Formula 1 should embrace a reduction in downforce next year and in 2021 even if recent regulations were introduced to make the cars faster, says Ross Brawn.
New regulations were introduced in 2017 to deliver wider cars with significant aerodynamic influence, resulting in increased cornering speeds and faster lap times. The remit at that time was to make the cars more challenging for the drivers as well as to look more aggressive, but 2019 will see a simplified front wing in order to try and allow cars to follow each other more closely.
With concepts for 2021 released last weekend, Brawn says the next significant regulation change will slow the cars down but wants the quality of racing to be the primary focus.
“I think it will be less than where we are now,” F1’s managing director of motorsports said. “The cars are pretty impressive now but if they continue to develop at the rate they are developing then I think we will need to pull it back. I think next year’s regulations will be a step back again. There will be an adjustment back, but as inevitably happen in Formula 1, that will creep up again.
“The absolute downforce will probably be less, but I think it’s the type of downforce and how it behaves which is more critical than the absolute levels.
“It’s interesting that in IndyCar they have reduced the levels of downforce substantially, and at least on the road courses the drivers are very positive about the style of racing. They have some issues on the ovals, but that is a pretty unique environment. But on the road circuits it is a pretty positive feedback from the teams and drivers, even though they have substantially less downforce than they used to have.”
The current cars lose up to 50% of aerodynamic performance behind another car, while the 2021 concepts are targeting a reduction of that number to just 20%. Brawn says the changes next year will allow F1 to gauge how accurate those estimates are and understand more about future tweaks.
“In doing this project we recognized features that immediately gave some benefit in terms of the sensitivity between the cars. The benefits come from the nature of the flow that comes off the car in front and the sensitivity of the car behind.
“So, next year’s car has a step in the right direction and I think it is a very important barometer for us to see how much impact it has on the ability for cars to follow. The numbers I am quoting are not just numbers from our analysis, they are numbers from the cars because obviously we can measure the loss of performance and the numbers that we are seeing on real cars.
“Next year we will be able to measure the impact and so it’s the first step and it will be a very interesting check on making sure we are going in the right direction before we do the bigger change.”