Downforce issues 'would get worse' without 2019 changes

Esteban Ocon (FRA) Racing Point Force India F1 VJM11.
© XPB 

The FIA's head of single-seater technical matters Nikolas Tombazis has said that Formula 1 cars could lose a significant amount of medium-speed downforce as a result of new rules being brought in for 2019.

F1 has been looking into measures to help improve the on-track racing after complaints from drivers that overtaking is increasingly difficult even with DRS, once they get into the 'dirty air' of a rival in front.

The aerodynamic turbulence generated by modern front and rear wings disrupts the downforce of a pursuing car and causes it to lose grip when it tries to overtake. But new technical tweaks for next season aim to change that.

"There is a general trend for teams to develop more downforce, which would exacerbate the problem," Tombazis says in the latest issue of the FIA's Auto magazine.

"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," he added, before admitting: "But no one is expecting F1 cars to be fighting like touring cars."

Tombazis supplied some numbers to illustrate where the current problem with overtaking lies. "We consider the critical position to be around 15 to 20 metres between the cars," he said.

"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 per cent of its downforce in this scenario," he added. "We hope to reduce that by 10 per cent.

Nikolas Tombazis, FIA Head of Technical Matters

That suggests that the amount of downforce available to drivers in a medium-speed corner will be reduced by almost a third of current levels.

Some teams on the grid are sceptical that this will make much difference to the racing. But among those responding positively to the changes is Williams' chief technical officer Paddy Lowe.

"I was not a fan of the 2017 regulations," he said. "I thought [they] were a backwards step for overtaking.

"The FIA and FOM were correct to act at this point and do something different for 2019 and 2020," Lowe added. "Not doing anything now would mean we'd have several years of a worsening situation, as the teams develop more downforce.

"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."

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