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Tombazis defends rules overhaul


The FIA's single-seater technical director Nikolas Tombazis has defended 2022's rules overhaul following criticism from the likes of Sebastian Vettel and Fernando Alonso.

The much-anticipated overhaul was meant to make it easier for drivers to follow one another more closely and thereby increase the chances of overtaking. However, while cars can now follow more closely than before, overtaking remains a problem and as a result we are still having to rely on the gimmick that is DRS.

According to Pirelli, overtakes in 2022 were up 30% on the previous season, with 785 this year and 599 in 2021.

The Italian manufacturer's F1 boss, Mario Isola is keen to make clear that these are 'proper' overtakes and doesn't include those where two DRS zones are close together allowing driver A to pass driver B and then driver B to retake the position. Nor does it include drivers making up a position due a rival pitting or suffering an issue.

Indeed, other than the sheer number of passes, Isola points to some of the battles witnessed over the course of the season.

"They were fighting two... three cars together, overtaking each other, trying to use any possibility or any mistake from the competitor to overtake and pushing for not one corner but three... four... five laps," said the Italian.

"That's the biggest difference that I have seen this year compared to the past," he added. "It was not easy to do that. It was possible because of the new cars, it's not just the tyres. But the tyres were also helping to achieve that, so I'm quite happy with that."

However, two-time world champion, and one of the sport's great fighters, Fernando Alonso doesn't agree.

"It was a bit disappointing for everyone to realise that things haven't changed dramatically," he told Auto Motor und Sport. "The gap between the two or three top teams and the midfield is still too big.

"In 50% of the races we are one lap behind the winner," he added. "Therefore, we have not yet achieved the result that Formula 1 intended with the restart of the rules."

"We follow closer, but we've got less drag," said four-time champ Sebastian Vettel, "so you need to be closer to also overtake. And on tyres, the big target was to allow racing more, but I don't think it is a big difference either.

"I don't want to say it has failed," insisted the German. "But certainly a lot of effort had gone in and not all the effort came out, let's put it this way."

Nikolas Tombazis, the FIA's single-seater technical director, doesn't accept the criticism.

"I think it did improve the ability of cars to follow each other so I think that, in combination with the tyres, did help," he says.

"Clearly a good race needs cars to be close to each other fighting, and the second half of this season, it was not so close. There was a clear-cut winner, of course," he admits.

"But I do think that it is going to be quite a lot closer next year again. And, with the natural convergence, I think that, in combination with the cars being able to a) race close and b) fight more with the tyres and not overheat them, I think that will lead to some very good races.

"Overall this year, I think the races were generally quite exciting. So I don't think it was for little gain. I think the gain was reasonable. I can confirm it was a lot of effort."

Referring to Vettel's comment about there being less drag, which in turn compromises slipstreaming, Tombazis says: "If you simulate two cars following each other say one second apart, on the straight, that one second is about 60 metres and in the corner that one second is 20 metres because of the speed. So the percentage gain find in the corner is still a lot bigger than the loss on the straight.

"Some of the doubters of this whole approach were saying: ‘well you lose the slipstream', which is indeed a bit smaller. But when you actually do the simulation about how much the car that is one second behind can approach the front car, you're still considerably better off if you have this effect."

Drivers have also complained that once drivers get within a second of the car ahead there remains a lot of turbulence.

"To not have any disturbed air is never going to happen," admits Tombazis. "That would only be the case if the cars had very little or no downforce, like the 60's or whatever. So there's always going to be a wake effect.

"In the near wake, there was still a reduction of the loss, so we went from losing 50 percent, to losing about 25 percent. It's still a sizeable loss, but, by then, you're into the DRS and can compensate for that partially."


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1. Posted by ancient70!, 26/12/2022 8:23

"I suppose one thing we have learned after 53? years, is that using aerodynamics to create more grip in any form of motorsport, is a fickle business, and it comes at a cost. Especially with respect to close racing. "

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2. Posted by RP, 20/12/2022 16:16

"Quite a while ago, NASCAR had the International Race of Champions. A short series with identical Pontiac Firebirds with drivers from several different series. They were not prepared by the driver's teams. Made to be as identical as possible. Generally certain series drivers did better because of the venues selected. Is this what the discussion in Formula 1 leads to. Let's hope not.
With different designers, different engine manufacturers (only 4 right now?) and different drivers with obviously different skills, how close do you expect them to be. George Russell did good things with Williams but the car (with the Mercedes engine) had two top shelf components - George and Mercedes. Yet, it was below the mid-field. Why! Spending caps, DRS. tyre limitations, etc.
Ferrari lost opportunities just because of poor strategy and mistakes. There is more to it but just errors in strategy are the most obvious. Two seconds a lap from top to bottom is pretty darn close. Passing without some gimmick is hardly going to happen because of that small difference.

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3. Posted by Superbird70, 19/12/2022 17:47

"Maybe the powers that be can do a little 'side by side' comparison at the six venues chosen for the sprint races. They can activate DRS for the big race only and leave it off for the sprint. Then there will be a reasonable comparison in race conditions of the effect of aero and the DRS or DRS."

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4. Posted by kenji, 19/12/2022 0:09

"In an overall sense the last season was far better. A 30% increase in overtakes is a marked improvement on the previous. Next season will be the one to watch as there will be many changes...not only in personnel but also in car development. Mercedes claim to have it sorted, McLaren believe that they need to make some fundamental philosophical alterations and Ferrari will be headed up by a new face that needs to be making better strategic decisions. Race results should reflect these gains in learning and application of the radical changes made from last season. I do think that there will be more close examination of DRS and this effect will be reduced somewhat over time given car advances. So....not unhappy with the directions, they just need to be finessed."

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5. Posted by KKK, 18/12/2022 16:27

"What rules overhaul? Get rid of the gi,,ick called DRS and make the brakes less efficient, reducing size or bring back steel brakes. Then we will see the men from the boys. All these "overhauls" just arent working"

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