29 April 2016
Time is tight, but enough to develop 2017 car
F1 technical heads agree that there is just about enough time to do justice to the new-for-2017 regulations despite drawn-out discussions over the sport's direction.
The prolonged wrangling over the next set of F1 regulations, due to be introduced for 2017, finally appears to be at an end, and technical heads admit that the resolution has come just in time.
Asked whether there would be enough time for designers to do justice to the rulebook for next season, the general consensus is that, while it would be tight, it should be possible to produce the next generation of F1 car ahead of the 2017 campaign.
“Of course, you never have enough time and you'd always value more time, particularly with new regulations,” Toro Rosso's James Key admitted, “But I think [the decision] is in time for 2017.
“We've been discussing [the regulations] for a long time now and the basic principals have been kind of kept even though they've been refined and changed etc. They were the way forward that was effectively agreed earlier this year and that's what I believe the teams have based their activity on and some activity was going on before then – certainly a lot of simulation activity to try and understand what these tyres and the wider track were going to do, so I think there is enough time.
“It's going to be busy and you'll have to compromise this year against next year a little bit to get it right, particularly if you're a smaller team but I think there's time to do a reasonable job of it.”
The timing of the rule change as a whole is not necessarily to the liking of everyone on the grid, with both Manor and Haas having invested heavily for 2016, but now having to face designing and building completely new machines after just one season.
“It's going to be a challenge for us,” Manor's John McQuilliam conceded, “I guess we would have preferred the regulation change to come a year later. The thing it does mean is that there is no carry-over of parts so it means there has to be a brand new car with enough spares to be ready at the first race – and almost every single part will be new for next year! For a small team, it is a huge task to redesign effectively every single component on the car and, being a small team, we have to do that very much 'in series' rather than 'in parallel'.
“But, to answer the question: yes, there is enough time. We have known what the regulations were and, while there has been a little bit of uncertainty as to whether what we agreed early in the year was going to be carried forward, we have been working on that in both CFD and the windtunnel so we've got a small development programme running for the 2017 team but, again, it is a balancing act between how much we spend on '16 and '17 – but there is enough time to do it.”
Force India's Otmar Szafnauer admitted that the point at which focus turned entirely to 2017 remained 'a million dollar question'.
“It depends on many factors, including what compromises you have to make on this season's performance versus next [season]'s because that all depends on how many points you've scored by a certain time,” he explained, “But we've started looking at what these regulations would do already, mainly through simulations. We will soon start our windtunnel programme with physical parts and the tyres, so it's happening already. The big question is when you completely switch from one to the other and we haven't quite made that decision yet as we're still pushing for big developments in this year as we've only scored six points and have to ensure that we hit our performance targets this year before we completely switch to 2017.”
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