With the second pre-season test in Barcelona commencing on Thursday, yesterday’s news headlines should have been dominated by testing build-up. However, Ferrari unveiled a concept for the future of Formula 1 cars and it has certainly sparked debate. Teams have expressed a desire to improve the aesthetics of the sport and as the F1 Commission meets in Geneva, the Scuderia have published their vision of the future, in response to anticipation of wholesale rule changes for 2017.
It is at this point that I can declare that I am on the opposition side of the barrier in regards to this concept. My first impressions of this design has been dominated by concerns.
Firstly, this concept suggests that F1 car design will take a step towards similar philosophies to those used in IndyCar and Formula E. A discrete but fundamental aspect of this design is the shrouding guarding the wheels, most notable at the rear of the car. This technical direction leads to cars being less fragile and as the swashbuckling action in Formula E has demonstrated, cars are much more resilient to contact. However, in F1, precision is a vital factor for success and one of the fundamental benefits of a truly open-wheel formula is that the margin for error is so small. In practice, I imagine that with additional protection around the tyres and suspension, drivers will begin to take liberties and the ‘push-to-pass’ phenomenon which characterizes touring cars will become a feature in F1.
Elsewhere, the concept shows that the driver helmet would be integrated with the engine cover, in a move which would improve aerodynamic efficiency. While this appears to be answering a question that no-one was asking, I take particular issue with regards to the apparent lack of protection around the driver’s head. Since 1996, drivers have enjoyed added protection from a headrest, with this feature enhanced for the 2008 season to further protect drivers against side impacts. As such, a driver’s headrest is a clear admission from this design concept and while I am sure it would be addressed before these style of cars appeared out on track, it is still a concern.
Perhaps the most pressing issue is not focused on a single aspect of the concept but instead, the concept as a whole. Teams have been campaigning for more aesthetically pleasing cars, but aside from stepped or anteater noses of recent times, (two issues which have now been resolved,) I am yet to hear from many fans who take issue with the way that the cars look. This leads me to question why this concept even exists and why the F1 Commission feels that the sport requires an aesthetic overhaul.
Even if they can substantiate that a change is needed, then why do they not revert back to similar design philosophies which created stunning aesthetics back in 2005-2007. I struggle to see how this ‘futuristic’ ideology will attract more fans – they flock to circuits because of the racing. If they are looking to view car art, then a trip to a museum would be more appropriate.
If it isn’t broken, don’t try and fix it.