FIA president Jean Todt believes it would have been unfair to fans of Formula 1 to not make changes to try and improve racing in 2019.
The FIA and F1 proposed new aerodynamic regulations for next year in order to try and allow drivers to follow more closely, with major changes to the front wing being added to tweaks of the brake ducts and rear wing.
It is estimated that the new regulations will slow the cars by as much as 1.5 seconds per lap compared to this season, something that drew criticism from Sebastian Vettel for the manner in which the sport often changes priorities. Christian Horner was also angered by the decision to approve the new regulations, which are a precursor to further changes in 2021, but Todt (pictured at left, above, with F1 chairman Chase Carey at last weekend’s Spanish Grand Prix) says action needed to be taken.
“We hear all the time from the drivers that the cars can’t get close to each other,” Todt said. “I read the press conference transcripts – [Lewis] Hamilton, Vettel, [Kimi] Raikkonen, they all complained. And they’re [racing] in the front. Can you imagine what it’s like at the back? And you all complain – I read what you write.
“I feel that if we understand that something is wrong we should try to find a solution. We all say we want to have a better sport, a better show, so let’s do something. So on one side people say, ‘Let’s wait for 2021.’ And it’s the start of the 2018 season, so we would go through 2018, ’19 and ’20 knowing that there’s a problem which is damaging the sport.
“In this case we asked some relevant engineers to address the problem. They explained that as the car is getting closer, because of the aero at the front, unless it is over 1.5s [per lap faster] you cannot have any overtaking. So you speak with the engineers and you say, ‘Do you think we can do something to improve the situation?’ And they said they could improve the situation.
“So we are trying to make the sport better. We try, using the proper governance – which as you know is not the easiest thing in Formula 1 – to make a proposal. So that’s why we made this proposal and by a miracle it was accepted.”
When it was put to Todt that you can’t please everybody, he replied: “We say we want the fans to be happy, and the fans, they want more overtaking.
“We need to promote the sport rather than putting people against one another.
“Another thing, because I read the transcript of that [the Saturday press conference]: I’ve always, all the time, tried to hear what the drivers were saying. And the drivers were invited to participate. I invited [them] to do something. If we speak about the Halo, I did not invent the Halo – I was urged by the drivers to do something because they felt unsafe. So I said, ‘Yes, we need to hear that.’
“If the driver who is driving the car at high speed says they are not comfortable, and we have some evidence, so we decided to find the best way and that was the Halo. And then I hear, ‘That’s s**t.’
“I think whatever is the position, you must try to be responsible – to hear, to judge, and then to propose.”