by clicking the arrows at the side of the page, or by using the toolbar.
by clicking anywhere on the page.
by dragging the page around when zoomed in.
by clicking anywhere on the page when zoomed in.
web sites or send emails by clicking on hyperlinks.
Email this page to a friend
Search this issue
Index - jump to page or section
Archive - view past issues
GP Week : Issue 220
15 GPWEEK.com // 15 GPWEEK.com // PARTNERS: OPINION are modern formula 1 cars too easy to driVe? Martin Brundle’s laps in a current Force India F1 car at silverstone, broadcast as part of the spanish GP coverage on Fox/sky at the weekend, went a long way to answering the question that has been hanging in the air since 17 year-old Max Verstappen jumped into a Toro Rosso after a year in F3 and looked like he’d been doing it for years. Brundle is of course an ex-GP driver of some class, perhaps under-rated at the time (remember it was he who took it Ayrton Senna in Formula 3), but whose opinion and reaction demands respect. Now well into his 50s, Martin was regardless, able to jump into the Force India and, apart from an intial “whoa” as he reacquainted himself with the power-to- weight ratio of approximately a horsepower per kilo, looked pretty comfortable. Indeed, his immediate comments centred around how easy, physically, the car was to drive. Yes, it had some torque, and yes he made a bit of a mistake and took the nose off against a barrier, but in a relatively short time, Brundle appeared to feel relaxed. Fast-forward to qualifying in Spain and, with a couple of anomalies aside, what did you get? Noah’s Ark – team cars paired row for row, for most of the grid. Yes, Felipe and Kimi provided exceptions, but the excellent analysis available to the on-screen experts, on this occasion Ant Davidson, picked out the errors responsible. But when you fundamentally get cars aligned down the grid like this, it does make the case that either all the drivers in each team are, talent-wise, an almost exact match for each other, or that the cars are relatively easy to get to somewhere near their respective limit, give or take a tenth or two. I tend to lean toward the latter. What we are therefore concluding is that a racing driver of competent, but not necessarily outstanding, ability can get a modern F1 car somewhere near it. Yes, as Brundle noted, there’s a lot more going on inside the car than there once was – in terms of knobs and settings to tweak, including simply dialing up more or less horsepower via electrical energy boost as required – but that pretty much takes us back to the international airline pilot comparison floated previously in this column. Day by day, ex-drivers (current ones don’t complain too much – they‘re into job retention) are saying it – the cars need to be faster to be a real challenge. Mark Webber joined that chorus just last week. The evidence is stacking up. The current F1 car is too easy to drive. In-car cameras aren’t helping – it all looks just too smooth and controlled. If you want the knockout piece of evidence, get yourself onto YouTube and check out something like Senna’s crazy 1988 Monaco qualifying lap – or indeed any serious qualifying lap from that era. No-one is suggesting that Formula 1 should go back to the days of manual clutches and manual gearboxes (or should they?), but driving the car at the limit needs to be more about hand- to-eye (to foot) co-ordination and, yup, bravery, rather than knob twiddling. As has been suggested, 1000hp might do it. It’s one of several options which have emerged into the open of late and is the most credible. The cars, and tracks, are safe enough now to cope with it. There’ll be no going back to V8s and basic engines, though. If it’s to be, it’ll be increased freedoms with the current sophisticated hybrid ‘Power Units’. The simple (and least costly) answer is a significant increase in the allowed fuel flow and fuel capacity of the cars, both currently massively constrained. To hell with economy – the very ‘Power Unit’ concept takes care of the technology freaks – let’s just double the fuel flow, boost the fuel tank capacity and go racing ... It’d fix the noise, or rather lack of it, problem at the same time. And then a Formula 1 car would again be something that would seriously sort the men from the boys. OPINION CHris LAmbden