28 May 2009
What Formula One should be doing - Part II

In Part I I explained how Formula One’s regulations were ruining the sport…

So, the answer is to get rid of the regulations, yes?  If only it were that easy.  Formula 1 has a secret.  No, not a particularly dirty one, but a secret, nevertheless.  They solved the problem.  About 30 years ago (and we’re talking ground effect here again) Formula 1 teams solved the problem of how to go round corners quickly.  Hooray, you might say, and so might I, on a technical level.  But going round corners quickly creates at least two new problems.  First the potential g-forces are greater than the unaided human body can stand and second, if anything goes wrong when the car is cornering (as it did in Ayrton Senna’s case) the car is going to crash at very high speed.  Such things might not matter if F1 was still a largely amateur sport made up of gentlemen racers but it isn’t and the audience that pays the professionals doesn’t want their heroes to be just people who can stand up to high g-forces.  They want them to demonstrate some skill.  Oh, and stay alive.  That’s also quite important.

So, I have no doubt that cars do have to be slowed down in the corners.  It’s just a question of how to do that without tying up the sport in red tape.  My candidate is a weight limit.  Tell teams that they can have any design they like so long as when it leaves the start line it weighs less than, say, 500kg.  As technology improves and cars get dangerously fast simply lower the limit.  Every time this is done teams will have to work out which bit of their car - whether it be the engine, transmission, suspension, wheels or bodywork has to lose the weight.  Each team will answer the question slightly differently leading to a wide variety of designs.

Another way might be to make the cars behave more like ordinary cars.  This might include demanding that all cars be started by the driver alone (they’re not at present), that they be drivable by amateurs (although I am not quite sure how you’d enforce this), that they make their way to the track under their own power.  It’s always struck me as bizarre that cars are allowed to refuel when they like.  Make each team state in advance when they plan to stop for fuel - it would at least be closer to the situation in real life.

PermalinkFeedback (5)Formula One


  1. Very interesting posts.

    Would lowering the weight automatically make cornering slower?  By making it harder to keep cars on the track?

    Posted by Brian Micklethwait on 28 May 2009 at 06:16pm

  2. No, it’s more the case that anything the designers have put on the car is there to make it go faster.  So, if they are forced to take it off the car is bound to go slower.  All things being equal.

    Posted by Patrick Crozier on 28 May 2009 at 06:38pm

  3. Actually, forcing teams to add weight in the form of lead blocks would reduce speed more, but I think that is nasty (see BTCC).

    The only way to limit cornering speed long term is to put each car in a wind tunnel at the start of the season (and randomly during it) and only allow a maximum of 5kg of downforce at the maximum wind speed of the official tunnel. Teams would then be allowed to add a front and rear wing of limited dimensions, to stop the cars taking off at speed.

    After this, lots of the regulations can be removed because more power will not help in the corners since the cars will be down to nearly the mechanical limits of the tyres (which could go back to cool wide slicks). Keep a lot of the saftey testing regs but allow whatever engines, electronics, materials etc.

    Posted by Dominic Fitzpatrick on 01 June 2009 at 08:29pm

  4. Doesn’t “any design you like” inevitably arrive at at a MotoGP bike once you get down to around 200kg or less? Unless it’s “any design you like as long as it’s not a motorbike”.

    ISTR some motorbike racing clases having *minimum* weight limits a few years ago, and people pouring molten lead into the frames of their Suzuki GSX-Rs in order to get the mandatory extra weight into the best place, because it was too easy to make a very powerful bike under the wight limit.

    Posted by Alan Little on 04 June 2009 at 04:47pm

  5. As the problems are due to dirty airflow on overtaking and excessive aerodynamic down-force on corners, a solution is to stage the race in a vast de-pressurized arena.  This would require cars to carry their own oxidizer in addition to fuel; the performance hit would be offset by a lack of air resistance.

    Posted by Crosbie on 07 June 2009 at 04:52pm

Commenting is not available in this channel entry.