Formula 1 cars will be 'on rails' with 2017's new regulations

Formula 1 cars will feel like they are "on rails" for drivers in 2017

Formula 1 cars will be 'on rails' with 2017's new regulations

With the introduction of wider front and rear wings and tyres next season, it is anticipated the cars will be three to six seconds per lap quicker, dependent on the circuit.

The bulk of that time will be made up through the corners as straightline speed will initially be compromised by the drag of the new aerodynamics.

But Pirelli motorsport director Paul Hembery feels the additional downforce will make cars incredibly stable in the corners.

"If you are cornering with that much grip, and if it's to be believed up to five or six seconds a lap quicker, that clearly is going to be felt by the drivers in a dramatic fashion," Hembery told Autosport.

"It could be driving on rails at that point. It could be so high the feeling is the car has such grip that it's more driving on rails rather than driving on the limit.

"We won't know until they get to the limits on track to understand where those limits actually are.

"But with that improvement in performance it's like going into another category of racing.

"It will be like jumping from GP2 into Formula 1, so it'll be almost like a Formula 1-plus compared to where we are now."

Such a difference is likely to mean some drivers could need time to acclimatise.

"It's going to take a while anyway, but I'm sure they will have been driving in the simulator before they get in the car for the first time, so they will already have an idea of what the real impact is going to be," said Hembery.

"Sometimes something like this can bring out differences in drivers. I'm sure the top guys will say it is what they want - that they want to be challenged more."

AUTOSPORT SAYS
Ben Anderson, Grand Prix Editor, (@BenAndersonAuto)

Like much of modern motorsport, Formula 1 suffers from a perception problem. It is unbelievably challenging, yet it looks easy from the outside.

Enhanced aerodynamics, bigger and better tyres, plus continued engine development unfettered by token limitations, should make F1 faster than ever before in 2017.

But the cars will, as Hembery puts it, look like they are "on rails", which means they will look easier to drive than ever before too.

The problem is a general confusion of spectacle. Conventional wisdom equates 'cars moving around' underneath the drivers with difficulty, but in actual fact greater potential grip and increased speeds reduces the margin for error.

We will see less 'moving around' from the cars, but the drivers will pay a bigger penalty if and when they overstep the limit, because they will be travelling much faster when they do.

Arguably the current generation of V6 hybrid turbo cars looked most spectacular in their 2014 infancy, before engine mapping, suspension set-up and recovered downforce tamed the unwanted wheelspin produced by extreme engine torque.

When the cars first tested in Bahrain in 2014 the drivers couldn't take the right-hand kink at Turn 3 at full throttle. Now they don't even think about it.

So you have to look more closely to see the differences. Watching the cars skim the barriers trackside in Monaco, or bounce from kerb to kerb in Canada, is still visually arresting.

But of course not everyone is fortunate enough to be able to see them at such close proximity.

Engineers tell me the current specification of sensitive Pirelli tyre, coupled with heavier cars, means the drivers spend longer in the corners than they used to and so you see the differences between them more clearly.

Yet F1's stars complain the cars are not challenging enough to drive, because they are too slow.

This is F1's paradox. To become more difficult it must make itself look easier.

F1 2017 could be the toughest iteration of F1 ever, yet it will most probably look little more than a Sunday drive to the untrained eye.

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