Upcoming Formula 1 regulations for 2017 need to be postponed until suitable solutions are found to increase overtaking opportunities in the sport, argues Rachit Thukral.
The widespread criticism of the current state of Formula 1 under the V6 hybrid era has led to kneejerk reactions among the rulemakers, with a major regulation overhaul planned for 2017.
The aim is to make cars five seconds faster than they are at present, while also improving their visual appeal. Both changes are more than welcome.
Drivers will relish faster cars and will have one less thing to moan about. Similarly, spectacular looking cars will please the fans, who have had to bear some ugly designs in the recent past, such as stepped and ‘anteater’ noses.
But what about overtaking opportunities? It seems like this aspect of Formula 1 hasn’t been tabled at all, with many inside the paddock sceptic about the impact of new regulations on ‘racing’.
Take Williams technical chief Pat Symonds, for instance: “My belief is that the more downforce you have on a car, the harder it is to follow. And this  car has more downforce.”
"Therefore irrespective of any niceties that the Overtaking Working Group may have come up with, and irrespective of whether one believes them or not – I know what short cuts we did against the true scientific process – the fact is if you've got more downforce, the harder it is to follow.
"I think that's simplistic, but nevertheless quite a true view,’’ he added.
Symond’s views are echoed by his Ferrari counterpart James Allison.
"I think that what we were asked to do was to make the cars look more aggressive, make the cars a lot faster - the fastest F1 cars ever - and to make them physically more tough to drive, not more difficult, but more physically arduous simply because the G-forces will be higher in the fast corners," Allison told ESPN.
"I think the rules will deliver on all three of those, but we will need to make sure we are keeping the level of overtaking in the sport more or less where it is now or at a level which is judged to be correct."
It is well known that Formula 1 needs to reduce its reliance on aerodynamic grip in favour of mechanical grip. Better quality of tyres will also prove beneficial, something Pirelli is working on. The wider tyres planned for 2017 will help in this cause, but it remains to be seen whether Pirelli will get its hands on a mule to test the new tyres on track.
"I know they're talking about giving us more aerodynamics which for me is like the worst idea," Lewis Hamilton said. "And it just shows for me that they don't really know what they're trying to solve.
"So we need better tyres, we need better grip from our tyres, we need more mechanical grip. And ultimately we probably need less – maybe not less aerodynamics, but less wake so the car behind doesn't have that turbulence. If that's possible – I don't even know if it's possible,’’ he added.
It is baffling that a driver has to point out the aforementioned points, that too at a time when the rulemakers should be incorporating them in the rulebook. But then, as Hamilton rightly questions, perhaps they ‘don’t know what they are trying to solve’.
Switch focus to making overtaking easier
If the new rules are introduced next year, as planned, it will only be a waste of R&D expenditure for the teams. Surely, louder, wider and faster cars will take F1 forward, but if the races remain monotonous at large, fans will continue to moan about the sport. The problem, in that case, will remain unsolved.
Hence, more thought needs to be given to reducing air turbulence and how to make it easier for cars to follow each other.
Once enough strides have been made in that regard, the aerodynamic rule changes must coincide with the updated power unit regulations.
Efforts should then be made to ensure stability of rules - something that will only be possible when most parties are content with the rulebook.
by Rachit Thukral