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Tombazis: 2019 aero rules could see 50% increase in overtaking


In the wake of a disappointing 2018 Australian Grand Prix which featured just a handful over overtakes and which followed the revelation that overtaking in 2017 was 50% down on the previous year - a stat that Pirelli no longer provides, though it's not clear why - the sport got to work on a set of aero rules for 2019 aimed directly at increasing the chances overtaking by allowing cars to follow one another more closely.

Simplified front wings featuring less architecture than before, revised bargeboards and brake ducts, not forgetting a similarly simple rear wing, were all intended to improve the show.

The very nature of the Melbourne track means that it was hard to get a picture of the impact of the new rules, and while there was plenty of passing in Bahrain - aided by the addition of the third DRS zone - it is still unclear as to exactly how effective the new rules will prove.

Talking to the FIA's AUTO magazine ahead of the Bahrain race, the governing body's Head of Single Seater Technical Matters, Nikolas Tombazis, expressed his confidence in the new regulations, claiming that some events will see overtaking increase by 50%.

"We were not expecting a huge delta in Australia, which is a difficult track at which to overtake in any case," he admits. "Some simulations were showing a 10 per cent increase of overtaking, assuming a similar evolution of a race, of course.

"In other races the same simulations expect a more sizeable increase, possibly to the tune of 50%," he continued. "That's the feedback we've had so far, but it will really only become clear as we progress through the season.

"We weren't expecting miracles in round one at Australia, but generally we are expecting a step in the right direction as far as aerodynamics are concerned.

"Looking at the cars in testing and seeing certain solutions there are undoubtedly a few things we might have done slightly differently in the rules," he admits, "but that's always the case. Overall, I'm pleased with the direction of the aerodynamic characteristics.

"I certainly don't think we have arrived at the final destination point and we can never sit back and say, 'OK, it's all fine'," he adds. "However, I think that if we hadn't gone through this process and we were sitting here writing the 2021 rules we would be in a much weaker position.

"For what we are trying to achieve, 2019 has been a very useful exercise and has lessened the wake effect. Whether this season proves to be an exciting championship depends on how closely matched the teams are. And like everyone else, that's something I'm very anxious to see."


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1. Posted by alvarezh3, 09/04/2019 15:07


Most kind of you Mr. Balfe, never expected to be consoled, but you have! Never the less, I shall try harder to emulate your talent.

I will take the opportunity to express something that for a long time I have been eager to tell to you. Really enjoy reading your practice and race reports. Have been doing this for years, even before you became editor/owner. Your concise narrative makes for quick and efficient reading, at least for me. I consider your writing style to be as much of an art, as is creating poetry.

Thank you for your hard work in an effort to please us.

To the good samaritan who gave me a positive in an effort to relieve my discomfort, thank you!"

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2. Posted by Editor, 09/04/2019 9:52

"@ alvarezh3

Absolutely no need to apologise, indeed, thank you for taking the time to actually add to the debate and comment in such depth and passion… so much better than one-liners or the infuriating “yawn”."

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3. Posted by Uffen, 08/04/2019 21:47

"The DRS is a bad idea mainly due to the fact that it allows the guy behind to drive a car with a different specification than the guy in front, and, when it matters, the guy in front is there due to merit. Even if the guy in front remains in front, the DRS driver is farther ahead than he would have otherwise been. So, regardless of the "need" for overtaking, DRS is just plain wrong.
Also, on many tracks we hear about "the tow" and how those precious few km/hr can be achieved but tucking into the slipstream.
Widening tracks may help, but only if tires stop shedding "marbles." Once the race is a few laps old, one line develops regardless of the width of the tarmac.
I agree that longer braking distances would help. For instance, reducing aero downforce would increase braking distances without altering the current braking systems. "

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4. Posted by alvarezh3, 08/04/2019 13:41


Interesting proposal, weaker brakes, longer braking distance.


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5. Posted by imejl99, 08/04/2019 13:25


Bahrain GP
Leclerc fastest lap 1:33,411 - 5412 m (Bahrain lap distance)
Hamilton gap 0.117s @(assumed)129.5 mph gives 6.8 m, or a F1 car lenght + 1m

Regarding Aero rules & overtaking, OK, it is relevant, but I am firmly in a brake corner - braking distance is so short it is insane. No chance to peek let alone put the nose in front. Weaken the brakes, we may expect skill overtaking. Go aero, we will get DRS passing by (counts as overtake as well, but I assume we prefer skill, brains and guts).


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6. Posted by Editor, 08/04/2019 11:14

"There is a formula - I used to have it on a piece of paper but it got lost - whereby you could take the lap times of two cars and convert them into the distance (in centimetres.metres) between the two over the course of a lap around that track.

Anyone aware of it?


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7. Posted by stackvideo, 08/04/2019 0:08

"My apologies for using "D Trump" in my comment"

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8. Posted by alvarezh3, 07/04/2019 22:04

"Please allow me to excuse myself for a few gramatical errors. My proof reader only checks spelling, and even at that, it sometimes fails!

Don't want to insult anyone, plenty of people around here take their time and effort to write well for us. Even though English is not my native language, I should do likewise for everyone.

Again, my apologies."

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9. Posted by alvarezh3, 07/04/2019 21:23

"It seems that there exists some misunderstanding of the why the DRS is, at this point in time, a bad but unfortunately needed evil . Yes, it's a device that by lowering a car's drag, causes an increase in speed. But, what is forcing it's existence on the first place? What is it really actually and behind the scenes performing in order to ease an overpass?

Lets asume car "A" is capable of traveling at a speed 1 KPH faster than car "B" and both running on a straight path. This means car "A" is traveling 16.66 meters more than car "B" every minute. Then, If car "A's" speed is 300 KPH, it will travel 5 kilometers per minute.

Car "A" needs a 5 kilometers long path for it to be 16.66 meters ahead of car "B" (assuming they started the to run side by side). A Formula one's chassis has a wheelbase of between 3.5 and 3.8 meters depending on the brand, lets add another meter (give or take a few centimeters) to those figures since the front and the rear wings are creating additional length to the bodywork. In reality, car "A" doesn't really need to travel 16.66 meters more than car "B" to pass it. Lets assume a more realistic number of 8.33 meters. Car's "B's" length is 4.8 meters, that leaves about 3.5 meters of clearance in front of car "B" for car "A" to position itself in front it. Under these circumstances, we can conclude that car "A" now needs only a straight 2.5 kilometers long to make the overtake.

Lets get even more realistic. Car "A" and "B" are not traveling at 300 KPH when they turn into the straight, both cars are gradually accelerating from lets say somewhere in between 100 and 200 KPH (it's track dependent). It will take time and therefore distance, to reach 300 KPH. So, in the end, car "A" will really need MORE than 2.5 kilometers to complete it's overtake!

The DRS in essence is (if you will) "lengthening" the straight by allowing car "A" to reach 300 KPH in less time (and therefore, distance). Let's call this a "virtual" lengthening, just to comply with the terms of our times. DRS allows the car to perform, in a shorter distance, what the car is capable of doing at a much larger one. You may well point out that the DRS activation is also increasing the difference in speed between the cars. Yes, but that is an unavoidable byproduct of forcing the passer to reach his 300 KPH on a shorter distance due to the track's inappropriate length.

So now we can see the need for DRS to "lengthen" the track as there does not exist a road course with straights which have, not even 2.5 Kilometers in length.

If you do the calculations for a passing car traveling 10 KPH faster, then maybe it could complete an overtake in a shorter distance, in which case, perhaps, there would be no need for DRS. The problem arrises when you encounter two vehicles with close to each other's performances but that the rear approaching (and only slightly faster) one, desires to make a pass. Under such circumstances, and with the present tracks, that's nearly imposible without some form of what we call "gimmick", the DRS.

Some of us will bang the table with our closed fist "DAM DRS!!!!". Others, if the "gimmick" was outlawed, will do likewise and say "NO PASSING!!!!!!!". Difficult situation to be in. How many of us are willing to become the race technical director with a desk at the FIA in order to solve this problem? Complaining is easy to do, fact is most us human beings have done this within a few hours after birth. Didn't we ever cried when hungry? :)

This explanation may be wrong (so was Stephen Hawking at lest once, imagine poor me!), but until proven otherwise, I have come to the conclusion that the tracks do not have a suitable straight line length of asphalt to allow the current machinery to execute a pass without DRS. This, again, when two competing cars have very similar acceleration/top speed and braking capabilities.

In theory you could increase the lengths of the venues, at least some of them. In reality, would the spectators be happy to see their hero every 3 minutes instead of the present 1 minute 30 seconds in order see passing without the need of DRS? This would double the time of the event to 3 hours or more. Would we be willing to wait this extra time in order to see the results, so we can to keep DRS out of F1? Lastly, we could shorten de number of laps and keep de same race distance and time we have now. This means we will see many times less the cars passing in front of us. Not too good, is it?

I personally do not like, like many/most of us, the implementation/use of DRS. Nevertheless, I will not bad-mouth or discredit it until I can give the FIA a better alternative to fix this peculiar problem with the tracks. Tombazis and Brawn are well talented engineers (at least way, way much more than me), and they have access to the knowledgeable minds of many more colleagues. Yet, on this issue of overtaking, they haven't found a viable and agreeable solution to satisfy all of us. It isn't simply THAT easy.

Engineering solutions are a lot of the time, compromises. You want the fastest tire? It won't last the whole race. Want to eliminate pit stopping? Get a harder compound, go slower. Want to go fast without a pit stop? Start dreaming, it won't happen.

In the end, real and almost too difficult to solve situations force unwanted outcomes (think DRS). Lots of dilemas in this world of ours!


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10. Posted by stackvideo, 07/04/2019 4:58

" Why risk trying to pass in a corner when you can just wait for the DRS zone. Very little to no chance of banging wheels. As D. Trump would say "Fake News""

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11. Posted by alvarezh3, 07/04/2019 1:54

"It has been discussed a few times around the net. Most people's opinions are that the main problem in not having more overtaking in F1 is due to the fact that most tracks have one driving line through the corners.

Take for instance when two cars with almost similar limit of (lateral) adhesion. If car "A" tries an overpass on car "B" which is already at it's limit of adhesion and on the shorter radius inside line, then car "A" driving through a longer radius (to the outside of car "B" it intends to pass) by going faster than it's victim, can easily, in most instances, exceed it's maximum limit of adhesion and will drive itself out of the track. To avoid this situation, the overtaking driver of car "A" is therefore forced to follow on the same driving line behind car "B" which it intends to pass. This will place him behind car "B's" dirty air reducing it's own downforce possibly to the point of forcing to distance itself backwards from car "B" in order to avoid loosing directional control due to -most likely- an excess of understeer. Clearly, this situation makes it much harder -if not impossible- for car "A" whom although slightly faster than it's adversary, to complete a pass.

The DRS and the new front wing design is trying to mitigate the overtake deficit inherently designed into the track. This seems to parallel Boeing's solution with the Max 8's problem. What industry experts have publicly declared to be an aircraft with a tendency to (under certain circumstances) lift it's nose up, is intended to be corrected by a software/trim-actuator system called for short "MCAS".

A few remedies besides the DRS and front wing redesign come to mind that could be applied to at least try to alleviate the lack of more or easier overtaking opportunities. While the first two will setback the tracks financially, they will be the first to benefit from a better show and more $pectator$, (BTW, Liberty and the teams will be happy). The third may not be too appreciative:

A) You could bank corners. Notice all the racing lines a banked NASCAR oval has, some tracks are allowing four cars side by side all traveling at 180+ MPH and passing each other. F1 had the old Monza banked circuit and likewise the Nurburgring Nordschleife has it's "Karussell" and "Pflanzgarten 1" that have a much shallower banking. I am not suggesting NASCAR's steep bankings, just the few degrees needed to open up a second racing "drive by" or "passing" lane. This could be implemented with very little or no inclination on the inside lane and gradually increasing the degrees of banking on the outer one. The track owners would have to redo just the corners, but not necessarily all of them.

B) Widen the width of the track. This by an appropriate distance behind and after a corner. Run a gokart race on a F1 track and you will see passing everywhere, this because you have hugely increased the size of the running surface in proportion to the minimal size of the kart, hence creating more than one race line all around the track. Do to space constraints this could be difficult to implement, at least not at all corners. But any modifications with the intent of creating additional passing opportunities are always welcomed! (Drivers will love it).

C) You could slow the cars down. If you slow the cars down to the point were the maximum speed that a corner can be driven at, and at any distance from the corner's apex, do not exceed the maximum limit of (lateral) adhesion by the faster passing car, then you can drive around and overtake. This may not be very much liked by the people in charge of "the pinnacle of motor racing" nor us the fans. But by redesigning maybe one, two or even three corners on a racetrack (some tracks have 15 or more corners) you could potentially increase overtaking.

Hopefully some of the other (and much more creative and smarter than me) readers can come up with clever ideas to increase passing maneuvers, specially if those proposals avoid using "tricks" and "gimmicks" like DRS, INDY's "push to pass power devices" and finally, the back to the "silent movie" era racing of Formula E with it's "Fanboost" and the "drive over this side of the ALLEY, I will give you 4 minutes of extra power" cheap tricks.

Meanwhile, Mr. Tilke and his no too entertaining "do not pass" tracks, plus more narrow and dull "do not pass" street races, looks to be our miserable present and near future. Sad."

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12. Posted by Rock Doc, 07/04/2019 1:40

"So all they gave really done is get back to 2017 overtake figures which were dismal.

So basically when you have no overtaking any overtaking is good?

Still got some way to go. It’s DRS that is doing the job at the moment. Imagine how bad it would be without DRS"

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13. Posted by GordonG47, 06/04/2019 13:43

"So some events might have 3 overtakes, instead of two? *PROGRESS* :)"

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