Next year's proposed F1 regulation change continues to attract criticism, with the drivers again suggesting that it is taking the sport in the wrong direction.
Already pilloried in some quarters for the open letter they sent under the guise of the Grand Prix Drivers' Association which slated the way the sport – and particularly its decision-making process – operated, the drivers are not backing down when it comes to claiming that the next generation of F1 runs the risk of ruining the show.
Although the 2016 qualifying farce has done little to improve the sport's image amongst race fans, let alone the wider public, the ongoing debate over what shape F1 will take from next season threatens to drag it even further down, with the various stakeholders seemingly unable to agree on a unified way forward. Deadlines for deciding technical specifications have already come and gone but, for the moment, the sport appears destined to a future based around more downforce, wider tyres and more aggressive designs – something which does not meet with the approval of the men charged with driving the new machines.
“Our opinion was that it's not the right direction to go and we were hoping that they would definitely look into it and just make sure, from a technical point of view, to double check,” current championship leader Nico Rosberg admitted, “Now this is the way it is, so now all we can do is accept it and make the most of it and hope that there are going to be some surprises. Maybe we're going to love the cars and enjoy driving them even more than we are now. Maybe all the grip is going to feel great or whatever. Now it's just accept it and make the most of it.
While Jenson Button, one of the signatories on the GPDA letter, concurred, Sergio Perez – who joins F1's 100 Club in Russia this weekend – attempted to point out where the new rules were going wrong.
“I really hope that the sport goes in the right direction, that we can see more competition, closer teams, as we've seen in the past,” the Mexican opined, “We've seen big gaps between the teams in the past, so I really hope that we can have a much closer field and that the regulations and the direction we're going in cannot create those sort of gaps, that we can close up the gaps. In my opinion it's what F1 needs, it needs more competition rather than more downforce, it needs more competition across the teams.”
Increasing mechanical grip through wider tyres is almost universally liked, while the accompanying increase in aerodynamic downforce is seen as a negating effect.
“I think downforce, generated in the right way, and mechanical grip from the tyres could be an interesting combination,” Daniil Kvyat noted, “Also, for racing, for us drivers to really reach some incredible speeds would really be quite cool. Everyone knew quite well in advance how the regulations were going to be, so some people could be better prepared for it, but now I think, as time to prepare is a bit limited, I think everyone might start in a very similar condition, which could lead to closer racing perhaps.”
The question of whether the rule change would be detrimental to smaller, or less experienced, teams such as Sauber and Haas was noted by Felipe Nasr and Esteban Gutierrez, who both said that they were looking forward to the return of wider tyres and increased mechanical grip, but questioned the inclusion of increased downforce.
“In my opinion, [wider tyres] will give us a better feeling when we are driving on the limit, but what I'm not fully convinced about is obviously the increase in downforce, which will naturally make overtaking more difficult or let's say following a car more difficult,” the Mexican pointed out, while Nasr worried about the spectacle being blunted by the ongoing reliance on aerodynamics.
“I agree with the others, what they are saying about the downforce, is it exactly what is going to improve the show?” the Brazilian asked, “We don't know, but let's hope for the best.”
Asked whether the drivers had enough of a say in the direction of the sport for which they act as figureheads, Rosberg try to suggest that they were having more input.
“We've been trying to get more involved and, actually, it's moving in the right direction because the FIA is asking us more things now,” the German revealed, “They want to hear our opinion, asking us for get-togethers and so the process is going well, I think, and with time, let's see where it goes.
“We will try to be more and more involved because I think we can really give something additional to the direction of the sport, because we know a lot of things about what should be good for the sport, because we're driving the cars.
“We love the sport, all of us, and I don't say that we're just going to say what we think is best for us driving in the car. We do think beyond that and think about everybody who's in front of a TV screen, supporting us and [getting] excited about this sport. That's what we're thinking about - and we think that, as a group, we are wise enough to definitely give some added value for the future direction.”