Bob McMurray: Feeling the winds of change in F1
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After the Hungarian Grand Prix there was a two-day test session for all but one of the Formula 1 teams.
Haas Formula 1 opted out as it decided its time was best spent back at base, evaluating data gathered from an exhausting few weeks on the road.
Eleven drivers from the remaining nine teams took part, taking advantage of the chance to explore the limits of the cars as they were driven in the grand prix.
Most of the time was taken up with new parts testing.
Those new parts are aimed at the 2019 season as teams focus on new car designs.
Between the teams, thousands of kilometres were completed and terabytes of data collected and fed to data engineers for analysis.
The most obvious development was the appearance of “new and improved” front wing assemblies on the Williams, Red Bull and Force India cars.
These are intended to help overtaking, or at least reduce the problem of dirty air (aero wash or wake turbulence) that makes it almost impossible for one car to follow another closely.
I am not sure the casual observer will notice much difference but the FIA boffins say there will be a significant difference on track.
The new wings are 20cm wider which, when you look at the chaos that goes on at the start of most races, may mean even more bits of wing will be shed by cars bumping into each other.
More damage, more debris on track, more urgent pit stops in the first handful of laps and more punctures.
Added to that, the wings will be 25mm deeper (further forward at the leading edge) so they will be even more in harm’s way.
The wings will also be denuded of many, if not all, of the turning vanes that have been developed to move airflow around the wheels, creating a low-air pressure pocket behind the car and reducing the downforce on the following car.
Without all this ridiculous paraphernalia and with a more standardised front wing, the cars should look a lot better as well.
I guess if they improve the racing, then the object of the rule changes will have been achieved — and that can only be a good thing.
This new front wing must be seen as an interim step in conjunction with the rear wing changes and aero tweaks brought into being for the coming season — and as a precursor to further changes expected for the 2021 season.
Gentle winds of change are blowing in the design offices of the FIA, Liberty Media and the F1 teams; and the realisation that racing is entertainment and entertainment is overtaking has to be the over-riding ethos.
Those same winds were last week whipped into hurricane force by the unexpected announcement that Daniel Ricciardo has departed Red Bull to join the Renault F1 team. The news caused a frenzy of activity over which driver now goes to which team for next season.
The financial benefits for Ricciardo of moving teams must be huge, but I believe there is a bit more to this story than has been released.
Just halfway through the 2018 F1 season, the 2019 season, with all these developments in cars and drivers, is looking more than a little interesting.