Formula One: Despite mixed reactions to FIA's rule changes for 2019, decision to slow cars isn’t bad for sport

Barcelona: Along with announcing a more powerful DRS for 2019, the FIA also announced that the planned aero changes for next season could see Formula One cars slow down by up to 1.5 seconds over a single lap.

A FIA member leaves their offices in the paddock during testing. Reuters

A FIA member leaves their offices in the paddock during testing. Reuters

At this weekend’s Spanish Grand Prix, FIA’s technical boss Nicholas Tombazis conveyed to the media, “We expect this (2019) rule change to be approximately half-way to one third less performance than the delta between ’16 and ’17, so we expect to lose about 1.5 seconds maybe.

"It is a bit difficult to predict exactly the amount of development the teams will put on," he added. "But we certainly expect to lose performance, but that sort of magnitude.”

These rule changes were forced upon by Formula One despite not receiving a nod from all the teams, an indication that Liberty Media are out to establish their status as the sport’s owners in the paddock. In fact, rivals Red Bull Racing and Force India were still at the opposite ends of the spectrum when it came to taking a stance on next season’s rule changes.

Also, it would be important to remember that despite the last three races being at their entertaining best, Formula One realises that it needs to make inherent changes to the cars’ DNA to ensure that they remove the existing impediments that allow close quarter racing.

However, the rule changes for 2019 did catch the fans out by surprise, especially because it was only in 2017 that the rules were changed to make the cars go quicker. Why would Formula One go back to making the cars slower?

The FIA firmly believes that the rule changes for 2019 were the only way to top on-track overtaking from deteriorating over the next season. Tombazis explained, "Our expectation if we didn’t do this rule change, is that for ’19 and ’20 it would be gradually getting worse. So part of the rule change was to stop that."

He added that the amount of research undertaken for these (2019) rule changes was ‘more than virtually any regulation change in aerodynamics that has taken place in the sport’ (with the exception of a one-off change put in place by the Overtaking Working Group back in 2009).

Furthermore, Renault’s Nico Hulkenberg and Force India’s Esteban Ocon backed the rule changes for 2019. In his exclusive interview with Firstpost on Friday, Hulkenberg said, “They want to desensitise the aero, which will offer much wheel-to-wheel racing and that is the right thing to do. In my opinion, the changes for next year are all positive.” Ocon added, “I enjoy driving these cars, they are pretty quick. But if it ends up going one second slower, will it be noticeable on track? If we don’t attempt it, we will never know if this is a good step or not. Let’s try it and see where it leads us.”

Formula One seems clear about its objective. It is aware that reducing aerodynamics will impact overall speed of the cars, but there is a higher chance that it will allow cars to race close to each other – an important part to improving the show. The changes for 2019 are only interim and aren’t necessarily a window to the overhaul of changes expected for 2021, a point that the FIA emphasised on.

Liberty Media’s impatience to bring about these changes next season instead of waiting for three years is good for the sport. To sum things up, like Ocon pointed out, the cars are already quick enough and the difference in speed will barely be noticeable on-camera or at the track. In which case, the fans should embrace these changes and trust the FIA and Formula One to do their job.

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Updated Date: May 12, 2018 16:22 PM

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