Despite Bernie Ecclestone’s joke that the only thing they can agree to is when to meet, the F1 Strategy Group convenes today to plan for 2017 and beyond.
Chief concerns include allowing a fifth engine this season and a fairer allotment of FIA prize money. Neither of which will be addressed because the big 5 present: Ferrari, Mercedes, McLaren, Red Bull and Williams will not want to give up their slice of the pie or hand any concessions to their rivals.
Despite Ecclestone’s vehement hatred, the V6 hybrids are set to stick around as well.
Really the only things up for debate will include a possible re-entry to the sport by former tire supplier Michelin and any aerodynamic changes for 2017 and beyond.
On the former, Pirelli are keen to keep their exclusive status and have even gone so far as a plan to bring mystery compounds to each race and to bring back qualifying tires. Both somewhat gimmicky, but both something I think many fans can agree would be a good way to spice things up.
The latter is where the real hope for F1’s future lies. 2014 along with starting the love it or hate it V6 hybrid era was originally intended to serve as a reintroduction of ground effect to F1. The measure failed then, but many prominent voices are calling for its return as a path forward to closer racing and lower costs.
Ground effect aerodynamics are dependent upon large venturi tunnels in the underbody of a race car which they use to generate the vast majority of a cars downforce, in some cases 80 percent or higher. In stark contrast, modern F1 cars have flat floors and generate 50 percent or more of their downforce through overly complicated front wings, multiple flicks and aerodynamic pieces that cut through the air amazingly well on their own, but cause a nightmare for any car following them.The theory behind reintroducing ground effect is that by generating most of the downforce via the underbody, front and rear wings can be greatly simplified and DRS can be abandoned all together as cars will once again be able to slipstream one another instead of fighting so called ‘dirty air.’
Legendary designers such as Gordon Murray and Adrian Newey are very keen on ground effect and top notch journalists like Gordon Kirby and Will Buxton are calling for its return as well. Men universally respected in racing circles, the exact kind the strategy group should listen to at all costs, but likely won’t.
Teams are hesitant because it is yet another change, and it is not in each teams egocentric interest to make it easier for a following car to pass. Which highlights the biggest flaw in modern F1 and the strategy group as a whole, each entity is so cutthroat, so bent on its own interests that none can be selfless enough to agree to terms that better the sport as a whole.
Therefore I don’t expect much to change today. I have high hopes for the eventual reintroduction of ground effect and the revolution it will bring, but so long as Bernie and the boys care more about personal interests than the health of the sport and the views of the fans, little will change.
Image: Mercedes AMG F1