A series of rule changes for the 2017 Formula One season will make the cars significantly faster. Tires will be much wider for increased mechanical grip and new front and rear wing designs will add significantly more downforce. The teams are expecting lap times to tumble by as much as 7 seconds a lap. Renault’s new driver, Nico Hulkenberg has been spending time in the team’s simulator getting ready for the new season. He has some thoughts about the 2017 cars.
“The new car feels brutally fast,” Hulkenberg says. But he is concerned the higher speeds and shorter braking distances will make passing even more difficulty than it has been in recent years, according to Grand Prix.com. “In Monte Carlo you won’t be able to pass,” he said. “You will just drive in the middle of the track with your wide car, and that’s it.”
Because higher speeds require stronger brakes, the rules permit brake discs this season that are 4 mm wider than last year — 32 mm versus 28 mm. Engineers expect braking torque may be as much as 25% higher than in previous years as drivers will be able to brake harder and later. Brembo’s Mauro Piccoli told Motorsport.com: “The level of grip is higher so you can basically transmit more force in a shorter time under braking. That results in the peak of braking torque – and we are predicting a 25 percent jump.”
Because drivers will be able to take some corners flat out without braking this year — thanks to higher mechanical grip and more downforce — they will arrive at subsequent turns traveling much faster than in the past. Piccoli explains: “We have seen on the simulation that some corners where cars were slowing down a bit — like in a sequence where you had a first turn and then a second one (such as Turns 2/3 at Silverstone) — the car used to slow down in the first corner so have reduced speed when it entered the second one.
“We are expecting that at some tracks, where the first corner is not too tight, that it will be taken at full throttle, so overall speed entering the second one will be a lot higher than in 2016.So what we think is that at some tracks like Silverstone, or Interlagos – the real number of stops is going to decrease but the energy of the stops is going to increase.
“This is translating as a higher braking torque. What were low duty tracks in 2016 could become heavier in 2017. And if you are loading the disk with more energy in a shorter time you have to dissipate the heat more quickly – which is why we need more cooling.” Brembo brake discs will have 1500 cooling holes this year as opposed to 1200 last year. Piccoli says braking forces of up to 6G are possible this year, which will place drivers under much greater strain than in the past.
Not every team will fit the wider discs to their cars. In the current hybrid era, rear braking is often done as much by regenerative braking as it is by mechanical means. Calipers for the wider discs weigh a few grams more and teams are super sensitive to the weight of components. As it is, the minimum weight of the cars will increase by 6 kilograms this year to account for the wider, heavier tires. Piccoli says cars with the larger calipers can fit the narrower discs if they wish to, but teams that opt to stay with the smaller calipers may not be able to easily switch over to the wider discs if they find they need more mechanical braking force.
Winter testing starts later this month. That’s when the teams will get their first chance to try out their new cars and tweak things like brake caliper and disc size. But will all this speed make the racing any more exciting? Many fans had been hoping for more mechanical grip and less aero in order to improve the chance of seeing actual on track passing again but the rule changes for the coming year seem to have dashed those hopes.
Now that Bernie Ecclestone is no longer gumming up the works, new technical director Ross Brawn has stated that passing should be a priority again in Formula One. He calls such artificial devices as DRS (drag reduction system) “stupid.” Most fans would agree. Perhaps in 2018 we might see a return to actual racing instead of the boring snoozefests that have characterized Formula One over the past several years.
Source and photo credit: Motorsport.com