to know that someone who knows about aero agrees with what I said on the Schumacher thread here yesterday.

      The original point about manual gearboxes takes me back to that race when James Hunt’s knob fell off (pun intended) and he did half the race with his hand wrapped in his visor wiping rag (tear offs were not established then) to stem the blood from the wound caused by the sharp end on the metal gearstick, I seem to rmember he certainly wasn’t last, the pain kept him pretty sharp. Back then qualifying was an aggregated time over two days.
      Why protect against over revving? you just use a sequential push/pull lever. With sequential gearboxes it’s not very likely, to go down two gears by mistake. It works fine on other formulas. Though when it was introduced I couldn’t help wondering if using the same system as my old motorbike from 40 years ago was actually an advance, but it seems that it was.

      I have many times on many threads here said that the problem stopping overtaking is the marbles, we need tyre compounds that wear down and not melt and fall off in huge chunks.

  62. Nick Young says:

    Take a look at the footage here… Watch Senna going around Monaco with manual gear changes… Awesome and just shows how easy the drivers have it now!


    1. James Allen says:

      Absolutely stunning pole lap in 1991 on board with Senna thanks for that

    2. Adam Taylor says:

      A quality Senna and pre mechanical grip moment, the master at work.

    3. Julian says:

      That video sums up what F1 should be for me. Not the size of one car’s double diffuser compared to another. Manual gears, less wing, big sticky tyres and seeing the best drivers working every inch of grip. Thanks for the reminder Nick.

    4. andyb says:

      Lets just bring back those cars and tracks.

    5. Gilles says:

      Thanks for the reminder indeed !
      Drivers are being paid way too much these days…
      I read about Lamborhini producing a car in honour of their test driver – can’t remember which model though – and he said: ‘a real driver shifts manually’. I couldn’t agree with him more.
      After all, aren’t these people supposed to be the best drivers in the world ? They have only half the bhp that they had in the turbo days …

      1. Richard Mee says:

        It is the Gallardo Balboni. Rear wheel drive too – as opposed to the 4WD of the rest of the Gallardo range – apparently a complete animal in all bar the most skillful of hands…. exactly like F1 sould be!

      2. Murray says:

        They wouldn’t have done that in the Countach days. Try to imagine a Countach Wallace. Brings to mind Nick Park movies.

      3. Murray says:

        BTW, isn’t the job of the test driver to improve the car? What’s Balboni for otherwise? Enthusiasm?

  63. nuvolarifan says:

    I agree about the tires – how many farking times do we need to hear that drivers can’t pass because they can’t go off the driving line because of the balls of rubber!

    Switch the tires immediately! Make them hard and not durable. I love the idea of a manual gearbox, too, how obvious is that?

    Thanks again, James, great insight!

  64. Tomás Motta says:

    It is an exciting way to bring a little more excitement in F1 these days ..
    in this basis, then we believe that McLaren will escape punishment from the FIA next weekend,

    Let’s see the outcome of this story, including me, Thomas, 13, wrote about this in my blog,
    excellent text and citations in the same category.

    hug James, and remain so.

  65. ChrisS says:

    I agree with a lot of that – but have my doubts about the following bit:

    “Here’s the proof – if downforce prevented overtaking, historically the races with the fewest overtaking manoeuvres would have been the wet races, where maximum downforce settings are used…”

    Surely in wet races, speeds are much lower so even with maximum downforce settings, much of the downforce is lost – and that’s one of the reasons why there is more passing?

    Also he doesn’t mention the turbulent air problem caused by aerodynamics, which is surely one of the major barriers to passing.

    James, at the start of last season when the new regulations were in place but only three teams had double diffusers, was there noticeably any more overtaking among the cars that didn’t have them? That will give us an indication of whether banning those from 2011 will make the difference.

    1. Gilles says:

      I didn’t notice any gigantic difference in number of overtaking, but: the cars did follow more closely – so they were on the right track.
      Don’t forget that drivers are used to pitstops, so they just took the safe option and wait for the pitstop window instead of overtaking – they can’t do that this year.

      The problem is not new, we are simply back to 1993, at the end of which refuelling was introduced … to increase overtaking. Well, it did not help as the issue is the same now as it was then: ‘you can’t follow closely behind’. Problem was made worse then by technology and differing budgets: only a few cars had a realistic chance of winning. This is addressed by the budget restrictions: in 2009 more drivers won a race than in many seasons before that.
      Problem now is made worse by reliability: there are hardly any mechanical problems anymore. Plus: data on the car now shows when engines overheat (Massa in Bahrain) – driver gets signal to slow down and brings car home. In the old days, he would continue and blow up his engine …

  66. MIKE LEA says:

    Manual gearboxes would definitely help the racing in F1. Seeing the old onboards of Senna at Monaco flicking through the gears gives me goose bumps. That was a real sport. I guess Schumacher is the only current driver who raced F1 with a stick shift? Maybe Barrichello in the ’93 Jordan? Was the Forti the last F1 car with a manual gearbox? I know they were pretty far behind the others on technology…

    1. Jeff Cranmer says:

      Nope – Rubens didn’t race an F1 car with a manual gearbox. The Jordan had a Semi automatic gearbox in his first year with the car. I think Michael is the only current racer with h-box F1 experience.

      Rubens may have had his first run around the track in an old Jordan with a conventional gearbox, but the semi auto box was installed and operational by the first pre-season practice session at Estoril.

      I know, because I designed the electronic gearbox controller for it when I worked at Lucas Aerospace :-)

      I agree, however, that going back to manual gearboxes would increase the possibilities for mistakes and increases the skill required by the driver.

      Hard tyres may make a little difference, but unless they just don’t shed marbles, the tarmac off the racing line will still be too slippy to use, so it may not have that much effect.

      It’s still a basic tenet of racing that you have to get close to the guy you’re racing through the corner in order to get into his slipstream and have a change of diving past him into the next one. If both cars have less grip, and the amount of cornering speed is affected by aero (which it is), then the difference between the cars speeds is not going to change that much simply by reducing the amount of mechanical grip.

      Bring back ground effects, and then dramatically reduce the amount of wing allowed on top of the car to compensate. If, as was stated by Michael Balthazar in a previous post, underbody aero is less affected by wake turbulence than over-body aero treatments, then surely this is the way to improve the show, not artificial measures like reverse grids and extra mandatory pitstops.

      Mandatory pitstops may increase the amount of position changes, but probably not on the track. All the passing will happen on pit rotations. Will this really improve the show for the fans?

      1. Joe Consiglio says:

        Spot on Jeff.

        I agree the majority of the cars downforce should be produced underneath the car (i.e. ground effects) not by wings and complicated aero on top of the car. As it’s been said, wings need to be simplified (maybe even standardised).

        The “Overtaking Group” should be given a decent budget to work on this, ask them to produce prototypes and get ex f1 drivers to test them. Sure it will cost alot but the FIA need to invest and save F1!

      2. Gilles says:

        Indeed, I would like to see the ‘wing cars’ back again. Was sad to see them go in ’83.

        The Overtaking Group did work on this to set up the 2009 regs. Getting rid of the wings was not an option, apparently on commercial grounds – so standardization seems the only viable way.

        It would be nice to have some more openness on this Group however: how is it composed, when does it meet, which proposals are discussed, who made these proposals, who dismisses them and why, …

        I would like to know why wing-cars were not proposed.

      3. HD says:

        Ground effect cars also have sparks coming off the back of them – which looks cool!

      4. MIKE LEA says:

        That’s pretty cool that you made Barrichello’s gearbox Jeff. Did that have a foot clutch? I seem to remember some drivers maintained a foot clutch even into the semi-auto era. Maybe Coulthard? I could be talking baloney though!

      5. Jeff Cranmer says:

        I was only responsible for the electronics. My colleagues at Lucas did the software, and the guys at Jordan did the actual gearbox.

        It was a sequential box with hydraulic valves controlling the selector mechanism – no clutch involved except for the start. If I remember correctly, the total shift time was <20msecs. I think these days the best teams are doing that in low single digit msecs.

        Our controller also did traction control and ride height, back in the bad old days when such systems were legal.

        It was a fun project, but as a hardware engineer, if you've done your job right, they don't need you any more. The software engineers were swanning all around the world, while all I got was a 3 day VIP pass to Donington Park (though that wasn't a bad perk), and an emergency trip to Estoril with a fistful of ICs and a soldering iron when they fragged my controllers during pre-season practice.

  67. Jez says:

    Harder tyres would improve overtaking, but its really misleading to say that the problem is not downforce because the tyres are too grippy.

    The grip is crudely dependent on the tyre grip multipled by the downforce.

    You could reduce the tyre grip, which would make braking while cornering easier, but it would still leave the problem of the wake.

    If you have driven close to a lorry on the motorway, you have felt wake – when you pull up alongside the lorry, you get in the wake, and can feel it slow you down. Its why lorries struggle to overtake.

    You also feel slipstream, when close directly behind them. In F1 you just about never get to feel slipstream, you just feel wake.

    Reducing downforce, especially from wings and DDD, would reduce this wake, and mean drivers could follow more closely.

    When they can follow more closely, then they need less of a chance to get past under braking, or if the driver makes a mistake.

    In proper racing, several things make for good racing.

    Following closely and seizing small chances is one.
    Timing your overtake, to get the slipstream and draft past is another.
    Out braking is another,
    Better traction out of a corner is another.

    Reducing downforce helps these things more than any other single thing you can do.

    Manual gearboxes only helps the better traction out of a corner situation really. The thing is that I think the driver standard is so much higher, and more uniform, that it would very rarely happen. The same sort of error was made when they removed traction control and ABS – people thought it would lead to more driver mistakes, and more passing – well it just didn’t, did it. Missing gears is not going to be a big factor in F1 for the forseeable, probably even if you made them double declutch and use a non sequential gearbox… The drivers are too good.

    Harder tyres helps out braking and traction out of a corner, as more driver skill is required to maximise it.

    But it still leaves aero as the big factor that affects everything.

    Qualifying in race order – well, I have read a lot of alternatives. A reverse grid is biased and bad. A random grid is perhaps best, but you can only make that fair over a whole season, so everyone gets a chance to start at the front and the back. But its really hard to imagine a Spanish race with Alonso having to start at the back… We all enjoy a driver making their way from the back of the field – well, we don’t any more, because they never get very far – but if overtaking was fixed, then a random grid might be an answer.

    You can do more complicated variants of mixing up the grid, where the drivers have some control over which races they start up front and which at the back, which might be enough to make it workable.

  68. Pablo says:

    I’d like to see Bridgestone turn up to Australia with the super soft and hard (they said in Feb they’d bring the soft and medium). Last year they brought the super-soft and soft; the super-soft ware marginal, as we saw with Kubica catching the in-trouble Vettel. The hard would hopefully taker a lot of abuse but provide poor grip.

    1. Gilles says:

      how about just the hard one ? Less money-consuming for Bridgestone and there’s no point in bringing both: they’ll just qualify on soft and then race on the hard.
      The polesitter will still probably win barring mechanical failure.

  69. dulait says:

    A sensible argument from Dernie, that may well hold water.

    But we can hypothesize until the ends of the earth whether the current overtaking drought is rooted in aero sensitivities, super soft tyres or the absence of manual gear shifting.

    This doesn’t need to be a do or die solution. Appropriate time should be allocated and a thorough analysis undertaken. Why not restablish the overtaking committee, but this time extend the various proposed remedies as far as real prototype cars for pilot. In this manner, each envisaged solution can be tested back to back, the corrective measures determined and implemented.

    Another alternate solution mooted earlier today was to allow the aero designers free reign (within specific boundries)so long as the car leaves a prescribed level of clear air flow in its wake allowing another to trail closely.

    But above all else, let’s not rush into another half baked knee jerk solution, only to discover that doesn’t deliver the desired outcome either and find ourselves at the same juncture one year on, tinkering with the rules yet again.

    Take the time to make it right for 2011, and if need be take a piecemeal approach completing the overhaul in 2012.

  70. MT says:

    Wow, Mr. Dernie COMPLETELY misses the point here.

    First off, he loses all credibility with the comment about wet races. The impact of high downforce is completely negated at these events by the lack of grip, surface inconsistencies (off the racing line and at different parts of the circuit), and the increased likelihood of drivers making mistakes.

    Second of all, nobody is really saying that downforce in of itself is causing this difficulty in overtaking. What they are saying is that the disrupted airflow (what we typically hear commentators call the “turbulence”) makes it impossible for cars to follow closely. It is not really the same thing at all.

    Mr. Dernie is trying to pour cold water on the fire, but he’s failing to address the real problem.

    1. F1 Kitteh says:

      You made me laugh hard. First you say that Dernie misses COMPLETELY the picture but your explanation of how his explanation is wrong is EXACTLY the argument that he gave on why his theory works, i.e. key to overtake is low grip + mistakes.

  71. Alex M says:

    For me, the biggest insight from this article was braking zones – of course that makes sense – if braking distances into turns was increased (via less capable brakes and/or harder less grippy tires), then more passing would occur, because there would more time and distance in which to overtake, and it would encourage risk taking.

    1. Jeff Cranmer says:

      Or would it just reduce the length of the previous straight that could be used for slipstreaming?

      Shorter straights = less time to get under the wing of the car in front and set yourself up for out-braking.

      1. Alex M says:

        I agree with you, but most of the passing straights are pretty long. Also, the braking zones are so compressed that passing under braking (more exciting than passing on a straight as well) is nigh impossible, at least cleanly. There is usually a “stick the car in there and block the other driver”. This is now a touch worse, since the cars can’t accelerate in the early parts of the race due to fuel, so the “over/under” is harder as well.

    2. Alias J says:

      Dernie misses the point. Nowadays with heavy fuel loads cars are already braking much much earlier, still doesn’t make any difference.

  72. Alex says:

    Manual boxes would be nice, but I don’t think it would effect the racing much. Sure, drivers would make the odd slip-up, but is that really how we want to see positions gained and lost?

    The only solution is ground effects. The sport is big enough and ugly enough to be allowed a longer leash to play with the concept again. As long as greater freedom with underbody aero is sensibly regulated (not a given!), it would be safe. And, more importantly, it would allow cars to follow one another closely. Because if the majority of downforce is generated from a part of the car that is not affected by turbulent air itself, then that’s halfway to solving the problem.

    1. Gilles says:

      Indeed, the car’s behavior should not be influenced by its proximity to another car – simple as that.

      If I was an aero guy working in F1, I would purposely develop ‘dirty air’ behind my car…

      1. Stevie P says:

        Of course you would, that’s the point… the designers are in their own “race”, against other designers in other teams.

      2. Gilles says:

        Well, I stand corrected by Mr Dernie below:
        apparently they focus on their own car, not its influence on another one.
        I’m relieved ! At least they don’t purposely kill off their own shown, it’s merely a by-product of the rest …

  73. Andy Bird says:

    I agree with some of Frank Dernie’s comments, but I still think that the most important factor in the lack of overtaking is aerodynamics.

    However, it is not related to the relative percentage of mechanical vs aerodynamic grip, but to the percentage of aerodynamic grip which is lost when running in dirty air.

    I do agree that drivers have it easier these days, with all of the mechanisms that help prevent mistakes.

    In addition to things like manual gearboxes, I strongly believe that various electronically-controlled functions should not be changeable by the driver. These include clutch maps, fuel maps & differential maps. I think these should only be changeable when the car is stationery in the pits.

    One area in particular is controlled by such functions, and that is the “start strategy”.

    Watch the starts in a category like GP2, where there is a wide spread of starting efficiency due to drivers having to finely balance clutch against throttle, and they are massively more spectacular than F1 starts, where almost everything is controlled by the electronics.

  74. Nilesh says:

    Hi James,

    Your website is the best there is on the web for F1 and the more I visit the site, more I wish other sports would have something like this so that the fans can actually connect to the sport they love. Kudos!

    I wish to reiterate a question that I’d asked earlier and it would be nice if you could answer that. Changing rules will have a temporary effect of reshuffling the order. Why do we just have Hermann Tilke as the designer? Why is no one else brought in for the task? Also, are drivers, present and former, consulted when designing a new track or modifying existing ones? For this season, why not get rid of the Front Wing Adjuster? Won’t that make the tyres degrade faster?

  75. Murray says:

    When MotoGP bikes turned to big four-stroke engines instead of 500cc two-strokes, it drove the development of slipper clutches, because the compression braking on downshift would otherwise lock the rear tyre and spit the rider off. There’s still an argument for reducing aero grip, though. In the early ’90s, Bob Jane tried to introduce NASCAR-style racing into Australia. One year, they ran at Bathurst. Compared to the V8 Supercar class that Australia favours, they’ve got almost no downforce, so the braking distances from long straights were much, much longer, and some laps, braking duels at the end of the longest straight would see three overtakes on one corner. Hard tyres helped there, as per Frank Dernie’s observations.

  76. Steve Clark says:

    Excellent post. Lots of food for thought there and it makes sense to me. I like the concept of a harder tire if it leads to more overtaking. But how how hard would it have to be to fit into the current season?

    Based on Bahrain, a tire that lasted the whole distance still leaves the possibility of a procession. But if it’s a tire that has significantly less grip while lasting the distance it should lead to longer braking distances and potential for errors on the exit of a corner since the car would be ‘under tired’ for the power available. An in season test with team trying a harder tire would be a good exercise.

  77. Alistair Blevins says:

    It’s hard to argue against 30 years of wisdom.

    The biggest challenge is finding a solution that doesn’t artificially enhance the show (mandatory pit stops, short cuts, reverse grids etc), and that has longevity (stability) and relevance in today’s world (hybrid technology, KERS, flexible aero devices etc).

    I want to see races run flat-out from lights to flag, with drivers and cars on the edge at all times.

    The current rules bring more of an endurance racing mentality, which is all well and good for Le Mans, but not want I want to see for 2 hours every other Sunday.

    Well Max, this is another fine mess you’ve gotten us in to!

  78. dstaisey says:

    1. the longer braking distance would help – therefore we have heavier cars this year 620kg + fuel + driver

    2. racing line should be wider as possible – we have Porsche race and all the weekend action helps widen racing line.

    3. to follow cars closely you have to have mechanical grip, there is no aerodynamics that will not stall in a close follow up of other car – we need gripier tyres, increased mechanical grip, or ground effect cars

    4. refueling, semiautomatic gearboxes, are not cause for luck of action – many fans around the world follow f1 because of technology and edge that brings. Active suspension should be allowed, also because of safety.

    5. about rain races and action that they bring. Its just because of grip and mistakes. – Not relevant for comparison and final solution.

  79. Steve JR says:

    I think they should be driving with manual gearboxes anyway.

    It seems bizarre that the refueling ban came to pass given that FOTA had concerns for it leading to processions. Who was the main protagonist for it in the first place? Was it Moseley by chance?

  80. rfs says:

    There are so many different theories as to how to make the racing better it can make your head spin. Change the tracks! Ban the wings! Make tyres softer.. NO make the tyres harder! Ban refueling… oh crap no we want it back! We need mandatory pitstops… no that’s BS let them choose whether to stop or not.

    I don’t think anyone really knows exactly why things are so bad. But this is a huge problem and it needs to be improved. The powers-that-be (i.e. Jean Todt, Bernie, Hermann Tilke, all the team principals and lead designers, and the drivers) need to get together and find a solution. And if/when they do, they need to put the fans first and give the fans what they want.

  81. George says:

    Would rock hard tires and manual gears increase overtaking in F1? Yes.
    Would reducing aerodynamic turbulence increase overtaking in F1? Yes.

    What this guy is saying would make sense if the cars were right behind each other, but when they cant get within 100m of the guy in front because of loss of downforce the fact that he cant use a different line to overtake is irrelevant.

  82. Bert says:

    I agree with the evaluation of the impact of automatic gearboxes (who are we trying to kid?) and the soft tires.

    Remove both of these and there is more room to make mistakes. Make tires last a whole race. No more pit-stops. You want to pass? the only place to do it is on the track.

    I don’t agree with the reasoning about downforce and wet races. There are two flaws, IMHO. The first is that it is the excess of downforce, especially the reasoning of “…wet races, where maximum downforce settings are used.”

    The first issue is that at a wet race, even though the maximum downforce settings are used, the cars may not be going fast enough to generate any more downforce than they would have if they were trimmed for dry. The advantage to the car running the high downforce setup is not necessarily there.

    Secondly, and I think more importantly is the turbulence, It is *THE* reason there is no on-track passing in modern F1. With high downforce settings, the leading car will be producing more turbulence going in to a corner. Because of this turbulence the trailing car has even less hopes of following and passing. With the lack of downforce, caused by the turbulence from the leading car, the follower must let up going in to a corner even earlier, caries less downforce through the corner and therefore less speed. Which leads to the most important aspect, a lack of speed OUT of the corner.

    Get rid of the turbulence and you will get rid of the boring races.

  83. Matt says:

    It’s an interesting view and not one I’ve considered. Certainly it has logic on it’s side – hard tyres that do not produce as many ‘marbles’ means off-line in turns is more viable and would certainly increase braking distances. Manual gearboxes I think are a must – both to promote the driver’s skills and to create situations of missed/over-revved engines. For that you need a proper gate though, not just a sequential ‘push for up, pull for down’ selector.

    As for qualifying resulting in fastest first etc. that’s not necessarily the case. If you allowed low fuel and qualy tyres you might end up with cars that work their tyres hard getting near the front. But the cars that were easier on tyres might come into their own later in the race, assuming the tyre/gearbox suggestions created overtaking opportunities.

  84. CL says:

    Didn’t they try the hard tire idea in 2007? Even if this does work, the question then becomes what’s considered a good pass. Just because one car overtakes another, doesn’t mean the racing is any good. Look at NASCAR. There’s a ton of passing, but a pass isn’t worth a lot because it’s too easy. I think most people would rather see a close hard fought battle with no passing compared to one driver blowing by the other becuase of a mistake. Also, if you look at the new circuits they don’t encourage a close battle. It’s seems like the “in” idea is a slow corner leading onto a 5 mile long straight. Seeing an outbraking move into a 2nd gear corner is boring to me. There’s no excitement. I might as well watch a drag race. I’d much rather see something like the Alonso Schumacher battle at Imola. The final thing to touch on are the rules. Let the teams figure out their strategy after qualifying. Having the first 10 cars all on the same strategy leads to a boring race. It’s a no brainer that the cars are going to drive around in the same position they started unless someone makes a mistake. The rule requiring them to start on their quali tires kills the racing. That needs to be scrapped, and if anything, they need to bring another compound or 2. If you look at the midfield, you see a lot more passing because of the blend of strategies. With refueling you’d have the 2 stopper cars pushing to get around the 1 stop cars. The more options avaiable strategically, the better the racing will be.

  85. parthi says:

    Would love to see single lap qualifying again.

    We should keep Q1 and Q2 with Q3 being a single lap top 10 shootout

  86. Zami from Melbourne, Australia says:

    I still don’t get how 2010 season can be saved!!! Hard tyres and manual gearbox might help overtaking. But the modern cars will be aerodynamically a lot more improved to suit those changes as well. And if that’s the case, there’s no gurantee that we are going to see more passing. The worst two words F1 have come up with over the years are “DOUBLE DIFFUSER”. Getting rid of the component is less painful than the number of times I heard those words. The big solution to save 2010 season could be the freedom for teams to choose their own tyres rather than the compulsary use of soft & hard tyres. Then we might see drivers pushing hard enough to catch up to the ones in front.

    As Bridgstone is unlikely to agree to the sudden tyre change rules, I reckon top 15 drivers should start the race in qualifying fuel, similar to what it was in last season. That is worth thinking about. And the tyre choice should be open to teams as well. It can’t be top 10 only because the guys on 11th 15th place are capable of winning the race this season. And they might get an unfair advantage as a result of that.

  87. TM says:

    Ok I think I’m converted!!
    I’ve previously always believed the hype that too much aero grip with too little mechanical grip killed the racing. But Dernie’s points all make total sense and in fact now I think about it, I always look back at 2005 with utter annoyance because it was a great year, and then for 06 the re-introduced tyre changes – i.e. the one thing that worked they reversed after one year!

    I suddenly wonder why I’ve never put 2 and 2 together on this issue!

    What a fantastic article.

  88. Rob Silver says:

    While I agree on the logic of the comments put out, I notice that the arguments against aren’t against the nub of the problem, but against “downforce”. The main issue with too much aero is not to do with aero efficiency or the generation of downforce, but on the state in which the air is left at the rear of the car – the aero wake.

    It’s very, very clear that cars simply cannot function nearly as well in the dirty air of modern day F1 cars. Reducing downforce isn’t something anyone wants, but reducing the turbulence and reliance on aero is. If we can have cars able to drive closer, it follows that there can be more potential for “slinging one up the inside”.

    While the facts on tyres and gearboxes are just that, facts, and would help improve overtaking to a degree, the stance the ‘defense’ of aero is written from is a good indicator of the real problem. Everybody is blaming everybody else. Aerodynamicists will blame tyres or drivers, drivers will blame the aero package, and Bridgestone will blame anything that isn’t their tyres.

    Reducing mechanical grip slightly, while also looking at enforcing levels of wake reduction (using engineering that is far, far beyond me) and bringing back refuelling, at least to my mind, could go a long way towards spicing up modern F1 while keeping the cars at the bleeding edge of racing technology where they belong.

  89. John says:

    I partially disagree. Look at Formula Ford. No areo. They are able to keep up close to the car in front whilst going through a corner…and then can latch in behind and use the tow to sling shot them selves into an overtaking move.
    Contrast that with F1, where the car behind can not follow the car in front through a med-fast corner…and then usually can not get close enough to use the tow.

    Also i strongly believe that in this day of age, where we have speed limits, manufacturer’s should be looking at technology to maximise mechanical grip. This should be pioneered in F1. However, to be fast in F1, you have to balance aero with mechanical grip.

    I also think that random weather has created some of the best F1 races to watch. It would be pretty simple to wet the track at a random time during each race (ie unknown to anyone).

    And lastly – James…good to see you on Channel 1 Digital in Australia for the pre race reports!

  90. Oliver Knight says:

    Great article james, far be it from me to know more about areo than a leading f1 aerodynamicists but i thought that the 82 rule changes were for ground effect reduction and that ground effects produce far less turbulent air than wings, bargeboards, winglets etc, so surely reducing ground effect downforce wouldn’t have that big an impact on cars ability to follow each other closely?

  91. Paul says:

    The technical excellence of the cars combined with their almost bullet proof reliability, have brought us to the point where the sport has been emasculated. Bahrain was the first GP I can recall where there was literally no sense or feeling that an actual race was taking place. The spiritual essence of “sport” was absent.

    Manual gear changes, rock hard tires and possibly some sort of ground effect that would retain or boost downforce without disrupting airflow to the car behind could go some way to bringing back “racing”. Without changes along these lines, I feel F1 will lose immense numbers of supporters who will turn to other pursuits where they can get the “thrill” which is so patently missing at this time.

  92. N Smith says:

    Great analysis, I’ve been thinking along the same lines: take away all this grip and give them lots of power. Save downforce and grip for road cars which get used in the wet by people who (in some cases) can hardly drive! Not the experts who should be able to handle a lack of it!

    Also correct about qualifying – the trouble is getting backwards-thinking people to change their minds on having the cars in descending order of speed.

    Here’s an idea, James:

    Equal points for qualifying and the race, points all the way down the field with an emphasis on first etc. Then invert the grid come raceday and workout a standard time that gives the possibility of the pole winner coming through from last to first – see if they can do it! Plenty of overtaking (Suzuka 2005 anyone?)and it rewards speed, consistancy and clean overtaking.

    What do you think? Pass it on to FOTA would you?!

  93. Bloke says:

    Completely agree. Make the cars harder to control into the braking zones and through the apex – this will provide more variables, and more opportunity for error.

    I always thought that when Ferrari introduced the paddle-shift in ’89 (?) that it was taking away a potential for error and that it would effect the racing.

    Racing needs variables. Super efficient tyres and semi-auto gearboxes have both taken two away

  94. Buck says:

    Get rid of qualifying. Then reverse the start grid order. Points leaders start at the back and so on. Radical? Yes. Exciting? Definitely.

  95. Nazdakka says:

    I don’t necessarily disagree with your source – it’s certainly an interesting viewpoint – but isn’t the point made about 1983 a bit of a red herring? If I remember rightly, in 1983 the FIA banned ground effect tricks. I always understood that downforce from ground effects is far less sensitive to dirty air than the above-body wings and whatnot.

    Also, I’d be curious to know what your source would make of an idea that I’ve heard floated: Remove the external wings from the front and rear of the car, but allow teams to generate ground-effect downforce from the car’s floor – under restrictions, obviously. Based on the above, we might then reduce the ‘dirty air’ problem.

  96. k miles says:

    well this guy is an expert and seems to know what he’s talking about.
    If only the FIA could get of their high horse, lend an ear and take heed.

  97. James W says:

    A tough one. I disagree about the manual gear boxes. I can see in the future that all cars will eventually change to the “flappy paddle” shift method anyway, and for that reason the gear boxes need to stay, to keep relevant.

    The tyres is clearly the biggest issue. Bridgestone have made tyres which are too good for F1. This again isn’t necessarily a bad thing as the technology that developed those tyres will eventually become relevant to road tyres as well.

    Having a reversed grid would improve the spectacle in theory, but this relies on all the teams being far closer together than they currently are, similar to the end of last year would be the only way this would work. It really would be too dangerous having Hispania, Virgin and Lotus occupying the top six with all of the big power houses in the rows behind.

    I’ve said this before and I’ll keep saying it until someone listens, but I still believe KERS or turbos are the only way forward. These systems will allow the driver to use them whenever at a certain time in a lap to help get the edge over their rivals. Mclaren had an excellent system at the end of last year, and Ferrari’s wasnt exactly as poor as it would seem given it shall be used in one of their road cars in the future. It’s still in the regs now as well, Mclaren and Ferrari should consider it if they are able to put it in the car at all anywhere. Williams did promise they’ll use their version of the system this year as well. I hope they do, just to spice things up a little. I’d rather a gentleman’s agreement be broken and Williams ousted from FOTA (again) than have a season of processional races.

  98. Crid-Los Angeles says:

    You’ll never get overtaking until you put faster cars behind slower ones… And blue flags are kind of silly too, aren’t they?

    1. Gilles says:

      Well, in Bahrain the faster Button was behind the slower Schumi and … did not overtake

  99. pingu666 says:

    He is partly right, but the problem is not total downforce, thats mostly irrelivent, but how the turbulent air affects the following car negativly…

    In general it seems like the increase in downforce from melbourne 09 to now has ment cars are’nt following each other as closely, or the drivers have given up trying to overtake on the track.

    another quick thought, in the past the slipstream was often refered to as the car in front punching a hole in the air, maybe the modern cars dont make that void?

    F1 really needs some non championship race(s) where ideas can be tried out aswell, instead of blind stabs in the dark we are stuck with for a year or two

  100. anton says:

    Isn’t Frank just denying something that is evidently true? We saw in Bahrain, and we have seen a million times in the past, that once a car is in the wake of another one it can’t get close enough to attempt an overtaking move – of course that makes overtaking more difficult, of course it’s due to the aerodynamics! His argument about the wet is cobblers, there are lots of other far more important reasons (more mistakes by drivers, bigger variation in setups/tyre strategies, some drivers more confident than others in changing conditions) why you see more overtaking in the wet, it’s got nothing to do with downforce levels. I’m not disagreeing with him that the other things will help too but he can’t have watched a recent F1 race if he can’t see the current aero dependence is harming overtaking opportunities.

  101. Christian says:

    He’s right. It propably would improve things quite a bit and since Bridgestone is on the way out, a change in tyre technology propably won’t give a new tyre manufacturer such a hard time. And if Bridgestone is going to stay, new harder tires would mean that they’ll be talked about a lot.

    But getting rid of the double diffusers won’t be wrong as well. I still don’t understand why they weren’t already banned for this season.

  102. Peter Jones says:

    what would Frank Dernie say makes the GP2 cars run so close to each other and facilitates on track passing?

  103. Steve W says:

    A very interesting article James. Manual shift gearboxes would be a good idea as would test the drivers a bit more and increase the chances of mistakes being made. At present the cars are too perfect, we see very few mistakes made these days.

    It’s also an interesting point about softer tyres making it more slippery off line because of the marbles, that’s certainly a factor to consider. However, you could also argue with more marbles off line, there could be more mistakes, as if a driver runs wide in a corner there is more chance of them spinning, or a least paying a more heavy price for the original mistake.

    If rock hard tyres were introduced, you would probably have to bring back refuelling as drivers wouldn’t need to pit otherwise, which I’m not convinced would work. One of the elements that increases the chances of overtaking is having drivers running on different levels of fuel, or cars on new tyres racing those on old tyres.

  104. danss says:

    Agree with some of Franks points, but dont think its the most elegant way of skinning the cat.

    As ever, theres more than one solution to the problem and i would prefer to keep some level of technology in the sport.

    To me its not the aerodynamics that are the problem but the type of aero currently used, we constantly hear drivers saying they cant get close to the car in front because the air is too dirty, so it makes sense to design a car that has downforce and gives clean air on exit.

    I dont want to see an overtake due to a mistake, i would prefer to see a faster driver be able to use their skill to get past but if they cant follow closely in a corner, its pointless. Not every race needs to be a passing fest but when someones out of position, you want to see that driver make up places and challenge for the lead ala Hamilton in GP2.

    We already know that the GP2/05 uses ground effect and minimised flip ups and it produced good racing. Ground effect cars are less effected by wake caused by wings, maybe its time allow this design back into F1, i know its pitch and bump sensitive leading to its ban but by now im sure a solution that works can be found.

    Hard tyres are ok but as we know, we wont see any pitstops that everyone seems to be a fan of lately, so at least having soft tyres will offset the full tanks and naturally lead to multiple pitstops. A series of sprints as before, each an intense burst of action.

    With a clever wing package that minimises vortices, ground effect and a harder brake compound, im sure we would have the close racing we crave. I note this weekends Indycar race at Brazil had close racing, how close the cars could follow and god forbid, there was actually some over taking!

  105. OppositeLock says:

    I would also suggest metallic brakes would help. The carbon brakes are so effective in their, temperature range, that the braking zone for the corners is extremely short. Metal brakes or carbon/metal brakes will require longer braking distances and will bring back late-braking passes. It will also bring the road-car technology back into F1 for brakes. This would mesh nicely with the FIA’s desperate push to make F1 more relevant to road-going autos. As a bonus, the late-braking will reward drivers with larger “attachments.” and their willingness to let them hang out…

  106. Ian Blackwell says:

    I am not an engineer so I cannot really say much about the Aero. Harder tires and manual gearboxes would definitely make things more interesting but I suspect that the teams would find a way around this. One thing I can suggest is probably oversimplified but today’s formula 1 cars are too large. If they reduced the wheelbase, length and width of the cars, there would be more space to use for an overtake and more inherent stability to recover from a botched overtake.

  107. Steve Earle says:

    I think they should have
    1) v skinny basic wings front and rear resulting in minimal turbulence.
    2) Hard tyres with no grip!
    3) 1000hp V10 engines.
    All introduced before the Spanish GP. Bernie can pay for it all because he’s taken enough out of the sport so he can afford it! Simple ;-)

  108. Alexis says:

    Can anyone actually remember there ever being an exciting race in Bahrain?

    If Australia is dull, then we worry.

  109. Nelson K says:

    I thought this quote from Mark Webber was enlightening:

    “I was quicker than him but I was unable to find a way through,” Webber said. “He didn’t make a mistake and if I’d tried to force the issue it would have ended in a crash.”

    In other words, if he tried to race with someone through a corner there would be an accident. Why can’t two cars get through a corner side by side without carnage?

  110. Vik says:

    I don’t know, that’s the problem. I’m not an engineer, an aerodynamicist, a physics professor, I just love racing, seeing cars travelling at speed, drivers on the ragged edge at 300 km/h, a thin skin of carbon fibre to protect them.

    These overtaking working groups, how do they arrive at their decisions? Do they simulate their ideas to check their probity? How rigorous are they in ensuring that their decisions actually work? Because, at the moment, it doesn’t look like they know what they are doing, And if *they* don’t know, well, things ain’t looking too bright.

    1. ahlapski says:

      I think the OTWG can only make suggestion to the FIA. The ultimate decisions rest on the FIA.

      Take the double difusers’s case. To limit the height of the difuser is to reduce the turbulance (“dirty air”) on the car behind. But this is void by the loophole exploited by some teams at the start of 2009 season. Otherwise, it would have worked to some extent.

      Why do they decided to keep the double difusers for this season is beyond comprehension. This should have been banned instead of exploiting more of this making it bigger and more “dirty air”.

      Off the subject, James, I read somewhere else that Ferrari is spending in the region of £500M this season. Is this true ??

      This is rediculous when everyone is talking about reducing cost.

      Ferrari is literally buying the championship. They are spending 10 times the budget of the new teams but are they 10 times faster ???

      1. James Allen says:

        Not true about Ferrari budget.

      2. Gilles says:

        Don’t forget that Ferrari changed engines before the race – could hurt them later in the season.
        If this was 2009, Vettel would not have finished, he is still in there now.

        Don’t give up just yet !

      3. Flintster says:

        I doubt that FIAT would allow them to spend that kind off money! I think that kind off spend was back in the early 2000′s era…

  111. james 2 firsts
    first time I have posted on your excellent website
    first time I have ALMOST stopped watching F1 forever.
    I have been an avid supporter since 1978 (even shook your hand in the Jag garage). This is a serious problem for the sport. pls use your influence! Thanks Nick

  112. FordGT40 says:

    Of course manual gearboxes and super hard tyres are the way to go, but I doubt it will happen. I remember filling in a FIA questionaire that contained these same ideas a few years back and nothing has happened. Mainly, I think because Max was on his cost cutting mission. There has been talk about making it a good show, but very little action.

    The bloke is right about the aero and you know why. The Aero working group set about trying to make passing possible and they failed. Sure they purposely said they didn’t go as far as they could because they didn’t want to make it too easy to pass. But fundamentally they failed badly, either they stuffed up completely or the bloke is right and aero isn’t the answer.

    1. Murray says:

      If the total downforce figure (say, an arbitrary 650 kg at 300 kmh) were THE driving specification in F1, Frank Dernie will still have a job in reducing drag to achieve that figure, improving it in traffic and transition, or raising ground clearance to obtain it with a less-than-perfect or changing angle of attack. One mandatory wind tunnel used by all teams, and Virgin could achieve it with CFD. Seal the wing, trim and mounting, and a flat floor for the entire car footprint, no diffusers at all.
      Make the tyres rock hard and they’ll never get a tyre manufacturer who’ll put money into it, or any competition between them.

      1. Gilles says:

        Interesting remark about CFD: it makes ‘simpler’ aero and needs a lot less aero guys …
        Virgin’s car is too bad for the moment to see whether it can be followed more closely than the other though. I hope they do well, even if only to put a buffer on the aero focus in F1.

  113. Gilles Villeneuve Fan says:

    Can’t agree about the aero or the tyres, but agree completely about the gearboxes. I find it difficult to comprehend that someone of Dernie’s standing and calibre would try and dumb down the complexities of overtaking in F1 in trying to compare wet and dry races. There are many factors that affect wet races, not just reduced mechanical grip through the tyres and cars running at full downforce.

  114. Nick Bedding says:

    This guy sounds good but is totally wrong!!!

    Why do faster cars get stuck behind slower ones and lose 2 or 3 seconds per lap, because they lose the aero! If the balance of power was with mechanical grip this would not happen.

    Bigger wheels/tyres would be great, more mechanical grip and more disruption to the aerodynamics.

    Also allow more technology, turbo charge smaller engines, and let them rev to the limit, force them to run kers, and keep changing the goal posts; this should keep the cars less reliable.

    Manual boxes would be a step backwards now so not really an option.

    Of course to get these rules through would require some level of dictatorship. And Bernie has my full backing!!!

    1. Bayan says:

      All of this while trying to cut costs? No way.

      I wouldn’t mind seeing them drive manual boxes.

    2. Paul says:

      I think your first paragraph begs the question. Faster cars get stuck behind slower ones (and lose time) because they can’t get get past the slower car. You can’t simply conclude it can’t get past “because of the aero”. Getting past requires two things:

      - Being able to go faster than the car in front.
      - Being able to do so on a different piece of track than the one the car in front is choosing to occupy.

      For example if the amount of marbles on anything vaguely off the racing line means that the amount of mechanical grip would be substantially compromised for any overtaking manouver (and for whatever additional time to clean up the tyres) then the following car is also at a mechanical grip disadvantage compared to the car in front if it wants to overtake.

      Also if operating the tyres aggressively in the non-ideal aero causes a significant mechanical grip degradation in the tyre (ie graining) then it’s worth thinking about making the tyres more robust under those conditions.

      I think harder tyres which shed less and are more forgiving (in the sense that being aggressive with them won’t ruin your whole race) would be a major step forward. At the moment I think drivers are reluctant to risk anything because picking up rubber or pushing their tyres too hard will compromise a large proportion of their race, not just the immediate moment.

      If drivers can race without having to manage the performance of the equipment so much then I think we’ll see more overtaking.

      1. Gilles says:

        Well, we mustn’t forget that drivers will need the impetus to pass. You will still have people thinking about the championship and who will be OK with finishing second to grab the points.
        After all, Gilles Villeneuve did have his share of critics in his day as well …

  115. Trent says:

    Mmm….Sonewhat agree with Frank.

    Devising a car design that is difficult to drive without mistakes is key – I certainly agree with that.

    I’m unconvinced by the aero argument. Going back to basics: it’s an unargueable fact that one car can’t follow another closely through a corner – that’s due to aero effects. For this reason, classic slipstream overtaking is rare because cars are not close enough to each other at the beginning of a straight.

    I believe we see this effect less in the wet because there is often more than one line available through a corner, and so there is no need to follow the wheeltracks of the car in front onto the straight. As a result there is not the same aero disturbance effect. And let’s not forget that even though downforce settings are high in the wet, corner speed is much lower because of the lack of mechanical grip. Of course, driver mistakes really come into play under these conditions too.

    I further don’t believe the ’82-’83 argument is entirely valid. Downforce was substantially reduced between these two seasons but it was because of the banning of ground effects. Downforce in ’83 was more dependant on the front and rear wings, and not on the ground effect. I believe this is significant.

    My simple, immediately applicable strategy would be to reduce the rev-limit on all engines by 800rpm, then allow a push-to-pass button that gives access to these revs for a given number of hits per race – exactly as in A1GP. It’s a legitimate tactical element (not so different from the turbo boost control of the 80s) it would have an IMMEDIATE effect, could be installed before the next race, and would cost nothing more than rewritten software.

  116. bones says:

    Every time an F1 engineer talks about this issue sounds very clever,my question is why they don’t open their mouths when FIA ask them what to do in order to solve this problem?
    And if they do why FIA does not what they say?

  117. Fil says:

    The only time drivers make mistakes is in quali.. why?
    They are forced to push their hardest for fear of being overtaken (by others’ laptimes).
    Create a racing environment where drivers are under such pressure all the time.

    In other words, where a car can follow uncompromised closely behind with realistic possibilities of overtaking offline.

    The solution isn’t black & white like this article suggests.

    The solution is a mixture of both sides of the argument:

    - clean up the aero off the back wing/diffuser for easier following
    - improve tyre degradation (harder, slower tyres) for the sole aim of minimising marbles off-line
    -increase braking distances dramatically

    That’ll do a lot more than just arguing for less aero or less mechanical grip.

  118. Vic says:

    Whats stopping the Top Dogs from investing a little money into research, maybe get a number of older cars e.g. ’07/’08/’09 cars and getting a group of GP2 drivers and a set of super hard tyres and having an unofficial race. Maybe try other ideas, even Bernies shortcuts, anything.

    All the fans are wanting to see some overtaking, surely it cant be that hard looking into it


  119. Ajayrious says:

    I dont agree. I think F1′s teams need to go and buy one of the old GP2 cars that had their last races on Sunday. They provided brilliant racing and it was when the new GP2 car with its F1-like aero parts came in that the racing got boring in GP2. They didnt suddenly change the tyres between those seasons.

    Also last season we had a few good races at the start of the season, when most teams didnt have their double diffusers. Once all the teams got their double diffusers on the cars, the amount of overtaking suddenly dropped.

  120. Tom says:

    Yes, we do need faster cars behind slower cars for overtaking, and for that, we need refuelling!!! A light Force India could give a heavy Mclaren a run for it’s money, and leaders pitting at different times on different strategies puts them behind slower cars, and if they cannot get past then they’ll lose out to someone who’s taken a punt on a one-stopper.

    Refuelling gave a whole new tactical dimension to the sport, the new pitting is diabolical, everyone goes in at exactly the same time, with exactly the same tyre issues. Also part of the excitement of quali was seeing someone like Trulli get on the front row running on fumes. The guesswork that used to go on(before the FIA started publishing the weights) was fantastic, right when the engineers were on the grid discussing fuelling strategies. There was nothing wrong with refuelling, F1 is not 100% drivers, it’s about the tactics, the strategies, the thought that goes into every decision. That is what’s missing so sorely from 2010.

    1. Gilles says:

      The tactical dimension is just a cover-up for the lack of on-track action: F1 should be about the best driver, not the best team per se. It’s about Jenson Button, not Brawn.
      There should be no guesswork, nothing holding the driver back in passing the guy in front. Fastest guy wins -simple as that.
      Yes, the cars will behave differently as fuel is burnt, tyres are used, etc. It is up to the driver to compensate. What’s missing is what has been missing since the mid-eighties: close racing. When that comes back, you won’t miss the strategies one bit.
      All this talk about strategy is just keeping you interested when you are watching people deliberately not racing each other, they are waiting for the pitstops …

  121. Leon Gagliardi says:

    Hi James,

    Last year I read an article by Gordon Murray on his ideas to improve overtaking in F1. His main idea was to remove the front and rear wings and generate downforce purely from the ground effect. His reason was that even though a following car would still lose downforce, the centre of pressure would be similar, and the car’s balance would be maintained, reducing any graining of the front or rear tyres due to balance changes.

    What are your thoughts on GM’s idea?

  122. Adrian Herrera says:

    There is one argument i disagree with:

    “the races with the fewest overtaking manoeuvres would have been the wet races”

    I think the logic is flawed since rain makes drivers lose control more easily, that’s why we have overtaking in wet races. Not because of aerodynamics.

  123. zvoni says:

    One notable politician once said: beware of experts! Manual gearbox is spot on, I could not agree more! But downforce is one thing and its effects at the back of the car, in the slipstream, is something entirely different. And these effects are these days mostly produced by diffusers that mix the air low above the surface.
    There were seasons when cars produced a lot of downforce but still we were looking a lot of overtaking, especially for today’s standards. Also, I remember CART series race(s) with literally dozens of overtaking for the top three positions.
    Why it has become such a heresy in F1 to build cars that enable driving at the tail using slipstream and making a pass!? It has been made impossible only due to the effects of the expensive technology that serves as driver’s skills equalizer.

  124. Dave says:

    I agree with a lot of comments here that downforce is not the issue it is the wake the the aero on the car produces as it cuts through the air. Mr Dernie might be an expert on aerodynamics and I do not question that but when you have every driver saying that it is impossible to overtake due to the wake off the other car something has to be done.
    I am not sure if manual gearboxes are the answer but certainly more onus needs to be put on the driver; harder tyers maybe – less grippy tyres certainly; it’s probably a bit rash but no power steering would make it interestng.
    I do not agree with anyone’s suggestion regarding a reverse grid – it would solve nothing!

  125. JohnSpencer says:

    The picture of Dernie grimly holding his coffee mug makes him look quite angry and coloured my reading of his arguments. He was probably just squinting into a bright sun of course, but this did to me make his comments sound a tad like the rantings of a desperate man.

    Demanding a return to manual gearboxes, whatever its merits, also puts him in the category marked ‘grumpy old man with a declining grip on reality’

    I’m sure he’s actually a jolly good egg and damn good at his job, but the stuff about wet races didn’t really, uh, hold water.

    The drivers certainly seem to think that being able to follow a car closely would help overtaking.

    Unfortunately the problem has been tackled completely the wrong way round, with the FIA asking technical boffins to come up with some ideas that could then be written down as fiendishly complex regulations which the very same boffins would then work out how to circumvent.

    I say make the aero geeks do the hard work.

    The FIA doesn’t tell the teams how a car should pass a crash test – it simply specifies some forces which a car must withstand. It’s up to the teams to design cars which satisfy these strength criteria and yet are also decent racing cars.

    In the same way, the FIA should establish a metric for turbulence or disturbance of the air 1 metre behind a car travelling at a certain speed. This could be tested with a wind tunnel or CFD, I guess. All cars must have a wake turbulence below a set level (obviously a long way below what current cars generate).

    It would then be up to the air flow intelligentsia to find a way to minimise a car’s wake but at the same time maximise aerodynamic downforce.

    Result – everybody’s happy: the aero chaps feel loved and valued, the cars can follow more closely, and there could even be more overtaking.

    1. James Allen says:

      That would be a tea mug. He’s a big tea drinker..

      1. JohnSpencer says:

        I stand corrected.

    2. Julian says:

      Yep, sounds like a sensible suggestion to me.

    3. speedy_bob says:

      “It would then be up to the air flow intelligentsia to find a way to minimise a car’s wake but at the same time maximise aerodynamic downforce.

      Result – everybody’s happy: the aero chaps feel loved and valued, the cars can follow more closely, and there could even be more overtaking.”
      Fully agree.
      The aero-people would still be very usefull and valued. F1 isn’t about not having limits, it’s about finding the best compromise within a given set of rules.
      Diminishing the dirty air takes nothing away from the merit of a good aero-engineer when he finds downforce where others considered none to be found.

  126. Denis Davidson says:

    F1 is about technical innovation, reverting to hard tyres and manual gearchanging is a backward step.
    Just reduce the Wing areas by 50 to 75% or eliminate Wings all together. Cars don’t need wings!
    Let the designers find grip through true innovation, like Chapman used to.
    Bring back Turbos and boost buttons, that’ll increase overtaking.

  127. Bayan says:

    all great ideas. I’d like to see one of these suggestions (from anyone, pro aero or pro harder tyres) actually come into effect and then we can really see the impact. Until then, all talk!!

    1. Bayan says:

      Not saying it’s the fault of the guys with the ideas. I just wish the FIA would listen to these guys cause if there was anything better to watch at 5 in the morning, believe me, i would have changed the channel.

  128. MikeW says:

    The question is – what will work *this year*?

    I don’t see a change coming to the gearboxes, but I do agree that the semi-auto boxes have probably made a driver’s job easier, and ought to be a good candidate for removal

    Tyres probably can be changed. And I like the idea of making the cars less susceptible to sticking to the “one” ideal driving line. This can be done in two ways:

    - Make the tyre itself less susceptible – by making it harder.

    - Make the track less susceptible – by stopping the “rubbering in”. I guess we can’t change the tarmac itself, but we can do things to reduce the rubbering-in, can’t we? Clean the track after every session?

    Alter the tyres such that we get a split of choices at the end of quali. If we can set the tyre compounds and/or tyre lifetime correctly, then we will get teams making different choices at quali, leading to different strategies during the race.

    We could probably change qualifying so the grid isn’t always in the right order. But while overtaking is hard, we won’t get much buy-in to that.

    - Reverse grid order is no good – no-one will try during quali.

    - Random order might work, as it will balance out. Of course, F1 will lose quali, and an important day of promo of sponsors

    - Reverse grid based on championship position, or previous race position, might work. Still no quali event though

    - Keep quali, but make it into a slightly more random event, and more chaotic. Maybe a single lap of quali on a clear track; Best of 3 laps, on a full track; Make it handicapped based on previous result; Run a quali event (not a single lap) that is started in reverse order.

    The problem is that we want the end result to be the same. The winner of a GP should be the best driver, driving the best car, whi makes the best use of his opportunities. We want to see excitement & want to present opportunity on the way to the result, but we mustn’t make the overall result into something random.

  129. Joel says:

    Looking back at a time when overtaking was more frequent, or at least easier to accomplish, no ‘tricks’ such as reversed grids, forced pit stops, short cuts or other such nonsense were necessary. Some of the tracks we still race on are basically unchanged since decades so that only leaves the cars.

    There is no question that grip levels are much higher than in the past and this is easy to remedy but I believe it is possible to unify the requirements of racing with those of the wider relevance of racing to transportation.

    Any technology that is inapplicable to road cars should not be on a race car. Carbon brakes are nonsensical for a road car but carbon-ceramic brakes are not, so use those instead and increase the braking distances.

    Under-floor aero is something we want to encourage for the road but huge front and rear wings are not. For racing these should be used for trim only, reducing wake turbulence.

    Regulations should allow the highest of high tech as long as road relevance can be established, whether it be engines, energy recovery, or aero.

    I think the season will get better as all teams move closer to the limits of the tyre and fuel regulations, so snap changes should be avoided. The media hyped up the season and are now slamming it, all to be expected, but it could yet surprise us.

  130. Dougie says:

    84% of readers have voted Yes in this poll, and they are all wrong.

    We’ve had low grip tyres and they did not help. Every top level racing series in the world uses semi automatic gearboxes and only F1 has no overtaking. F1 is the only series with extreme aero. If you can’t follow the other car closely, you will never be in a position to overtake.

  131. Bob Q says:

    It is not the amount of downforce that is the problem- it is that it changes so grossly when a driver gets close to the car in front.

    He does have a point about the tire build up offline which makes it difficult to go around. If making the tires harder would help this, then that is a good reason to do it.

    Also, who is the genious who thought the solution to the alledged oversteer last year was to unstick the other end of the car by making the front tires smaller.

  132. Kieran says:

    Hi James

    As ever, a brilliant and insightful analysis. However, I’m still interested about the effects of turbulent or ‘dirty air’ upon a modern F1 car. Does this present the greatest issue with over taking, rather than down force?

    Also, would a reintroduction of KERS be the answer to the overtaking issue? I know they are considering it for the next engine spec….

  133. CanadaGP says:

    I think the changes could be done in 3 phases done over a span of 3 years. It’s always easier to do it that way than expect single stroke of the pen magic solutions.

    Phase 1 (2010, right now): Eliminate all the
    different dry tyre options. There s/d only be 3 types of tyres: dry, intermediate and wet. Run the super soft dry tyre in all of qualifying and all the races. No limitations on pit stops. That way nursing the tyres would not be the single most important element. Drivers can go as fast as possible as long as the gains are greater then the loss of time in pit stops. You’ll have a variety of strategies which leads to passing.

    Phase 2 (2011) Have a reverse order grid. Put the fastest qualifiers on the back of the grid, slowest in front. Of course, you don’t want a race of slowest to qualify so give points according to qualifying position in addition to the race points. Points equivalent to half or two thirds of race win points to the fastest qualifier, so forth and so on until 10th position. (Have the mathematicians fifure it out.) That would make both qualifying and the race even more exciting. Overtaking guaranteed.

    Take down the importance of aerodynamics. It should be a world driving championship, not a world aerodynamicists championship. Get rid of all the elaborate front wings by having a standard spec front wing which all the cars should run. Or no front wings at all.

    Get rid of all the underbody wing structures
    including rear diffusers and what not by specifying a standard spec flat covered bottom for all cars. Require smaller rear wings. These days, the aero is so optimised, cars can’t follow closely. Suboptimise aero on purpose and make it a close though not totally level playing field for aero. Save a lot of money too.

    Phase 3 (2012): Emphasize tracks designed for
    overtaking. Why is there so much more passing in Indycars and (god forbid) NASCAR? Because they run in tracks with long wide straights and wide fast corners where 3 abreast is possible. The most exciting circuit in the GP calendar for both spectators and drivers – Spa. Monza used to be like that too. Take the good elements of Spa and require that every
    circuit, except for Monaco, have at least 2 prime overtaking spots. You can have those spots right where the spectator stands are and get even more revenue and excitement.\

    Move to a 1.4 litre, 4 cylinder, single turbo formula with an 18,000 rpm rev limit. This should result in blown engines plus a bit of turbo lag which provides passing opportunities and driver mistakes. But most important brings F1 engines closer to what the real world is requiring. In 2013, bring back more advanced
    lighter KERS systems which s/d again provide passing possibilities – eg Kimi in Spa 2009.

    1. alex says:

      like your ideas.

    2. Gilles says:

      I don’t want a guy winning because someone has blown his engine – he needs to pass him fair and square. Ie Austria ’82 Rosberg/de Angelis -something like that.

      Big turbo lag: Spain ’81 – GV in the 126CK with a turbo lag as big as his house, still holding up 5 guys behind him – great skill, close racing, but no overtaking

      1. Murray says:

        I remember Alan Jones labelling him a “rock ape” after that race!

  134. Adam Taylor says:

    I completely agree with Frank Dernie. Having just watched a 1991 Senna qualifying lap at Monaco, seeing the drivers work the steering wheel with one hand whilst changing gears with the other and braking would be a true spectacle to behold.

    I remember in Brazil, cant remember what year but Schumacher took his hand off the wheel to change some settings on the wheel and a lot of talk was made of that moment, imagine it all the time. This would really show the men from the boys.

    I do feel though that as much as I would like these changes implemented, the gearbox might be an issue as it might be seen as taking a backwards step in technology development.

    Also, didnt CART use manual gearboxes before its dimise??

  135. hassim says:

    i want to suggest that the back marker car is allowed to race with the leader (so don’t give blue flag to slow car let the faster car work hard into traffic) that i think make more interesting

  136. DGNYC says:

    My 2c worth.

    First, the more variables you have, the greater chance of overtaking (simple math!). With so many elements of the cars the same and stable now (tyre, brake, standard ecu, etc) that the number of variables are reduced. The point about manual gearboxes is an example, it adds an extra dimension (possibility of wrong gear selection or missing it). Going manual may not be the way to go as someone else pointed out, a lot of road cars are going that way but is the right idea. Refueling was another variable, now, it has gone.

    Second, there needs to be a slipstream created by the car in front. Look at this video an see how most of them overtake!


    Lastly, the harder or durable or more mechanical grip debate. The bottom line has to be that the car works well on and off the racing line. How often do we see lap times coming down as the track gets rubbered in? The grip is so much higher on the racing line so how can you overtake off it? When it rains, the grip is often better off the dry racing line = more overtaking. The marbles also deter drivers from going offline, as soon as they do, the car cannot stop as quick, the best chance of overtaking. Making a tyre that works just as good on and off the racing line and did not leave debris would be a great technical challenge for the manufacturer.

    1. alex says:

      ah thanks for the video… how things have changes, sob sob, wow Mansell vs Senna, wheels two inches apart at the end of the straight… that was motor racing. Oh i am sad now…

  137. Duncan says:

    Mr. Dernie says much that is interesting, but as others have extensively pointed out, he neglects the issue of aerodynamic wake inhibiting following cars. There is ample empirical data on this from watching races and also extensive wind tunnel databa well which shows the same thing.

    His point about fewer mistakes reducing
    overtaking opportunities is interesting, but if you can’t get close enough to take advantage of a mistake in the first place then his point is moot.

    His point about qualifying is interesting as well, and valid. Perhaps the return of single car qualifying would indeed help. But there is precedent to even further randomize grids: drawing start positions by lot was the way things were done in Grand Prix racing during the 1930s, and was considered legitimate then. I think it would be easier to justify than reverse grids.

    2005 tire rules (banning tire changes) would also help, and along with single car qualifying could possibly be done this year (although how Bridgestone could be convinced I don’t know).

    The biggest issue is simply that over-taking only occurs when different cars are running at different pace. I think the reason the early 1980s saw so much overtaking was because the cars were less sensitive to the wake of the car in front, and because of the turbo vs Cosworth scenario. The turbos were faster than the Cosworth-powered cars at certain parts of the track and vice-versa. That difference enabled many more over-taking opportunities to arise. The only way to get that difference back is to create such massive differences between the cars. 2013 engine rules can’t come soon enough.

  138. Paige says:

    The key is that braking distances have decreased so much so as to make overtaking very difficult. The answer is to increase braking distances. So, how do you do it?

    The reason why braking distances have increased, generally, is because the power/grip ratio has decreased, both because power has decreased and grip- mechanical and aero- has increased. So either power has to be increased, or grip- in some form- has to decrease.

    Personally, I favor increasing engine power. As the pinnacle of motorsport, F1 should have the most powerful engines, not go backwards in power as they’ve elected to do in recent years. Get the engines back up to 1000 bhp, the braking distances will increase, and overtaking will increase.

  139. Peter says:

    I think Frank Dernie is absolutely correct. Especially about the gearboxes. In an f1 car it looks like even I could do justice to an f1 cars gearbox – and I don’t drive!

  140. Gate 21 says:

    People are making too big a deal out of this. Give the full fuel tanks time to work.

    The introduction of grooved tyres in 1998 didn’t add to the overtaking. The whole point of the grooves was to reduce mechanical grip by forcing Bridgestone and GoodYear to make harder tyres.

    Adding a second madatory pit stop won’t add to the show. It will make things worse by teams avoiding the hard tyre like the plague.

    Bahrain has never been a great overtaking track – not at the front of the field anyway. Adding the car park section didn’t do anything for the show other than making the lap and race time slower.

    I would be more worried if the races at Melbourne and Sepang are uneventful.

  141. Darren says:

    Interesting argument from Frank.

    “Here’s the proof – if downforce prevented overtaking, historically the races with the fewest overtaking manoeuvres would have been the wet races, where maximum downforce settings are used.” – Frank Dernie

    With respect to his proof, I would have hazarded that more overtaking in the wet occured at lower speeds thereby not fully utilising downforce available, which translates to overtaking dependant on track conditions, tyre conditions (optimum grip?), and engine/throttle mapping. Not to mention that the numerous overtaking in the wet in the modern era have all used the semi box.

    However I do agree to lower grip levels for dry running. One question I’d have is whether using ‘rock hard’ tyres would also mean less ‘marbles’ on track to benefit the overtaker? ‘Hard’ tyres would no doubt also increase braking distances and also lead to more flatspotting.

  142. Neal Bell says:

    In my opinion the outcry over the supposed ‘tedious’ Bahrain Grand Prix is laughable – it’s one of these situations where one journalist/media outlet decides what interpretation they want to put across, then it all snowballs into something that is totally blown out of all proportion.

    Jacques Villeneuve had it right when he said in a short post-race BBC interview, that there was no more overtaking with refuelling. There wasn’t – the actual on-track overtaking was no different in this Grand Prix to what it has been for a number of years now. Anyone who classes pit-stop passing as overtaking is obviously missing the point, it’s not exciting and does nothing for the spectator compared to two drivers duelling on track for position.

    Part of me is very tempted to suggest that on the part of some if not all drivers, there may be a mental block going on in terms of “it’s impossible to overtake” – if it was impossible then how was Jenson Button able to do what he did at Interlagos last year? There’s been so many times when I’ve been watching an in-car camera and drivers have run wide, locked tyres, made silly mistakes and scuppered a chance of homing in for an overtake – you cannot tell me it’s ALL down to the aero – the time comes when they just have to get on with it surely and stop with the excuses.

    In one respect I prefer the current format because it’s easier to follow the racing order, too many pitstops and everything gets disjointed. We just need drivers who are prepared to take more risks, and if they see the likes of Alonso walking away with 25pts too many times, I dare say they will up their game and start to get stuck in.

    1. Gilles says:

      I’m with you a 100% !
      Just have them race on track from start to finish – simple as that; pitting should not be rewarded.
      I think the teams were a bit conservative, urging everyone to ‘preserve’. As they come to understand the performance degradation more, they will hopefully push the envelope.
      Not expecting miracles though …

  143. Matt W says:

    Brilliant article James, certainly makes sense. It has to be worth a try, certainly more so than medals or shortcuts.

  144. _GOGGS_ says:

    So here we have an aerodynamisist telling us that the problem is not aerodynamics…hmmm, isn’t that sort of similar to an oil company telling us that the use of fossil fuels has nothing to do with global warming and our carbon footprint?

    I believe to get an honest and unbiased view and opinion, you need to ask an independant source that has nothing to gain (such as job security in this case).

    Does he have a point? Sure! There is certainly some truth to his assessment, however this is not the whole truth. I do believe we need to take two steps back to take one forward. But as some mentioned above, this is F1, manual gearboxes and less grip is going backwards. The problem that cars are not able to follow closely is the first problem that must be solved. Does anyone else think that there are too many rules and regulations? Perhaps it’s time to allow some design freedom and get away from the cookie cutter F1 car approach…who remembers the days when no two F1 cars looked the same?

  145. phil says:

    The issue is a combination of aero, mechanical grip, and disturbance. Why is it that aero is not such a problem in other open wheel categories, why is it in the wet people are faster and overtaking is easier because the tyre grip is even across the surface of the road, there is more then one racing line. How many times have you seen schumi driving around the outside of a corner whilst someone is on the inside, and he makes him look useless.
    Most of the aero generated on a car is from the floor, and the rear wing. This is where the most wake is generated. Floors and Rear wings should be standardise. Only adjustable part is the wing element to create more or less downforce, this should be controlled at certain angles. Between 25 and 50 degrees only, with intervals of one degree. This will insure the wake created is near identical between cars and can be measured and understood. The natural design of cars will allow for it to handle the conditions.
    Remove restrictions on front wings, so designer can create a wing which is adjustable to provide traction allowing close racing. If you can measure the turbulent air generate from the car in front, you can determine how much downforce you need there eliminate the aero deficiency.
    Introduce steel brakes, and harder tyres.

  146. George says:

    The drivers will get used to manual gearboxes just like they did to lack of traction control. Longer braking zones and harder tires? That’s a bigger adjustment but give it a few practices, qualifying sessions and a few races and they are almost right back to where they were before, plus a few rare mistakes here and there.. I realize it’s fashionable to think that today’s drivers are somehow less skilled thsn previous generations but there’s no evidence of that.
    Frank is a brililant engineer and designer, his work at Williams the framework of a great F1 legacy. However, the development of aero has come to a point in the last decade where cars might as well have giant magnets mounted on the front and back, all of the same positive charge.

  147. Stickman says:

    Sounds OK but reduces the technical excellence associated with F1.

    Consider one soft tyre compound for each race that is only good for 1/4 to 1/3 race distance.

  148. Legend2 says:

    Unfortunately Frank Dernie loses a lot of credibility with the following quote:

    “Here’s the proof – if downforce prevented overtaking, historically the races with the fewest overtaking manoeuvres would have been the wet races, where maximum downforce settings are used… Why anybody still thinks a reduction in downforce is the solution when faced with the facts has been a consistent mystery and frustration to me.

    Sorry Frank – in a wet race there are so many more additional factors than simply additional downforce. You might be able to fool F1 followers with low IQ with this silly and laughable argument but you won’t fool anyone with half a clue:

  149. Lin says:

    Very informative website James :)

    I don’t know about this hard tires and manual gearbox thing. But assume it will make the f1 cars slower. At least he gives more credible advice than Bernie.
    Even if it improves overtaking, people will always find something to complain about like f1 cars being too slow etc etc.
    Also, IMHO, Bahrain was not that bad of a race. It was definitely better than Valencia last year. But being the opening race people have higher expectation.

  150. Sebee says:

    You know what’s funny? F1 fans often snob down at NASCAR and IndyCar, but it seems that they can run close and pass. Happens in an IndyCar all the time, even for a win.

    In the end, I don’t think it’s one magic silver bullet. It’s a little bit of everything that is contributing to the problem. It’s all gone too far, but can you honestly see manual shifting in an F1 car when a Chevy has a fast automatic on board, and every sports car will have more tech than an F1 car? Really – you would watch that?It’s called club racing and it’s out there now, go to your local track or watch shifter karts.

    And I put this to you, everyone with a keyboard has an opinion now. Wasn’t like that in 1996, or 1993, or 1985. So you watched it and liked it and that was that.

  151. Sabai says:

    How about an FIA supplied floor with venturi ground effects, Monza spec downforce, super hard tires, a clutch pedal with steering wheel mounted paddle shifts so the driver must heel toe, no shark fins/winglets, and less braking power.

    1. Robert says:

      i agree we need ground effect back, gp2 seem to be makign it work. remember hamilton at turkey gp2 race coming from the back to the front after spinning

    2. Sabai says:

      I also forgot to mention: no power steering so the drivers have to work harder and bringing back turbos or an unlimited restriction on KERS.

      1. Robert says:

        i think for 2013 engines should have a set size like 2.0 then any any cylinders or config, or jsut allow 1.6 turbos, if it was 1.4 the wrc would have bigger engines

  152. Nick Someone says:

    Get all the drivers to play a racing sim against each other. Vary the downforce levels, mechanical grip, track characteristics and rules about stops and see what works. I think in the modern world it’s possible to know how rules will affect things before you apply them. It’s a bit of an effort but there are various ways you can get a rough idea about what will happen.

    It’s a bit silly to use CFD / wind tunnels and simulation to develop a car and race strategy, but not to develop the rules.

    My uniformed ideas for better overtaking:

    -Less downforce
    -Old fashioned metal brake discs
    -Bring back Kers but get rid of the 6 second rule. A driver could store energy up for a few laps and release it all in one go etc. I also liked that it’s technology relevant to modern road cars.

  153. Lehonardeuler says:

    I agree with Nick Bedding. Imagine F1 in 2011, in HD tv showing high-tech cars with manual gearboxes. Something’s wrong…

    Right now we have:
    Engine freeze. Wich basically places all engines on the same power figures, which also works agains overtaking. Also, a faulty engine keeps the same and cuts down it’s team chances.
    Testing freeze. The team on fron in the test stays on front during the season.

    Harder tyres? Harder than now? 11 sets for a whole weekend, under any circumstances… I mean, they could be even harder, but what for?

    Aero rules: In my view, the new regulations just go the oppossite of what they pretend: Reducing rear wing width and moving the front wing outwards is just to ensure airflow on the front wing of the following car, but just if it stays right behind it. What about moving aside to overtake it? Downforce falls apart, as drivers say… and it’s even more difficult to overtake than before.

    KERS: A very good and somewhat useful idea, that the fia got so wrong.
    Just 6.6sec of KERS per lap, and 80HP? That’s so low! Bring it back for the whole race, but with a limited amount of energy, like KERS for 40% of the laps, so drivers can use it wherever they want and choose to push with it for many laps straight.

    Refuelling: Maybe it’s a good idea to remove it to experience with weight balance and so on, but it should have a backup plan if it all gets predictable and dull.
    Tyre rule for qualifing: Who on earth will ever qualify on the harder compound and start further on the back, and then be destined to overtake no-one in the whole race and ruin their strategy? We’ll see no-one in the front to go for it with the harder tyres this year.

    I believe the more variants to the race we have, the more chances of not having a boring show.

    Anyway, I doubt some good racing in some time… maybe if 1.8L turbo are brought in and not being limited, with more open aero regulations (and maybe a new kers, also), we could see some interesting stuff.

  154. Tim Wong says:

    Frank Dernie stopped short of saying the catalyst for overtaking in wet races is not low downforce, but very low grip. That’s probably the reason why drivers are still somewhat able to overtake at the early part of the race (green track, higher fuel load, race rhythm still not settled) but passing becomes difficult when the track and cars got faster at the end. Moving back to slicks certainly didn’t help.

    I suppose the tyres can still be sticky but if they drop off say after 10 laps – let the teams decide if they want to keep pitting for new rubber or ask their driver to nurse the tyres to extend the stints. Grooved tyres used to drop into a graining phase after a few hot laps. They can also reduce the pitlane speed limit to extend the time required for pitstops, say back to 30s region, to increase the “penalty” for pitting.

  155. Dieter says:

    F1 has become too political than being a sport, if I go to McDonald’s and i order the most expensive burger, why would i be forced by a group of people for Me to order a cheap burger and be on the same level as them if I can buy whatever I want?

    This is what is happening in F1, dumbing down is not the appropriate word, but F1 seems to be going backwards, teams are no longer allowed to rise up to the technical challenge and show their cleverness.

    McLaren or Ferrari might innovate something for F1 that could be a breakthrough to be used in modern road cars.

    by mid 90s F1 was pushing the innovation envelop, also this is the thing that the Ilmor Mario Ilien once said F1 is no longer exciting in terms of engines developments, you can no longer put your brainstorming ideas into a new engine.

    Top teams are suffering because someone does not have the same budgets as bigger teams, however the Fans wants the best team to win regardless of whatever budgets they are running.

  156. Foobar says:

    Bring back alternative creative design instead of making the race about driver errors.

    For example engines: 4, 6, 8, 10, 12 cylinders, turbocharged or free breathing…heck, a wankel or electric engine as well!*

    Cut back the constricting rules! Flexible (perhaps even active) aerodynamics, ground effect, you name it they should have it.

    What I don’t like is the attitude towards technological advancement: With the current rules any advance is first seen as being against the rules – Just count how many times a team has complained about another team because ‘they did something we didn’t thought of so it must be against the rules’.

    The tracks have much wider safety zones nowadays and the materials are sturdier, give the engineers the ability to create cars with different characteristics. In current F1 almost every car handles pretty much the same => Overtaking is hard, nigh impossible, without technical failure or driver error.

    Sure, in case of ‘free engine’ you’d need some balancing to work it out (eg. weight, total engine displacement) but seeing a gas guzzling pit-every-5-laps wankel McLaren face will-the-battery-hold Ferrari and I’ve-got-4-cylinders-and-4-turbos Lotus would make the race an interesting showdown. ;-)

  157. Bello Mahmood says:

    I agree with what the article says. But you people keep on forgetting about the HEART of formula 1 cars. Bring back the V10′s, take out rev limiters. That will create enough variation even among the fastest of the front runners. Drivers use different revs at different times during the race. Reduce the current fuel tank size by 30%. And also about the overtaking group, All they do is just sit on a freaking computer simulation, if they are really serious, they should build prototypes and test them vigorously on various tracks. Also leave the semi automatic gear boxes, they are iconic. Try increasing braking distances by 25%.

    1. Ian says:

      It is true; the homologation (and I’m particularly thinking engines here – ie size, rpm limits etc) of so many aspects of the car has created an environment where the cars are inevitably almost identical – hardly a surprise they don’t have the differences in power required to overcome the turbulence of the car in front required to make an overtake between corners.

      1. Bello Mahmood says:

        You are one cool brother, thanks for the reply. Well, I just hope they find a solution soon. I don’t like the current image of F1. The fans don’t get their moneys worth. Also I am African, when are we going to see an African driver in Formula 1.

    2. David says:

      Are you gonna fund the OWG, then? Cool, thanks.

      1. Bello Mahmood says:

        I can really. Deep pockets mate. :)

  158. Jake Pattison says:

    We have only had ONE race. I cannot see how anyone can make a judgement yet. Let’s see how things pan out after a few more races.
    I still enjoyed Bahrain.

  159. Tibet Fonteyne says:

    A ton of logical fallacies there in “Here’s the proof – if downforce prevented overtaking, historically the races with the fewest overtaking manoeuvres would have been the wet races, where maximum downforce settings are used”. Obviously the wet conditions alter grip level to such a degree that downforce is insignficant compared to the decrease in grip. Manual gearboxes do not belong in F1. F1 is the top. Hard tyres the same. In Bahrain, a few people’s fastest laps were slower than the GP2 cars. NOw you want hard tyres to slow them down more? You’ll end up with BTTC. Good racing, but not F1. We need very soft tyres which burn out in 15 laps maximum, that will bring both driver skill into it and promote more pitstops…

    1. Legend2 says:

      I commented exactly the same regarding that ridiculous assertion by Frank on wet races. Frank loses a lot of credibility in everything he says if he expects people to believe that rubbish.

      Agreed Tibet. We need tyres which give great grip and also degrade quickly. Unfortunately Bridgestone have not come to the party and it seems clear that they will not change their conservative long lasting tyres.

  160. Anton says:

    How hard can it be to fix the problem? Let’s see…Get two F1 cars, go to a track with a variety of different aerodynamic parts. Run the two cars against each other in racing conditions, straight line runs, slipstreaming etc. This is the only way to find out how the regulations perform.

    I find it truly amazing that they (the teams) only found out how terrible it was to follow another car at the first race of the season. What the heck were they doing during the winter test?

    Motor racing is never about preserving tires and saving fuel. It’s about using the machinery and skills of the driver to the absolute limit.

  161. Nick in Dubai says:

    Sounds like a great idea james, i hope the powers that be pay attention.

    I have seen how the yas marina circuit can host a less than stella F1 race, yet the recent GP2 race there was outstanding. you dont have to be a genius to realise that longer braking areas makes for far more entertaining racing.

    give the drivers hard tyres which will degrade over a period of 20 laps or so and we can have great racing.

    F1 has a huge opportunity to remove they tyre equation completly with the departure of bridgestone. hopefully no one will replace them and we can have some better racing

  162. Z says:

    They should just rename GP2 to F1, problem solved.

    1. Tim Wong says:

      This is by far the best idea offered. I’m with you on this 100% mate! : )

  163. james says:

    Manual gearbox? is this guy out of his mind? we are talking about the pinnacle of motorsports here.

    Lets see, if I was given only low grip tyres, then I will work hard on the aero to make up the grip loss. Remember, the groove tyre days? that is tyres with lack of grip and it never did improved the overtaking rates.

    Although this guy sounds good but I doubt he knows what he is talking about. It is not a simple case of using manual gearbox and low grip tyres.

  164. Rich C says:

    I think we need really, really wide tracks, with a figure ’8′ over/underpass so each car has its own slot.
    And the drivers stand on a big platform high in the air – or maybe in a helicopter.

  165. Stevie P says:

    Do away with quali. Have practise sessions on a Saturday only, thus reducing a day of the Grand Prix, thus saving costs – perhaps. Start them in reverse order from the previous race. For the first race, start them in reverse World Champs positions from previous season.

    Ok, so there are “holes” in this and people will moan… but hey, how else are you gonna have the fast cars at the back and the slow ones at the front – which normally produce the best GP’s, think of rain affected quali sessions eg Brazil last year, Japan with Kimi and Alonso down in mid-field.

    But as we all keep saying even the fast cars can’t get past the slow ones… :-( The fast cars would reach mid-field and then make no more progress, as the car in front although slower, is fast enough (just) to hold them off.

    If Alonso or Vettel had started at the back, in Bahrain, how far up the field would they have got? Impossible to tell, I suppose.

  166. Rich C says:

    Heres my suggestion, posted in another thread, which could be done right now with no car changes at all.

    Because the last 2 minutes of Qualy is the most exciting “racing” of the weekend, lets try this:
    1) Give full race points for qualy positions;
    2) *Randomly reverse *most but not all of the grid.

    This rewards the cars that would probably have won a processional, then rewards the fans by actually having a bloody race!

    1. Ian says:

      Interesting and imaginative idea but the result may simply be the most almighty crash at turn 1 as the faster cars at the back of the grid overhaul the slower cars at the front.

      1. rpaco says:

        Works fine in BTCC.

  167. andyb says:

    At the local go kart track where you go and pay to drive the go karts they have a metal bumper bar around them. So you can bang into each other if you need to.

    Put a metal bumper bar around the cars for this season so they can bang into each other. Then fix the rules properly for next year.

    Until then, GP2 should be promoted to the feature race.

    My 2011 changes

    Bring back:
    Tyre War

    Get rid of:
    Double diffuser
    Rev limiters
    Jenson Button (awww sorry, that one just slipped out)

    There. Think I’ve fixed F1.

  168. Pierre says:

    Thanks to Frank Dernie and James.
    Cannot agree more about the gearbox (see my “Alonso wins, show is criticised, but there is an answer” post).
    But the question is would the teams agree to go back to a manual gearbox? Would they agree to spend once more money to develop it when they are supposed to reduce costs? A standardised common gearbox for everybody would reduce and share the cost development, but goes against the spirit of F1…

  169. For Future
    1. Tyres : Instead of having SuperSoft, Soft, Medium, Hard, Intermediate, Wet, etc., there should only be Medium, Intermediate and Wet. This saves money for the tyre manufacturer as well. There should not be any restriction of usage of tyres in quali. carried over to race.
    2. Engines & Fuel : It should be a V8, 2400cc with KERS and no Rev. limited. One engine/gearbox for one race. Fuel will be restricted per race like some 160kilos. Refuelling allowed but within this quota.
    3. Front & Rear wings somewhat like of 2007 (See Mclaren it was beautiful). Diffuser would be a common specification.
    4. A team can have any engine. No restriction of no. of teams using a particular engine. Just see where ForceIndia is today.
    5. Pit Stops not mandatory and 80mph reverted back to 100mph.

    for 2010 ( to spice up(joke)) : remove saturday qualifying instead do a lottery for positions for sundays race. Wow remember Kimi in 2005 Japan.

  170. Adrian Davies says:

    Just a thought, but what about (at circuits where it is possible) altering the track lay-out for Sundays race compared to Friday & Saturday practice/qualifying. We will then have drivers driving into the unknown dusty green corners less mechanical grip etc.
    EG at silverstone use the Bridge GP cicuit on Fri/Sat & then the new GP circuit for Sundays main event.

  171. Ian says:

    I would suggest that ‘dumbing down’ the technology in F1 cars would be counter productive for the car industry as a whole – ie in the case of moving backwards to manual gear change, it would break links with ‘real world’ solutions for future generations of road cars. Much the same with harder tyres methinks – a solution must be found that creates a spectacle whilst preserving F1 as the cutting edge of technology for real-world future solutions.

    1. Rich C says:

      I agree no “dumbing down”
      But there *are no RL links to road cars! The only “technology” that F1 is on the cutting edge of is the ability to spend obscene amounts of money on microscopic aero enhancements to go 200.0001 mph instead of 200.

  172. I don’t fully agree with Frank Dernie – while I am no expert, did we not have the equivalent of hard tyres when we switched to narrow wheelbase and grooved tyres? Also, plenty of other series like IndyCar and GP2 use flappy-paddle gearboxes and super-sticky tyres and have overtaking (I realise these are one-make series, but F1 cars are a lot closer in performance than they used to be).

    If you look at this graph here: http://www.cliptheapex.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=51&t=822 Which starts in 1983, overtaking has reduced significantly and has not shown an improving or declining trend since the mid 90′s – no matter what the technical regs were.

    Another thought – might an aerodynamicist say something like this as a matter of protecting their role in an F1 team? I mean, I’m not saying that he is, but if we switched to low aero, I can see a few wind tunnel engineers looking for work here…


    1. Lance says:

      Since 2007 tyre compounds have become harder as there has been no tyre war. The figures show that over the same period, the amount of overtaking has fallen year on year.

      Similarly 2005, when tyre changes were banned and compounds were very hard, was particularly poor for overtaking.

      I can’t deny Dernie’s experience and knowledge but I’d have expected more of a correlation in the statistics.

      The trouble is that everything in F1 is always changing simultaneously and it’s impossible to do a test in “laboratory conditions” to find the true causes- be they engines, tyres, wings, diffusers, circuits or all of the above.

  173. Ronnie Stone says:

    All well and good this arguement…for next year…assuming people care by then, but at least let’s have refuelling back right now so the drivers can put up some kind of fight this year or it’s gonna be the Red Bull all the way, unless it breaks, then the Ferrari can take over….wow eh! Real trouble with all this years reg’s is the engine’s are puny compared to the v 10 and 12 turbo’s in the 80′s that allowed full tanks to be raced on.

  174. Frederik says:

    Frank Dernie deserves a medal. His proposals are just briliant. Not often we hear clever, well thought through rule suggestions from someone in f1.
    I really hope his remarks get spread out in the media and become a talking point. Otherwise they’ll quickly vanish and they’d remain a dream.

  175. australiano says:

    Dernie misses some of the point I think.

    Sure rock hard tyres would lengthen braking distances but if cars cannot keep within reasonable distance of one another without losing pace, how can they overtake?

    He has not discussed the issue of turbulence at all.

    As far as I can tell, mistakes are not the reason why passing happens. It is more about the ability to outperform an opponent in any given corner. If you can’t stick with a guy because your car cannot perform whilst following an opponent and you are actually FASTER than that guy; than micro-mistake or not, you cannot pass. We have a serious problem.

  176. Nihad Gluscic says:

    Frank pretty much nails it – in 2005, we had loads of downforce yet, the tyres were hard because they had to endure entire race. That was the season when we had Suzuka, one of the finest ever race, and we had a proper overtaking at Grand Hotel Hairpin for Christ’s sake!!!

    So, leave aero alone and bring back hard tyres, perhaps even tyres that can last for two races (they did it in the sixties, didn’t they).

    And please, no reversing grid in any way, that is just ridicilous – we might as well hire a film director to organize the race in the way that provides spectacle but that is just not the real thing.

  177. At the risk of sounding like an idiot, because I know nothing about aerodynamics, it seems to me that Dernie is missing the point, perhaps ingeniously on purpose. People don’t necessarily want less downforce, what we want is cars that are less sensitive to turbulence and/or cars that generate less turbulance.

    What they cut from ’82 to ’83 was the ground effects, and empirical evidence seems to be that ground effects generate far less turbulence than the upper body downforce devices of nowadays. GP2 and CART cars recently used ground effects successfully – allowing overtaking, and without being dangerous (which is the other common argument against ground effects).

    His ideas are interesting and might improve things, but don’t really solve the issue. Forcing manual gearboxes is a bit like banning driver aids – we all thought it’d result in more driver mistakes but they just adapted to it. Bringing rock hard tyres might solve the marbles issue, but even if drivers can use alternative lines in corners thanks to it, there’s still 1 single optimal line, and they still can’t use it because of the dirty air in front.

    It might come to be that one day they’ll find out that the only way to get rid of dirty air, is to give everyone spec aero kit and wings. That day is the day people like Dernie lose their jobs. No wonder he prefers to attract suspiction to drivers and engineers instead.

    1. michael balthazar says:

      there will still be room for aerodynamics, just not as much. there will still be the job of optimizing whatever specification kit is issued.

      still, to take away the aerodynamic component is to kill part of f1 and move it towards a spec chassis sort of series.

      spec aero kits and wings are not the way to get rid of dirty air, and it is not the only problem.

      you forget that aero guys are also engineers.

    2. phillip sanders says:

      100% Agree, In my eyes Frank Dernie is part of the problem, not the solution, he has a blatant conflict of interest to the problem f1 is facing.

      Wet races promote overtaking because the reliance on aero is massively reduced due the slower comer speeds, not because the cars are setup for maximum downforce, in some instances the corner speed is so low that the aero effect is nil.

      In a wet race a driver can do a mistake free lap and yet can still be overtaken by a faster driver, so his other theory about overtaking only coming from mistakes is also false.

      In a wet race a driver can do a mistake free lap and yet can still be overtaken by a faster driver, so his other thoeory about overtaking only comming from mistakes is also false.

  178. Joe Consiglio says:

    Hmm, whilst I like the idea of manual gear boxes, it would seem some of Dernie’s arguments dont stack up.

    In my view, the problem have never been about the cars producing too much “downforce”. It’s how this downforce is produced and how this downforce is affected by turblence.

    The wet race argument is just silly. To make tyres so hard/bad that they replicate wet weather grip levels would make a mockery of the sport. Sure the turblence affect would probably be solved because the cars would never be able to corner at speeds close to when aero generated grip really kicks in. However the reduction in laptimes would be massive, f1 cars would end up slower than f3 cars!

  179. Pat says:

    Apart from manual gear boxes and tyres – which I mentioned in a post a couple of days ago along with the dying art of “toeing and heeling” e.t.c. a few things things keep coming up in my mind when I think about this issue.

    1) The entry and exit of La Source and the run down to and through Eau Rouge at Spa – Drivers take various lines into and out of La Source wide in wide out, wide in narrow out, narrow in wide out (it used to be more prevalent before they inexplicably narrowed the exit by putting a kerb in there on the exit to stop drivers running wide) but this corner often led to a side by side drag race out of it and down to Eau Rouge – testing the “nuts” of the brave to see who lifts first at Eau Rouge – to further prove the point it was often repeated to a lesser extent at the Adelaide Hairpin at Magny Cours – maybe introducing more corners like this – very slow but wide track at entry & exit – should be introduced or existing ones modified (marbles don’t seem to be a problem at these corners)

    2) A good few years back now CART in the US introduced a mandatory element to the rear wings on their cars to improve slipstreaming and overtaking – the first incarnation actually proved too “good” and you had cars passing each other 5 or 6 times on the straights in 1 lap !
    But they fine tuned it and reduced it’s effectiveness for the following races and it definitely worked – now before anybody bangs on about “This ain’t Indycar or whatever” I know that but the Overtaking Working Group have had their chance and come up with nothing – so perhaps until they do the FIA/Bernie should force something like this on them to focus the minds a bit better.

    3)Why have the FIA or Bernie’s lot not had the foresight to get some of the Guys who are currently not employed in F1 but have been in the past – to put together an FIA endorsed & Bernie Financed Test Team to try various solutions to the overtaking problem with real cars in a real environment – Bernie owns his own track for gods sake – Paul Ricard – to see what improves things and what doesn’t – They could try different wing configurations, different brake materials, big wings, little, wings, no wings, high wings, no diffusers ! wide track, narrow track, fat tyres hard tyres soft tyres the list is endless – and We all know of a couple of 2010 spec cars, that are ready to race but haven’t been allowed to, that could be put to good use whilst they wait for a slot next year (Stefan GP) Bridgestone could also take the opportunity to test different spec tyres away from the glare of a race weekend to see how they can help things – It ain’t Rocket Science !

    1. Louis says:

      agree with most of your comments, the Overtaking Group haven’t done anything that actually helped the issue. Get a new group of committee members.

  180. For Sure says:

    I am no expert but we have seen better drivers overtake better cars in inferior machinery in wet races.

    So yes, with minimum downforce, at least, we will see the desparity in drivers’ ability a bit more.

  181. Dave Bird says:

    Hallelujah!! Dernie for president of FOTA!!

  182. Fletch says:

    No No No

    Hard tyres and manual gear boxes may provide more overtaking but its a trade off. In return you lose the strategy and excitement of multiple pit stops which is an integral part of F1, it’s the different aspects combined that make the sport, not just overtaking. No refueling and enforced pit stops is just GP2. Dull.

    Given the contraint of no refueling to cut costs why not give the cars super grippy tyres. Faced with the dilema of rinsing the tyres but taking an extra stop vs going slowly but avoiding the pits cars would be on different strategies and therefore going at different speeds, hence overtaking.

    We know from the Bahrain race that someone on fresh types at the end able to get close to qualifying pace could have been 4s per lap faster.

  183. David Jerromes says:

    Hi James,

    I have aired my views a few times regarding my dislike of aero grip (inability for chasing cars to get close or overtake) as opposed to traditional mechanical grip.

    Most road cars are built to have low drag coefficients, F1 cars are now opposite by their very nature..

    I would like to think that Mr.Dernie will perhaps even contribute to the debate by answering some of the points made by contributors after such a biased standpoint.

    Poachers make great gamekeepers, but do gamekeepers make great poachers??

    From the great days of Nuvolari and his peers to the likes of Clark/Moss/Jackie Stewart et al don’t you feel we’ve lost the essence of our sport; that being motor-RACING?!

    In the bygone era fans could watch cars four-wheel drifting, managing copious over-steer through wonderful corners at amazing circuits, out-braking each other, slipstreaming etc (more akin to Indy now than F1…)

    Then we had proper racing, aero didn’t figure although the likes of Mercedes’s Silver Arrows and the Auto Unions tried to make their cars aerodynamic to achieve higher speeds and make as small an opening in the air as possible to reduce friction. NOT to punish those following…

    That is dead and buried it seems…

    Sure no-one wants to keep messing with the rules (but they do, constantly and consistently…), its just that F1 is working with the wrong FORMULA.

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but most regulations in decades past were aimed to improve safety by reducing straight line and cornering speeds and to make cars safer in the event of impact with scenery or other cars.
    But in those days, F1 was still a very dangerous sport as was printed on every ticket a spectator bought when going to watch live racing. It was inescapable. F1 drivers were injured and sadly many lost their lives as well.

    F1 today is too safe. A very high speed Sunday drive by those whose abilities are not able to shine through unless they have the right car or some luck/weather intervention!

    I’m not advocating that drivers should be maimed and killed every season, far from it, but that drivers walk away from incredibly high-speed accidents almost at will.

    A formula is a balance and the balance is now wrong in F1, it has been for quite some time.

    I can’t think of another high-profile sport where the rules are constantly manipulated to such a great extent. Sure, you and others will say its because the clever engineers and designers exploit every conceivable loop-hole in the regs.
    Yes they do, but a sport such as F1 should have a governing body that sensibly regulates AND enforces, allowing innovation in the best interest of the sport.

    What apart from safety is the FIA’s aim these days??? I for one am confused by their agenda.

    Why not return to some basics;

    1) high mechanical grip
    2) aero that doesn’t cause such turbulent wakes; minimal bodywork and flat floors, single-source standardised front and rear wings
    3) tyres that are more simplified without such a plethora of compound permutations; dry/intermediate/wet should suffice
    4) more power; bring back turbos or at least allow the current engines to hit their potential red-lines not manipulated red-lines
    5) remove the incredible choice the modern F1 steering wheel’s multitude of buttons provides the driver; how do they best serve the sport?
    6) 3 laps per driver in qualifying; out-lap, flying-lap, in-lap, over a 60 minute window
    7) a Saturday support race of standardised cars where drivers pick a ‘key’, race that car from its allotted grid position (randomly selected for each F1 weekend)over 25 laps with points from their finishing positions (all positions would earn one point minimum) being added to any points scored on race-day; would show us who could REALLY drive and would partly offset/negate the fastest F1 car/driver qualifier on race-day!

    It would also add luck which has been part of F1 since I can remember, not to mention huge fan interest!
    Anyone remember the BMW M1 ProCar support series??!!

    6) encourage green technology be it via KERS or hybrid power unit combinations (or..?) with a view to commercial applications, but as joint team co-operations rather than one engineer fighting his counterpart….


    1. Gilles says:

      I share your pain.

      You wanted comments:
      1&2) OK
      3) one dry, one wet is enough – no need for more
      4) turbo’s are enough; upping the revs will lead to engine wars deciding race outcome – biggest pocket wins; all on the grid should have a chance of winning by driver skill in overtaking & being the faster driver
      5) I have nothing against a driver setting up his car differently during the race, but: it’s invisible to the audience …
      6) OK
      7) the F1 race is the main event, not soemthing else – quali should just indicate the starting order & better your chances of winning, but not be the ultimate decider – in that case, the quali is the race
      8) if everyone has kers, this will cancel out the advantage

  184. John Snow says:

    this is a really interesting artical, I hadn’t thought of it like that before. I was all for bringing back the tyre war, I’m not so sure now. All I do know is that I want super skinny tyres now, bring back a bit of drift!

  185. Welshracer says:

    Overtaking happens when a fast car passes a slow car or in the rare occurence of a driver making a mistake and the car behind takes advantage.

    The qually system is not at fault – however maybe different race rules for cars who make the different Q sessions is needed.

    Q1 cars have no limits – Q2 cars fuelled to half distance and 1 tyre change Q3 cars fuelled to race distance can only use soft tyres can only change 2 wheels once in race?

    The changes must be to the weekend structure and that does not cost anything.

  186. JP says:

    Four sets of tyres (plus wets) per car, and make them last two races.

  187. DOF_power says:

    1] Why do GP2/Formula Nippon/Superleague/IRL racecars can pass each other considering they also have semi-autos with paddles ?!

    2] Tires have never been harder then today. And 2005 didn’t work.

    On track passing:
    2004 … 277
    2005 … 201

    On track passing dry only
    2004 … 244
    2005 … 181

    2005 was a disaster from a passing perspective but 2009, 2008 and 2007 were the worst for dry weather passes.

    On track passing dry weather passing:
    2004 … 244
    2005 … 181 (single tire rule)
    2006 … 221 (V8s)
    2007 … 157 (frozen/limited V8s, no tire war)
    2008 … 140 (SECU: TC + rear ABS ban)
    2009 … 144 (lower rev limit + new aero + KERS on some cars)

    Ever since the tire war was ended, the engines were rev-limited and electronics were standardized/reduced overtaking went down.

    From 2004 till 2009 F1 lost 100 dry weather passes due to stupid ever more restrictive rules witch made cars more and more aero dependent.

    F1 needs a tire, engine and electronics war for the passing to improve and less reliance on aero.

    1. Feynman says:

      Excellent evidence-based commenting. Nails it.

      You would think that a sport so rapt with physics and engineering would do what other scientists do, and organize a controlled experiment.

      FOTA can put the hat round, hire a track and order a range of tyres, and each offer up a range of rough’n’ready, rapidly-protyped aero bolt-ons of various flavours.

      Do it during the summer shutdown. With chief designers from all teams present, let the new teams try out the extremes of the currently contradictary solutions proposed, and determine once and for all what shape and configuration an F1 car needs to be in order to get close enough to the one in front.

      Soft tyres, hard tyres, huge adjustable front wings, no front wings, triple diffusers, flat bottoms.

      The new guys could burn a ton of laps (all thier hydraulics problems hopefully fixed), and produce some real world hard numbers. Feed those number into the CFD computer-farms and watch them crunch the MonteCarlo simulations to see how races and strategy would likely unfold. Pick your favorite and settle this thing once and for all.

  188. Alias J says:

    Dernie misses the point ‘turbulence’, simply trying to protect his self-importance as the aerodynamicist.

    My two cents worth for the perfect F1.

    1) Aerodynamic regulations freedom
    2) Engine regulations freedom
    3) Tire regulations freedom
    4) Budgets regulations freedom

    Please don’t suffocate the sport or limit its ability for creative freedom by putting so much regulations.

  189. " for sure " says:

    Many years ago I was a fan of short oval non contact hot rod racing. A greaseball motorsport, but one that was very skilful at the top level.

    The fastest cars start at the back, not the front. The good drivers have to overtake the entire field to win.

    Just a thought…?

  190. azac21 says:

    what sort of speed advantage should a car have in order to be able to overtake the car in front? They way things stand now, 0.5 sec is still not enough advantage (?). Most of the teams talk about turbulence destroying air flow and slowing down the car that tries to overtake. Adjusting tyre grip levels seems like a simple and fair way to improve the overtaking situation but will it be enough when cars rely so much on aerodynamics?

  191. F1 Fan says:

    Single lap qualifying and they have to use the qualifying tyre for whole race.

  192. Robert says:

    To solve overtaking for 2011, bring in some form of ground effects as the dirty air from the car in front doesn’t greatly affect this. Also keep semi auto gear boxes but with a clutch pedal for heel and toe with pedal on the steering wheel. Keep soft tyres. I don’t want to see f1 cars and think a road car could keep up. another note is go back to V10 as this will make sure a f1 car is faster than a gp2, because at the moment a gp2 car has a bigger V8 than an f1 car. F1 should have a set cc size say 2.0L but any amount of cylinders, similar to moto gp

    James do you think f1 would allow a tamed version of ground effects back into the sport?

  193. Robert says:

    To solve overtaking for 2011, bring in some form of ground effects as the dirty air from the car in front doesn’t greatly affect this. Also keep semi auto gear boxes but with a clutch pedal for heel and toe with gear padals on the steering wheel. Keep soft tyres. I don’t want to see f1 cars and think a road car could keep up. another note is go back to V10 as this will make sure a f1 car is faster than a gp2, because at the moment a gp2 car has a bigger V8 than an f1 car. F1 should have a set cc size say 2.0L but any amount of cylinders, similar to moto gp

    James do you think f1 would allow a tamed version of ground effects back into the sport?

  194. Marybeth says:

    Maybe we can persuade the media to cover WRC instead of F1? …or at least include it…?
    Can’t they just go back to last year’s rules…and chassis, i.e. the F60 for Ferrari?

  195. Raczak says:

    While we do probably need to wait a few more races to see how things go, if anything does need changed mid season then how about drivers having to select one of the 2 compounds, the choice always having at least one other between them, sometimes either super soft or hard even, and use that from Q1 onwards. The rule could still be having to start on the same tyres as grid time set on, but may not have to be. This is essentially what they had back in the 80s/early 90s and would give a strategy of either less stops but maybe not ultimate speed, or potentially more stops but a speed advantage. We could well get the driver having stopped closing in with fresh tyres on the one with tyres that are past their best. Whether this will increase overtaking, I don’t know, but if you have shot tyres and are fighting with someone with fresh ones, then there is the chance of a mistake, or you can show skill by keeping control with less grip. Even if there is no overtake there is still the duelling, remember the last few laps of Abu Dhabi last year, JB on MW’s tail for second ?

  196. Louis says:

    I suggest a combination of major reduction of aero grip and increase of mechanical grip, for example, if the current ratio is 60%/40% (aero/mech), F1 should change it’s ratio to about 25%/75% – this way, the reliance on aero grip is much reduced, so even when a car is following another car closely, the turbulence effect is much reduced.

    This could be achieved by
    1. completely getting rid of the front wing (why not?)
    2. removing the double diffuser
    3. no more small winglets
    4. bigger(wider) front wheels

    In addition to the above suggestions – I’d also recommend the use of different brake disc material that would double the braking distance, this would give more opportunities for the car behind to attempt a move. I don’t mind going back to stick shift.

    Another area that NEED to be looked at is the circuit designs, all these micky mouse circuits with corners after corners and short straights are also killing the sport, I want to see big curves returning, not tiny corners, big curves that situate in between long straights (eg. Paratada @ Mexico or the old Osterrierering curcuit), Tilke as the designer of all F1 circuits is killing the sport.

    what do you think? IF this makes sense to you, is there any way you can pass these suggestions to the governing body?

  197. Lu says:

    I see where this guy’s coming from, but what he’s basically saying is “boo hoo, I miss the old days”.
    Even road cars aren’t gonna have manual gearboxes for much longer, so get over it.
    Who wants to watch racing (and F1 no less) where the cars are LESS ADVANCED than the cars we all drive on our roads!
    Also, I think track design has to be looked at (ok, that’s not a short-term solution), but all the latest tracks are technically challenging but not easy for overtaking and not fast enough (Thanks Mr Tilke)

  198. JohnsonsEvilTwin says:

    I see this as very simple market force.
    We the consumer, demand these changes to be made or we take our custom elsewhere.
    A few more “Bahrain’s” and after 20 years of being an avid F1 fan, I will just read the result in the paper.

  199. tim says:

    Passing in the rain works. Why?

    -the difficulty and unpredictability of finding a braking point without ending miles off track and probably ending his race. And possibly destroying other cars in the process.

    This is similar to the days of old, when if a driver pushed his braking point too far -he might end up in a tree or a brick wall. Hence the success and drama of desperate hero drivers showing balls of steel. Bahrain and China have rediculously NO risk involved, with off track excursions guaranteed to be nothing more than a slightly slower controlled drive. No risk, not even of loosing a wing or tyre.
    Bring back trees!
    Bring back fences!
    Bring back risk!

    -only then will we see ‘superhuman’ abilities ever again. :)

  200. dren says:

    There is a lot of passing in MotoGP when compared to F1. Look at why and we may find some solutions.

    1. " for sure " says:

      Riders with balls and no aero.

  201. Robert Powers says:

    Most overtakes took place in the past when a driver made a mistake due to poor grip or missed a gear.”

    I would say most overtakes were because: 1.a driver was “asleep” and “left the door open” or: 2.a driver was too focused on his mirrors, fudged a corner and “left the door open”,or: 3.misread the other driver’s intentions and “left the door open”.Also-along with the engineers defense of the gearbox,the teams won’t want to pay for the broken gears,and of course the drivers don’t want the blisters.Everyone,including Mr Dernie make good points.We need to marry the years 1967 and 2010 somehow.

  202. MikeR says:

    I agree with FD up to a point but it is still looking at ways of getting round the problem (by increasing the likelihood of driver mistakes) rather than solving it (by reducing the aero impact on closely following cars).
    In order to allow more innovative solutions, I suggest a race fuel limit together with standard (reduced downforce) wings and fewer restrictions on engine designers.

  203. rpaco says:

    James are you able to put Frank Dearnie’s views to some other aero guys in the teams.

  204. Carl James says:

    Hi James,

    First time posting on here, great site!

    One thing that Frank touches on here is that there is “too much difference in grip between on and off line is a major factor”. I remember a few classic races (Silverstone 2003 for example) where the overtaking possibilities were improved due to overnight rain between qualifying and the race washing off the rubber build up and turning the track ‘green’, allowing the drivers to use alternative racing lines to good effect. How about the FIA simply wash the track on race morning at every race to recreate this occurance?

  205. phil says:

    Before we go ahead and change the rules can we stick some cars on really hard tyres and see if it makes any difference.

    I thought all the drivers suggest that the aero wake from the car in front reduced the downforce on their own car which in turn prevented them from running closely enough to the car in front.

    Perhaps the FOTA group should organize a session where half a dozen of the best cars are put on hard tyres and some of them have the diffuser removed as well. They should be able to gather enough data from the cars and the drivers to work it out.

    You only have to look at racing in the US to see that they can overtake.

  206. phil says:

    get rid of ceramic brakes or whatever it is that they use. They need to get back to braking before the 100m board.

  207. Peter says:

    Why do we have overtakings in GP2?
    Sticky tires, semi automatic gearboxes..

  208. pao says:

    The problem I see here is this: F1 wants to promote itself as the best car racing show and accordingly have the best tracks, best drivers and best technology.

    Having the best technology makes life easier for the drivers as they are then in a position where there are less variables for them to deal with and so less mistakes.

    Having hard tyres and manual gearboxes certainly adds elements to increase the chance of risk – but does going to such a basic level of technology take away from what formula 1 is supposed to be?

    I am getting the feeling that the only way to see the drivers at their best is to stick them in basic cars (after all why do many of them go karting during down time?) but then that is not what the teams, the manufacturers and the sport wants to show as it is the counter to what F1 is supposed to represent.

    Turning back the clock 20-30 years with rose tinted glasses is fine – but then today’s tech wasn’t around then.

  209. Couldn’t have put it better myself. But how do they monitor or enforce such s thing without sticking on the back of car some sort of standard device on the car?

  210. Daniel Silveira says:

    Make a budget cap on tyres. 100€ max per tyre.
    Everybody wins with this option.

  211. Ralf F says:

    Hello James, long time follower of your blog, I love it. There’s clearly no easy fix for this season, but there are a number of suggestions that might help, including yours.

    As for aero being to blame, I believe it is partially responsible. If not for all the fancy stuff on the cars, the turbulence behind would be less and cars would follow more closely. In the long term I would tighten the aero rules even more to remove those shark fins and tunnels, the bits hanging around the radiator inlets and those funny miniwings over the main wings that feature on the Lotus and others. That might help. Of course I’m no aero guru.

    But the main issue, like Frank Dernie pointed out, is the tyres not allowing drivers to go offline. I understand Bridgestone not wanting to build an inferior tyre. But it shouldn’t be inferior! Can’t they ask them: Please engineer me the best tyre you can for a green track that will not pick up dust and leave residue of it’s material behind? In fact, that would be closer to a road tyre you’d use on your own car, and it might be beneficial to the end user in the street. If one could measure those variables and write rules to regulate them, a tyre war might be an option for the future and might allow Bridgestone or whoever else comes to still say “I make the best tyre, buy mine!”

  212. Craig D says:

    I would just like to add that although yes, as others point out, it is the turbulent wake and not downforce per se that causes the difficulty in cars following each other, the suggestion that many make of totally cutting back downforce has a problem. That is that it will result in cars being much much slower than before. Sure a few seconds slower isn’t too noticeable, but I’m sure I’m not the only one who was shocked at just how sluggish the cars appeared off the start line in Bahrain on full tanks compared to previous years.

    I think the speed is one of the great attractors to F1 and its drivers (and by which I mean both straightline speed and the rapid change of direction of the cars in corners). Reducing downforce to the extent that cars are as slow as in some of the lower formulae would causes F1 to lose some of its magic and what makes F1 F1, I feel. But yes, the aero does need to be kept much simpler.

    Also, the cars need to be made trickier to drive so that if anything drivers have too much power for the grip available (I don’t mean the engines need to be way more powerful; that would be unsafe). Then, drivers’ would make more mistakes, leading to more overtaking opportunities, with the added bonus of letting the really talented drivers come to the fore!

  213. Pawel says:

    Yeah, but F1 is a mean of technical progress, innovations… With manual gearbox it could be a step backward.

    Proposal 1.
    Let’s suppose only hard tyres for all races with obligatory 2 pit-stops.

    Proposal 2.
    And how about banning a REAR-WING? I hope it would give an overtaking opportunity for a driver behind. What do you think?

  214. Much as I respect Mr Dernie, both as an aerodynamicist and for his experience in the sport in various roles for so many years, I have to disagree with his remarks about downforce.

    If we removed all above-body aero, all the bits of plastic, the wings, the flick-ups, the turning vanes, the barge boards, even the funny rear view mirrors and limited the cars solely to underbody effects, we would lengthen the braking distance instantly as well as cleaning up the wake. Job done, at least in that department. Naturally, Frank pleads to retain his speciality, that’s understandable.

    However, that isn’t the whole story. If Formula One is supposed to be the absolute pinnacle of motorsport, the fastest, the noisiest, the scariest form of racing, what we have now is not Formula One. It is a regularity trial, much like the old Mobil Economy run. You have to ask, if F1 can’t be run like those gentlemen who set it up 60 years ago envisaged, does it really deserve the title? We currently have drivers having to curb their aggressive driving, doling out each drop of fuel, worrying about the tyres, fiddling with the front wing flap, when are they supposed to get on with the racing?

    Mr Dernie’s other point, about the fastest cars naturally starting at the front, is dead on the money but there is no way round that unless you run a handicap race and penalise excellence.

    Finally, while we are sorting all this out, may I suggest to all my fellow F1 fanatics that they have a look at MotoGP and World Superbike? Elbow-to-elbow racing on the technically most highly developed racing machines in motorsport – funny, that sounds familiar, I wonder why?

  215. Diego says:

    Hi James, greetings from Chile, you have the best blog about F1, congratulations.

    In my view, three ideas for increasing quality overtaking (on track) would be:

    1. Tires that produce no marvels to open up options to the current racing line. Whether they are soft or hard is secondary to me.
    2. Allow only steel discs and homologate brake pads, same pads for everyone, to increase braking zone which is where overtaking takes place normally. Idea 1 already gives you more lines to attack the corner.
    3. Use of vary basic wings of limited area and angle of attack, and give more importance to ground effect if this makes the cars easier to follow close.

    My point with the basic wings is that is hard for the car industry to use in road cars all the research needed to optimize those complex multisurface wings. Aerospace industry would be more interested in that.

    My last point is not needed for overtaking but I would really like to add to no refuelling the idea of a fixed maximmum kilograms of standard fuel allowed.

  216. Ryan Hinds says:

    Has anyone considered the possibility that the aero people dont want a car to be able to follow them. If you think about it, its difficult to follow any formula 1 car. If lets say Renault made a car that was really easy to follow and no on else did it, then they’d get over taken and wouldn’t be able to over take back, I’d put money on dirty wake being a tactical development. Lap times haven’t been getting that much quicker, infact they have slowed down a little in recent years yet the cars are more difficult to follow now than ever before.

    Something else that isn’t helping is the engine cap and the gearbox cap, whose going to push hard and risk damaging the engine and gearbox to get penalised for it at a later date.

    someone mentioned indy cars as being good for overtaking, well thats because part of the criteria for the cars to be approved for use is “raceability” which i can only assume is to do with what they are like getting up close and personal. Maybe FIA need to codify that into actual scientific measurable means and dictate that as part of the tech regs. This i dont think means that they will need to wind tunnel test every single car before each race, because the teams do that anyway, just have some junior technician from the FIA assigned to each time to see the aerodynamic figures, you could also have a system where if someone is finding it too difficult to follow a car based upon aerodynamic reasons, lets say

  217. I say let’s take away all those little things which help the driver. We wan full on drivers, not just people who operate the steering wheel and pedals. They are more than capable of driving under those conditions

  218. Martyn Wheeler says:

    The problem is not the aero or the refuelling, it’s the lack of points discards. Ever since every race counted for points, no-one is willing to take the big risks anymore. Put back 2 or 3 discards in the points, and the drivers will make those risky passes that they daren’t do now. Remove the no-testing and number of engines rules, and the teams will experiment more, which will lead to mixed reliability and more innovation, both of which lead to more overtaking and better racing.

    F1 is becoming too sanitized, and sanitized racing is the result. Return the incentive to take risks in driving and design, and you’ll have exciting racing again.

  219. Alistair Blevins says:

    Isn’t it less a case of downforce and more a case of disrupted airflow? I know the two go hand in hand together, but downforce on its own doesn’t stop a car following closely to another… it’s the wake turbulence.

  220. Frankie Allen says:

    Sounds good, but why I don’t believe it will work. Even with DDD’s we have significantly reduced down force, but in reality all that meant was the reduction in turbulence now required to create the same problem. Reduce the mechanical grip of the tyres and it will make it even more difficult for cars to get close behind under braking. I fully expect the lesser teams to make a lot of mistakes under these conditions, but not so the top teams, ending up with back markers ploughing into each other, with the safety car constantly employed. Either that or you will see a carbon copy of the week-end with cars not even prepared to risk it.

  221. Neil says:

    The circuit’s are partly the problem, need to have a really long straight on each circuit, followed by a hairpin or chicane, you always get overtaking at Montreal, Monza, after eau rouge at spa, hanger straight at silverstone even down to the hairpin at magny cours, turn 1 brazil, the old hockenheim circuit etc, these new cicuits on tv all look the same, hopefully they’ll change the circuit a bahrain again for next year, especially sector 2

  222. CHIUNDA says:

    First of all thank you very much James! This is exactly the kind of reporting we expect from a world class journo like you – instead of fumbling around with half baked information, you go out and get an expert to put things in perspective. Of course the next logical thing for you is to invite a driver like Schumi and an Engineer like Jakob Andreasen to give rebuttals.

    In the short run, I still think re-fuelling is good for the strategic aspects even in the circumstances described above. Strategy gives a good angle to F1. Bringing back a second tyre supplier could also make for a good option – does anybody remember how the Michelins used to cover all the positions between Ferrari at the top and the next Bridgestone shod team at the bottom? But ultimately, my arguement is for relaxing technical rules in favour of compensating technology and introducing a reasonable budget cap that the teams can live with but that is not to big to finance work arounds on the compensating technology.

    Then … wait for it … yep, pick the grid randomly if you can’t get single lap qualifying back!!

  223. RON says:

    Absolute tripe…

    The current generation of F1 cars are not race cars at all… they are pure aeroplanes that can’t fly… they need a second of seperation to maintain stability.

    A true race car would allow slipstreaming… this has all but disappeard in F1.

    A MotoGP bike has very little aero – they seem to overtake a million times more then F1 could even imagine…

    1. " for sure " says:


  224. Frank Dernie says:

    1. Downforce has been the most important part of F1 car performance for 30+ years, it is not new, what is new is that the fact is now known by journalists, hence fans, whereas before only the successful designers knew.
    2. We have been reducing downforce to improve overtaking for nearly 30 years, without it working once. If it was the answer it would have worked every time.
    3. This is a bit tonge-in-cheek, but true. Turbulence behind a car is inherent in physics. Its magnitude depends on the engine power, only the distribution of the turbulence and upwash is affected by the cars design. For less total turbulence the only solution is less power…

    1. James Allen says:

      Thanks for that, Frank

      1. Jasper says:

        I totally agree

        Also perhaps another change that might improve the racing would be the return of steel brakes.

        The weird thing is some of technological innovations that have come into F1 could have been or could be massively beneficial to the automotive industry, in particular active suspension! Banning it was a mistake, it could have had a massively positive effect on all the cars we’re driving now and not just the elite cars if it wasn’t banned, it increased the corner speeds but not nearly as much as the aero has in recent years, and active suspension had no effect on the cars ability to follow each other. Also KERS is a good thing, especially for our eco transport of the future, but simply if every car hasn’t got it, it’s an unfair advantage. As Hamilton’s victory in Hungary and Raikkonen’s victory in Spa last year showed. I’m not saying they weren’t worthy winners, but it did allow them both to overtake cars that were lacking KERS.

        These are the best drivers in the world, this 2010 grid is argue-ably one of the best fields of F1 drivers assembled in history. They should be tested to the limit.

        On the 2010 season: I don’t think making 2 pit stops mandatory is the answer to the overtaking problem at all. More pit stops don’t equal more overtaking. I think a better solution would be for F1 to scrap the rule meaning that each car has to run both the soft tyre and the hard tyre during the race. This would allow for teams to adopt more varied strategies, such as some teams trying to do the entire distance on one set of tyres doing a conservative pace and then other teams will be more aggressive by doing soft tyre stints and pushing flat out for lap time. This kind of wide variation should help the racing. A car pushing hard on soft tyre stints has got a much better chance of overtaking a car lapping conservatively than two cars who are just making 2 identical pitstops during the race.

        More pit stops are just creating more chance to shuffle the order, it’s not creating more chances for on track overtaking!

        This is just a short term solution to the problem as changes to the technical regs will have to wait for another year. This idea should help, but FIA and FOTA need to hurry up and sort out the real problem which is the technical regulations not the ban on refueling!

    2. MacGraw says:

      Frank, do engineers try to direct the turbulence to make it as difficult as possible for other cars to pass. It would make sense to, so long as it didn’t compromise your own performance.

      1. Frank Dernie says:

        No, everything is directed at making ones own car better, that is hard enough!

    3. David Jerromes says:

      Great to hear from you again Mr.Dernie.

      I would really like to hear your opinion as to why Ferrari and Red Bull appear to be the fastest cars at this early part of the season in context with this discussion.

      Are you indicating based on your previous comments to James that these teams have the best mechanical grip rather than the best aero?

      Also, bearing in mind your knowledge and experience in F1 over such a long period what do you consider to be the relative ratios of mechanical versus aero (downforce)in current F1 cars and how do they compare with Indy Cars or other be-winged single-seater series?

      Do you happen to know if the 2010 cars have definitively less downforce than 2009/2008 cars?

      By your comment point (3) are you not acknowledging that a given F1 cars’ aero design IS responsible for the distribution of said engine-power derived turbulence which consequently is killing the ability to follow closely…, so actually you are agreeing that aero rather than mechanical grip is the cause of this inability to close up and attempt an overtake…?

      Therefore would you not agree that simpler wing designs would help solve this problem?

      I have a feeling you’ll be getting many replies, thank you for taking the time to write again !!

      1. Frank Dernie says:

        It is not possible to separate the aero and mechanical link because they are entwined. The grip is the sum of the 4 wheel vertical loads multiplied by their respective tyre friction coefficient. Mu is affected by the load and time temperature history of the rubber. The little rubber molecules do not know what is exerting the force on them.
        The biggest difference between the cars is the tyre, the Lola Champ car had better aerodynamics than a current Formula 1 car since a modicum of ground effect was permitted by the rules.
        The 2009 cars had much less downforce than 2008, but the rules did allow the cars to maintain a more constant aero balance behind another car. From an aero standpoint they were much better than the 2008 cars for following closely. 2010 cars will have the normal development improvements over 2009.

      2. David Jerromes says:

        Thank you for your reply.

        I wish it was a case that simpler wing or even standardised FIA-supplied wing profiles would improve things but it would seem that it’s vastly more complex than that!

      3. Gilles says:

        Two thoughts:
        - double diffusers: not everybody had them in 2009, now they do -> they apparently have a bad influence; but they will be gone in 2011. Maybe the diffuser itself can be banned as well ?
        - normal development: can it be curbed in the sense that area’s detrimental to wake turbulence are deemed off limits ? ie standardised wings

      4. Frank Dernie says:

        you are speculating to the wrong person! My contention is that the problem is -not- mainly aerodynamic, and that if it had been one of the multiple downforce reductions imposed by the rules over the last 28 years would have worked.
        Yet more speculation about what to do about the aerodynamics just frustrates me! I have listened to people banging on about it and it not working for half my life. Aaaaaargh.
        We need to do something about tyres and circuits as well, and maybe other things.

    4. Pierre says:

      How much a turbulence distribution change would improve?

      1. Frank Dernie says:

        Probably not at all. If we have high wings, for example they are -all- high, so the wake is high, just were the following car’s wing is…

      2. Pierre says:

        Thank you very much Frank Dernie for giving us your comments. I wonder if it’s not the first time fans are able to share thoughts with some hi-profile Formula 1 people. As Ross Brawn wrote in James’s book, it shows that people involved in Formula One are reading James’ blog, and so looking at what the fans say. Thanks James for the quality of your work which made that possible.
        James, would be a new very interesting article category for your blog if sometimes, you could arrange a “today ask your question to X” article, X beeing a driver, or team manager, or engineer, or any other people involved in Formula 1 who’d agree to chat with us a bit as Frank Dernie did.

    5. Steve Earle says:

      Hi, nice to hear from an expert! I’m just a long time fan, therefore seemingly of no importance to the people who work in F1 but I’d like to know why, if what you say is right, is it that it is now apparently harder than ever for cars to follow closely behind one another when the engines are producing less power than in the past? Please keep it simple so that the likes of me can understand.
      Also I’d like to say a big thanks to James for producing a truely great website!

      1. Frank Dernie says:

        I do not believe it is either much more or less easy for F1 cars to follow each other than it has been since we had wings. My comment was tongue in cheek since the bigger wake due to more power is compensated by the extra downforce generated.
        We can not un-invent the effect of downforce, believe me loads of discussions have accompanied all proposals to limit it.
        The only system which worked was the super-speedway Cart rule where the rear wing generated lift. Thus the car behind had less drag but more lift, making overtaking relatively trivial between closely matched cars.
        The reality is much more complex than just the aerodynamics, circuits, in particular, play an important role. Brazil being excellent and Monaco hopeless, for example. Aero is mega important at Interlagos, but the circuit layout still allows overtaking. Aero is less important at Monaco, but the track layout and the mega soft tyres used there mean overtaking doesn’t happen.

      2. Pierre says:

        As many said, completely agree the tracks are also the reason of the situation, and particulary all these new silly tracks where F1 goes for years. All these tracks with a slow corner before a straight line, at least a silly serpentine sector in which a driver cannot do anything except wait and very smooth surface. I dream we’d go back to Portugal, Mexico (OK they were bumpy, but these were creating some driving mistakes and such car settings that they were generating some overtaking opportunities), old Hockenheim and few others.

      3. Gilles says:

        How about just taking the same car to every circuit, no adjusting the setup to tailor for a specific track. Step in the car & drive as fast as you can – simple & cheap.
        The best driver will win, which is what we all want.
        I don’t really get what F1 is trying to achieve with technology: for all their investment and success in F1, I would still never buy a Renault car…
        The current most succesfull hybrid road car is the Toyota Prius, developped outside of F1.
        F1 is about racing, that is what the sport has built its history on. Drivers, people, going wheel to wheel. Technology is just a means to an end: avoid the wheel to wheel fight by having the best car which is on its own already a second faster than the others.

    6. JohnSpencer says:

      The (alleged) tea-drinker replies!

      Thanks for your comments. You say “… only the distribution of the turbulence and upwash is affected by the cars design.”

      Would you say then that it would be possible to design a car that retains the same level of downforce but reduces the turbulence immediately behind it (where a following car might be), say by having a really high rear wing?

      If so, would it be sensible for the FIA to mandate some metrics of maximum turbulence at certain speeds immediately behind a car and would this have any effect on driver’s ability to follow closely through corners and hence improve overtaking?

      I’m guessing you would think not

      1. Frank Dernie says:

        No this would not be feasible, and anyway my contention is that the solution has been shown over the last 20 years of constant downforce reduction not to be aerodynamic, or very certainly not -only- aerodynamic.
        I would remind you that the best aerodynamics on F1 cars was in 1982!

      2. Jeff Cranmer says:

        Hi Frank,

        Thanks for your contributions to and initiation of this debate. Regarding your citing of 1982 as the best year for aerodynamics, please correct me if I’m wrong, but weren’t the aerodynamics in the 1982 series dominated by underbody aero, i.e. ground-effects?

        Others in this forum have commented that underbody aero is less affected by wake turbulence than over-body treatments. Is this true? If so, would increasing ground-effects and decreasing the allowed amounts of wing have a greater effect than harder tyres in improving the spectacle?

        Do GP2 cars have more ground-effects bias than F1 cars, and does this at least partially explain the greater amount of passing in that series when compared with Bahrain this year?

      3. Gilles says:

        I’m not going to argue with an expert, but: in 82 the aero was mostly ground-effect and limited wings (some cars even ran without front wings back then).
        So, when we argue here about limiting aero we should actually say ‘limiting wing-induced aero’; as currently virtually all aerodynamics stem from the wings.
        Would you agree to this: that the wings are the main culprit ?
        After all, 82 cars also had rear suspensions and tyres causing turbulences…

      4. Frank Dernie says:

        The wings are not the culprit. Upwash is the culprit, whether it comes from wings, underbody or anywhere else.
        The theory about ground effect having some sort of magic property is one of those wrong old-wives-tales which has floated around the internet for years. Sorry.
        We have had downforce for 40+ years and it has always made it hard to run close together. That does not mean it is the reason for lack of overtaking, there are many reasons for that, but the main one is starting the race in pace order, why should there be any overtaking with every car in front of you faster and every one behind slower?
        I think the reason for overtaking in GP2 is mainly the substantial difference between the driver talent and engines. In GP2 the best drivers are passing through, and the less good ones usually only stay a year. In F1 the best of the drivers from each year have congregated and got better with experience, leaving much smaller gaps in talent between them.

        I guess you are a relatively new enthusiast???
        F1 has -always- been about the cars. It is true that, as the spectator base has increased from around 200,000 per country to millions the newer fans are more likely to be turned on by the celebrities ie drivers, but the World Champion is almost always in the best car. This has been the way it is since 1950 when it started.
        I personally only got interested in being in F1 since I was fascinated why one car was faster than another.
        Trying to give the driver a bigger role is a relatively new thing. I can not see how it can be done. One make series are against the ethos of F1, and in any case give the public a false impression, since a good engineer will be able to make his car faster than a less good one, by at least as much as the difference between the drivers. This is not a well known fact…

    7. Frank, thanks a lot for putting the time to reply to our views, even if we may be critical. Just please notice that most of us fans aren’t necessarily wanting less downforce, but simply suggesting it in a belief (likely misguided) that it would directly result in less turbulence. If only the “dirty air” problem would disappear! What we would really like to know, is if you believe there is any way to minimise turbulence through technical regulations?

      Personally I believe, from the at-home observation of the races, that while tyres and driver mistakes might be a part of the problem, turbulence is the one key issue that is ruining F1 racing and that F1 will never be entertaining to the same old levels again, unless it goes away. The drivers problems with following a car closely through corners are very visible on onboard cameras, and on laptimes as well. Obviously if the tyres made it possible for the car behind to use alternative lines, it could get a little closer, but it still seems hard to believe that would be enough to fix things properly.

      And seeing as we also watch other quick series where turbulence is evidently much less of a problem (GP2 Asia and GP2 from 2005 to 2007 with the old car, A1GP when it had the old car, most American open-wheeler racing, etc), it seems obvious that F1 is doing something wrong that they aren’t…

    8. Martin says:

      Hi Frank,

      Thanks for your responses to the various opinions. This may be a bit late for most readers, but I’ll offer these thoughts on your points.

      1. I’ve been aware of aerodynamics since I first started following F1 as an eight year old in 1985. My understanding of cars taking off without wings in a school project rather too closely resembled the Webber/Dumbreck crashes at Le Mans in 1999.

      2. For a long time the trimming of aerodynamics has been about reducing speeds, not improving overtaking. There have been hopes that easier overtaking would be secondary benefit, but I’m not aware of this being the primary aim.

      Combined with putting the fastest cars at the front, there has been an equalisation of engines, so the qualifying order is a stronger prediction of race pace.

      What fans want to see is when a driver is faster than the guy behind (because his is quicker) that he can pass without relying on a major error from the driver in front. To me rather than missed gear changes, a better thing would be to have much more torque than the tyres can handle, making throttle modulation more important and it easier for one driver to get a run on another.

      3. Your comment on the distribution of turbulence is slightly countered by some of your later comments. I agree that engine power leads to top speed and the fastest lap time comes at a point that higher up the downforce-drag curve.

      However, I’d argue that your points re IRL using some ground effect and 1982 being the most efficient year for downforce:drag, do touch on an important point. By my understanding a perfect diffuser or venturi exit would return the exit air to atmospheric pressure and to do this slow the air down, resulting in high pressure, slow, non-turbulent air. In contrast an F1 wing is interested in moving as much air upwards as quickly as possible to generate the corresponding downward force on the car. To me it seems there is a difference between the wing generated and underbody generated aerodynamic load. If the 1982 car was the most efficient aerodynamically, then it would be relatively low drag and hence have high pressure behind the car. This again suggests less turbulence to my limited university education in fluid dynamics.

      One further area that your comment would be useful would be on braking distances and brake disc material. My understanding is that over one stop carbon brakes are no better than their steel equivalents. I recall Damon Hill trying them in 1995 or 1996 to see if he could get improved feel. The lap times weren’t greatly different, but Hill stuck with the carbon discs. My understanding of the benefits are that:
      1. carbon discs have greater heat resistance, so heat related damage to the disc over the course of a race is less likely; and
      2. the discs weigh less, reducing the unsprung mass and angular momentum.

      Finally, in F1 Racing magazine (or at least the supplement in the Philippino C! magazine) you were quoted as stating that “in fast corners the forces are so massive they are well beyond what the driver can physically use…there is a speed above which adding more aero won’t make a difference…if a car is not right mechanically, it will simply be too scary.”

      I curious about a few things with this statement. In the current era with power steering, I didn’t think high speed steering loads were an issue, so are you referring to something else? Also I would have thought that if a car had too much high speed understeer, more front wing would be a option to increase front grip. The last part makes sense as the driver would have no time to react if the car got away from him (or her).



  225. Neil Jenney says:

    I wonder if we’d be having this debate at all but for a faulty spark plug. If Vettel’s car had remained strong and Alonso’s promised attack had come in the closing laps and the result was a series of nail biting wheel-to-wheel laps of blistering action would we not be raving about the rules?

    1. Trent says:

      Excellent point

    2. Jeff Cranmer says:

      I think the debate would still have taken place. It looked to me like Vettel had just as much in reserve as Alonso, and he would have matched Fernando’s pace until the end.

      Alonso would have had the same problem as everyone else in the race as soon as he got into Vettel’s wake, and wheel-to-wheel action was not going to be on the cards.

    3. Mike from Medellin, Colombia says:

      Alonso’s comments on his planned attack are quite amusing.

      I remember Frank Bruno in his after fight interview saying that he was planning to launch an attack in Round 6 of his bout against Mike Tyson in 1988. He never got that far…..

  226. Neil says:

    Just after watchin review of 2008 & 2009 season, brilliant, lets go back to last years rules now!!!

  227. Patrickl says:

    The tyres are only part of the equation. Its a combination of things. The tracks, the tyres and the aerodynamics dependency on clean air together.

    Changing just one aspect is never going to solve the problem.

    Besides, overtaking will never be common since faster cars usually are not stuck behind slower ones. The cars/drivers start in order of who is fastest. So if everything goes well, there should be no overtaking at all.

  228. Steve Greenwood says:

    For what its worth I believe that F1 has to make its mind up which way its going. By doing such an excellent job in increasing its popularity throughout the world it has attracted a more varied audience. The traditionalists or purists understand and are “entertained” by the constructors championship and the leading edge technology that breeds. However, I believe the majority of new fans are more inclined to “follow” individual drivers and are also more demanding of specticle. I don’t honestly believe that we can increase the specticle of F1 without “dumbing down” the sport and a choice has to be made. I’ve long believed that restricting the braking capabilities of the car is the way to go IE champ/indy cars.

  229. Richard Mee says:

    This article is excellent… I mean, what other site has an in-depth analysis of the main protest from the fans about 3 days after the race??! These comments are ALSO excellent… I want to read them all, my only problem is that I don’t have time!

  230. Rayhan Omar says:

    James – That was a great piece of journalism. It would be great to follow up with an analysis of F1 vs. GP2 and Indycar, and what “elements” they don’t have on their cars which F1 cars do – maybe then we can verify this grippy tyre theory.

    Surely GP2 and Indycar racing creates turbulence behind the car. Is there significantly less?

    1. Robert says:

      would love to see that!

  231. I wonder how the real ‘chargers’ in F1 feel about their present roles in racing? When they first stepped into their Junior Karts, 15 years ago, did they really sign up to beat people by getting their multiple settings more finely adjusted, or did they want to beat them by out-driving them on-track, with their sheer speed? I’ll bet I know which.

    1. Ron says:

      The modern F1 driver would be a 1000% more entertaining if they were driving a kart…

      F1 cars are over engineered and are the wrong solution to the problem…

      F1 desperately needs slip streaming back, so the dirver can tuck in behind a car, gain an advantage, and get past…

      MotoGP proves this every raceweekend…

  232. Axel says:

    How about giving the tires out at random, surprising the teams.

    Drivers would drive out on a set of wheels, which Bridgestone employees would then swap on the grid for a randomly chosen set, either hard tires or super soft.

    The drivers and teams would then only know on the opening lap what they are driving with, and teams could only come up with strategy during the race itself.

  233. Dirk L says:

    {Moderated as comment is far too long – Mod]

    …this year looks complicated for improving the show, but if some measures would have to be taken quickly, these would be my proposals:
    1. If possible, eliminate DDs this year already, say, by mid-season (unlikely but last year the majority of teams had to do the opposite).
    2. Scrap the qualifying tyre rule and the mandatory 2 compound per race rule. Allow teams to use whatever compound they like and stop as many times as they want. Ask BS to supply, by mid-season, two distinctive compounds, a fast, short-lasting one and a slower, longer lasting one, both with less grip than what they have now.
    3. Allow teams to use at least one engine per race per car and don’t penalize them for making repairs or changes to the engines.

    1. Dirk L says:

      What? All my text reduced to this?

      1. James Allen says:

        It was far too long. Thanks for contributing, but please be concise. With over 400 comments per strand there is no scope for long comments, sorry.

    2. Robert says:

      i think getting rid of DD can happen by the end of the year but doubt any of the teams will, BS are leaving (maybe) at the end of the year they wont spend any more money for a few months of racing.

  234. F1ART says:

    Can’t see the turkeys voting for Christmas?

  235. Gilles says:

    Interesting thought raised by someone above (couldn’t find it back, sorry): al alternative to the ground-effect cars would be Brabham’s fancar.
    Can anyone with more aero skills than me indicate whether this car causes turbulent air behind ? Would it be less influenced by cars in front ?

    It has the advantage that Bernie E would know all about it already …

  236. Fabio says:

    Sorry for my english, hope you understand.

    I know it goes against safety and cost cutting but i wish there where only 1 rule, maximum dimensions.

    It does not matter how many times you need to change your tires, or refuelling, what kind of motor you use, or how many wheels you have and etc. Just try to do do “X” number of laps as fast as possible.

    This would bring back some “crazy” new ideas and let´s see the pilots who have the skill to drive these things.

    The diferences may bring better racing along.

    I know it is not fair but, if you want that, go watch Indy or other spec series.

    1. James Allen says:

      Thanks for sharing that with us

    2. Mike from Medellin, Colombia says:

      Gordon Murray once advocated something similar.

      That the teams should be given some sort of “cage” as the only parameter in which to design the car.

    3. Rich C says:

      F1 is already a ‘spec’ series, they just wont admit it!

  237. Craig says:

    Softer tyres but the right compound for the track so there are more pit stops, reduce the braking efficency by 50%. Stop it being a reliabillity/fuel economy run and go back towards racing.

  238. max says:

    James what are you going to do with all this feedback, in a way your our direct link into the FIA. will you relay this feedback in anyway?

    I believe solution readily needs to be found for this season.

    1. James Allen says:

      There are so many thoughts here. But rest assured the best of them will find their way through

  239. Francis says:

    I just have to say I have never seen higher quality comments on a blog!

    And thanks a lot James for the great article.

    1. Gilles says:

      You’re right !
      I think all viewpoints and possible solutions are being discussed here; can someone mail this to Jean Todt ?

      Joking aside; thanks a lot James for giving a balanced picture of the issues F1 is facing. This is by far the best F1 blog around !

      From all I read here, I conclude that:
      - there’s no easy fix for overtaking
      - a spark plug robbed us of what could have been some exciting last couple of laps and then we would all be singing a different tune
      - F1 has a lot of passionate followers, so it is far from dead; I count myself as being one of them. We moan about it now, but in 2 weeks time we’ll be tuning in again to watch the race. I just noticed by the way that the start time has been pushed back this year, so we poor europeans don’t need to get out of bed so early.
      James, can you send Bernie E my thanks for this ?

  240. Sebee says:

    I remember. What I’m saying is that due to his success he set the model for success in F1. He was such a dominating force at Ferrari, he lost his ruthless reputation toward the end. When he did something exciting and unusual in Monaco in 2006 everyone cried foul. I wonder how Monaco 2006 would have played out if Schumi and Alonso started next to each other after that stunt. That would have been a starting lap to remember.

    Look at Nascar recently with that Edwards stunt. Now I’m not going to pick sides on it, but it sure as heck is interesting when they let the drivers be a bit more human, and when they let them be bad boys.

  241. Steve says:

    Great debate but surely unless you remove this silly tyre & engine saving culture you ain’t never gonna a get a proper race. The race win position has already been decided on qualifying day. Barring mistakes or failure if they all start with a full tank of fuel the front end of the grid will all finish in more or less the same position as qualifying which almost happened had Vettel not had a failure. At the moment nobody is going to come in for a second pit stop as you will never make up your place again
    It’s farcical

  242. Rory Alex says:

    The problem any radical solution to promote overtaking faces is, how do you maintain F1 as the fastest form of motorsport. If GP2 cars are lapping within 5 seconds of F1 cars today, as seen in Bahrain, any solution like increased braking distances, rock hard tyres, manual gearboxes, removal of aero devices etc., will all have to trickle down to the lower Fomulas. This cannot be accomplished quickly, if ever, and also would be a regressive step as they would all reverse 30 years of automotive progress.

    Therefore, my short term solution would be a way, any way, to mix up the qualifying grid, without pulling them out of a hat, and long term, to do proper research on aerodynamic wake, and learn how to prevent following cars from losing downforce, and enforce those solutions on all teams.

  243. kevin says:

    hard tires, manual gearboxes, kers, and small displacement turbos (both of which could be turned up or down when it suits the driver’s needs). Also, please get rid of the restriction on the number of engines used. why penalize a driver for trying to drive the wheels off the car? the fans want to see the cars being pushed to the limit!!

  244. Tom D'Roza says:

    I think it’s time we introduced a reverse grid. I’ve only skimmed the 379 comments to this article (at the time I’m writing this), but it seems this has been suggested by a few other people too. With the current system, the driver in front on the grid has already proven in qualifying that he is quicker than the driver behind, so why do we ever expect the guy behind to be able to overtake? In previous years it was different because of fuel loads at the start, or the opportunity to run a light middle stint.

    We’d need a reason for drivers to push in qualifying otherwise it would become a race to be the slowest (thereby starting at the front of the grid), so we’d have to award points for qualifying (say 10 for pole, then 8,6,5,4,3,2,1?). In the recent past, I think the idea of awarding points for qualifying was resisted because it would render meaningful comparisons to previous seasons impossible, but that has already been accepted by the introduction of the new points system this year.

  245. StefMeister says:

    His comparissons to the cut in downforce from 1982 to 1983 are not really relevant with all due respect to him.

    In 1983 the aero was cut by removing the side skirts & limiting the efficiency of the underbody ground effects. The wing generated downforce/grip wasn’t as efficient then as it is today, infact some cars ran without front wings back then due to the grip they got via ground effects.

    The problem today is the aero efficiency of the wings which was not a big issue back in 1982/1983, Cars could follow closely back then because of that inefficiency & as such the cut in downforce then compared to now can’t really be compared as there 2 totally different things.

    1. Frank Dernie says:

      Sorry, you are not correct. The downforce generated is equal to the vertical momentum change given to the air by the car. The skirts improved efficiency so we had less drag for a given upward momentum, but the upwash in the wake was greater in 1982 than 1983. This is physics.

      1. StefMeister says:

        I stand corrected, Thanks for taking the time out to reply.

        Guess that goes to show just how little some of us fans really know about this subject when we think we know a lot.

      2. Joe Consiglio says:

        Hi Frank.

        A quick question, is “ground effect” downforce affected by turbulence when following another car? If so, to what extent? same as wings or less so?

        If less, wouldnt ground effects coupled with even simpler (maybe even standardised) wings be a good solution?

      3. Gilles says:

        Mr Dernie,
        first of all thank you for taking the time to talk to us and sharing your inside knowledge with us mere amateurs and non-techies. I must be sometimes frustrating to discuss topics with people who haven’t got the same technical background as yourself.

        However I can’t putting forward the following: if the above is true, then there was more wake turbulence in 82 than 83. However, the closed racing I’ve seen stem from 82: Rosberg vs De Angelis in Austria for exemple. How was that then possible ?

        What would you suggest to make slipstreaming possible again ? Surely, the aero has to be the determining factor here as all the drivers have been complaining about wake turbulence for 20 odd years in the absence of ground effect …
        Other practical examples point to the same:
        -GP2 can overtake in Bahrain, F1 can’t; so it has to be the cars, not the track
        -IRL has slipstreaming and overtaking; so it has to be the aero on the car or at least the balance between mechanical grip and aero grip

        I’m not an engineer, but in 2009 aero was clipped a bit and cars raced closer than the years before. So they were on the right track. If they go some further steps in the same direction, surely we would end up with more close racing …

      4. Vic says:

        Hi Frank

        i just like to thank you for your input, i just like to say that what you are saying is making sense.

        From what i understand,

        1. if the tyres would leave less rubber on the track so that going offline will not be as big a deficit, and the tyres were made so that less grip was available, hence braking later would be a challenge as opposed to being easier then a significant part of the problem will be solved.

        2. If the qualifying format was made more difficult, e.g. harder to get a good lap hooked up, then that would make the grid a little more exciting and encourage overtaking.

        3. Drivers job needs to be made more difficult in order to increase the chance of mistakes.

        How to do all that is another question but, i know cutting costs is important but i think racing entertainment should be given 1st priority and then cutting costs.


  246. DaveR says:

    It the track that matters most, always has. While the current drop of new tracks give a great driving experience (as we read from time to time), unfortunately they appear to have been designed to minimise overtaking (perhaps for the sake of safety). The most exciting tracks, from a spectating perspective, appear to be those with hairpins after a long straight combined with wide entries and exits to maximise positioning opportunities and good run-off just in case its needed………….

  247. Matt says:

    How about removing or thinning the plank under the car. I remember it was put in after Senna’s accident for safety reasons, as the cars were very unstable after the removal of active suspension. But is it needed anymore ? Wouldn’t this create more under car downforce unaffected by dirty air ?

    1. Robert says:

      i think so, the plank is there to stop cars scraping the under body of the car which would be expensive as its carbon fibre. but if under car downforce is increaded surely that would increase the chance of cars overtaking.

  248. Jason C says:

    Get rid of blue flags as of Melbourne this year. With the new teams so much slower, it would bunch the leaders up together and make the division 1 drivers really have to fight to get through the traffic, and in the process create lots of oportunity for mistakes.

  249. Mikael says:

    It has only been one race so far… but I couldn’t believe that the “use both compound” rule was still in place before the season started. We need to mix up the field with zero, one, two stoppers etc.

    As some already has pointed out, the tyres also needs to be more on the edge and degrade faster. With a tyre war this would probably have happened naturally. This way the tyre that last the whole race would probably have been slow in comparison with the fastest tyre.

    Something also needs to be done about the engine rule, but it is a fine line between cost cutting or making the sport better.. or is it? :)

    Why can’t the overtaking group comment on this article? :) It feels a little funny that an aerodynamicists says aero is not responsible.

  250. Brian M says:


    A lot of us have had some good discussions on the F1 forums, and while I am not an aerodynamicist or in F1, I am an engineer with a high degree of specialization in automotive. One conclusion I, and others, have is that the engine rev limit is also one of the principal causes for the poor racing in the front half of the grid. Slip streaming is nearly canceled out by the fact that the cars are setup to rev to nearly 18k in every gear, and as a result can’t increase the revs high enough in a slip stream.

    Mark Webber complained that he was, in a much faster car, sitting behind Mercedes power the whole race. He did manage to get quite close (~0.5-0.7 sec back) a few times. I do believe that had there been no rev limit, Mark would’ve been able to at least get into the slip stream and pull alongside, if not make the pass. Yes, he still would’ve had a hell of a time with losing grip in the corners, and that is the other part of the problem. The front wings need to remain a high downforce-producing element, but they need to be designed such that their amazingly high efficiency has a much larger operating window. Right now that window is very tight, and only a smidge of dirty air is enough to put it outside its preferred window, and with that a substantial downforce reduction.

    What do you think? I know you are a journalist, but you know all the right people in F1. This seems to me a pretty logical conclusion. The rev limit is increasing reliability and reducing development spend, but at the cost of the racing. If you keep the engine formula frozen, and keep the 8 engines per year rule, I doubt teams will run much past 18,000 rpm as standard fare anyway. But if you allow these engines, that once were able to go 2 races at over 20,000 rpm, do rev as they please, passes will come back.

    1. James Allen says:

      You make a good point, but the cost of engines with an increased rev limit is very significantly higher. It’s a trade off

      1. Brian M says:

        It’d a trade off, but the engines are already frozen (well, you have those ‘reliability’ updates). If you kept the reliability restriction of 8 engines per season, the engineers would have to resign themselves to the fact that they can’t always run them maxed out. I can’t see how that would increase costs that much. They’ll have to find a RPM for the tracks that engine is planned to run at, and leave it there. For instance, if you pick an engine to run at Monaco, Hungary and Singapore, you could probably get away with pretty high revs as they’re not engine-intensive tracks. On the other hand, you’d probably run one engine for Spa and Monza, and keep the revs relatively low compared to max (maybe around 18,500 or so).

      2. speedy_bob says:

        @Brian M:
        I see your point, but on itself seem no solution.
        Gearing is done to, roughly, achieve max rpm just before the brakingpoint.
        At the moment, there is no incentive to leave some 1000 rpm unused for 99% of the race, and benefit from it when slipstreaming. Why? Because the occasion to slipstream just never occures. Because slipstreaming is impossible, due to the dirty air. Even on straights, when downforce is not needed to stay in the corner (I repeat, on a straight ;-) ) but it IS however needed to keep the car balanced.
        Dirty air on a straight DOES influence your speed, since the car goes twitchy.

        Also: If you’d allow it to happen, all teams would set up gearing to achieve 19.000 rpm ALL the time, hence returning to a situation where
        there is no more reserve for an occasional slipstream.

        Slipstreaming can’t happen because of the wake of dirty air, not because of the lack of spare rpm.
        just my 2 cents

      3. Alias J says:

        (1) Actually slipstreaming is possible on the straight, even though the car is in the turbulent air and is twitchy but there is increase in speed. However, the problem is during the exit from the previous corner, as grip is affected during cornering the driver is unable to stay as close to the leading car as possible that it can take advantage of the tow on the straight.

        (2) The extra, reserve RPM is usually never achieved actively during a race, say the engine during its building and laboratory tests was found to reach maximum capability of 22,034 RPM, during a race when the car is circulating on its own, it may at times reach up to 19,939 RPM at the end of the longest straight. However, if it is slipstreaming behind the other car, due to the push from the tow, the car might speed further, and even reach 21,999 RPM (borderline), just enough to dive sideways into the next corner.

        Because current RPM is capped, and as you said engineers somehow enable the lead driver to achieve its maximum capped RPM anyways, therefore both drivers are running at 18,500 RPM, and the car behind can’t make any use of the tow.

        Perhaps what Briam M means to say, right?

    2. Rich C says:

      So if the cars were setup with a taller top gear they would then be able to suck up in the draft and pass? Then its completely the fault of the teams!

      1. Brian M says:

        Given only 8 engines per season as now, I do not believe teams will let it rev to their maximum every race. I think they would feasibly leave 1000 or more rpm left in all but top gear to keep the engine running for a couple of races. They’d also then set the top gear ratio such that it roughly equals their target rpm for reliability at the braking point of the longest straight. If they then got into the slip stream of another car, there’s far less drag and there would be power in reserve to increase their revs to pass.

        I’m nearly 100% sure that dirty air does NOT prevent slip streaming. There are two things currently that prevent it: 1) hyper-sensitive front wings that prevent them from staying close enough consistently, and 2) the rev limit, as discussed.

      2. Martin says:

        Hi Brian,

        A slight refinement to your suggestion: Fix the rev limit for qualifying at the 18000 rpm. Allow a driver a limited number of instances where he can exceed 18000 (for example half the number of race laps) between brake applications. That should reduce the ability to design out the advantage.

  251. AlexS says:

    Sorry I didn’t

    have time to read all the 400+ comments so what follows is based just on the headline article itself. Dernie makes a good case, within his premise and with overtaking as the overriding concern.

    Tyres are indeed central to the type of performance we’re getting (until recently the only active way for the driver to exert control intent) and grip has been reduced as a variable, but in an inconsistent fashion. A race is akin’ to a story, or an improvised play, but nowadays all of the protagonists have the same line – literally. Making tyres “harder” is a gross oversimplification, Bridestone’s technical people will be at pains to elaborate or extrapolate anything from that requirement alone. We’ve recently given randomising performance a try (didn’t make a whole lot of commercial sense for the single tyre supplier), now there needs to be a better rationale for them to stay. Maybe some sort of a “hard performing” tyre could be it but at this point the incentive has to be unequivocally and mutually beneficial. “Pinnacles” only serve to deflate arguments in these days and rightly so.

    Gearboxes need not be messed with though. If anyone involved is in any way interested in sustainable technologies, powertrains need to be freed up if anything. Mandating a complex set of “frozen” variables, bolt-on energy recovery and whatnot is completely antitethical to real advances. Every person directly involved is plenty smart enough to know that. They were plenty smart enough even before and during KERS in fact, so perhaps I’m making a moot point here but reverting to manual gearboxes (as a mandatory measure) represents a continuation of a completely outdated mode of self regulation – or self restriction, rather. Look elsewhere in control theory to provide challenges for the drivers if you really want to randomise performance. That decision, too, has to be taken with deliberation and not be regarded as some sort of an overtaking panacea.

    Choose your your language, choose your metrics, but do so in awareness of racing as a holistic form of communication. Taking one quantity and changing it will never yield a completely predictable result and that is what racing is about; not only meeting expectations, but discovery. At its core, F1 consists of relatively few people who are pretty well entrenched at this stage. Many of the contemporary challenges in their material expressions owe their causation to this, I believe. Thus Dernie’s argument makes the most sense to me in the context of challenging hardened positions and self amplifying memes (i.e. “common knowledge”). Now, what else can aero give us besides tons of downforce and heaps of drag?

  252. Him says:

    As things stand other than aero what else can you do to the cars these days? Engines, tyres and electronics are all off limits.

    I think the sentiment is right, and that aero isn’t necessarily the evil its made out to be. Tyres that don’t last the distance would help. All of a sudden a person/car that manages tyres better can start making up lots of ground on ones that don’t. Making cars easy to drive, and so cutting back on drivers mistakes, naturally will cut down on opportunities for passing. What we’ve seen in recent times is that removing traction control and other driver aids hasn’t been enough. We now seem to be at a stage where the cars are getting comparatively slower, and drivers are therefore more able to react. The other issues is that the push for long life components means cars don’t break any more. I was in Melbourne a couple of years ago, there were only 7 cars still running at the end. It was a fantastic race, not because of overtaking, but because of the drama built up by other goings on. The cars are no longer on the limit in terms of performance or technology and just seem to be continually being crippled. Is it any wonder that the result of so much standard technology leads to processions?

  253. artowar says:

    I think we can all agree, despite out opinions, that the current set up is a bit of a bloody mess. I will reserve full judgment until they return to Europe but I really didn’t like the idea of no refueling from the start. It was dumbing down for new fans who ‘didn’t understand’ pit strategy and look where it has got us. Forget the manual transmissions, I dont think it would help a great deal. More challenging tracks is a good start. Consistency has gotten far too high. We have these huge runoffs and concrete patches and basically its only decided by mechanical failures and quali.

  254. Zach Leavitt says:

    Reading this I am quickly reminded of the original GP2 car, mainly the 2006 season.

    The original GP2 Dallara chassis was made with underbody tunnels to create downforce with minimal “dirty air”. In 2005 they ran on grooved Bridgestones, but in 2006 they switched to racing slicks and eliminated the bottom element of the rear wing (making it a very skinny 2 element rear wing).

    That season saw some of the most amazing racing I have ever seen. It had drivers driving around each other on the OUTSIDE of corners like Tosa, Piratella, and both the Tamburello and Villeneuve chicanes at Imola. There was an amazing battle between Hamilton, Piquet, and Glock at Istanbul which topped anything F1 put on that year (look for it on youtube, it is amazing).

    It was understood that the increased grip the slicks gave combined with the reduction of rear downforce and the underbody “clean air” downforce made the cars able to follow each other and pull off passes F1 couldn’t dream of seeing.

    Maybe F1 needs to look into something like that? I believe they need some type of tunnel on the underbody that gives downforce but limits the dirty air, but as a trade off they need to eliminate grip elsewhere on the car, preferably the rear, making the car oversteer and leading to more mistakes. But then again, the F1 teams always find a way to claw it all back somehow, so maybe it will just never work.

    1. Patrickl says:

      Yeah that race Hamilton put in at Istanbul was amazing. Just bizarre how he could pull somethin glike that off when the cars are so equal in performance.

  255. Syed Hasan says:

    Couldn’t agree more. James, that was particularly good post and made a lot of sense. I really do believe that less grippy tires would solve a lot of problems. Although I’ll say again that ’07 and 08 seasons were cool and no alterations were needed. They messed up the rules and created awful looking cars but I still believe the season opener was good, comparatively lesser overtaking but I’ll live with it without any complains.

  256. Dale says:

    Never thought I’d say this but I think I am nearly done with F1.
    Having been a fan and follower since the late 1960′s I no longer want to waste whatever time I have left on the likes of what we are currently being served by the FIA F1 championship.
    Let’s consider for a moment what we are being served: Locked rev limited ultra reliable engines, cars all looking the same, all but no overtaking, blue flags so leaders are just let past slower cars instead of overtaking them, drivers who have all but zero views of their own (Webber excepted), artificial tyre rules that do nothing, tracks that aid the no overtaking mentioned above, soulless tracks with hardly any fans, innovation all but a thing of the past, many of the best designers in the world not being allowed to use their flare and giving something new …………………etc etc etc

  257. speedy_bob says:

    Although I am against hard tires from a ‘romantic’ POV, I can understand the reasoning. I am now at the point of even wanting to accept hard tires, after having been advocating more mechanicla grip for years.
    Sometimes it’s not easy to accept a rational point, when your heart screams “Nooo!!”

    I can very well believe drivers would hate harder tires, because cornerspeeds define most of the fun of driving I suppose.

    I am much for creating cleaner corners, e.g. less marbles, to make different racing lines possible.
    If harder tires are what it takes, then I’ll accept that. If harder tires subsequently lay down less rubber, which keeps equality of griplevels between the more favoured line and all other lines through corners, even better!

    And of couse dirty air remains a culprit to me. I support the claim that downforce is not an issue as such, but the resulting dirty air however remains an eveil, to me.

    1. Patrickl says:

      Completely agree.

      I do hope the powers that be will also realize that they should tackle several aspects and not just one. Work on all of: the tracks, tyres and the aero dependency on clean air.

      1. Gilles says:

        Indeed, it would leave the tracks alone for now however. GP2 apparently served up a cracker at the same track…

  258. Lionel says:

    To spice up the show, All F1 tracks should have sprinler systems installed on them similar i design to the traffic lights you have in the USA. Huge overhead lumbs, but intead of directing traffic, they can sprinkle water on the track. The precise moment when the sprinkler comes on will be determined and operated by a computer. We do not have to depend on “NATURE” for a bit of water on the track or wait for Silverstone and Francochamps F1 races for a bit of action.

  259. Sheps says:

    I have another suggestion…

    Every year the rules are changed. This gives the advantage, every year, to the teams with the most resources and most experience in F1 to adapt to those changes. Look at the teams at the top this year. Last year was an exception with Mclaren and Ferrari deferring development on their cars until too late and Honda/Brawn starting really early.

    So if the rules just stay the same, the cars are surely going to come closer and closer season by season in terms of performance.

    If all the cars are evenly matched, surely this promotes overtaking as the car behind another isn’t disadvantaged by performance but just by the quali run of the driver behind.

    Another way F1 is constantly shooting itself in the foot?

    1. Martin says:

      If we kept the technical rules stable, whatever they are, we’d still have to address having the fastest cars at the front from qualifying limiting overtaking and the car design limiting overtaking through aero turbulence, marbles, being easy to drive etc.

  260. speedy_bob says:

    I like the cornering speeds of current F1 cars.
    They don’t need to go up and I prefer if they don’t go down either.
    So, if harder tires and perhaps net downforce make it to the grid, will I feel disappointed?
    Or can we compensate the loss of cornering speed with, for instance:
    -wider tires
    -wider cars (more body-downforce, less wing)
    -more ground-effect to make up for less wing (I think removing dirty air without making the wings smaller is probably impossible)

    Would such a car be more dangerous in corners then current cars? I’d think not, since it is always claimed that loss of wing-generated downforce (=WGD) in corners is sudden and not gradually (and therefore dangerous).
    The new cars would be less prone to WGD-loss and thus equally fast, yet less dangerous.
    If they lose grip, it would be of the mechanical type (a slide) or venturi-effect-loss.
    Just make sure the mechanical grip is bigger then the venturi-grip (in comparison) and yes, this can be achieved with hard tires. Just make the tires wide enough.

    So we’d end up with the
    -same cornering speeds as today
    -ability to follow closer because dirty air is reduced (some mandated form of diffuser and smaller wings)
    -raceline variation in corners because of harder tires (no marbles, no rubbered in racing line).
    I’d think this would result in some more overtaking.

    And we would’t need psychologically/marketing-wise difficult changes like reverse grids, manual gearboxes or no wings at all. Or not yet, at least ;-)

    I’m sure I am wrong somwhere, otherwise this would already be happening right now, no? ;-)

    1. Gilles says:

      Well, I for one think you’re right on the money.
      Why has this not been happening ? I guess the teams had enough money to spend to get ahead via active suspensions ao, the engine manufacturers had enough money to find performance in their area as well (exotic materials, V10 vs V12). Thank you, global downturn for sorting that out.
      Pitstops were introduced in ’94 to get some positions changes, to answer to the same critisisms as now: no on-track action. It didn’t help either: Flavio went out of his way in 95 to get a Renault engine remember. The trick with the illegal software and the main competition crashing fatally into that wall at Imola was only going to work once … All the pitstops in the world would not have gotten him the 95 crown without that Renault engine.
      In these 20 odd years, there always were enough people with pockets deep enough to make sure at least 2 teams were competitive with each other, even if it needed the occasional tyre war to get them even. If not, one team dominated. All the rest just made up the numbers.
      As the general interest was high enough, there was no need to do anything else (‘somebody vs the german guy’ was apparently a good sell). Indycars were a threat, but that melted away.
      Wingcars were banned on security reasons and that left aero as the area where teams could differentiate: enter the windtunnel. FOTA are not going to close down that expensive piece of investment by themselves, are they ? If anything, they’ll be desperate to keep it. Enter the claim to fame of the likes of Adrian Newey.
      I would suggest to Bernie E to bring the wingcars back: it was the equalizer against the turbo in his FOCA days, it could be the savior of overtaking now. Ever since they were banned and wing-induced aero took the forefront, the on-track action has been steadily decreasing as the wake turbulences started to grow with increased development.

  261. Robert says:

    I obviously didn’t read every post is this a record James? But I think we all have it entirely wrong: I agree with the gentleman who showed the evidence between 04/05 and later years is spot on and that’s down to and I agree the standardization/limiting of so many components. Also another thing, for as long as I can remember everybody is always complaining about overtaking in f1 .. But and I’m also a keen follower of other series; Cart/Irl/V8 supercars/Nascar as well sometimes and the reality is that in all of these series on the road/street courses there is a lack of overtaking on track in dry conditions; variables such as safety cars in nascar, refueling variances between vehicles in terms of weight etc in all series is what promotes overtaking (so yes F1 shot itself in the foot on the refueling). I believe that in any machinery no matter how much you change it to increase braking distances, lower grip tires whatever it is you want to change; relatively quickly the best drivers in world are going to find the latest braking point, where they
    can get on the throttle out of a corner in other
    words where the limit is at for that particular machinary.. No matter what series. Bahrain has never been a track which promotes exciting races has it? The teams were ultra conservative in terms of strategy, simply covering each other. The drivers were too conservative on the tires. Quick hypothetical and the teams will
    now know this. If for examply massa made 2 stops pushing his soft tires hard from the start, pitted on 15, pushed hard on the hards for 17 laps and then with 15 laps of light fuel running at the end on the soft when the track was rubbered in and doing say 1.55-56-57s while all others were doing consistently 1.59-2.00-2.01 who would have won? We will get this variation soon it was the first race on a rubbish track designed by hermann boredom; let’s give the current regs a chance, and no one got close to the car in front due to the engineers being concerned with wear they could have followed closer in actual fact I think. F1 has a great show to put on and I am sure it will come to us. As Bernie said give it some time, we always complain about the same thing every year it gettin old.

  262. Olivier says:

    At first I felt gutted after Bahrein: wasting such a great line up of champions because of poor rules.

    However, instead of having knee jerk reactions and change the rules overnight, we should think about the long term of F1. The 2010 F1 cars are clearly not adapted to the new era in F1: the engineers have designed a car that has to be nurtured by its driver. They’re not exploiting the high potential of all the energy that is getting lost at the moment.

    Instead of saving fuel and looking after your tires, the drivers ought to be generating as much energy as possible in order to race their opponent. Let’s continue to tune the engine down. The engineers should think differently and start make use of all the energy that is getting lost and wasted at the time.

    As to the aero: modern F1 cars must be designed to slipstream the other car. Otherwise they kill the racing and the thrill for millions of fans. Teams need to demonstrate this in a demo with both of their cars slipstreaming each other on track in the advent of a new season. Make it a rule and a new challenge for Frank Dernie ;)

    1. Olivier says:

      As for the short term:

      1. will it be possible to re-introduce kers in 2010? From the start of the European season onwards?

      2. is it possible to reduce the spending on aero this year? It’ll encourage teams to invest in new technology like energy recovery systems and systems to generate energy.

    2. Gilles says:

      Nurturing a car is what a driver more or less should do, he needs to go as fast as he can with the material he has. Over a single lap in quali to determine start order and than over 40 laps or so in the race.

      They should be able to race each other on track with more or less equal material.

      Remark about KERS: it will not help. Being naieve I was puzzled when I saw it being used in quali last year. If it’s for overtaking, why use it there ? Indeed, it brings down lap time; hence: when everyone has one, they will use it in the same way on the straights and end up following each other again.

  263. Glen says:

    It is interesting that it has taken a year for people generally to notice the new rules (introduced in 2009) do not work, as intended.

    Generally people were more interested in the off-track entertainment in 2009.

    1. Patrickl says:

      They did work initially (although KERS killed some of it’s thunder), but the insane budgets and resulting huge development efforts made sure that once again cars rely too much on clean air for their aero to work.

      Maybe the rules should have been stricter though. No double diffusers, no flaps, simpler and cleaner wings.

      1. Glen says:

        From my armchair view last year I didn’t see more wheel-to-wheel racing or overtaking between the cars last year that didn’t have double diffusers.

        I guess it is counter-productive for a team to design a car to make it easier for the car behind to pass their own car.

        One lap qualifying for me is the best solution to mix up the grid, which leads to better racing. There was some great racing in 2003.

      2. Gilles says:

        I would say that they were on the right track with the 2009 regs, there wasn’t more overtaking per se, but cars did follow each other more closely. It should haven been a fist step, but they never took a second one. Kers & DDs also blurred the effect.

  264. Red5 says:

    Build clones of either Interlagos or Suzuka at 19 different countries around the world.
    More often than not these tracks serve up memorable races.

    1. Patrickl says:

      Suzuka is only interesting if it rains.

      1. Gilles says:

        Come to think of it: most overtaking at Suzuka is at the chicane after a long straight.
        Interlagos the same: turn 1, after the long straight.

    2. Bluem says:

      Spa and Montreal are always great too. I kinda miss the old Hockenheim layout. Silverstone would be fantastic if it had a bit more overtaking, hopefully the new changes will help.
      Favourite tracks – Spa, Montreal, Interlagos, Suzuka and Monza. Turkey and Silverstone are okay too.
      Tracks I miss are the original Hockenheim and perhaps Adelaide (best street circuit) and also the original Kyalami track (South Africa, either 70s or 80s).

  265. Craig D says:

    Regarding the difficulties for F1 cars to overtake, and specifically the wake/upwash problem that causes closely following cars to drastically lose downforce: why don’t the FIA/OWG try to design spec parts to be fixed to the rear of the cars and at the back of the rear wing that are designed to help stabilise the airflow and bring it back to more laminar flow conditions – such as flow straigtheners for example? Something like a parallel, tubular honeycomb mesh structure that air coming off the back of the rear wing must travel through first before leaving the wing.

    A solution need not result in reduced downforce performance but if the flow coming off the back of the cars is more stable, following cars will not lose downforce performance not nearly as severely.

    Turbulence is a nature of physics when objects move sufficiently fast, so we can’t escape that, but I fail to understand why flow control techniques aren’t inforced as a mandatory condition on the rear of the design of the cars. Methods to condition flow can be found everywhere in industry, and of course all the winglets and turning vanes etc, on F1 cars are examples designed to do exactly that – but just to create more stable air to the rear of the car for optimised rear downforce.

    It would need to be a mandatory spec solution since the teams’ engineers themselves aren’t interested – from a competitive standpoint – in trying to make the air coming off the car behave smoothly. Quite the opposite in fact; they don’t want a car to be able to easily overtake them (rear upwash is the equivalent of a Mario Kart banana peel being dragged behind your kart)!

    Perhaps there are serious flaws in my logic. I am certainly not a Formula 1 engineer but I do have a degree in Mechanical Engineering and so do have an understanding in fundamental physical principles and aerodynamics and flow control techniques. Any reasons for why something like this is unfeasible in principle, let me know!

    1. Gilles says:

      Good suggestion: stick the structure to the back of the car as well. There can be a double diffuser in front then as well, the honeycomb will make sure the cars following won’t be affected by its presence.

  266. Nazdakka says:

    Thank you for your input, Mr. Dernie.

  267. TheWon4 says:

    Ok, I’ll try again (or maybe I forgot to hit submit).

    You can’t test the inverse of the hypothesis and then state that disproving the inverse of the hypothesis disproves the hypothesis itself. That’s called assuming the consequent. Square is a rectangle but a rectangle is not always a square.

    Normally, it wouldn’t matter accept the fundamental argument about the relationship between downforce and overtaking commits the fallacy of false cause. Low downforce does not cause overtaking just from a practical standpoint. The relative skill of the driver and the relative performance of the cars controls overtaking. Even the weather probably has a stronger correlation with the quantity of overtaking maneuvers. It isn’t any wonder the Mr. Dernie can’t find a correlation, it’s a false cause.

    Under normal circumstances you would simply assume away the other variables by claiming the are constant. This might be an appropriate thing to do from year to year or from race to race, but to assume that the relative skill of the drivers and the relative performance of the cars is static between 1983 and 2009 is borderline intellectually dishonest.

    The hypothesis is that reducing downforce will reduce the average following distance between the vehicles assuming the vehicle behind has equal or lesser pace (other parts of the technical regs govern this assumption). To pass your opponent you first must catch him. We have a plethora of empirical evidence and aerodynamic theory to suggest that excessive downforce prohibits following; thus overtaking as well.

    Perhaps your suggestions are vitally important as well, I like manual gearboxes and I certainly wouldn’t presume to know as much as Mr. Dernie in regards to tires, but your theory ought not be considered an alternative to low downforce.

  268. Brian says:

    I tend to believe that the aero guys figured out long ago that you could have the same level of downforce, same level of drag, but an increase in the dirty air behind the car, all in order to purposely make it extremely difficult for someone to get close enough and make a move.

    In Nascar, the teams would build the rear structure that held the spoiler to where it would bend downwards as soon as they got bumped from the rear. This would lower the spoiler and give them more top speed.

    These guys are smart and don’t want to give anything away.

  269. speedy_bob says:

    I, and I’m sure alot of people here, would really like to get Mr. Dernies’ feedback on what Craig D very precisely wrote on March 18th, 2010 @ 6:19 pm

    Please James and Mr. Dernie, enlighten us about the flaws and/or good points of this idea.
    What do the both of you like and/or dislike about the idea?

    Is there fear overtaking will become so easy, making the fast cars overtake instantly, only to disappear off into the horizon?
    (I think the OWG once mentioned it was afraid they would, no?)

  270. Jim says:

    I really do disagree – this typical aero defense avoids the problem that if we apply x% downforce to a car it will have more grip than a car whose downforce is dowgraded due to proximity of n%. The aero boys have buggered up the sport and we need to stop blaming tyres circuits etc and face the facts – ADVANCED AERO KILLS RACING – either accept it or put in loads of hairpins where aero ceases to count due to speed and see the overtaking – look at the circuits with hairpins and the amount of overtaking when aero is not a factor.

  271. A Davies says:

    To re-iterate so many comments, a truly excellent blog.

    Although I have read a fair few comments on this tag line, I haven’t read them all. What Dearnie has to say, is unquestionably interesting and learned. Others have pointed out the possible conflict of interest, in that Dearnie, being an aero-engineer, “would say that, wouldn’t he”; and others too have questioned his reasoning vis a vis downforce/overtaking on wet circuits. Nevertheless, his comments provide food for thought.

    Personally, I would relish the re-introduction of manual gear boxes, regardless of increasing the possibility of overtaking. Clearly there is no easy solution to the question of over-taking in today’s near perfect and ever-so-reliable machinery. This matter can, and will only be solved via a multi-disciplinary approach commissioned jointly by FOTA and the FIA – they both really need to demonstrate willing.

    Back to the re-introduction of a manual gear box. I seriously question those comments critical of the suggestion that F1 goes back to manual as being antediluvian, a backwards step. Far from it. It would allow the drivers to further demonstrate their skill, just like their predecessors of old. All drivers, including the very best will make mistakes, they will err, they do so every weekend. Not one driver will drive the perfect race; they cannot because they are human. If we return to manual, the very best drivers will miss a gear or two over the season – it was ever thus. It’s just that the very best will make fewer mistakes, just as they do now in terms of hitting the most apexes. F1 cannot simply be about perfection otherwise we would have had automaton F1 cars years ago. It is the drivers that add that very human element, that potential flaw and mistake in amongst engineering excellence, and it is that which I would suggest makes F1 the pinnacle of motorsport. We shouldn’t lose sight of the imperative that drivers demonstrate their ability to drive, and manual gearboxes can provide that opportunity more than any other aspect.

    For those who say that flappy-paddles will soon be in everyday cars, well, they’ve been promising us that for years ever since the F355! Unless you’re one of the lucky 1% who can afford an Aston/Ferrari/Lambo etc, I imagine the vast majority of us bread and butter fans would relate far better to the 2000+ manual gear changes required around Monaco, than the blinking light show on the steering wheel currently on offer. Anyway, if someone then makes a pass because another driver has missed a gear, all the better.

    1. Gilles says:

      I agree with you entirely on the manual gearbox.

    2. TheWon4 says:

      I’m uncomfortable with the idea of making changes under the pretense of helping the drivers make mistakes. If that philosophy is taken too far it will lead to regressive technical regulations. It will make the sport unsafe.

      I think manual gearboxes should only be discussed under the pretense that operating a gearshift is a requisite skill for participation in F1. You mentioned requisite skill as well as mistakes.

      I think the trouble with paddle-shifters is that they didn’t improve the art of manual gear change, they simply replaced manual gearboxes in the name of speed. We all like to think that F1 is entirely about speed, but realistically, they have been reducing horsepower for 30 years now. Generally speaking, motorsports with capacity limits are not all about speed.

  272. Rory Alex says:

    I’ve read every suggestion and every idea put forward to improve ‘the show’. I have an original idea to which I would love to hear people’s thoughts on. Since serious aero changes cannot be brought about, there is only one logical way to increase overtaking: a mixed up grid.

    Giving points for Qualifying, then reversing the grid seems to be the one idea floated around. But this would be too radical a change for F1 and without historical context. It also cannot be implemented this season.

    My idea is a simpler one. It is neither too alienating, nor calls for anyone to make huge changes to the system. You simply ask the Top Ten Qualifiers from the previous race to use ONLY the Prime tyre in Qualifying for the next race.

    If you think about it, not only will the grid be mixed up enough, it will all even out over the season. It does not call for Bridgestone to invest huge money into producing radical tyres. The cream will still rise to the top, yet keep us entertained at the same time. It is a simple enough change that it can be implemented at the next race, if reason and the greater good can prevail. If anyone thinks it is a form of handicapping and against F1′s ideals, all I can say is we are already handicapping in F1, by forcing the Top 10 to start with their Qualifying tyres. This proposal will just take forward that idea into the next race.

    Please pass this along to the relevant people if you think the idea has merit.

    1. Bluem says:

      For an artificial solution to spice things up I think yours makes more sense than forcing the top 10 to stay on the same tyres that doesn’t really allow for anything except those just outside of it to perhaps make a few spots.

    2. Patrickl says:

      Or introduce dice as the method of deciding qualifying.

  273. David Redfern says:

    I believe we have to credit Frank Dernie, one of the leading F1 aerodynamicists for the past 30 years, with knowing his onions regarding aerodynamics but as for overtaking in wet conditions, didn’t he watch Senna at The Donington European GP? Aerodynamics rendered useless, and as he points out with hard tyres, mechanical grip reduced to negligible levels, Senna simply drove round everyone on the first lap, even his wet weather successor Schumacher.

    As for the comments made by Craig D in the post March 18th, 2010 @ 6:19 pm, this is a typical engineers solution to a problem; add yet more technology which creates more areas for ‘creative’ engineering, more areas of contention to blight the beginning of every season with and more expense for the teams, FOTA and the FIA to deal with.

    Overtaking in F1 has always been difficult even in the days of Clark the best and fastest drivers would be on the front of the grid for safety reasons. F1 is dangerous enough without having inexperienced clowns driving slow cars in a group at the front of a race holding up drivers who by their own efforts put the car on pole by being the fastest. When that pole represents last place on the grid don’t you think drivers would try not to be on pole? Then we have the ludicrous situation of finding the slowest qualifier……Please!

    Manual gearboxes are a partial solution but as with another poster I don’t think introducing a technology simply to encourage mistakes is a clever idea. As he also pointed out, they do ensure engine reliability not allowing over revving but more significantly, my understanding is that sequential shift pattern boxes are smaller than conventional ‘H’ pattern boxes (just take a look at any motorbike) and if the FIA, FOTA, whoever were to insist on manual boxes, everyone would plump for sequential boxes in which case they would adopt Touring Car type arrangements; instead of a paddle there would be a little stick, push forward for up, pull back for down, sounds a bit like paddle shifts really. One wag on this blog also noted that only the top 1% of drivers in the UK are priveleged enough to own an exotic car with a paddle shift and I’m one of them……Lucky me, my Citroen C4 Grand Picasso is now an exotic piece of expensive machinery, I must remind my kids and dogs of that the next time they clamber in with muddy boots and jam sandwiches.

    The solution to the problem is fairly easy although we will still never see a huge amount more overtaking in F1 because the fast cars are at the front and the slow ones at the rear however if we eliminate aerodynamic induced ‘downforce’ altogether and introduce some variables then at least we are taking steps in the right direction.

    The manufacturers ought to be compelled to submit a tub and bodywork at the start of each season for testing to ensure aerodynamic neutrality, across a broad range of speeds. I know there is no such thing in reality but in the speed range of say 80MPH through to 160MPH the cars should exhibit an overall neutral state. Those are the speeds that cars are following each other through a corner before mounting a slipstreaming attempt down the next straight. I’m not an engineer so the figures are not correct but ball park principles are what I’m suggesting here.

    That reduced downforce would have a number of additional advantages. The cars wouldn’t be cornering nearly as quickly as they would rely totally on mechanical grip so the speed at which a driver loses control of the car is lower, my understanding is that cars currently accelerate momentarily when relieved of downforce just when a driver wants it to slow down. That being the case an aerodynamically neutral car will start to slow much quicker that a downforce car whilst travelling at a slower speed in the first place. The driver would not travel as far in an out of control car and therefore run off areas can be drastically reduced increasing spectator enjoyment. The cars would also reach higher top speeds unencumbered by the enormous drag associated with downforce and the hole in the air, although turbulent would affect cars less than it does now. Higher top speeds with lower corner speeds would create longer braking areas which is cited as yet another cause of restricted overtaking. The prospect of cars actually drifting their way round corners makes my mouth water, it cant be done with downforce assisted cars and a necessary and dramatic skill of drivers had been lost as a consequence.

    Aerodynamics cost a fortune in F1, but while one team uses it no other team can afford to be without it; eliminate aerodynamics and allow unrestricted engine configuration, including forced induction. Certain engines will work well at certain tracks with various chassis and the forced induction engines would be totally reliant on mechanical grip to transmit its power, the same as any other type of engine.

    Finally, eliminate the ‘ship to shore’ radio teams have other than steward announcements on incidents. Drivers would have to think for themselves, no more instant team orders, all that would have to be agreed before the race, unofficially of course, and drivers would have to make their own decisions on tyres and refuelling (if it ever comes back).

    More layers of technology won’t solve the problems of unsuccessful technology, it only papers over the cracks so get rid of the problem itself first.

    The problem with all of this is that it’s almost a moot point now, I don’t think it will be too many years in the future before we are watching electric cars hoovering their way round tracks and getting a race distance out one of those with any downforce will be interesting to see, even if the noise will be like a Dyson.

  274. Bluem says:

    1) Manual gearshift – Agree somewhat
    I remember Mika Hakkinan crashing in 1999 when he selected the wrong gear after leading that race comfortably. Letting the driver’s decide will have an impact because they will have more to think about but I think engineers have already come up with solutions prevent selecting a totally wrong gear.

    2) Harder Tyres – Definitely agree
    Harder tyres are more road relevant than the super soft slicks used for racing, so it isn’t backwards thinking. For years people used to say the tracks were to narrow, so they got Tilke to design really wide tracks – unfortunately a racing line develops because the soft rubber tyres loses ‘marbles’ that affects grip offline.
    Unfortunately Bridgestone has done too good a job with this year’s tyres so that tyre management isn’t that crucial as first thought (and hoped).

    3) No wings – Unsure
    I’m under the impression that F1 cars need the extra down force created by wings to prevent them from going airborne. If that’s not the case then perhaps they should get rid of them or make them significantly smaller.

    4) Central chicane – the future of racetracks?
    Planet-F1 (http://www.planetf1.com/news/3261/5860270) made a suggestion a while ago that I think could actually work. Tracks could have a central chicane that splits the road into 2 symmetrical lanes. Thus a driver following another car could opt to take the opposite lane. A driver would definitely still need skill to make it work. It might be artificial but less so than pit stops. I think the ‘dual’ chicane could easily be implemented at most circuits especially considering that some keep making unnecessary changes like Bahrain.

    Frank, how much does track elevation affect turbulence? All the new (Tilke) tracks are fairly flat compared to Brazil and Spa.

  275. DaveR says:

    James – a question on the McLaren rear wing stalling device. I’m puzzled, surely it falls into the same category as any moveable aero device and shouldn’t be allowed.
    If it is capable of reducing the considerable drag from the rear wing there has to be a significant or critically effective diversion of air.
    What happens the first time it jams (or the driver leaves it on for whatever reason) and the car goes into a corner at speed with ‘no rear wing’.
    It seem like a re-run of the high-wing era disasters is possible?

  276. Michael says:

    I like the idea of manual gearboxes. I know F1 is about hi-tech but you have to leave something for the humans to do. Computer drivers would certainly be better than humans but that’s not F1. It’s racing first and foremost.

    And certainly something has to be done about the loss of mechanical grip off line. I don’t know why more isn’t made of this problem as it’s referred to in the commentary of virtually every race and is clearly the biggest obstacle to overtaking – you can’t pass if you can’t go off line. The desert of Bahrain is, I think, a particularly bad example. If hard tyres are the solution, so be it.

    One lap qualifying was good but I’d like to see a mix – 20 mins of normal qualifying then one lap quali to decide the top eight-ish. That would be very watchable, if not entirely uncontroversial. Maybe you’d have to kick out the bottom (by points) eight-ish cars after 10 mins to clear a bit of room for the front runners.

    One more thing. Five points for fastest lap. That’d stop ‘em nursing their cars to the finish! Even with no overtaking, the end of the race would always be exciting, with points constantly changing hands. Maybe two for second fastest and one for third, to give some semblance of fairness.

    1. Bluem says:

      I’ve always thought that they should award points for pole and for the fastest lap. I understand that the last few years it didn’t really make sense to do it because of different fuel levels because basically you would have smaller teams going for glory runs just to get a point.
      But now that the system has changed why not? And one way to make sure you don’t have smaller teams upsetting the applecart, is to add the criteria that (to get a point for fastest lap) you have to finish the race.

      On another note:
      I would personally like to see KERS back, but they have to widen its operating margin to be more of beneficial. It should also be more affordable.
      I think the FIA should only allow a limited number (3?) of systems available. Therefore teams can tender their designs (fly-wheel or battery etc.).
      Each design could offer something special/unique and/or work in a different way. The other qualifying factors would of course be effectiveness, cost and durability.
      Other teams can then decide which system would be the most suitable or beneficial for their car’s design and then incorporate it.
      Just like engines teams could also only use a limited number of those systems per year, e.g. 5 batteries/year.
      This way F1 can still be cutting edge but not lose its heritage that teams build and make their own cars (chassis).

      PS. Imagine the following:
      1 team – Mercedes engine/Williams fly wheel
      2 team – Cosworth engine/Williams fly wheel
      3 team – Mercedes engine/McLaren KERS
      4 team – Cosworth engine/McLaren KERS
      5 team – Renault engine/Ferrari KERS
      5 team – Ferrari engine/Ferrari KERS etc.

      It could really spice up things and add a new dimension (hopefully be more unpredictable).

  277. ian says:

    Karting, Formula Ford etc without downforce…..i do not want to see F1 be artificially held back technology wise.

    I think F1 should be the pinnacle, lastest tech construction methods electronics, suspension, gearboxes etc etc …even aero BUT whilst low drag aero has a relevance today, high downforce does not, nor does it help racing.

    So for me let the cars have the latest techniologies but get rid of all downforce, then we would see proper racing.

  278. Kevin says:

    The elephant in the room has always been those damn wings. They are important to the sport only because they are mobile billboards, but they kill the sport in every other way. Get rid of the wings on the cars and much of the huge expenditure on aerodynamics evaporates, and overtaking is once again possible on every part of a Formula One circuit. Everything else which is done to improve prospects of overtaking is merely fiddling while Rome burns.

  279. Bren says:

    I disagree with Mr. Dernie. Harder tires may help but are not the main problem. As many have stated above, the aerodynamic wake is the problem. Cars cannot get close enough to even attempt an overtake. My solution would be for the teams to be given standard front and back wings that make it easy to follow the car in front which would dramatically improve overtaking. I would allow teams almost free development on engines/kers/gearbox/suspensions. The millions that are spent each year on aero development each yera do noting to improve the racing and do nothing to improve technology for road cars. If teams were allowed to develop the mechanical side of the car there would be huge trickle down improvements to road car technology which would make it more attractive for car manufactures to get involved and would be more interesting for fan. Look at KERS for example, Ferrari have already put it on a road car and Porsche have bought Williams KERS technology.

  280. Juha says:

    Of course FD wants to keep his job. But if he was correct (not meaning he doesn’t know what he is speaking but what he is trying to make you believe)then there would be no overtaking in karting.
    It is as simple as that.

    So the correct answer is to get rid of the aero -> you will need tires with more forgiving slipcurve to be able to drive the car at all -> more lively cars and wider racing line -> more places to overtake and tirewear would mean a lot (save tires, gain places in the end etc)

    Of course F1 needs to be the fastest there is -> introduce free engine restrictions (don’t worry the limited grip on tires will automatically lower the cornering speeds so it would actually be safer than now). More power would be harder to control and that would yield more mistakes and overtaking chances etc etc.

    Also the money would be such a big issue as the wind tunnels would be obsolete

    What do you think?

  281. David Jerromes says:

    Like many contributors on this site I’ve been banging on about reducing aero and increasing mechanical grip.

    Mr.Dernie still holds his hand firmly in the air for the aero camp, I respect his experience and opinion, but still think he’s wrong.

    Interesting comments from Rubens published today on the ITV F1 website….

    Rubens blames the lack of overtaking on the narrower tyres…

    “”The fact that we had better racing last year was because we dropped the ugly grooved tyres for slicks.

    “That’s what we need – we need more mechanical grip on the car and to lose the aerodynamics.

    “We’re losing aerodynamics all the time, but if you follow another car you just understeer off the track.

    “Unless you have a second advantage, which is not the normal thing, you just can’t pass.

    “I overtook [Sebastien] Buemi on the track but I was doing 2m01s, he was doing 2m04s, and it wasn’t easy overtaking.”

    Comments anyone, Mr.Dernie, James?

  282. Stuart says:

    Have you never heard of a manual shift sequential gearbox.These gearboxes are in common use in many forms of motor racing.You cannot miss a gear,and with seamless shift technology clutchless changes both up and down are simple.

  283. Rui Correia says:

    This one of the most interesting F1 articles that I read in the past 10-15 years.
    I’ll give my opinion even if the topic has been dead for more than 3 years.
    This is now 2013 and the problem is still the same: overtaking.
    We have gone through KERS, F-DUCT and now DRS and it is still dead difficult to overtake.
    This is all artificial.
    The cars still don’t allow overtaking. Drivers still have their beloved sticky tires that are now producing more marbles than ever.
    Pick any race you want that had rain up until minutes before the start of the race. The track is clean (green) and the drivers get to choose their own lines. They don’t have to go for the racing line. Result: whether they’re on intermediates or slicks you get plenty of fighting, fun and overtaking.
    Pick that same race 20-30 minutes after the rain have stopped. Result: boring, train-like and no overtaking. The driver no longer get to choose his line. He’s forced to use the supposedly best line where there are no marbles.
    Rock-hard marble-less tires, anyone?


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