February 24, 2016 by Joe Saward
The various committees that meet to discuss the future of F1 want a five-second a lap increase in speed by the start of 2017. Given that these talks have been going on for much of the last year, it is perhaps worth noting that yesterday in Barcelona the fastest lap, set by Sebastian Vettel, was 1.8 seconds faster than Nico Rosberg’s pole last year in Spain last year, giving an indication of how much progress has been made by the teams in the last 12 months. That will improve before this year’s Spanish GP, as we are still in only the first few days of 2016 testing and I doubt we have seen anything like the real pace that they will have when the racing starts. The improvement could be two and half seconds or more per lap… Such is the rate of progress that by the start of 2017, if development continued, the current cars would probably end up being five seconds a lap faster than they were at the start of 2015.
However, the new changes being proposed mean that the same thing will definitely be achieved at a great deal more cost, because everyone will need to start their aerodynamic programmes all over again. This will favour the big teams with more money. The cars will look more like the beasts from the 1970s – if that is what turns you on – but the attempt to speed the cars up could very easily backfire because if the lap times are more than five seconds quicker, which logically they ought to be as engineers have come up with these ideas, we could very quickly get to a situation in which the circuits will be forced to spend more money in improve the safety, because the higher speeds will make the sport more dangerous and those involved will need to protect themselves from possible future risks, such as accusations that they made the cars quicker, without providing sufficient safety measures. Such is the world of risk analysis these days… If the circuits have to do that, many of them will need to find the money from… higher ticket prices?
In such a complicated environment, changes quite often produced side-effects that were not intended and do not come to light until it is too late.