Formula 1 cars should lose around one third less downforce when following each other next year, according to the latest predictions from the FIA. In the wake of difficulties that cars have had overtaking this year, teams and the governing body agreed a raft of aerodynamic changes for 2019 to try to help the situation.
A series of tweaks, including modifications to front and rear wings, are aimed at helping cars follow each other more closely – which should help drivers in battle.
Although it will be unclear about how big a benefit the changes will make until cars actually hit the track, the FIA’s head of single-seater matters Nikolas Tombazis thinks the change will be especially noticeable in medium speed corners.
Speaking in the latest issue of the FIA’s Auto magazine, Tombazis said: “We consider the critical position to be around 15 to 20 metres between the cars. That’s the distance we’d expect to see between cars running half a second apart approaching a medium-speed corner. With the current generation, the following car loses about 30% of its downforce in this scenario. We hope to reduce that by 10%.”
Although some teams are sceptical that the changes will make that much difference, Tombazis says that if F1 had done nothing then the next two years would have been even worse: “What I would say is that there is a general trend for teams to develop more downforce, which would exacerbate the problem. If we had not intervened, we feel that 2019 would be worse than 2018, and 2020 would be worse than 2019. We now believe that 2019 will be better than 2018, but no one is expecting F1 cars to be fighting like touring cars.”
The FIA’s move to intervene has been backed by Williams chief technical officer Paddy Lowe, who says he had long been fearful about the negative impact of the aero rules that came in for 2017: “I was not a fan of the 2017 regulations which, I thought, were a backwards step for overtaking,” said Lowe. “I feel that not doing anything now would mean we’d have several years of a worsening situation, as the teams develop more downforce. The FIA and FOM were correct to act at this point and do something different for 2019 and 2020. I’ve got quite a high confidence in the technical aspects of what’s been done, that it will take us back in the right direction.”